With gracious permission by Eddie Peabody's son George, I proudly present the second volume of classic Eddie Peabody recordings - available for the first time since they were originally issued on 78rpm record ! A snap-shot of popular music from the 1920's by the leading banjoist, showman and entertainer of his time.
by Sean Moyses
Eddie Peabody, the "King of the banjo", was not only a superb banjoist but also a great showman who really defined how plectrum banjo could be played "chord melody" style. He reached national fame in America during the mid 1920's by recording for many companies and offered them a cheap way of producing a record by playing melody, initially alone with a singer and later with piano accompaniment and singing himself . Eddie started to develop his unique solo technique as early as 1920, soon after he left the U.S. Navy submarine service. Although known as a solo artist, he also toured with his pal banjo playing Jimmy Maisel and during the mid 1920's conducted and performed with his own band. Popular songs of the day were very good for the banjo repertoire, "Ain't she sweet?", "Ice cream, you scream!", "Bye, bye blackbird", etc, are all standards now in the American song book.
Eddie was among the very first artists in 1927 to record with the "new" medium of film with sound, known as "talkies", and he made several movie shorts, initially for Vitaphone, for general cinema distribution including "Banjomania", "Syncopating Sensation", "Banjoland", "Eddie Peabody's College Chums" (with Hal Kemp's Collegians Orchestra) "Strum Fun" and "Peabody's Banjo School". The effect of this new form of entertainment was dramatic and Eddie's popularity rapidly spread from coast to coast. His appearances on radio programmes over WJZ in New York and subsequently the NBC network took his performances to every home with a radio coast to coast and he performed nightly at the famous singer Rudy Vallee's nightclub, the "Villa Vallee" whilst in the city.
He visited England from 1929 until 1931 and again from 1937 until 1939, making several recordings whilst there for the Columbia and Decca companies. During his trips to England he helped to promote the banjo by visiting BMG clubs (Banjo, Mandolin and Guitar clubs) which were very active in the years up to the Second World War. He consequently toured across Europe before returning to the USA shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War. In 1941, when the U.S.A entered the war, Eddie became a morale / entertainments officer for the U.S. Navy. He already held the rank of commander and he was subsequently engaged to play shows in conflict areas to bring the servicemen "a touch of home".
When the war was finished, Eddie went about restarting his concert career. Most of the Vaudeville halls had closed down and musical tastes had changed dramatically. However, in 1948, "I'm looking over a four leafed clover", a hit from the 1920's, was resurrected by the Art Mooney Orchestra and it became a runaway hit, creating interest in both nostalgic music and the banjo. DOT records capitalised on this by signing Eddie and he made over half a dozen albums for them up until the early 1960's even producing albums of how to play the banjo. He kept employed for the rest of his life by taking his act into the many cabaret / supper clubs that were popular at the time. Eddie actively promoted the banjo and remained in the entertainment business all of his life and it must be remembered that in the days before Earl Scruggs and bluegrass music, the banjo was synonymous with Eddie Peabody. His very last concert was in 1970 at a supper club called "The Lookout House", where he suffered a stroke during his act. He passed away the next morning in hospital, leaving a musical legacy that plectrum banjo players still cherish today.
Prepared by Sean Moyses. See www.SeanMoyses.net. Original recordings restored by Sean Moyses. Recording details researched from the book "The Banjo On Record" by Lotz and Heier. Further recommended reading "The Eddie Peabody Story", by Lowell H. Schreyer and the excellent "Man with the banjo" by George Robert.