Zeke Backus

Find traditional instrumental music
Jump to: navigation, search

Zeke Backus


 Given name:     Zeke
 Middle name:     
 Family name:     Backus
 Place of birth:     
 Place of death:     
 Year of birth:     
 Year of death:     
 Profile:     Musician
 Source of information:     

Biographical notes[edit]

Zeke Backus, who contributed a number of tunes to Coes Album of Jigs and Reels (1876) and William Bradbury Ryan's Ryan's Mammoth Collection (1883), was a minstrel performer. E.P. Christy's original minstrel troupe consisted of E.P. Christy, George N. Christy (born Harrington, but who assumed the Christy name due to respect and affection for the older E.P. Christy), L. Durand and T. Vaughn, who performed in the West and South of the United States as the Virginia Minstrels. Soon afterward the troupe was joined by Enom Dickerson and Zeke Backus, "well-known minstrel performers", and the name was changed to Christy's Minstrels. They first played New York City in 1846 at Palmo's Opera House on Chambers Street, and later at the Alhambra (Broadway, near Prince Street), before beginning a long run from 1847 to 1854 at Mechanics' Hall (472 Broadway). Christy's Minstrels were enormously popular, and often featured songs and ballads by Stephen Foster, who was engaged to write songs for them. Zeke Backus is briefly mentioned in T. Allston Brown's A History of the New York Stage (1903, p. 362) in conjunction with another name that occasionally appears in Ryan's Mammoth Collection, that of Clem Titus. A New York venue called White's Melodeon operated from 1846 at 54 Bowery, with White's Minstrels as its chief attraction (the theater burned twice, and, after the last conflagration in 1849, a five story house was erected on the site). Among the performers who are listed as having played White's "Clem Titus, violin jig player, and Zeke Backus, violin jig and reel accompanist," the implication perhaps being the two played as a duo.

There is no record of his having been a "New England band leader" as has sometimes been asserted. Zeke is not to be confused with Charley Backus, a famous minstrel who partnered various with several minstrel organizations (relationship to Zeke, if any, is unknown).