The 40th Annual Topanga Canyon Banjo-Fiddle Contest will be held May 21 at Paramount Ranch in Agoura, CA, featuring about 115 contestants and three professional bands. Info: www.topangabanjofiddle.org; firstname.lastname@example.org.
The American Banjo Fraternity Spring Rally is scheduled for May 25-27 in Gettysburg, PA. In case you weren't aware, these are the folks who play what most of us call "classical banjo," sort of like Charlie Poole only more restrained.
There is a new series of square dances in Seattle, WA according to Kerry Blech. They will be held one Friday a month at the Lakewood-Seward Park Community Club at 50th and S. Angeline. Info: Catherine Alexander, 206-723-3897; email@example.com.
The Andy Griffith Playhouse was host to Blue Ridge Musical Experience in November, which featured Alternate Roots, Appalachian Trail, and Kinney & Doug Rorrer with Kirk Sutphin supplying the music. Musician/storyteller Joe Shannon was the host and pencil artist Willard Gayheart and blacksmith Billy Phelps displayed their art.
There was a special benefit concert in December to raise funds for the Henry Reed Fund for Folk Artists at the State Theatre in Falls Church, VA. Besides host Alan Jabbour, participants included Pete Seeger, Balfa Toujours, Stephen Wade and members of the Reed Family.
The WV Div. of Culture and History has announced the 2000 festival schedule, which includes The Old-Time Wingding at Clifftop, WV, May 12-14; The Vandalia Gathering on the Capitol Grounds in Charleston, May 26-28; and, of course, the 11th Annual Appalachian String Band Music Festival at Clifftop, Aug. 2-6. Info: www.wvculture.org.
The Second Annual Bluff County Gathering will be held in Lanesboro, MN May 18-20, with concerts, dancing and workshops. Among those appearing/teaching are Bruce Greene, Vesta Johnson, Geoff Seitz, and Bob Carlin.
The November meeting of the Charlotte, NC Folk Society featured a number of the up-and-coming generation of musicians who ranged in age from 9 to 16. Not a bad way to encourage the next wave of old-time pickers, don't you think? Then in December, they had Ralph Blizard & The New Southern Ramblers for a concert and dance.
Oscar Brand and The New Lost City Ramblers will be the featured acts at the 92nd St. YMCA, 1395 Lexington Ave., NYC on Feb. 19. The event is "Ballads and Ballots: Presidential Campaign Songs."
A big dance party was held on Dec. 27 at the Lake City Community Center in Seattle, WA to celebrate 25 years of the old-time country dance revival in Seattle which was started in 1974 by Sandy Bradley and the Gypsy Gyppo String Band.
There's a new venue for old-time and bluegrass music in Ashe County, NC. The Blue Ridge Music Theatre is located in the new Ashe County Civic Center in West Jefferson, and it seats over 300 in comfortable theatre style. Shows are usually held on Sat. evenings and are on a bi-monthly basis at present. Info: 336-246-4483.
Banjo Newsletter is hosting another Banjo Showcase this year at the Folk Alliance Conference in Cleveland, OH which takes place Feb. 10-13. The showcase itself will be held Saturday night Feb. 12 beginning at 11 PM, and go on till we run out of performers and/or audience. Depending on the numbers who participate, each performer will be allotted somewhere between 15 and 25 minutes of performing time. Info: Ken Perlman at KenPerlman@aol.com or phone 781-646-9422.
"Breakin' Up Winter," to be held on March 1012 in Lebanon, TN, will hold an "Academic Day" on the Friday of the festival. The day will include lectures and panel discussions with George Gruhn, Dr. Charles Wolfe, Dr. Walt Haden, and Martin Fisher on topics like Folk Songs of Tennessee, the Ballad Tradition, The Evolution of Fretted Instruments in America, The Great Speckled BirdOrigins of the Music & Lyrics, and Wax Cylinder Recording. There will be mini-concerts by Tennessee fiddlers Charlie Acuff and Ralph Blizard. Info: Dave Cannon, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Artists & Agents
WRAL-TV Channel 5 in Raleigh, NC's online edition included a story on pottery makers in the Moore-Randolph County region of NC, one of whom is Fiddlin' Al McCanless.
