The Old-Time Herald Volume 8, Number 5

Here & There

Events

            The Library of Virginia in downtown Richmond has a new exhibition, Virginia Roots Music: Creating and Conserving Tradition. The exhibition will feature rare sheet music, photographs, recordings, publications, and artifacts from musicians and collectors active from 1865 to 1920. It will highlight some of the most important musical traditions of the Old Dominion, ranging from the jubilee-style gospel quartets of Tidewater Virginia , the string-band music of southwestern Virginia and the Piedmont blues style. This free exhibition opened July 8 and runs through March 22. Info: Janice M. Hathcock 804-692-3592; jhathcock@lva.lib.va.us;

            The International Country Music Conference begins Thursday evening, May 30 with a social and keynote address by Kevin Parks and Bobby Reed on “Country Music Comes to the Movies.” A special panel discussion on June 1  moderated by Ronnie Pugh will deal with the 75th Anniversary of the Bristol Sessions. The Saturday luncheon will feature a talk by Jimmie Rodgers, author of The Country Music Message. The presentations on Friday and Saturday will range from discussions of Atlanta ’s alt.country Redneck Underground to an analysis of Rose Lee Maphis and her work on Barn Dance radio. For registration information contact James E. Akenson at JAkenson@tntech.edu or 931-372-3066.

            An exhibit at Ferrum College ’s Blue Ridge Institute & Museum, the State Center for Blue Ridge Folklore showcases the careers of recording pioneers of Southwest Virginia . Titled Hometown Stars: Southwest Virginia ’s Recording Legacy, 1923-1943 the exhibit runs through Feb. 2003 in the Institute’s Jessie Ball DuPont Gallery. Admission is free. Info: 540-365-4416; www.blueridgeinstitute.org.

            There will be an Old-Time Music Symposium at Dusty Strings Acoustic Music & Violin Shop in Seattle , WA on October 2-6 featuring classes and events. Teachers will include Bruce Greene, Don Pedi, Kirk and Lisa Sutphin, and oth ers. Info: 206-634-1662; musicshop@dustystrings.com.

            The North Georgia Folk Festival will take place at Sandy Creek Park north of Athens , GA , on Oct. 5, and will include old-time music, blues, bluegrass, gospel, and more. Info: Susan Staley, 706-208-0985.

            The 3rd Annual Bluegrass & Old-Time Fiddlers Convention will be held on Sept. 21at Darnell Farms in Bryson City , NC and will include mountain dulcimer performer Don Pedi along with fiddler Bruce Green. Info: www.swaincountyheritagemusic.org.

            The Birmingham Country Dance Society is sponsoring an old-time music and dance weekend in Mentone , AL Aug. 16-18. Info: bcdsregqueen@hotmail.com; 205-595-9189.

            Soundcatcher is a week-long workshop (Aug. 11-17 in Harpers Ferry , WV ) including such musicians as Bruce Hutton, Scott Reiss, and Tina Chancey. Info: 703-525-7550; scottreiss@cs.com.

 Artists

            Robin & Linda Williams’ touring schedule includes Aug. 10-11 ( Verona , VA ) Oak Grove Music Festival; Aug. 23, 25 ( Schwenksville , PA ) Phila. Folk Festival; Aug. 24 ( Kennett Square, PA ) Longwood Gardens ; Sept. 28 ( Palmyra , VA ) Carysbrook Performing Arts Center ; Oct. 5 ( Oxford , NY ) Night Eagle Caf’ Oc; Oct. 26 ( Salem , VA ) Roanoke College Bast Center ; Nov. 2 ( McLean , VA ) Alden Theater.

            Polecat Creek will be playing Winston-Salem’s Summer on Trade series on Aug. 24th.

