Many years ago, traveling musicians, often called troubadours
(or troubadors) in the old countries, moved around in the new
world of the U.S.A. with their music. They were also referred to as minstrels.
Often they would bring with them a rousing song or a doleful lament that caught on at once, and then became quite popular in the region.
Folk Music Instruments
Troubadors often carried a violin, a banjo, maybe a guitar, or another hand-held instrument of whatever sort they could find. Since they traveled from place to place, the instruments had to be easy to carry and access for impromptu shows wherever interest arose.
Troubadors were "on the road" continually, making it impossible for them to hold a steady job. How they made a living, I really don't know.
They may have worked at odd trades, and most likely made passing the hat a part of every performance. More than likely they gave concerts
of one kind or another and folks gathered, probably in the evenings. This gave them opportunity to
share a little entertainment and fun after their hard day's work. In the old days, most jobs involved
hard, physical labor and were often quite tiring.
Another feature of the old songs that the minstrel sang was this - most of these songs had several verses, unlike the later songs, even of the 20s.
Of course, the musician played and sang all the verses he knew to each song. Sometimes he would forget a verse - but since his audience didn't know the song, who cared?
But even beyond this, quite often the minstrel would compose another verse to some of his songs, which seemed to fit his audience or the location in which he played. In other words, he personalized his music to the particular region. No doubt, the offerings gathered when he passed the hat reflected the fact that he identified with his crowd!
Proof of "tailoring the song to fit the crowd" can be established by my own personal experience of discovering that the same song in two or more books often has a verse or two that don't match.
Usually the melody wasn't changed very much.
Troubadours - minstrels with an American twist, popularized many of the
we still sing today.
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