Theresa Vaughn, the Buckbee banjo, her Transformation of theater

YouTube Video

             ~~* Welcome to the free Theresa Vaughn 1890's Coffeehouse Cabaret *~~


To watch or participate in our free, live, virtual, international, interactive Theresa Vaughn Coffeehouse & Cabaret,
please email: for schedules and invitations. No software installation is needed.
This free Coffeehouse & Cabaret will hopefully have good discussions and performances celebrating the beautiful,
inspiring "Gemstones" of the Golden 1890s: Theater, Music, Tesla, French Cancan,
the beginnings of Sumerian Cuneiform 3,500BC tablet translation by George Smith (1857).
As of today very many 1,000's of these important Sumerian tablets have yet to be translated!
I've found some colorful, sparkling remaining traces of the wonderful free old Sumerian days:
The Lazgi and Uyghur dances (See first 4 links below). In my opinion, the French Cancan
(on page 4) below has interesting connections to the old Sumerian days.
Also later there will be information about Belly dancing here. This wonderful 5,000-year-old dance has
interesting roots that intertwine tightly with Ancient Egypt, Sumeria, Lazgi and Central Asia.

I've been studying and connecting many "dots" about our long history on earth.
This was like assembling a large 4D jigsaw puzzle. In doing so, I believe I found one very special important, magical puzzle piece.
It's called "Lazgi"..It's a dance/artform/musical performance/celebration .. a remembrance of the good old days of old Sumeria,
when we became upgraded and enhanced (from our earlier more primitive state).
... a very Sumerian concept.

Click here Sumerian images .. an intro for text below: Temple wall images, Cuneiform tablets, Lazgi, Hulkar Abdullayeva,
Marsh Arabs (Mardan), Sumerian Alien images.
* When images appear please hit the plus key <+> at top to enlarge all images.

Click here Sumer-Anunnaki 101.
You may remember those Bob Hope movies: on the road to: Singapore (1940), Zanzibar(1941),
Morocco (1942), Utopia (1946), Rio (1947), Bali (1952) and On the Road to Hong Kong (1962) ...
For me, my long research project really is "On the Road to Sumer". One of my hopes for all humanity is that
we all get on the great new virtual, digital internet Silk road to old Sumer. This video is a great introduction.

Sumer, Anunnaki, Lazgi, banjos and tars:
For starters, the best place to find Lazgi is in the city of Khorezm in Uzbekistan, Central Asia. In my opinion, Hulkar Abdullayeva, of Khorezm is the apotheosis of Lazgi performance. You can experience Hulkar on this website, see the first and third videos below this long introduction. Lazgi is wonderful and important because it so very well conveys the spirit/feeling of Ancient Sumeria. Sometimes ancient folk music, tales, and concepts can be very moving and potent. I believe this is especially true for Lazgi, a very magical "fairytale" at least 3,000yrs old. Belly dance is a very old part of this whole tale. More on this later.
What does Lazgi have to do with banjos? This is a very long story that began in Sumeria 3,500BC! I'll try to now give you the high points. You can think of this paper as Cliff's notes for Lazgi or Lazgi for dummies. Well here goes:

