This is the only recording of Uncle John Scruggs, an early 5-string banjoist who was born a slave. The song “The Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane” is a minstrel song written in 1871 by William S. Hays.
Scruggs is playing in more or less a typical clawhammer style. This style was also known at the time as rapping, knocking, or thumping due to the rhythmic nature of the downstrokes played with the fingernail as well as the thumb smacking the head to pluck the 5th string.
The strong drive created by this right hand technique is counterbalanced with the loose time feel of the pull offs played with the left hand. Some bougie banjoists will cry foul tuning, while the boogie banjoist can enjoy the swirling twang of a slightly out of tune instrument, the strict pulse mixed with micro sonic waves of varied swing and resistance…
November 8, 1928
As far as historical/cultural significance, this film kind of speaks for itself. Feel free to comment in the section just down a little further.
Thank you John Scruggs!