Monday, October 09, 2017

"Silver Banjo Barbecue" Items

I would bet that there are plenty of Disneyland fans who have never heard of Frontierland's "Silver Banjo Barbecue" restaurant - not surprising, when you consider its brief existence. But it's a fun piece of the park's history.

In 1957, "Casa de Fritos" moved from its location next to the Aunt Jemima Pancake House to a new building near the Rainbow Caverns Mine Train. The now-empty space would soon be occupied by the Silver Banjo Barbecue, owned and operated by actor Don DeFore (famous for his many movie and television appearances, including "Thorny" on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and "Mr. Baxter" on Hazel) and Don's brother Verne, as well as other family members. 

There may be some menus or napkins or other ephemera from the SBB floating around out there, but if so, I've never seen any. The only true Disneyland souvenirs that I am aware of are the very rare postcards. I happen to have one! 

Notice that the first letter of each line spells out "D-O-N    D-E-F-O-R-E"! New Orleans Square wouldn't be built until after the restaurant was kaput, so "New Orleans Street" refers to part of Frontierland.

Here's an unusual item; a cancelled check from the Silver Banjo Barbecue! Apparently the kitchen for the restaurant was incredibly cramped, causing all kinds of drama for the people who had to slave away in there. By 1961 (after only four years) the Silver Banjo Barbecue closed and the Aunt Jemima Pancake House expanded into that space. The area is now part of the River Belle Terrace.

Presumably that is Don DeFore's actual signature on the back of the check!


Nanook said...


("Mister 'B'-!!" Shirley Booth intoned). It was definitely an easily-forgotten part of Disneyalnd's past, but one I was familiar with.

Thanks, Major.

DrGoat said...

My brain does not hold any memories of that place, even though we ate at Aunt Jemima's several times.
And I happened to catch an episode of Hazel on Tvland few weeks ago. I think it had been at least 45 years since I had seen it. That show and Family Affair convinced me never to hire a Maid or Butler.

Steve DeGaetano said...

I first learned of the place about 15 years ago when I got my copy of "The Nickel Tour." Definitely some rare ephemera there, Major! Thanks for sharing.

Tom said...

Wow, this is amazing stuff! I knew of the place just from researching park history over the years, but haven't seen any of the ephemera. Always nice to get another piece of the big picture!

K. Martinez said...

Like Steve, I first learned of the place when I received my copy of "The Nickel Tour".

As big a fan as I am of Disneyland, I wasn't acutely aware of its history until the "The First Quarter Century" book came out in 1980. I think that is when Disneyland could be considered to have enough of a substantial history to put a book out on it. That's when I learned about the Viewliner, Phantom Boats, Rainbow Caverns Mine Train and the various transportation vehicles in Frontierland (all pre-60's). And that's when I started to get into the history of Disneyland.

You've got some great pieces here, Major Thanks for sharing.

Melissa said...

Maybe it was easier to use the space for the Pancake House because you can fit more really flat food in the same space? ;)

My Grandma Hazel was always so tickled whenever she ran into someone who remembered the TV show!

Steve DeGaetano said...

K. Martinez, I remember getting my copy of that book in 1980. That was a treasured and expensive (for me) purchase, which I poured over the morning after our annual summer trip. That book would sustain me for the rest of the year until the next trip. Mine eventually wore out, and I had to replace it with one from ebay.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I was pretty certain that many GDB regulars had heard of the Silver Banjo BBQ.

DrGoat, I haven’t seen “Hazel” for decades, but I remember running into it as a kid and not caring for it. Like you, I also never got a maid or a butler. Who needs their wisecracks?

Steve DeGaetano, that might be the way I found out about the Silver Banjo BBQ as well. Who remembers! It was so long ago…

Tom, it’s fun details like that restaurant that I love so much. I went to the first D-23 Expo (thanks to Matterhorn1959) and saw Ron DeFore give a talk about the Silver Banjo and his family, it was fun.

K. Martinez, I must have learned about the SB in “The Nickel Tour”, though maybe “The E-Ticket” magazine covered it too? Not sure to be honest. I loved that book “Disneyland: The First Quarter Century”… I actually bought it at the park and carried it around all day. It was worth it. That might have been how I first learned about the Monsanto House of the Future!

Melissa, you don’t meet too many ladies with botanical names anymore. “Rose” and “Violet” seem so old fashioned, though they are perfectly pretty. I don’t know if I’ve ever met a “Hazel”!

Steve DeGaetano, I am curious as to how many copies of “The First Quarter Century” were sold… I have the feeling that it was a LOT. I still have my copy from 1980, I’m so overly protective of my books that it is still in very nice shape.

Chuck said...

I'd heard of Don DeFore and his Silver Banjo Barbecue, but this "Disneyland" thing is completely new to me.

walterworld said...

I first heard of The Silver Banjo on the 'Yesterland' website:

It even has a take-off on the postcard wording...check it out.

Yesterland was the first Disneyland history website I ever stumbled upon, back in 1995 or so...a true classic.

Thanks Major!

TokyoMagic! said...

I wonder how it happened that Don Defore ended up owning and running his own restaurant in Disneyland? Was he friends with Walt Disney? Were there any other celebrities that owned concessions in Disneyland?

I will never forget when I got my copy of "Disneyland: The First Quarter Century" book. It was so exciting learning about the park's earlier years. Prior to that, I only knew of a couple earlier attractions like the Viewliner and the Conestoga Wagons, only because of a short "20th anniversary" article from a 1975 issue of "Disney News Magazine."

RD4 said...

Hi everyone - I've got some of the answers to your questions about my Dad's restaurant, "Don DeFore's Silver Banjo Barbecue" in Frontierland from 1957 to 1962 in my new book, "Growing Up in Disneyland." Although, a warning to Disney enthusiasts: the book is not all about Disneyland - the title is a metaphor for my life growing up in a celebrity family...but it is also literal as much of my youth was spent at the Park. We had a second home in Anaheim and were there weekends, and weeks at a time during the much so, one chapter is titled, "Gee, Do We Have to Go To Disneyland...Again?" So I do have three chapters dedicated to the Park and the restaurant, Dad's great friendship with Walt which led to him being the only person to have their name displayed in the park other than Walt (this was verified by Dave Smith, Archivist emeritus. Lastly, one of the photos on the book's cover is our family riding in the Autopia Cars up Main Street in the Opening Day Parade. For more info visit: Also, check out the two original Silver Banjo signs in the Van Eaton Galleries Auction August 2020.