Ancient Sumeria:
Ancient Sumeria is the oldest known, very well-documented civilization. They developed cuneiform writing and left a tremendous amount of information for us about them. Those cuneiform tablets were written about 3,500BC but Sumerian civilization was many, many thousands of years older as far as we know. You can easily find a tremendous amount of very good information about Ancient Sumeria on YouTube. You will see that the Sumerians were very good people. You will discover very long lists of what they created or were gifted to via the sky Visitors, Aliens, or Gods. The Sumerians had tremendous knowledge and abilities in astronomy, mathematics, music, and poetry. They invented the wheel, our time system (seconds, minutes and hours, months and years.. our calendar system and schools. They made and enjoyed beer. There is a very long list of their accomplishments to be seen if you want to look into it. Unfortunately, Ancient Sumeria was destroyed in about 2,000BC, yet because of their cuneiform writings archaeologists have been able to discover much about them. Zecharia Sitchin, Erich Von Daniken, Matthew LaCroix, and Viper TV all have many wonderful videos relating to Ancient Sumeria on YouTube. The Sumerian civilization was good, cultivated, colorful, beautiful, harmonious, good-humored, and peaceful. After Sumeria was destroyed in 2,000BC humanity went on a 5,000-year journey of endless problems ...... wars, revolutions... all kinds of troubles. Even though Sumeria was destroyed its ideas and concepts did spread quite far and affected many places. Khorezm, Uzbekistan was on the Silk Road that brought many goods and materials from the east to the west and vice versa. Along with the caravans and merchandise, Sumerian culture and ideas spread out along that Silk road. For some wonderful reason or miracle, a colorful sparkling trace of Ancient Sumeria became deeply embedded in Khorezm, Uzbekistan. The Lazgi performance that they do there is essentially a remembrance, a recollection of the good old days of old Sumeria. Among the many Sumerian musical accomplishments were the seven music modes: Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, and Locrian. The Greeks learned these from the Sumerians and renamed them. The Sumerians developed many musical instruments: lyres, lutes, flutes, and banjo-like instruments. It is believed that the instruments of Africa may have been originally been inspired by the Sumerian presence in southeastern Africa very many 1,000s of yrs ago. After African slaves were brought to America they eventually started to build instruments like the Gourd Banja ( banjo ) similar to those they had made in Africa. In about 1830, Joel Walker Sweeney of Appomattox Virginia developed the idea of the bentwood banjo rim.... to get a better sound than gourds offered.. Sweeney became a major performer in America and England. He was loved and very well paid by Queen Victoria in 1843. After returning from a year in England, Joel deposited $7,000 ( gold ) in the Lynchburg Va. bank. The Queen also shipped a stagecoach with a team of white horses to him. Sweeney passed away just before the civil war. A few years later Theresa Ott Vaughn was born in New York City and was captivated by southern Appalachian music. As a teenager, she joined up with a traveling mini Broadway-like show in 1881 and rapidly became the biggest star in America. By 1892 she was the major star on Broadway. There is much information about her on my website. Because of Theresa Vaughn, I became increasingly interested in the 1890s. It was the Belle Epoque in Paris and in America also.... especially because of Theresa's influence. When she got to Broadway the blackface minstrel show was the big thing.... It was also very big in England at the same time. Even though Theresa loved Appalachian folk music and banjo she never got into the minstrel show concept but instead redirected our culture single-handedly into a more poetic and romantic kind of music. I believe her influence affected Oscar Hammerstein II. He was born right in New York city while Theresa was the biggest star there and across the entire country. It's as if she opened the door for Oscar Hammerstein II and his more uplifting romantic humorous approach to theater. Theresa also helped introduce the French cancan to America in a very wonderful and exceptional show called "Little Christopher", a musical comedy about the grandson of Christopher Columbus. The music in that show was completely wonderful. I re-created this lost show here... see the fifth video below this long introduction. Now getting back to Ancient Sumeria.... After the destruction of Sumeria the land Sumer itself was gradually forgotten. The world soon forgot about the Sumerians. Then at last, in 1869, a researcher Jules Oppert, was translating ancient texts and noticed references to "The King of Sumer & Akkad". He theorized that there must've been a Sumerian people and their land was called Sumer. The book of Genesis references Sumer. Abraham in the Bible was a Sumerian, born in the city of Ur (in southwestern Iraq). The first significant excavation of an actual Sumerian site began in 1877 by French archaeologists. Those excavations continued until 1933. Many Sumerian tablets were translated, but hundreds of thousands have not yet been translated. The Sumerian stories are wonderful, colorful, sexy, funny, sci-fi fantastic, and very poetic. If you like science fiction you will love Sumerian writings. The Sumerians may have been