Emmett, Daniel Decatur


Emmett, Daniel Decatur
born Oct. 29, 1815, Mount Vernon, Ohio, U.S.
died June 28, 1904, Mount Vernon

U.S. showman and songwriter.

The son of an Ohio blacksmith, he joined the army at age 17 as a fifer. In 1843 in New York he helped organize the Virginia Minstrels, one of the earliest minstrel-show troupes. He is credited with writing "Dixie" (1859), a minstrel "walk-around" (concluding number) that became the Confederacy's unofficial national anthem. His other songs include "Old Dan Tucker" and "Blue-Tail Fly." He also wrote banjo tunes and music instruction manuals.

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▪ American composer
born , Oct. 29, 1815, Mount Vernon, Ohio, U.S.
died June 28, 1904, Mount Vernon

      U.S. composer of “ Dixie” (q.v.) and organizer of one of the first minstrel show troupes.

      The son of a blacksmith, he joined the army at age 17 as a fifer. After his discharge in 1835 he played the drum in travelling circus bands. He was also a capable violinist, flutist, and singer. In 1843 in New York City he and three co-performers organized the Virginia Minstrels, a troupe that competes with the Christy Minstrels for recognition as the earliest minstrel show troupe. In 1858 Emmett joined the Bryant Minstrels.

      His song “Dixie,” written in 1859, was originally a “walk-around,” or concluding number for a minstrel show. It attained national popularity and was later the unofficial national anthem of the Confederacy during the U.S. Civil War (1861–65) and the South thereafter. Several sets of words, Northern and Southern, were written for the song, but it survives in its version with Emmett's words. Emmett retired in 1888 but subsequently toured in 1895 with A.G. Field's minstrel troupe.

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