David Holt is on the road, as usual, going to places like Pigeon Forge, TN (Feb. 18-19), Fort Wayne, IN (Mar. 12-23), Syracuse, NY (Mar. 25), Tampa, FL (Apr. 14-16) and MerleFest (Apr. 30). Info: 828-628-1728.
Cary Fridley has left the Freight Hoppers string band (see Letter to the Editor). The Freight Hoppers will continue to tour and perform. Cary is currently working on a solo CD of old-time songs. Accompanying musicians include Art Stamper, Larry Perkins, Mark Wingate, Jake Owen, and four members from the group Donna the Buffalo. She will showcase at the Folk Alliance Conference in Cleveland on Feb. 12.
The Weasel Creek Stringband was busy over the holidays with appearances throughout NC. Members include Marion Boatwright, Susan Cook, Steve McGaha, and Dean Watson. Info: Marion Boatwright, 828-884-5257; WeaselRecords@yahoo.com; Dean Watson, 800-768-9876 (x 65510); email@example.com.
Bruce Molsky was the opening act for Laurie Lewis & Tom Rozum's during their western tour during Nov. and Dec.
The Wolfe Brothers were featured during an evening of old-time music at the new Ashe County (NC) Civic Center Auditorium on Nov. 20.
Phil & Gaye Johnson were the featured artists at the Down East Folk Arts Society November concert in Morehead City, NC.
Bob Bovee & Gail Heil will be appearing in the upper Midwest this season, including the Prairie Wind Theater in Barrett, MN (Feb. 11); Cultural Center in New York Mills, MN (Feb. 12); New Ulm (MN) Folk Club with Dick Kimmel (Mar. 18); Folklore Village in Dodgeville, WI (Mar. 31-Apr. 2); Gays Mills (WI) Folk Festival (May 13); and the Bluff County Gathering in Lanesboro, MN (May 18-20).
The Harmony Sisters (Alice Gerrard, Jeanie McLerie & Irene Herrmann) played to a sold-out crowd at The Outpost in Albuquerque, NM in early Nov.
Also in November, The Dixie Crystals (Evelyn Shaw, Mary Charlton, Art Aylsworth & Suzanne Edwards) played old-time music at Britthaven, the long-term care facility where former Red Clay Rambler Tommy Thompson is living.
Dates for Paul & Win Grace include: Boonville, MO (Apr. 7-8), info: 660-882- 7977; Keokuk, IA (Apr. 28-30), info: Kari Bevans, 800-383-1219; Liberty, MO (June 4), info: Shoal Creek, 816-792-2655.
Dates for Leela & Ellie Grace include: Carbondale, IL (Apr. 28-29), info: Jean Denney, 753-296-3335; Battleground, IN (June 23-25), info: Kirk Hallman, 765-742-1419. You can check out updated information on the Grace Family Web page at www.folkfire.org/graces or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Old-time string band Vulcan's Britches were an integral part of artist and fiddler Allen Peterson's performance art show at the bare hands gallery in Birmingham, AL on Dec. 3 as part of their Holiday Show.
Big Medicine is a new old-time band based in the Triangle area of North Carolina. Members of the band are Jim Collier, LaNelle Davis, Kenny Jackson, and Joe Newberry, on varied combinations of instruments and vocals.
Donna Hebert, contradance fiddler and teacher from Amherst MA (see OTH vol. 7 no. 1) will be in the South from Feb. 7 through March 17 teaching and wants to book dances and workshops with local musicians and callers. More about her work is available at www.dhebert.com. You can contact Donna at 413-253-4058.
The Durham Rangers headed up by Michael Fishback play old-time music every other Tuesday from 8-11 PM at George's Garage, 737 Ninth St., Durham, NC. Info: 919-286-4131.
Tom Sauber, Brad Leftwich, and Alice Gerrard will be the guest instructors at the Alaska Fiddle Camp July 1-5. Info: www.alaskafiddle.org; email@example.com; 907-257-4273.