            Bob Bovee & Gail Heil’s 2002 performance schedule includes Calvary Episcopal Church in Rochester, MN on Aug. 15; Wild West Days in Viroqua, WI Aug. 17-18; Lanesboro, MN Barn Dance Aug. 31; Minnesota State Fair on Sept. 1-2; the Kanabec Fall Festival in Mora, MN Sept. 14; Farmamerica in Waseca, MN Sept. 15; Victorian Fair in Winona, MN on Sept. 21-22; The Shrine to Music Museum in Vermillion, SD Oct. 4; Gayeville Hall (Gayeville, SD) on Oct. 5; Crosscurrents in Kansas City, MO on Oct. 12; Kids in the Crossroads at Madison, WI Civic Center on Oct. 26; Kalamazoo, MI Folklife Organization Nov. 2. Info: bobngail@means.net.

            Paul and Win Grace and their daughters Leela and Ellie have a busy late summer and fall schedule. The following are a sampling of venues at which they will play in the upcoming season. An updated calendar for the Grace Family is posted monthly (updated at the end of each month) in two places: their web page: www.gracefamilymusic.com and through Dirty Linen on the Web, updated monthly: www.dirtynelson.com/linen/special/by-artist.         

            The Wampus Cats were/are a Leaksville-Spray-Draper, NC eclectic band. They played throughout the Southeast in the ’80s and early ’90s. They play old-time and folk music as well as originals. Info: John Carter at jcarter@mzhs.ccps.ga.net or SixforDuke@Prodigy.net, or 770-929-0168.

  In Print, In School, & On the Net

            The 2002/2003 Scottish Folk Directory is now available. Info: Scottish Folk Arts Group 49 Blackfriars Street Edinburgh EH1 1NB Scotland UK; scotfolk@scottishfolkdirectory.com.

            Sodom Laurel Album is a new book by Rob Amberg and includes photos interlaced with stories of the people of Sodom Laurel, NC in Madison County . The book also includes a CD featuring Dellie Norton, Doug Wallin, Cas Wallin, and oth er singers of traditional Appalachian music. “Through words, photographs, oral histories, and songs, Sodom Laurel Album tells the moving story of a once-isolated community on the brink of change, the people who live there, and the music.” Info: 919-660-3662; http://cds.aas.duke.edu/.

            Kenneth Mort has a new site www.mort.net/users/krm/otf with mp3 files might be of interest to fiddlers.

            There is a new web site for the Bobcaygeon, Ont. Ontario Open Fiddle and Step Dance Contest at www.fiddlecontest.ca.

            Traveling through western Virginia or North Carolina ? Want to hear live traditional music? Visit www.blueridgemusic.org, the Blue Ridge Music Trails’ online guide to music events along the Parkway corridor. The Blue Ridge Music Trails features information on over 150 regional venues, from weekly country store get-togethers to seasonal dances and annual fiddlers conventions. All of the events are open to the public, and many are free.

            North Carolina ’s Polecat Creek has a web site: www.polecatcreek.net.

            Laura Lewis and Paul Kovac continue to perform “Fiddlin’ Feet,” their elementary school program of old-time Appalachian dance and music, b oth near their home and afar. For the coming school year Paul has added a preschool program in the Greater Cleveland area. Info: Paul or Laura at 440-285-3629.

            Greenblatt & Seay announce their latest publication, The Piano Fiddling Tune Book—fiddle tunes arranged for piano. Info: www.mastercall.com/g-s/.

            The Austin Friends of Traditional Music puts out a newsletter that lists local music events. Info: PO Box 49608 , Austin TX 78765; 512-305-9838; aftm@yahoogroups.com.

  Recordings, Instruments & Labels

            Bovee and Heil’s CD’Rural Route 2, originally released on’Marimac, has been reissued on their own Jawbone label. It can be ordered directly from them at 18287 Gap Dr. , Spring Grove , MN 55974 (e-mail: bobngail@means.net).

            Fiddler and folk musician, Laurie Lewis has a new CD, called Birdsong. All profits from the sale of the collection of songs about birds will be donated to Audubon Canyon Ranch, a Bay Area nonprofit organization dedicated to environmental preservation, education, and research. Info: www.laurielewis.com; Spruce and Maple Music, PO Box 9417 , Berkeley , CA 94709-0417 ; 510-548-3041.

