Early Mandolin



from http://www.naxos.com and http://www.mandolinblues.com:

The large numbers of Italian immigrants in American society resulted in the widespread adoption of typical Italian instruments, above all the mandolin. The American mandolin craze began in 1880 when the Figaro Spanish Students, a group of around twenty performers from Madrid, who actually played bandurrias and chitarras, toured the United States, appearing in all the major centres from North to South, to great acclaim.

In the late 19th century Memphis, Tennessee, was the center of African-American culture and the crossroads for touring musicians. Players like Vol Stevens, Will Weldon, Eddie Dimmitt and Charlie McCoy added their string band skills to some of the bands of the day, like the Memphis Jug Band and the Mississippi Sheiks.

Most people know of the legendary Chicago bluesman Muddy Waters. But only his hard-core fans are aware that on his first recording on Stovall plantation in Mississippi, Burr Clover Blues, Waters was a member of a string band, the Son Simms Four, with Simms on fiddle and Louis Ford on mandolin.

In the surrounding countryside other musicians and bands flourished. W.Howard Armstrong and Carl Martin and their Tennessee Chocolate Drops performed for medicine shows, parties and fish fries. Yank Rachell traveled about, playing the deep blues with his guitar partner Sleepy John Estes. Young Bill Monroe played guitar with a black fiddler named Arnold Schultz. Monroe then took the fiddle music of his Uncle Penn and the blues from Schultz and blended them together on the mandolin, creating a new American genre that came to be known as bluegrass.





2 Responses to “Early Mandolin”

  1. REED MARTIN Says:

    Thanks for the mandolin timeline. In the 1920s, here in Washington, D.C. there existed a group of @200 classical mandolin players. I have seen large group photos of them.
    It is my assumption that most major cities on the east coast had classical mandolin orchestras then, and those orchestras were the largest gatherings of amateur string musicians at that time.
    Just think of all the top quality F-5 mandolins which got pitched into the trash when classical mandolin orchestras faded from popularity………. sigh……

  2. Ron or Donna Says:

    Thanks for featuring this article on the mandolin as an important instrument in old time music. Doc Roberts recorded music on the mandolin, and it was prominent in the lineup of one of my favorite old time bands, the Leake County Revelers. Howard Armstrong, Ted Hawkins, Carl Martin, Yank Rachell, all favored the mandolin. I have to say that I am completely mystified by the snarkiness directed toward the mandolin on the part of the modern old time festival lemmings who, at the same time, seem to enjoy mis-tuning the tenor guitar and using it in a way it was never used by the oldsters. Mandolins are cool as well as an important link to tradition.

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