the very first to talk about visitors from the sky, UFOs, Aliens, or whatever. You can find endless examples on YouTube. Some of the best items to be found are the stories about their beloved Sumerian Goddess Inanna. So now we come to Lazgi.... what is it?; Why is Lazgi so special and what good is it? A very wonderful Lazgi performance can be seen here below this long introduction,...see the first and third videos there. Lazgi is, in a way an opera about the creation of humanity. It's a very Sumerian story... This story has been passed down through oral tradition and folk music in Khorezm, Uzbekistan, for at least 3,000 years. It was said that the Sumerian Gods or "visitors from the sky" were given the job to upgrade humans and plug in the soul, spirit, or consciousness into them. However, a problem happened. The souls tried to escape! they said they were frightened and didn't like being stuck in the body. Lazgi music and dance were created to uplift the spirit and the soul so much that it would be happy even though contained in a body. The performance is very colorful and beautiful; the dancer flirts with facial expressions as a way to make people feel happier. Also in Lazgi the dancer's hands are raised towards the sky and tremble (Lazgi means to tremble). The trembling is from the energy of the spirit or soul entering the body.... It almost looks like electric shocks are happening. Lazgi dancers use flirting and humor as part of the recipe for making the soul feel good. One of the most common instruments used in Lazgi music is an instrument called the Azeri tar. This instrument looks somewhat like a double-headed banjo with 11 strings and has a very old history. Its roots likely go back to Ancient Sumeria. On Hulkar Abdullayeva's Lazgi video, the first instrument you hear and appearing throughout is the Azeri tar. So this then is the complete banjo story. Lazgi conveys very nicely the joy of old Sumeria. It's not just black and white wonderful words on paper in scholarly books.... It's not tan clay tablets with cuneiform stories.... It's not just stone temples and bass reliefs on the walls. Lazgi gives you the colorful sparkling joyful experience of old Sumeria. Some of the major stories in all bibles first appeared in the Sumerian cuneiform writings over thousand years earlier. Adam and Eve, Garden of Eden, the great flood, and Noah.... all seem to have originated in those Sumerian writings. So Lazgi helps us experience the flavor of those golden days. It's very interesting to read the translated original Sumerian stories. They were over 1000yrs before all our biblical writings. Though very similar the takeaway message is inverted often. For example, all modern religions consider the temptation of Eve to be caused by a devilish spirit in the form of a serpent. In the Sumerian version, it was the deity named Enki. In the Garden of Eden, he appeared as a serpent. The serpent in those days was considered a symbol of wisdom and knowledge. Enki, was a well-loved major deity of the Sumerians. He did not always appear as a snake. He was the grandfather of Goddess Inanna. There's a wonderfully humorous story about Inanna. The rambunctious, beautiful teenage Goddess challenges her grandfather Enki to a beer-drinking contest. She was hoping that if he got drunk he would give away secrets of his power to her. It worked! She then takes all the information and escapes in her "Boat of Heaven" back to her home city of Uruk in southwestern Iraq. Inanna then shares that knowledge with her subjects in Uruk. So now after you have read the above and viewed the above Sumerian images you may have a better idea of what Ancient Sumeria was like. Also, you may agree that Lazgi can tune you in somewhat to that world. What is so important about all of this? In my opinion, the takeaway from all the above is very deep and very important. As you probably know the Ancient Sumerians were polytheists, with a pantheon of approximately 200 deities (Gods and Goddesses). After Ancient Sumeria was destroyed about 2,000BC, the survivors dispersed far and wide. Hundreds of years later, our "modern" monotheistic religions came to be. I believe ALL our ancient ancestors were forced to convert from their beloved polytheism to monotheism and join one of the three big acceptable, official, "politically correct" religions. They had to convert or die. These new religions heavily disciplined and structured society. It is interesting to note that after monotheism appeared "religious" differences became connected to war and violence. When the world was polytheistic, "religion" was never involved in disputes and wars. People may latch onto something very valuable when they connect with their ancient ancestors... and their roots. I'm not suggesting that people worship and pray to these Sumerian deities.... I am suggesting that Ancient Sumeria gives us ( if nothing else ) a very colorful, poetic, joyful, wonderful fairytale ... a good story. It's a mythology that hopefully, we might re-connect with and benefit from. We All are brothers and sisters .... descendants of Ancient Sumeria. We can see these deities as colorful superheroes.... They can perhaps serve as role models or as gold standards. Human freedom has been increasingly curtailed in general since the fall of Sumeria. I think we would all benefit by just thinking about Ancient Sumeria a bit. Watching just one good Hulkar Abdullayeva Lazgi performance every day might be the minimum daily requirement to make your soul feel better.