            The North Carolina string band, Big Medicine has a new album out—Too Old To Be Controlled. Check it out on their web site, www.bigmedmusic.com.

            Seattle banjo player Molly Tenenbaum’s new CD Instead of A Pony was released in May. Info: 206-633-0757; mt@wolfenet.com.

  Organizations

            The Music Maker Relief Foundation is a non-profit organization “dedicated to helping the true pioneers and forgotten heroes of Southern musical traditions gain recognition and meet their day to day needs. Today, many such musicians are living in extreme poverty and need food, shelter, medical care, and oth er assistance. . . . Our mission is to give back to the roots of American music.” The organization is based in Hillsborough , NC . Info: 919-643-2456; mmrf1@aol.com; www.musicmaker.org. 

  Sessions & Jams

            The Stony Brook Friends of Old-Time Music in New Jersey and adjacent states hosts a couple of regular jam sessions. One happens at the old Hopewell Train Station, a restored Victorian building, and begins at 7:30 PM every Tuesday. A second jam is the Lambertville Old-Time Session, held on the fourth Wednesday of every month, beginning at 8:00 PM at Mitchell’s Caf’, 11 l/2 Church Street , Lambertville , New Jersey . Info and directions: Frank Basile 609-397-9853; frank@donegone.net; www.donegone.net/sbfotm.

            There is an Old-Time Tunes Jam on 2nd & 4th Sundays from 3-7 PM at the Progressive Grounds Café, 400 Cortland Ave. , San Francisco , CA. Info: fiddler@scbs.org.

            There is a jam session every 2nd and 4th Sundays at Progressive Grounds, from 3-6 PM , 400 Cortland , San Francisco , CA .

            There is an old-time jam every oth er Tues. in San Anselmo , CA at 8 PM ; Info: 415-459-3421.

  In Our Thoughts

            Dave “Snaker” Ray, probably best known to folkies for his work in the seminal revival blues band Koerner, Ray & Glover, is seriously ill with lung cancer. If you’d like to send a card, he’s at: James D. Ray, Abott-Northwestern Hospital , 800 E. 28th St. , Minneapolis MN 55407 .

  Congratulations

            The 4th Annual Monumental Fiddling Championships were held on May 24th in Beatrice , NE , at the national Homestead Monument . Twenty fiddle players from Nebraska , Iowa , and Kansas , competed. Winners included: Megan Poppe, Bjorn Borg, Preston Bradley, Bethany Borg, Matthew Fincham, Michelle Fincham, the Huebert Family, Dolores Goldapp, and Benjamin Borg. Info: Homestead National Monument of America , 402-223-3514.

            The Charlotte Folk Society has awarded its first Marilyn Meacham Price Scholarship to Amanda Wright. Amanda will be attending Old-Time Week at the Swannanoa Gathering.

            Winners of this year’s Old-Time Fiddlers and Bluegrass Festival held at Union Grove, NC over Memorial Day weekend were (in place order): Senior Old-Time Fiddle: Eddie Bond, Cecil Gurganus, Richard Bowman; Junior Old-Time Fiddle: Jarred Nutter, Emma McDowell, Bryan McDowell; Senior Old-Time Banjo: Jim Lloyd, Kirk Sutphin, Don Murry; Junior Old-Time Banjo: Sarah Garbade, Rachel Dawson, Alex Dunn; Autoharp: Ronnie Burroughs, Michael Poole, JoAnn Redd; Dulcimer: Jeff Furman, Dustin Sechrest, Allen Darveaux; Bass: Herb Key, Jared Hudson, Mark Rose; Harmonica: Eddie Ogle, Mel Jones, David Craft; “Certified” Old-Time Fiddler: Bill Birchfield, Nick Holman, Jerry Correll; Twin Fiddle: Helen White and Barb Kuhns; Kirk Sutphin and Eddie Bond; Richard Bowman and Bill Birchfield; Senior Old-Time Band: New Southern Broadcasters, Old-Time Tradition, Laurel Creek String Band; Heritage Tune: Brian Fain; Fiddler of the Festival: Debbie Gitlin, Eddie Bond, Jarred Nutter.