Musician, writer, OTH reviewer Kerry Blech was the subject of an article in Victory Review (Dec. 1999) by Diana Lynn. There was a very nice picture of Kerry and his wife and musical partner, Sheila, on the cover. Info: Victory Review PO Box 2254, Tacoma, WA 98401-2254; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.victorymusic.org.
In Print, In School & On The Net
Phil Cohen, a lead organizer for the Union of Needletrades, Industrial & Textile Employees (UNITE) and a member of AFM Local 1000 has put together a Web site with other musicians and activists: Hard Miles MusicFolk Music & Labor Unions metalab.unc.edu/hardmile. The site features Real Audio songs, labor cartoons and directories of indie and labor music sites.
The Orangeville Fiddle & Step Dance Camp (Orangeville, Ontario) has a new Web site at www.fiddle.on.ca. For more fiddle events and news in Ontario, visit www.fiddler.on.ca/fiddle/workshop.htm.
Marshall Wyatt's Old Hat Records (Music From the Lost Provinces, Violin Sing the Blues) has a new Web site. It is www.sully.net/~oldhat.
The Oct. 11 edition of The New York Times carried a story about Jake Krack, the 14-year old Indiana fiddler who is apprenticed to Calhoun Co., WV master Lester McCumber on a WV Heritage Center scholarship.
The latest issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine has articles about pre-war Martin dreadnoughts, Selmer Maccaferri guitars, and the ethics of restoring vintage instruments, or, Players vs. Collectors.
If you are in the Atlanta, GA area and want to keep track of jams and workshops within driving distance of Atlanta, there is a Web page to check out: www.tedsims.com/atloldtime.
Some resources for info on music events in the Portland, OR area include info on the numerous Irish bars with nightly or weekend music (www.teleport.com/~sm/pubs.html); the Portland Folklore Society, (www.portlandfolklore.org), listings in the free Willamette Week.
Recordings, Instruments & Labels
Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer have released a new CD called Pillow Full of Wishes. The release party/concert took place Feb. 5 at the Alden Theater in McLean, VA.
Dirk Powell has contributed a recording to the new film Ride with the Devil, a flick about the Civil War from director Ang Lee.
Robin & Linda Williams' song "Men with Guns" (from their latest CD Devil of A Dream on Sugar Hill) was included on the Fox Network's series "Party of Five."
The latest Weird Al Yankovic CD includes Tom Sauber playing fiddle on "My Baby's in Love with Eddie Vedder." Tom's son, Patrick, played banjo on "Truckin' Song."
C. F. Martin & Co., of Nazareth, PA, has announced the latest in their commemorative guitar series, the 000-18WG, in honor of Woody Guthrie, one of the most influential folk musicians of all time.
Tom Sauber, Brad Leftwich & Alice Gerrard were in the studio in late October recording their second CD. It should be released in the early spring and will be on the Copper Creek label.
Paul & Win Grace will be in the studio this spring recording a new (sixth) album.
Proving yet again that Uncle Harold is not the only one who suffers from the odd "senior moment," I seem to have published the wrong phone number for PineCone's Raleigh, NC, information line. The correct number to find out who and what is happening in the area (and there is a lot going on), is 919-990-1900. Not only will this number give you a listing of who's playing where, but it will also give you directions to the gig. (Hmm, that would be really handy for the folks in the band, come to think of it . . .) To give you an idea of what PineCone does in the central NC area, in mid-Nov. they put on Gumbo, Grits & Gravy, featuring Balfa Toujours, bluesman Guy Davis, and fiddler/singer Laurie Lewis. A week later, bluesman Scott Ainslie appeared in concert, and in early January, the Joe Thompson Band was the featured act.