Safe journey!


Optional background music for this website: "Little Christopher Columbus" show; 200 page score 1hr. Credits below.

Click here   Video: "Hulkar Abdullayeva" tells of and performs Lazgi. It connects well with the Ancient Sumerian civilization 3,500BC and the spirit of their Goddess Inanna. This most loved Sumerian deity was worshiped widely for many thousands of years.

Click here   Video: "Dilnoza Ortiqova" Lazgi.

Click here   Video: Understanding Lazgi.

Click here   Videos: Wonderful collection of Lazgi videos * * *

Click here   Video: "Uyghur Beauty" dance    Gulyarxan (song).    I believe it also connects well with and remembers the Ancient Sumerian civilization 3,500BC
and the spirit of their Goddess Inanna.

Click here   Video: "Little Christopher Columbus" 1893-1896 show re-creation. Includes full script & stage notes
recited with wonderful 200 page music score and images,(1.25hr).

Click here   Video: "1492 Up to Date or Very Near It" 1893-1895 show re-creation. Includes full script & stage notes recited with wonderful images,(27 min). TheresaVaughn's first Broadway show. The very unique advanced background music is from original show
and enhances all, including the humor. 1492 show was a major success for two years.

The Theresa Vaughn Project:

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.      .      .      .

       Theresa Vaughn 1882               Theresa Vaughn ~1892                        Leonard Schneider 2020                       1880 Buckbee replica #4 gold-plated. Built 2020


I recently discovered this wonderful 1887 painting of Theresa Vaughn. Many years ago, as I was researching and writing my books on Theresa, 1887 Syracuse N.Y. always stood out as her MOST magical time and place. Her presence dazzled Syracuse N.Y. It was a very snowy Christmas weekend show. Later in 1893 she was THE star on Broadway. Broadway was good but Theresa's magical, wild, carefree years were 1881-1887.

Theresa Vaughn is a Muse for a needed renaissance!
For full story please explore the following pages and videos.

Bottom line: America and much of the world needs a renaissance of healing, joy, beauty, and optimism.
People rarely imagine a renaissance; exactly how we get there; what might it be like?
So first let's find a Muse and a good decade or two for inspiration.
There's evidence that almost everything since 1900 is messed up, ... everything: politics, culture, food, sexuality, music, attitudes, education, philosophy, fashion ..etc. Everything.
That said, here's my concept/recipe/gold standard for a beautiful, sweet world:    It's the 1890's.
Enjoy the "Little Christopher" video on the opening screen.
It shows the joy and optimism of those very golden days.

It seems the three MAIN cultural events of the 1890's were:
1 Theresa Vaughn and her America
2 The Cancan and the Belle Époque in France
3 The discovery of Ancient Sumerian Civilization and beginnings of its 3,500BC tablet translations.

Happily, Theresa helped introduce the CanCan to the world. Exposure to all these lost cultural gems could be beneficial. In this introduction are some videos that show the scope and broad nature of Cancan ( no pun intended :) There are many aspects to Cancan: Historical, Cultural, Folksy, Celebratory, Theatrical, Feminism, Male-ism, etc.

Cancan examples... Many more on YouTube

Colorful Cancan Click here
Joyful Sunny Cancan (inside and outside in sunshine) Click here
Folksy, "girls next door" Cancan outside a small cafe in Amsterdam
Click here
Wild Cancan Click here

Cancan would be a wonderful seminar subject. Much to discuss. I believe Cancan is healthier / better than the 20th and 21st-century sexuality perspective of Hollywood.

This website's like a "Cultural Stimulus" package to help inspire a needed renaissance. Below hopefully I convey the "Zeitgeist" of those magical years, 1881-1896. You will learn about that "Belle Époque", the "Golden Era" and Theresa Vaughn's contributions to it all. Theresa transformed and elevated our music and culture on Broadway in the 1890s, She steered us away from the minstrel show style and gave us romantic, poetic, uplifting positive music. She took the banjo to Broadway and musically opened the door to the shows of Rogers and Hammerstein II that would soon follow her. Theresa was a very charitable person. I believe her artistic influence helped re-connect the North and South after the Civil war. A cultural healer. You may find her a wonderful role model/muse to emulate, grow and learn from. I did. Theresa also introduced the Cancan to America on Broadway in 1893... a well-loved art form and perhaps a very great world unifier. It's extremely sexy, yet G-rated. I do believe the world could benefit from much more Cancan. See Cancan links on page 1 and others below. For a renaissance, we need to find very wonderful role models of all kinds. They are mostly to be found in our golden age. E.g. Nicola Tesla, Samuel Clemens, Annie Oakley, and Theresa Vaughn to mention a few.


Page 2
                    Welcome to 1880-1896 our Golden age.

Thank you for visiting and learning about my discovery of Theresa Ott Vaughn (1863-1903) and the Buckbee banjo. I published 5 books about Theresa, her music, and the Buckbee type banjo she accompanied herself with. Theresa transformed theater and culture. She evolved us from the Minstrel show era and put us on the road to Rodgers and Hammerstein II. Troubadours of the middle ages popularized Love, Romanticism, and Poetry. I believe William Shakespeare, Theresa Vaughn and Rogers & Hammerstein II are our most wonderful troubadours. We sorely need a renaissance of Love and Romance .... more such dream weavers.

Since 2014 I've researched Miss Theresa Ott Vaughn & the Buckbee banjo she played. The Buckbee added sparkle to her unequaled contralto singing. This study became THE key that opened my awareness and appreciation of that era. It was America's "Belle Époque" Hopefully people & cultures everywhere will benefit as I did from this awareness.
- Leonard Schneider

This little clipping from 115 yrs. ago (1903) says much.
(Louis Armstrong is the only other musician I can think of who "scattered much sunshine in the world")      


Library of Congress: Western Kansas World.,(WaKeeney, Kansas 1885 to current). From October 31, 1903

Hopefully my shows continue Theresa's work : Scattering much sunshine in the world.

Click here to learn more about the books and banjos Len is selling.
Click here Len talks here about the design and cultural significance of the 1880 Buckbee banjo,.. He calls it our "Golden Age" banjo.
Click here To view all the YouTube videos posted by Len.
Click here to learn about new French connection to this project.