            A film, The Accountant, which includes some music performed by Tom Sauber, won an Oscar for Best Live Action Short at this year’s Academy Awards.

            Martha Scanlan of the Reeltime Travelers from Johnson City , TN won first prize in the bluegrass song category and 2nd prize in the country category at the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest at MerleFest. John Lilly won 3rd place in the country category.

            Music journalist Stephanie P. Ledgin has been re-appointed Director of the New Jersey Folk Festival at Rutgers , The State University. She has just completed her ninth year working with the festival.

            Charles K. Wolfe received the Country Music Book of the Year Award for Classic Country May 31st at the International Country Music Conference at Belmont University in Nashville , TN.

            No Depression magazine editor Grant Alden and country music journalist Ed Morris received the second annual Charlie Lamb Award for Excellence in Country Music Journalism.

            The winners at the Mt. Airy, NC Fiddlers Convention this year (first three places) were: Adult Folk Song: Suzanne Jaroszynski, Marty Miller, Kelly Harding; Youth Folk Song: Elizabeth LaPrelle, Laura Leigh Jones, Caitlin Jones; Children Dance: Cameran Llewellyn, Jimmy Creed, Rhys Llewellyn; Adult Dance: Mike Motely, Barbara Bowman, Phil Jamison; Autoharp: Mary Umbarger, Bobbi Roberts, Ross Winn Roberts; Guitar: John Stickle, Steve Kilby, Phillip Jones; Old-Time Banjo: Ken Inoue, Jim Lloyd, Brian Fain; Old-Time Fiddle: Jake Krack, Betty Vornbrock, Benton Flippen; Mandolin: Chris Harris, Chris Golliher, Greg Jones; Dobro: Robert Ellis, Pammy Davis, Clarence Roberts; Bass: Barry McCauley, Marty Miller, Jonathan Boyd; Dulcimer: Fred Reynolds, Tammy Sawyer, Steve Parks; Guitar-Youth: Will Jones, Corey Wells, Jacob Hiatt; Bass-Youth: Ashley Jones; Mandolin-Youth: Laura Jones, Joey Lemons, Spencer Blankenship; Old-Time Fiddle-Youth: Isaac Akers, Thea Ryan, Trenae Finkelstein; Old-Time Band: New Southern Ramblers, Old-Time Tradition, Blue Ridge Mountain Ramblers.

  Final Notes

            Ross Brown, fiddler from Hiawassee , GA , died in the spring of 2001. Born in 1910, he claimed that his first inspiration in music came from an old sow that ran her back against a splinter under the family house, and played a tune in between “Amazing Grace” and”“Weeping Willow.” A comical and kind person as well as being a fine fiddler of the old school, he grew up playing local square dances and in the family circle. Only in the last 25 years of his life did he begin to perform beyond his home region. Inspired to reorganize a string band he had played dances with in the 1930s, with Lawrence Eller on banjo and his br oth er Vaughn Eller on guitar, he cut an LP for Flyright and played festivals such as the Georgia Grassroots Festival, and the National Folk Festival at Wolf Trap Farm.                        After the Ellers passed away he continued playing with oth er musicians at such events as the Edinburgh Festival, the 1992 Winter Olympics in Norway , and the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes. He was active playing at the John Campbell Folk School in Brasstown , NC and was a regular at annual Foxfire events in North Georgia . He applied his keen sense of melody and nuanced left-handed bowing to old-time fiddle tunes, gospel songs, and original pieces such as “Peanut,” which he composed to honor Jimmy Carter’s presidency.                                                     —Art Rosenbaum

            Tony Thomas at the Museum of Appalachia informed us that banjo player Don Sarrell from Rising Fawn, GA died on May 25 at the age of 68.

            “I first met Don three years ago at the Museum of Appalachia in Norris , Tennessee . I had the pleasure many times over the last three years of playing music with him at the Mountain Opry on Signal Mountain in Chattanooga , Tennessee , festivals and oth er functions. He was a man with a heart of gold that would do anything for anybody he could to help them out.