On the Air
Phil & Gaye Johnson are ready to ship the first disc of The Kingpup Radio Show to (as Phil says) any and all interested parties. A broadcast-quality version of the old-time "opry-style" program is available free to radio outlets; to hear the first three shows (and learn more about them) you can link up at www.radioyur.com/kpro.html
There was much speculation re: the recent resignation of Paul Brown from WFDD Public Radio at Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC, and the subsequent cancellation by WFDD of his popular show "Across the Blue Ridge", a major media outlet for old-time music. He resigned for reasons of principle as explained in the following letter:
"After nearly 13 years of satisfying employment at WFDD Public Radio, I'm leaving to pursue independent production and consulting in public radio, print media, folklore and music.
"Many of you may be aware that WFDD has recently been involved in controversy over freedom to report news relating to its licensee without licensee interference. I believe that this controversy has had some negative effect on WFDD's programming, national reputation and position in its community. I also believe the damage can be repaired through aggressive action by Wake Forest University to guarantee the integrity of WFDD's news, cultural reporting and programming operations. Both Michelle Johnson, WFDD's former news director, who has also recently resigned, and I have pressed within and without the university for changes we believe will lead to a better, stronger WFDD. Others are doing the same, and all are hopeful that brighter days are ahead.
"As events at WFDD have unfolded, we have been contacted by public radio staffers elsewhere who have either had experiences similar to ours or are concerned about impending changes in policy or organizational structure at their workplaces. We believe that, with increasing pressure to fund public radio through the private sector, the issue of independent reporting will become more and more important in coming months and years. We believe this issue must be squarely addressed at both the local and national levels. A public media system that cannot report on itself or its parent organization or allow itself to be questioned or criticized on its own air will ultimately lose the respect of the people it serves and will fail.
Although the recent events at WFDD have encouraged me to move on immediately to new opportunities, I had already been planning some changes. Producer Leda Hartman and I are putting together a reporter cooperative in North Carolina. I expect to continue doing freelance work for NPR and other outlets, to develop the "Across the Blue Ridge" radio project focusing on southern music and culture, and to work with other independents on music- and folklore-related public radio specials. I'll also be consulting with stations and managements on startup and maintenance of effective news departments, writing for radio, and vocal production. Please contact me if you're interested in any of the above.
Please also note my new e-mail address, mailing address and phone numbers, effective immediately. I look forward to being in touch with many of you as I continue my career in public radio."
Paul Brown, 1160 Hunter Rd., Pilot Mountain, NC 27041; 336-765-7401 or 336-351-4431; email@example.com.
Sessions & Jams
These web sites will connect you to open jams in the North Georgia (Atlanta) area, including five states:
In the Charlotte (NC) area: Every Sunday there's the CFS Traditional Music Jam at Hickory Grove Presbyterian Church in Charlotte from 6-9 PM. Info: Mary Anne Locklear at 596-0345. Third Sundays there's the CFS Old-Time Music at RiRa the Irish Pub, 208 N. Tryon from 3-6 PM. Info: 364-5433
Elsewhere: Third Mondays Old-time jam at Fibber McGee's, 223 Castro, Mt. View, CA, 8 PM. Info: 408-243-7001; second Thursdays old-time session at McManus', 1309 Solano, Berkeley, CA 7 PM. Info: 510-527-2586. Every Tuesday there is an old-time fiddlers' jam session at Artz Rib House, Austin, TX 7 PM.
A Sunday afternoon session takes place at the Hideout in Chicago, IL every 4th Sunday of the month give or take a week or two. Winter '00 dates to be announced after the 1st of the year. Info: Paul Tyler, firstname.lastname@example.org.
A picking party, "Pickin' at the Piggery" is held in Melbourne (Australia) at the Footscray Community Arts Centre, 45 Moreland St., Footscray on the 3rd Friday of the Month (excluding Jan., Feb., Apr., and Oct., 2000). Info: email@example.com.
Ralph Stanley won both Album Of The Year and Recorded Event of the Year at the IBMA Awards in October. One of the few remaining bluegrass pioneers still touring regularly, Ralph and the Clinch Mt. Boys play over 100 dates a year.
Veteran fiddler Kenny Baker, who played with Bill Monroe for 23 years, and was considered by Bill as "the greatest bluegrass fiddler in the world," was the 1999 inductee into the IBMA's Hall of Honor.