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August 18, 2018 The Autumn issue of B.M.G. ( Banjo Mandolin Guitar ) magazine from England will publish my article in mid-October about this project. B.M.G is the oldest musical instrument periodical in the world. They have continued to publish ever since 1903 except for a short period.
B.M.G. has titled it:   "Theresa Vaughn - a Muse for a Renaissance"

Lab Workshop Section

April 24:   I was thinking about the 1896 Lithograph image on page 5. It was used on the cover of my book "Little Christopher" and was used as a poster for the show. Theresa Vaughn starred in this major Broadway show. The book contains a photocopy of the full, original show script with handwritten stage notes. The costumes and scenery were said to be exceptionally beautiful. Depicted is the French Cancan dance. The Cancan's roots go back to the 1830s. Over the years it gained worldwide popularity. By 1890 it was highly perfected and spectacular. The history surrounding Cancan is VERY colorful. See the links below. The iconic Moulin Rouge cabaret was built in 1889. In this complex show, Theresa plays young Christopher Columbus when he was a cabin boy. In the show, the cabin boy was supposed to be Columbus's descendant. A situation develops requiring Theresa (as young Christopher) to disguise for a needed escape. Theresa ( as young Christopher) borrows clothes from girlfriend Pepita. While disguised as a girl she/he sings:



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     "I'll dance you a dance when you're out at sea,
     A lady taught me from gay Paree!
     She danced it once to amuse the crew
     And I fancy her name was Grille d' Egout!"
     The only dance I learned at sea,
     A lady taught me from gay Paree
     l 'Twas a dance to make you stare,
     with a liberal show of underwear.
     For above her head she raised her toe,
     And the Captain ordered his wife below,
     She danced it once to amuse the crew,
     And I fancy her name was Grille d' Egout!

* A Little adventure back to gay Paree inspired by Theresa Vaughn's 1888 visit to Paris. Music by Ivan Caryll from the
      "Little Christopher Columbus Show"(1893-1896).
      Click here

* Hopefully this video shows how and when the American & French Belle Époque connected. t may have been the
      very best of times (or as good as it gets :). Using Theresa Vaughn's favorite instrument (1880 Buckbee banjo ),
     Offenbach's 1858 Cancan and Cancan dance helps to show this connection. Theresa
     visited Paris in 1888 and later starred in the "Little Christopher Columbus show" (1896)
     There she introduced Cancan to America. More information is on this website
     pages 4-7. Next video planned will use Ivan Caryll's Cancan music instead of Offenbach's1858 Cancan.
      It is very sweet, sentimental, romantic and poetic music.
      Click here

* From Mark Twain's "Innocents Abroad" about his trip to Gay Paree in 1867. This was 22 years before the Moulin Rouge was but
     very close by in distance. At tab "8:23" on video counter He mentions Jardins D'Asnieres
     Cabaret Garden and his first exposure / reaction to the Cancan. Very droll.
     Click here

*** Many thanks to the late Mr. Colin M. Johnson for his very fine, monumental work. He converted the wonderful music
     score (200 pages) from the "Little Christopher Columbus" show (1893-1896 ) by Ivan Caryll (1861-1921) to midi files.I then
     converted his midi files to mp3 format and then synchronized the music to the spoken scriptand prompt notes that, I had converted
     to mp3 audio. See video 1 below. It's a summary of the wonderful 1890's.

     Click here 1. "Little Christopher" show. Full script and stage notes recited with wonderful music of the show in background (1.25 hr)

     Click here 2. Two wonderful 1896 Newspaper articles about the show


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In my lab, I enjoy exploring how the 1880 banjo was used both at home and on the Broadway stage by Theresa. This section is NOT meant to be a parking space for polished video performances. I like to share my experiments here to help show how others how to enjoy this kind of adventure and exploration. ie to have fun. It's an easy way to travel in time & place. I'm very interested to explore how Theresa transformed theater and helped usher in the music of Rogers and Hammerstein II, that followed her. Lately, I have been "connecting more dots" to better understand all this. I believe it's beneficial to be aware of culture and life in Paris, French in the 1880s and '90s. Broadway and Paris culturally were both in a wonderful golden age at that time. I believe that moment in time is a great role model for western civilization to emulate and learn from today. Theresa Vaughn ( 1863-1903 ) was America's most prominent performer. In Paris, the cultural and artistic leading edge was Louise Weber (La Goulue), an early developer of the French Cancan dance, Jane Avril perfected the Cancan and painter Toulouse-Lautrec (1838-1913) who wonderfully captured that Golden age. The Moulin Rouge cabaret was built in 1889. Meanwhile, Theresa Vaughn was brightly lighting up Broadway with her sparkle and magic. Just after Theresa's era, Broadway became electrified..... to become the "Great White Way"... thanks to Nikola Tesla!