            “Don was a member of the Board of Directors at the Mountain Opry where he performed every Friday night. His last performance was on May 24 at the Mountain Opry. Don won many titles as an old-time banjo player through the years. He was the leader of the old-time string band, Down Yonder, since its formation in 1987, performing weekly at the Mountain Opry in Walden , TN among his many oth er performances. He composed over 35 original tunes and produced five recordings of traditional music.”

            Ray Park, one of the great bluegrass fiddlers and singers in northern California has recently passed away. He recorded a classic album back in the ‘70s with Vern Williams, when the two of them performed all over California as the Vern and Ray Band. Ray spent a few years in Southern California working some of the theme parks with his son Larry and oth er Los Angeles pickers, and recorded an album of fiddle tunes called Fiddletown on Sierra records. Back before there was a big bluegrass scene in the San Francisco Bay Area, concerts with Vern and Ray were legendary events; musicians like Herb Pederson sat in regularly with the band. Ray moved back to northern California a few years ago and was already suffering from Parkinsons. The Vern and Ray Reunion became a regular event at the mid-summer Grass Valley Festival. Gus Garelick remarked, “Ray was a big influence on my own fiddling, back when I was just starting out in the early ’70s. We’re all going to miss him.”

            Folklorist Ed Kahn died on March 24. Norm Cohen sent us the following remembrance.

             “Ed Kahn was one of a handful of scholars who could discuss Francis James Child and Fiddlin’ John Carson with equal authority. In an era of shaggy hair and love beads, Ed was always immaculately dressed and put together. Other friends in the folklore program drove ancient vehicles of questionable reliability; Ed had a leather-upholstered Jaguar. If Renaissance men could drive Jaguars, Ed was a veritable Renaissance man in the world of folk music. He ran a book/record shop, a mail-order book business in folklore literature, wrote quarterly record reviews for the academic journal Western Folklore, taught some of Bess Hawes’ folklore classes at what was then San Fernando Valley State College, and taught courses in folklore and folksong for UCLA’s Extension Program

            “Ed carried out extensive fieldwork, beginning with traditional musicians Pete and Lily Steele. From these recordings, made jointly with Art Rosenbaum, an LP was issued in 1958: Banjo Tunes and Songs [Folkways FS 3828]. He had conducted in-depth interviews with Merle Travis and his friends Mose Rager and Ike Everly in western Kentucky . He was the only folklorist to interview all three members of the original Carter Family (Sara, Maybelle, and A.P.). He had interviewed and/or recorded the music of several oth er old-time musicians, including Clarence Greene, Doc Hopkins, and the Pickard Family. He had conducted enough fieldwork in the communities around Coal Creek , Tennessee , to plan a book. He knew and was on warm terms with the prime movers in the country music entertainment industry in b oth Hollywood and Nashville . He had interviewed extensively some of the industry’s leading patricians: Ralph Peer, Steve Sholes, Polk Brockman, Wesley Rose, and oth ers. He had carried out fresh research in the history of border radio and its impact on country music. He had published the first academic paper on a discographer and discography (“Will Roy Hearne: Peripheral Folksong Scholar,” in Western Folklore (July 1964). In 1960, Australian record collector, discographer, and old-time music historian John Edwards met an untimely death. Edwards’ will had directed that his collection and files be put in the hands of American record collector/discographer Gene Earle to further the serious academic study of American country music. In the following year, with Archie Green, D. K. Wilgus, Gene Earle, and Fred Hoeptner, Ed was involved in the creation of a foundation, the John Edwards Memorial Foundation (JEMF), that was given a small office in the Folklore & Mythology Program’s suite of offices at UCLA. Ed became Executive Secretary of the new organization and was principal force in getting the Foundation off the ground as an archive and research organization.