The National Endowment For The Arts announced the 1999 National Medal of Arts Recipients, which included singers Aretha Franklin, Odetta, and Lydia Mendoza. Also named were the 1999 National Heritage Fellows, including gospel singer Shirley Caesar, Ozark fiddler Bob Holt, and Irish musician Mick Moloney.
Included in the Amazon.com top ten folk CDs of 1999 was A Cowboy's Wild Song to His Herd by Skip Gorman.
The world of old-time music has lost a good friend. Tom Hargrove suffered a fatal heart attack on Oct. 16 while visiting the new Exploris Museum in Raleigh, NC, a setting that reflected his lifelong pursuit of knowledge. Tom's interests were varied, but he had a special love of music. His record shelf held a mixed bag of CDs, albums, cassette tapes, 78s, and even a few wax cylinders, with titles like "Hell Broke Loose in Georgia," "Juke Joint Jump," and "Black Banjo Songsters." Tom showed a deep affinity for southern traditional music, especially that of North Carolina, where he grew up and spent most of his life. In fact, Tom Hargrove was an expert on North Carolina, a status achieved not just from books, but from hands-on experience. By profession he was an archaeologist, traveling the length and breadth of the state, piecing together an intricate picture of the past from the fragile artifacts he carefully retrieved. Tom was fascinated by the continuum of history, from the folkways of prehistoric times to more recent cultural phenomena, such as barbecue restaurants, outsider art, blues music, and old-time string bands. He loved the music of Charlie Poole, Reverend Gary Davis, Doc Watson, Etta Baker, and so many more.
Although Tom did not play an instrument himself, he always showed great enthusiasm for the music of his friends, and his contributions to the community were many. From 199295 he served on the board of directors of The Old-Time Music Group, the non-profit organization based in Durham, NC, that underwrites the Old-Time Herald. Tom was also a long-time board member of the Piedmont Council of Traditional Music (PineCone), and as president of that group in 1990-91 he showed both initiative and imagination. During his tenure, PineCone sponsored concerts by such diverse performers as Joe & Odell Thompson, Alison Krauss, Howard Armstrong, and Alan Jabbour. It was Tom's research that uncovered the lost history of the Raleigh Fiddlers Convention, an event that flourished in the early years of the 20th century, then was brushed aside by the march of "progress." It was Tom who conceived the idea of reviving the convention after a hiatus of nearly 80 years. Through his efforts, and those of other PineCone members, the Raleigh Fiddlers Convention was a great success in 1990, and again the following year, attracting scores of musicians and generating both publicity and good will.
Tom Hargrove was conversant on a wide array of subjects, each enriching the others, and he understood music as a vital component within the larger fabric of human endeavor. Thankfully, he never displayed the stuffiness of academia and he never let his considerable intellect stand in the way of simple enjoyment. He was the sort of person who left his radio playing whenever he left the house, so that his three cats would never feel lonely. Tom was a rare individual who possessed a quiet, gentle nature and a generous spirit. He will be missed. (Marshall Wyatt)
Max Hunter, 78, Ozark folklorist, storyteller and occasional moonshiner, died at his home in Springfield, MO on Nov. 6 of emphysema. A former traveling salesman whose story and song-collecting hobby turned into another career, spent 30 years searching out material from all over the Ozarks.
Lee Cremo, 60, the well-known Mi'kmaq fiddler from Cape Breton in Nova Scotia, died in early October. He was featured on the Folkways albums which were made in conjunction with the National Museum of the American Indian, Creation's Journey and Wood That Sings. (Thanks to Philippe Varlet of NMAI)
James Harold Jennings, 68, a well-known visionary artist, long-time OTH subscriber and supporter, and lover of old-time music (his photo graced the "Photo Bonus" back page of OTH vol. 2, no. 8) died recently of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Jennings lived in a school busa couple of school buses, in fact, with a yard full of brightly colored works of art and signs. Born in 1931, he lived and worked on the spot across the road from where he was born. Jennings attended school through the 5th grade, but was then educated at home by his mother, who was a teacher. He worked as a farmer, a night watchman, and a movie projectionist, then began creating art in 1974 after his mother's death. Jennings is one of America's most celebrated visionary artists. He liked creating animals and birds, but some of his most interesting pieces feature "tough girls" beating up on men or the devil.
