VIDEO: Jim Morris Plays the Gus Cannon "Frying Pan Banjo"

One of the standout instruments featured in Making Poor Man's Guitars is Jim Morris' faithful re-creation of blues legend, Gus Cannon's frying pan banjo.  (Read about the banjo on pages 137-139.) 

Morris is a West Virginia musician specializing in old time music. In the video below, he plays Cannon's "Minglewood Blues" in the same slide-banjo style as the original recording.  He also starts by tightening the skin head of the banjo with burning paper, exactly like Cannon!

Jim Morris fronts the band, Hay Fever.  They've just released their first album, which is available on CD Baby.

 

3 comments

  • Carl Lintner
    Carl Lintner Whitehouse, Texas
    I like your website very much! Still trying to find your chart on the fretboard layout.

    I like your website very much! Still trying to find your chart on the fretboard layout.

  • Tony Thomas
    Tony Thomas Florida
    Cannon's story about a frying pan banjo does not make sense. He grew up in Red Banks in the Hill section of Mississippi. There he never played the banjo. His position in family music making was to play the fiddle, an instrument he played as much as the banjo until he worked for traveling medicine shows around 1913. he began playing fiddle at the age of 8. When he was about 12 or 13, he left Red Banks to help his brother share crop near Clarksdale. It was then that Cannon learned to play the banjo from nearby people, two finger picking from one guy and frailing from another. If this story supposed took place when he was learning to play the banjo, which makes sense, it took place when he lived near Clarksdale. Clarksdale was about 90 to 100 miles from Red Banks. His mother's pans were 90 to 100 miles away when this happens. It is also disingenuous to say this would be the kind of banjo Cannon played THIRTY YEARS LATER WHEN HE RECORDED THE MINGLEWOOD BLUES. Very quickly Cannon's brother whom he sharecropped with won a very nice Washburn Banjo , a model marketed as The Professional which cost 20 dollars around 1895. Cannon owned a succession of fairly nice banjos, favoring loud banjos including a Van Eps Recording Banjo, and a Gretsch Broadcaster. He was probably playing his Van Eps when he recorded the Minglewood Blues in 1927. Touring with medicine shows in that era Cannon offered a 1000 dollar prize to anyone who could beat him in a banjo contest. In 1927 Cannon had been making money playing fiddle and banjo for more than 30 years. Even as a teenager he made more playign banjo or fiddle than he could working a week on levees. This really misrepresents Cannon who tended to have a superior attitude about the kind of folk banjoist who would use something like what you show and considered himself a professional musician, even if he did make up folky stories like making a banjo out of a frying pan

    Cannon's story about a frying pan banjo does not make sense. He grew up in Red Banks in the Hill section of Mississippi. There he never played the banjo. His position in family music making was to play the fiddle, an instrument he played as much as the banjo until he worked for traveling medicine shows around 1913. he began playing fiddle at the age of 8. When he was about 12 or 13, he left Red Banks to help his brother share crop near Clarksdale. It was then that Cannon learned to play the banjo from nearby people, two finger picking from one guy and frailing from another. If this story supposed took place when he was learning to play the banjo, which makes sense, it took place when he lived near Clarksdale. Clarksdale was about 90 to 100 miles from Red Banks. His mother's pans were 90 to 100 miles away when this happens. It is also disingenuous to say this would be the kind of banjo Cannon played THIRTY YEARS LATER WHEN HE RECORDED THE MINGLEWOOD BLUES. Very quickly Cannon's brother whom he sharecropped with won a very nice Washburn Banjo , a model marketed as The Professional which cost 20 dollars around 1895. Cannon owned a succession of fairly nice banjos, favoring loud banjos including a Van Eps Recording Banjo, and a Gretsch Broadcaster. He was probably playing his Van Eps when he recorded the Minglewood Blues in 1927. Touring with medicine shows in that era Cannon offered a 1000 dollar prize to anyone who could beat him in a banjo contest. In 1927 Cannon had been making money playing fiddle and banjo for more than 30 years. Even as a teenager he made more playign banjo or fiddle than he could working a week on levees. This really misrepresents Cannon who tended to have a superior attitude about the kind of folk banjoist who would use something like what you show and considered himself a professional musician, even if he did make up folky stories like making a banjo out of a frying pan

  • Tony Thomas
    Tony Thomas Florida
    if he were back in Red Banks where his mother and her frying pans were, he had a brother or two who played the banjo there whose banjo he could borrow. I dont discount that at some point when he began to play the banjo, he may have made a home made banjo of some kind with some version of his story. It was not uncommon either for banjoists, not just people playing home made banjos to carry around paper and matches or kindling to dry out the head of a banjo since all banjos had vellum or skin heads at that time. In fact, in the 1920s and 30s Paramount and several other banjo companies marketed tenor and five string banjos with a socket inside the head where an electric light bulb could be connected to dry out the head.

    if he were back in Red Banks where his mother and her frying pans were, he had a brother or two who played the banjo there whose banjo he could borrow. I dont discount that at some point when he began to play the banjo, he may have made a home made banjo of some kind with some version of his story. It was not uncommon either for banjoists, not just people playing home made banjos to carry around paper and matches or kindling to dry out the head of a banjo since all banjos had vellum or skin heads at that time. In fact, in the 1920s and 30s Paramount and several other banjo companies marketed tenor and five string banjos with a socket inside the head where an electric light bulb could be connected to dry out the head.

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