            “In 1964, Ed proposed that he and I co-edit the JEMF’s first publication: a quarterly newsletter to contain news of the organization and, eventually, bibliographic, discographic, and oth er articles of interest. In these years Ed constantly impressed me as a man who knew where he was going and how to get there. Ed was friendly but business-like. He exuded energy and enthusiasm. His intellect was sharp and penetrating. He was seen as a promising young star by his mentors at UCLA—first Wayland Hand and, after he joined the faculty, D. K. Wilgus. The JEMF was Ed’s baby, but he was simultaneously juggling half a dozen different academic and business ventures with remarkable skill and success.

            “Yet somehow, he was having troubles finalizing his dissertation: a history of the Carter Family and their impact on American music. Alone among the many apples he was juggling it kept falling to the ground. In 1967 Ed applied for a fellowship to study culture in Nepal . Many who knew him well were puzzled by what seemed to be a left turn out of nowhere and into an area in which Ed had had no previous interest or experience. Evidently, he had begun to have doubts about a career in folklore; he turned to the Anthropology Department instead. When Ed left, he asked me to take over some of his activities: to become acting Executive Secretary of the JEMF, to continue editing the newsletter, to take over writing record reviews for Western Folklore, and to teach his folk music class at UCLA.

            “When Ed returned after about a year, he completed a dissertation about the Carter Family (“The Carter Family: A Reflection of Changes in Society”) in 1970. In the next months Ed packed his belongings, sold off his book and record business, rented out his houses, and moved to San Francisco into an ashram. Ed’s interests in country music, folk music, and the related subjects that had been dear to him had vanished. His outlook on the world had changed. In one letter he wrote something to the effect that he had met a guru who claimed to have all the knowledge of the world at his disposal, and so far Ed had found n oth ing to contradict that claim. Those of us who continued to run the activities of the JEMF were at a loss for explanation. After several years, during which my contact with him continued mainly via letter correspondence, Ed lost interest in b oth the guru and the commune where he was ensconced. A couple of marriages and several career changes later he unsuccessfully attempted to reestablish his early position as a leader in the field of folklore. He studied to become a professional financial planner.

            “In his last year or two, Ed focused his attention on establishing a series of publications under the auspices of the JEMF in cooperation with the University of North Carolina Press. (The JEMF had become the John Edwards Memorial Forum—the offices at UCLA had closed, and the archive had been moved to the University of North Carolina. The first of these publications will be Guthrie T. Meade’s annotated discography of recorded hillbilly analogs of traditional folk music. (Gus had died in 1991 shortly before completing this important work, and its completion was undertaken by Dick Spottswood and Gus’s son, Doug, with assistance from one of Ed’s first folklore acquaintances, Joe Hickerson.)

            Simultaneously, Ed worked with folk music historian Ron Cohen co-editing American Folk Music and Musicians Series, published by Scarecrow Press. Even at his best, writing was not Ed’s strongest suit. His publications were a pale reflection of his extensive fieldwork and accumulated knowledge. He wrote few articles in academic journals. His best writings included liner notes for several albums (Smoky Mountain Ballads for RCA Victor LPV 507; The Blue Sky Boys, Capitol T2483—a recording session that Ed arranged; and Darby and Tarlton—Complete Recordings, Bear Family BCD 15764.) In the 1960s he also wrote some short, unsigned jacket blurbs for country music albums on the RCA label. His last folklore-related writing was an essay for a collection of pieces by Alan Lomax, edited by Ron Cohen and to be published by Routledge Press. During this time Ed discovered he had lung cancer, and during the last year of his life an increasing proportion of his time was devoted to medical demands. Those who knew Ed well and worked with him for many years will see Gus Meade’s discography, when it appears this summer, as an important piece of research to which Ed contributed in no small measure; but as only a corner of the broad canvas that he had started to paint before he unaccountably laid down his brush. That death cheated him out of the opportunity to pick it up again and regain his skills is, if not unfair (he wouldn’t have characterized it as such), certainly regrettable. Ed had a great deal more to offer.”

            The OTH has just received word that fiddler Joe Birchfield of the Roan Mountain Hilltoppers passedaway on June 18th.  He was 90 years old. Joe’s son, Bill, and daughter-in-law, Janice can be reached at 115 Holly Hill Rd., Roan Mtn., TN 37687; 423-725-3065.

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