G. E. 31

G.E. 31 Vess L. Ossman 5 String Banjo 1900-1916 CD $17.00

A century ago at the dawn of the recording age, Ragtime Piano & 5 String Banjo were the rage, preceeding the Blues, Jazz, Hillbilly & Bluegrass (the music of "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?") boom of the 1920's. The advent of radio in 1920 allowed all these forms to be transmitted to a public eagarly awaiting this art.

   Vess L. Ossman was rightly called The Banjo King-he would play theaters in New York for 20 weeks straight. At this time virtuosos like Ossman used gut strings-no twang here-more like a pizzicato, but a little brighter.

   After the summer of love in 1967, I began to collect 78 RPM records, and bought my 1st Vess L. Ossman disc the "St. Louis Tickle"
in 1972, and would listen to it within the same hour as my Robert Johnson, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Jimmy Rodgers "The Brakeman Singer", Carter Family, Eddie Lang etc. 78 RPM records, what I considered among some of the best of early recorded Americana. Now some 35 years later I've developed a passion for historical recordings from around the world. The music that fueled this current passion, was the music of my homeland.

   Here is the biography of Vess L. Ossman from the CD, below will be listed the titles and CD cover photos.

   Sylvester "Vess" Louis Ossman was born on August 21, 1868 in Hudson, New York. In 1880 he began to study the banjo. After a couple of teachers, in 1886 he met with E. M. Hall who was a renowned banjoist,and together they engaged in professional work. Ossman said to Walter Jacobs, the publisher of the Cadenza magazine, that 1888 was his peak year. By the 1890's he became the best selling maker of banjo records. In the 1896 Columbia catalog of cylinder recordings there were 15 of his songs listed.
   Ossman had the honor of appearing before President Theodore Roosevelt, with whom he scored a big hit with "Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight". In 1903 or 1904 he entertained King Edward VII in two command performances. While in England he played at the Palace, Tivoli & Alhambra theaters as well as other famous music halls.
In the course of his career he performed with other celebrated banjoists such as Parke Hunter (Jack Tar March on this CD), then William "Bill" Farmer. In 1904 he formed his "Ossman Banjo Trio" with Hunter & Farmer.
   In 1906 the Ossman-Dudley Trio (banjo, mandolin and harp-guitar)
was formed and they recorded dozens of titles for Columbia & Victor records.
   Vess Ossman was a friend of Clifford Essex and in his studio they were joined by other English luminaries such as Charlie Rogers, Joe Morley & Burt Earle. In an interview published at the time, Vess said: "I'm addicted to grace notes & appoggiaturas and like to play them on the 5th string, because it is so taut".
It appears that the 1893 photo shows Vess playing a Morrison, 22 fret banjo. Thomas E. Gylnn was another of the many banjoists, with whom Ossman collaborated.
   Vess L. Ossman died on December 8, 1923, one week after appearing for a charity at a theater in Minneapolis, where he had taken ill. The fame which Ossman enjoyed, at times got him bookings in theaters for a length of 20 weeks (McGown's Pass, Central Park, New York-Cadenza magazine Sept. 1908).

   Except where the Cadenza is mentioned, the majority of the information was derived from a December 1951 article from the series called "The Banjo in America" written by W. M Brewer, for the B. M. G. magazine in London, England. W. M. Brewer was an extraordinary banjo historian, having in his possession or having access to the S.S. Stewart Banjo & Mandolin journals printed in the late 19th century among all the rare documents he perused. This B.M.G. magazine that is the foundation of this biography is from the J. McNaughton collection, who was the last editor of that magazine. (FFSI archives)



The selections are:

1. Stars And Stripes Forever A-151 Eldridge Johnson (Victor in 1901) (Feb. 1900)
2. Whistling Rufus Columbia A 229 72348 (June 1902)
3. Chicken Chowder Ossman-Dudley Trio Columbia A 220 (Jan. 1907)
4. Policy King March Columbia A 220 (Feb. 1907)
5. Al Fresco-Intermezzo Victor 4625 Ossman-Dudley Trio (Jan. 1906)
6. William Tell Overture Victor 1293 (Feb. 1902)
7. Banjo Life in New Orleans Victor 2547 w/ Len Spencer (1906)
8. Old Plunk's New Coon Medley Monarch 1644 (Oct. 8,1902)
9. Jack Tar March w/ Parke Hunter Columbia 1613 (1902)
10. Old Folks at Home Victor 17417-A (Nov. 1903)
11. Persian Lamb Rag Victor 16127 (1906)
12. A Bit o' Blarney Columbia 1816 (1904)
13. Invincible Eagle March Columbia A 806 4025 (Oct. 1907)
14. St. Louis Tickle Columbia A 937 4919 (Sept. 1909)
15. Popularity March Columbia 3529M 1259-1 (Oct. 1906)
16. Way Down South Victor 2562 B589 (June 1905)
17. A Gay Gossoon Victor 4589 (Nov. 1905)
18. Patrol of the Scouts Victor 5077 (1906)
19. Turkey in the Straw Victor 4424 B 2593 (June 1905)
20. Beneath a Balcony Columbia A 2113 46998 (Sept. 6, 1916)

The 1893 cover photo is from the November 1912 issue of Cadenza.
The dates are by Brian Rust: B. M. G. December 1953 issue.


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