Horace Weston



It may come as a surprise to some, but one of - if not the - greatest banjo players of all time was born in Derby! Horace Weston, pictured above, was born in Derby in 1825, and before his death in 1890 he was renowned throughout the United States and Europe for his talents as a dancer as well as a banjo player. In his obituary, the New York Morning Journal went so far as to call him "...perhaps the greatest banjoist the world has ever heard."

According to some writers, he was a "free born black" and the son of a dancing-school master (Jube Weston)in Derby. He  learned to play several instruments including the accordion, violin, cello, trombone and guitar before the banjo. He also learned to dance, started to perform with a minstrel troupe in Boston and served the Union cause during the Civil War.

After the war he headed to England for the first time performing in more minstrel shows with a Georgia group. Coming back home, he performed for P.T. Barnum and on a showboat for years before earning acclaim touring the U.S. He returned to England in 1878 and was a sensation playing in a touring company of Uncle Tom's Cabin. Queen Victoria presented him with a gold medal for his performance in front of her. It was said that he was the first Negro performer to be featured in a special role on tour.

At one point, he was hired to endorse the banjo made by an American banjo producer - quite an accomplishment for a Negro at the time.

Click on the video to see some of his music being performed:


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