* Louise Weber (1866-1929) Gallery Click here

* Video 1st test applying the Buckbee to the Cancan. Great fun to play it. Perhaps very alive Cancan dancers can
     become part of a musical movie or show about Theresa!
Click here

* 1891 Very wonderful full page newspaper story about the Moulin Rouge Cancan scene. Enlarge it, scroll around and
Click here

You can check in here and hopefully see progress as I explore banjo adaption to these songs below. I will update when possible.
The purpose here is to show progress as it happens. This is a "work in progress" lab/place . Perfection hopefully comes later :)
It would be wonderful if others will join these experiments.

... Earlier experiments

Test video showing my 4D concept ( More on 4D below ).
Rogers and Hammerstein II's, "Driving through the moonlight on a highway"
Laura Osnes (2013) and the Buckbee banjo. How Theresa might have played it. Click here

My 1st video showing Theresa's transformation .. from early Appalachian & Civil war
     music to the road leading to Rogers & Hammerstein II's Broadway. 12 Min. Click here


Page 6

... Some explorations:

1. "People will say we're in Love", 1943. Oklahoma Rodgers & Hammerstein II.
     My newest experiment/discovery.. now in development. This is a rough 2nd draft to show my 4D concept.
     Click here

2. "The Belle of Poverty Flats", 1896. A sensitive song from Theresa's show honoring Winnie Horn,
     a very pretty poor working girl selling newspapers on a NYC street corner. Click here

3. "My Little Sunday Girl" (with lyrics), 1896 Theresa sang this comic song. Click here

4. "Little Wooden shoes", 1893. Theresa sang this to raise money for the World Bread Fund
     to feed the poor in NYC. Click here

5. "Impossible" from Rogers and Hammerstein II's Cinderella. Sounds nice Theresa style on Buckbee. Click here

6. "Love Sweet Love", 1894. A very romantic song written for and sang by Theresa. Click here

7. "Surry with the Fringe on Top", 1943. Oklahoma Rodgers & Hammerstein II.
     Sounds good Theresa Style on Buckbee. Click here

8. "A Lovely Night", 1957. Cinderella Rodgers & Hammerstein II.
     Sounds good Theresa Style on Buckbee. Click here

The above songs can all serve well to demonstrate the 4D genre I speak of. It's interesting
to jam with its ( key of B ) especially if using a Buckbee type banjo. You can soon get
the idea that something new is happening. By connecting Rogers & Hammerstein II's music
to its 19th ancestry banjo roots one can strongly sense the connection/entanglement between
them. At the same time the banjo itself can fly to new places by this 4D inter-connection
process I believe. Somehow it can bring out various new banjo styles including and going beyond
frailing & bluegrass. A new jazzy and classical effect can happen. I'm still working on these songs
Hopefully I'll post video of all when I have it figured out.


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Theresa's images from 1882 to 1895

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     Theresa's world

.Syracuse NY mid 19th century
Syracuse NY mid 19th century
.Union Square-Broadway, 1892
Union Square - Broadway, 1892

Mark Twain's quote:

"The piano may do for love-sick girls who lace themselves to skeletons, and lunch on chalk, pickles and slate pencils. But give me the banjo. Gottschalk compared to Sam Pride or Charley Rhoades, is as a Dashaway cocktail to a hot whiskey punch. When you want genuine music -- music that will come right home to you like a bad quarter, suffuse your system like strychnine whiskey, go right through you like Brandreth's pills, ramify your whole constitution like the measles, and break out on your hide like the pin-feather pimples on a picked goose, -- when you want all this, just smash your piano, and invoke the glory-beaming banjo!" Mark Twain - "Enthusiastic Eloquence," San Francisco Dramatic Chronicle, 23 June 1865

