The Old-Time Herald Volume 13, Number 11

Feature
Tales from the ‘Woods Part 10: Jenny on the Turnpike
By Walt Koken

Our friend Jeff Warner had a school called the Guitar Workshop in Roslyn, New York, on Long Island. Jeff’s father Frank Warner was a collector of Appalachian folklore. He had recorded Frank Proffitt, whose rendition of “Tom Dooley” had somehow leaked, perhaps slightly altered, into the repertoire of the Kingston Trio. Their hit recording of this tune back in the 1950s had led me, and others, I’m sure, down the twisty path into the depths of old-time music. Jeff is a wonderful folk musician, and a scholar of sea chanteys and old English songs, as well as Appalachian music. Periodically he would get us to play for his students, and we met many interesting folks there, including Jeff’s musical accomplice at that time, Jeff Davis, guitarist Peter Pickow and his brother Jon, who lived in the area with their famous dulcimer-playing mother Jean Ritchie, fiddler and banjo player Chris Romaine, Irish musician Mick Moloney, and others who happened to be passing through.

Jeff felt it was important for us to play there, but in order to make it worthwhile for us financially, he would set up gigs with the Town of Hempstead, in Nassau County, with whom he had some connections. Nassau County encompasses a very large area on Long Island, and in the summer, it would sponsor outdoor concerts in various community park locations. The county or town had a stage built on a semi-sized flatbed trailer, with back, sidewalls, and roof constructed entirely of metal. We performed several different times in different venues in this “tin can.” Folks would come out, bringing their folding chairs and expecting to hear a polka band or equivalent entertainment, and we would brighten their evening as best we could. Although there would inevitably be one or two young folks in the crowd who got up and danced, for the most part the audiences were very sedate, and the tin-can effect of the metal stage tended to cause the sound system intermittent feed-back. Not our favorite of gigs, but as they say, ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

So it was that Jeff had roped us into one of these gigs on a Thursday night before the Galax Old Fiddler’s Convention, which was our destination for the weekend. It was about 1973 or ‘74. We needed to register for the contest the next day, Friday, by suppertime, so we played at our prescribed time at the park, then packed up and took off at about eleven o’clock on a warm summer evening. Galax, in Southwest Virginia, was a long haul from Long Island.

 

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