John Dimond's Reel

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X:1 T:John Dimond's Reel M:2/4 L:1/8 B:"Buckley's Violin Tunes" (1855, p. 34) Z:AK/Fiddler's Companion K:D (3A/B/c/|d c/A/ B/d/ A/F/-|(3G/E/E/ F/D/ E/D/ C/E/|D/E/ F/G/ A/B/ c/e/|g/e/ f/d/ e/c/ A/c/| d c/A/ B/d/ A/F/-|(3G/E/E/ F/D/ E/D/ C/E/|D/F/ A/F/ G/B/ AF/-|(3E/D/D/ C/E/ D:| |:{B}A/^G/|A/c/ e/c/ {f}A/d/ f/d/|{f}e/^d/ e/f/ e/c/ A/c/|g/e/ f/d/ e/c/ d/f/|e/d/ c/B/ A/g/ f/e/| d c/A/ B/d/ A/F/-|(3G/E/E/ F/D/ E/D/ C/E/|D/F/ A/F/ G/B/ A/F/-|(3E/D/D/ C/E/ D:|]



Billy Whitlock playing banjo, with either John or Frank Diamond dancing. Detail from the sheet music cover of Whitlock's Collection of Ethiopian Melodies, 1846.
JOHN DIMOND'S REEL. American, Reel (2/4 time). D Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB. John Dimond (1823-1857), or, as in the Wikipedia article John Diamond, was a blackface minstrel performer and has been said to "have been the most skillful and accomplished jig dancer that ever appeared on the American stage" [1]. He was an Irish-American minstrel performer who, as a teenager, was hired for a short time by P.T. Barnum, but they had a falling out less than a year later. Barnum claimed the Dimond extorted money from him, and warned his colleagues not to hire him [2]. Diamonds dancing is said to have been a mixture of African-American, English and Irish steps; his dance style emphasized lower-body movements and rapid footwork, with little movement above the waist[3] In the 1840's Dimond began a series of challenge dances, daring his rivals to best him, presided over by three judges for timing, style and execution. While this certainly helped to enhance his fame and fortune, it was another performer who won nearly all the encounters he had with Dimond's in the challenge.



Master Juba was the stage name for the African-American dancer whose real name is thought to have been William Lane. Lane was born a freeman in Providence, Rhode Island, but moved to New York City while still a child and learned his craft in the notorious Five Points dance halls and saloons. Charles Dickens visited New York in 1842 and wrote an account after witnessing Juba's dancing. By the age of 19, Juba had himself been labelled one of the greatest dancers of the era, and "he regularly challenged and defeated the best while dancers including John Dimond" [4]. There was a tinted lithograph representing the stage of the Chatham Theatre, New York, with Billy Whitlock playing the banjo with Dimond dancing in 1845 [5].


Additional notes



Printed sources : - Buckley ( Buckley's Violin Tunes), 1855; p. 34.






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  1. From a description of a lithograph (No. 3680) in the catalogue of the library of Thomas Jefferson McKee [1]. John Anderson Jr., Catalogue of the Library of the late Thomas J. McKee of New York, Part IV, 1902, p. 758.
  2. Wikipedia, John Dimond
  3. Wikipedia, ibid.
  4. Mark Knowles, Tap Roots: The Early History of Tap Dancing, North Carolina: McFarland, 2002, p. 88, and Britannica, Master Juba [2]
  5. Anderson, ibid.