Project Summary: Hopefully, this project, website, and shows, will help inspire a much-needed Renaissance. My information sources ( the Library of Congress & other)  is credited in my books. From 1882 to 1897 the Library of Congress has 673 newspaper articles from across America about Theresa. I was able to gain additional information as a result of discussions with Matthew Nelson Ott Jr.(82). Matthew Ott's grandfather, Philip Anthony Ott, was one of Theresa's brothers. Another brother, Michael Matthew Ott, left a handwritten-rough typed collection of "notes, musings, references and dreams of the Ott family and its connection to the world of music". Michael Ott confirmed and helped to sharply focus my understanding of Theresa transformed theater. I gained much understanding from the 1880 Buckbee banjo. I work to discover how she played her songs. It seems likely that she incorporated both Appalachian frailing and a classical guitar style/approach. Theresa was born in NYC in 1863 (approx.). Her father was an immigrant from Bavaria. At 12, She sang in her Catholic church. Theresa was the oldest child and had 12 younger brothers. As a young teenager, Theresa joined a coast-to-coast traveling show run by William Ayres Mestayer in 1882. They married several years later. Theresa became the star in these shows in a few months. In 1888 she visited Germany with her husband W.A.Mestayer. Later in 1888, she bought a beautiful hilltop ocean view mansion, in Red Bank NJ. Theresa was very charitable and well-loved everywhere. I believe She opened the way to Rogers and Hammerstein II's music (R&H). In 1895 Oscar Hammerstein II was born in NYC just when Theresa was the brightest star on Broadway. In her earlier performances, Theresa played minstrel and Appalachian music very well. She was very good at singing doggerel and could make it sound believable/real. Soon her performances grew more artistic and magical. She was very romantic, poetic & dreamy. Theresa could be very funny... funny beyond description it was said. She was once described as "The Apotheosis of Girl". In the early 1890's Theresa became the major Broadway star. She studied in Dresden, Germany and could sing opera in French Italian and German. Theresa was also a ballerina. I believe she was the archetype of the Rogers and Hammerstein II Broadway music that was to come next generation... Her generation was very special. Some of Theresa's contemporaries were: Nikola Tesla, Annie Oakley, Uncle Dave Macon, Thomas Edison, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), Jesse James and Billy the Kid. Abraham Lincoln was the president when Theresa born.

No Recordings: It was announced in 1896 that Theresa would soon be recorded on wax cylinder recordings... but unfortunately, I believe she passed away before that happened. Newspaper and periodical research helped to learn about Theresa but building and playing Buckbee banjos and learning her music was extremely helpful to the process of discovering Theresa better.


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Buckbee banjos:

John H.Buckbee (NYC) built drums during the Civil war. He started building banjos in 1867. He was the most prolific banjo builder from 1867 to 1897. It was said Henry C. Dobson and other builders at times bought Buckbee's and re-labeled them. Buckbee banjos were very popular. I'm now exactly replicating silver-plated and gold-plated 1880 Buckbee banjos. These replicas sound, play & feel exactly my original 1880 Buckbee both discovered hibernating for 115 years, nearby, in a Gardiner, Maine attic. The magical Buckbee tone was due to its rim design. They were made by steaming and bending a solid, 0.263 maple board to become an 11" diameter rim (single-ply). The maple rims are very tightly encased in a 0.025 brass sheath. Theresa used such a banjo to accompany her singing. After 1900, banjo builders (Fairbanks, Gibson, etc.) increasingly began using laminated (plywood) rims. Steam bending was too tricky for mass production as we began the 20th century. These days banjos all have plywood rims even the most expensive ones. Endless metal internal tone rings were designed to improve the poor tone of the plywood rims... they gained back the lost volume but lost the magical ring of the bentwood Buckbee. These replicas are wonderful to play. They sound just like my original 1880. You can hear the 1880 Buckbee .. original and replica on videos below. They are very responsive and they; tell you the best way to do this or that.

Project Background: In 1976 I organized and performed in an East coast touring Bicentennial show about the banjo and its cultural connection with American music. The tour was sponsored by the U.S. National Park Service. My research has continued since 1976. Every so often I uncovered interesting, valuable information. Then 10 yrs. ago, while researching for a presentation I made a monumental discovery: Theresa Ott / Vaughn ~1863 -1903 (Vaughn was her stage name). Theresa was our most admired and loved performer (across America, on Broadway, and in England too). As I discovered more about Theresa and her performances I came to realize that she was a very special and transformational force musically and culturally. I'm very amazed that Theresa is now totally unknown and forgotten. I believe she is/was the missing link between our mid-19th-century music (minstrel, Appalachian, burlesque ) and the emergence of Rogers & Hammerstein IIs music. I'm now very focused on Theresa, Buckbee banjo, and the connection to Rogers & Hammerstein II. Hopefully, this project will inspire a very needed cultural Renaissance. These 1880 Buckbee's were built before electric power. John Buckbee's shop likely ran on steam power. My goal is to convey the full essence and value of all the above. Music and sound here are vital ie .better than words and pictures alone. To that end, I've made (and continue to make) videos showing more of Theresa's songs and how she might have been playing them on banjo. There are many variations in her songs, so I believe she likely had to use different playing styles to connect them with the banjo. I work to learn how she may have done this. I'm sure she used a mix of frailing and a classical guitar-like style ie. whatever worked. Exploring my videos can be beneficial. Of course, as new songs are explored more understanding will hopefully happen. Hopefully, more videos with very fine singers will be posted here in October.


