Vess Ossman Footage is In!

April 16, 2007

Footage of Vess Ossman playing a banjo medley while two blackface entertainers do a dance routine arrived this weekend. The footage is pretty incredible, with Ossman’s incredible left hand very visable for any hardcore banjoists who want to study up on some of his best work. Unfortunately there is no sound with this footage. Regardless we will find a way to include it in the film as Ossman was a central figure in the history of the banjo that preceded Charlie Poole.


This blurb about Ossman comes from the Songwriters Hall of Fame:

Vess L. Ossman, “The King of the Banjo”, was born Sylvester Louis Ossman on August 21, 1868.

The foremost recorded ragtime musician of the original ragtime era, recorded more ragtime during the music’s heyday than any other musician, carefully transcribing for his own instrument (banjo) music that had been written originally for piano. During its heyday, ragtime—as performed by solo pianists—was almost never recorded since little of the instrument’s rich sound could be captured by the acoustic recording technology. The medium was kinder to banjos and brass bands, so companies turned to banjoists such as Ossman.

Ossman was responsible for nearly 30 top ten recordings including the #1 hits “Yankee Doodle” (1894), “Coconut Dance” (1895) and “A Hot Time On the Levee” (duet with Len Spencer, (1896).

Vess Ossman died on December 8, 1923.


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