Joe Galbraith

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Joe Galbraith is an obscure banjo player involved in the jazz and dance band scene in New York City in the '20s, notably a series of ensembles fronted by pianist Jean Goldkette that boasted many famous…
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Joe Galbraith is an obscure banjo player involved in the jazz and dance band scene in New York City in the '20s, notably a series of ensembles fronted by pianist Jean Goldkette that boasted many famous players from this early period -- some of whom such as trumpeter Bix Beiderbecke were booted out for lack of reading chops. This may have also been a problem for Galbraith, at least based on the existence of this amusing joke: Q: How do you shut up a banjo player? A: Put sheet music front of him.

Galbraith's real problems seem to have developed later, at least in terms of an instrumentalist's common goal of leaving behind some kind of lasting record of their existence. First it was his instrument of choice getting bumped out of most popular bands in favor of the guitar; Eddie Lang was one of the revolutionary jazz guitarists who eventually took over Galbraith's picking perch in the Goldkette gang. Then it was the emergence in the '40s and '50s of a man who turned out to be one of the most widely recorded guitarists in history, Barry Galbraith, whose middle name just happened to be Joseph, impacting the possibility of confusing these players into a double whammy.

As if he was a roulette player on a wild winning streak, a few more chips in Barry Galbraith's pile might not seem to make that much difference one way or the other. After all, the guitarist's discography consists of at least 600 recordings. Nonetheless he would have been less than ten years old had he actually participated in recording sessions with the Goldkette band. The real man on the scene, Joe Galbraith, would certainly have been mentioned in biographies of Barry Galbraith were there any family connection -- and he isn't. The work of the earlier player can be sampled on several fine Goldkette reissues as well as an early Hoagy Carmichael collection entitled First of the Singer Songwriters: Key Cuts 1924-1946, the source of which is once again the Goldkette band in which young Carmichael paid dues early in his career alongside Frankie Trumbauer, Jimmy & Tommy Dorsey, and Joe Venuti.