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Introductory slideshow for perspective on this project. Video's and shows to come will show how Theresa Vaughn transformed theater. She evolved our Appalachian, minstrel and troubadour music. I believe her influence lead to the music of Rogers and Hammerstein II. The background music on this slideshow is "Love Sweet Love"(1893). It was written for and performed by Theresa. This song was a big evolution from our earlier music. It is very Chopin like. Lyrics by Shorn Cliff, music by Herman Perlet. This video lets you peek into our golden era. Click here

  • "Sweet Alice Ben Bolt" (1848). Lorna Jane Murray's contemporary version (key of G).
    Could be close to how Theresa sang it: Click here
  • Video #1... "Little Annie Rooney".. (Jamming with or inspired by Theresa)   Click here
  • Video #2... "Little Annie Rooney".. ( same as above but more mellow )   Click here

This project illuminates the evolutionary missing link between our very earliest folk, Broadway, Circus, Appalachian and Minstrel music to the wonderful music of Rogers and Hammerstein II ( R&H ) that would soon emerge from Theresa's influence ... her paradigm shift.

Thankfully there is still a trace of Theresa's artistry today. .... it's Broadway, especially the R&H shows. In case you're not familiar with the magic of Rogers and Hammerstein II or would like a good review of their wonderful works, Accuradio is a wonderful free resource. (24/7) Click Accuradio, select Broadway, then select Rodgers & Hammerstein II. You may be amazed at the amount of very artful music & poetry they produced. Click here

I believe R&H, Theresa Vaughn and the very earliest Broadway shows all reflect Shakespeare. In 1750 there was one only one Broadway theater
... it was all Shakespeare!

Hopefully this project will inspire a beautiful, cultural/musical Renaissance to blossom everywhere. This is important.. especially these days. "Culture" and too many of us are now deficient in these eight essential cultural ingredients:

      Beauty, Warmth, Poetry, Love, Tradition, Sweetness, Magic/Sparkle, and Romance.

I believe this project can help bring us to a healthy balanced new Renaissance ... culture, and music. We all need a culture we can actually love and agree on again.
To get there we all need to learn a bit.... and enjoy a paradigm shift to more perspective and understanding. If not we'll remain unglued and fragmented. I believe it's very important to heal the severe cultural polarization/fragmentation now well underway. Theresa's music and influence were healing, integrative. I believe the cultural effect of her artistry and music helped us recover from the Civil war. This project may lead us to such a wonderful Renaissance. Culture does count ... it's very fundamental .. effects EVERYTHING. It's like good air and water.

From my research, it seems American culture reached a very beautiful hi-peak between 1880 and 1895. Rodgers and Hammerstein II's music of today may be the last remaining trace of that earlier very special time. Theresa Vaughn's time and her cultural influence is an ideal starting point for a new Renaissance to emerge from. She's a wonderful Muse for us. 1880-1895 is a good Renaissance restore point for a good cultural reset/reboot.


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Len's Books and Banjos for Sale:

* "Silver Ghost Gallery" 1880 Buckbee banjo replica images: Click here

* "Golden Age Gallery" 1880 Buckbee banjo replica images: Click here

* Exact 1880 Buckbee banjo replicas (silver-plated and gold-plated) models
      now available for sale
  1.    "Silver Ghost" 1880 Buckbee banjo replica, fully silver-plated.
          "Theresa Vaughn and the Buckbee banjo"book.
          Signed case, replica Buckbee banjo, silver-plated wrench key
          and teaching video included.
                                            $ 3,000
  2.    "Golden Age" 1880 Buckbee banjo replica, fully gold-plated.
          "Theresa Vaughn and the Buckbee banjo" book.
    &nnbsp;     Signed case, replica gold-plated Buckbee banjo wrench key
         nbsp; and teaching video included.                                      
                                            $ 3,500


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* Len's Theresa Vaughn Books and her Broadway Show Scripts.
     Preview and purchase books from eBay and Amazon below:

  1. "Miss Theresa Vaughn"
  2. "Theresa Vaughn, the Broadway years"
  3. "Theresa Vaughn and the Buckbee banjo" (combined book 1 and book 2 above)
  4. "1492 Up to Date or Very Near It"
  5. "Little Christopher (Columbus)"

For more information please email:

"In the loud, tawdry, throwaway culture of modern television, we need stories of a quieter kind, a longer-lasting kind, a kind of character.  And communities have stories. Without a story, who are we?  Destroy the past, abuse the past, turn your backs on the past and you're turning your backs on and destroying all we have."

- David McCullough