Bernie Klatzko, 73, blues & jazz disc collector, preservationist, silent partner in Yazoo Records in the '60s and owner of the Herwin reissue label during the same period, died of complications from an older illness on Nov. 15. He was particularly interested in gospel music, especially the more obscure types such as Sanctified Jazz and Holiness String Bands, and reissued much that had otherwise been overlooked by other collectors.
Melvin Slaydon, legendary Surry County, NC fiddler, died on Nov. 15. Nancy Sluys of the Pilot Mt. Bobcats writes: "Many of you may remember him as that old guy with the big wide hat who just wouldn't quit. He never missed a fiddlers convention in the area if he could help it and he was always a fixture at WPAQ jam sessions . . ."
Hank Snow, 85, legendary country singer who was almost as well known for his flashy outfits as for his music, died at his home near Nashville on Dec. 20. Born Clarence Eugene Snow in Liverpool, Nova Scotia, he left home at age 12 to work on the fishing trawlers in the north Atlantic, using his earnings to buy his first guitar, so he could sing like his hero, Jimmie Rodgers. He joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1950 and appeared regularly until his health no longer permitted.
Barbara Kuhns sent us the following: Virgil Alfrey, 76, of Worthington, KY, died on Nov. 15. He was a wonderful fiddler and guitar player who loved music. He and his wife, Clela, with whom he sang duets and played fiddle tunes, were valued participants at the Fraley Festival in Kentucky for many years. He won Fiddler of the Festival at Fiddler's Grove in 1984 and enjoyed playing at the annual Renfro Valley Fiddlers Convention. As a young man, he played on the Renfro Valley Barn Dance with the Pine Ridge Boys. Virgil had a smooth, melodic style of fiddling and was good at playing variations of a tune. His repertoire was wide ranging from traditional Kentucky tunes to those made popular by Howdy Forrester. Because he was an accomplished guitar player as well as fiddler, he knew the chords to complicated tunes and was happy when the guitar could play the chords he heard in a tune. He and Clela were generous with their music and encouraged younger musicians, such as our band, by inviting us to join them on stage and patiently showing us tunes until we got them right. He was highly appreciated and will be greatly missed.
Legendary Pulaski, VA banjo and fiddle player, Matokie Worrell Slaughter, died on Dec. 31. From a large musical family, she first gained national recognition through her banjo cuts on County Records' Clawhammer Banjo, Vol. 3 (County 757) and More Clawhammer Banjo Songs & Tunes from the Mountains I (County 717). In 1990 she released a tape on Marimac ( Saro #9028) with her sister, Virgie Richardson and Alice Gerrard as the Back Creek Buddies.
She played a unique, driving style of banjo, with complex noting and double-noting and both up- and down-picking. With her brother, cousin, and other local musicians, she played regularly during the 1940s on Pulaski radio. She played at many local events and was a fixture at the local fiddlers conventions along with Virgie. She performed at several festivals including the University of Chicago Folk Festival, Kent State Festival in Ohio, Port Townsend, WA, and at Berea College in Kentucky. She was a master artist at the Augusta Heritage Workshops in Elkins, WV.
Matokie was a warm and generous person who, with her late husband, Ennis, always welcomed aspiring musicians into her home. She and Ennis traveled everywhere together, had a very close and loving relationship, and as her daughter, Cathy, said"She is with Daddy now." Matokie will be greatly missed. (Alice Gerrard)
Condolences or remembrances may be sent to Matokie and Ennis' daughter, Cathy Hill, PO Box 902, Dublin, VA 24084.
John Currie is a musician and singer who lives in Jacksonville, NC. He plays fiddle with The Floyd Pond Ramblers.