Here & There
This year’s Banjo Gathering – the 20th Anniversary event—will be held November 1-4 at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum in Bristol, Virginia. The organizers write, “As always, we are looking forward to a splendid time of talk and music, banjos and banjo stuff, good company and good times.” Visit banjogathering.com for information.
The American Banjo Fraternity, “a special interest group focused on the living tradition of fingerstyle or ‘classic’ (nylon/gut strung) banjo,” will meet October 11-13 at the Newark Garden Hotel in Newark, New York. The organization writes, “If you are a music professional, an amateur musician, or interested in banjo and music history, you will find worthwhile music that will challenge your skills and expand your repertoire.” Visit banjofraternity.org for details.
On the Air
Radio Bristol, at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum in Bristol, Virginia, “is a network of channels showcasing the diversity of American roots music from the early recording era to today.” The network includes original programming, such as Radio Bristol Classicand Radio Bristol Video, and a roster of independent shows focused on traditional music, including Paul Brown’s Across the Blue Ridge (see below), Brody Hunt’s Land of the Sky, Ivy Sheppard’s Born in the Mountain, Martha Spencer’s Hillbilly Wonderland, Roy Andrade’s Whup the Devil, and Joe Bussard’s Country Classics—among a great many other excellent shows. Visit birthplaceofcountrymusic.org/radio for the full list, and tune to WBCM 100.1 FM when in the Bristol area.
Across the Blue Ridge, a weekly radio show produced and hosted by Paul Brown, “focuses on the southern Blue Ridge area known through generations and still today as a hotbed of old-time, bluegrass, blues, and country music. And the program reaches far beyond, exploring southern music as the music most people around the world understand as distinctively American.” To stream the show, including earlier episodes, and to find out about radio broadcast times, visit wfdd.org/show/across-blue-ridge, or visit Radio Bristol.
Nathan Salsburg, musician and curator of the Alan Lomax Archive of the Association for Cultural Equity, hosts the podcast Been All Around This World. The show explores “the breadth and depth of folklorist Alan Lomax’s seven decades of field recordings. From the earliest trips he made through the American South with his father, John A. Lomax, beginning in 1933, to his last documentary work in the early 1990s, the program will present seminal artists and performances alongside obscure, unidentified, and previously unheard singers and players, from around America and the world.” Visit www.culturalequity.org/podcast.
Fall Line Radio, hosted by musicians Jake X. Fussell and Jefferson Currie II, is a “weekly two-hour audio show which explores traditional music of the American south and beyond.” Broadcast from WHUP in Hillsborough, North Carolina, the show can be streamed live at 1:00 PM EST on Wednesdays at whupfm.org, and you can also find archived broadcasts of earlier shows.
Dale Brubaker hosts a weekly old-time music show, the Old Time Zone, on Ellensburg (Washington) Community Radio. You can stream it live on Wednesdays at 8:30 PM PST, stream it at
eburgradio.org, and listen to earlier episodes at mixcloud.com/oldtimezone.
The National Endowment for the Arts has announced this year’s National Heritage Fellowships. Among the new Fellows are three old-time musicians: Fries, Virginia, fiddler Eddie Bond, and Franco-American New England musicians Don and Cindy Roy. (See below for profiles of Eddie Bond and the Roys.) Also receiving this year’s Fellowships are Texas R&B musician Barbara Lynn, Oregon Palestinian-American embroiderer Feryal Abbasi-Ghnaim, Anishinabe (Gun Lake Band) black ash basketmaker Kelly Church of Michigan, African American quilter Marion Coleman of California, Nashville rodeo tailor Manuel Cuevas, and Los Angeles Chicana altarista Ofelia Esparza. New York traditional music and dance advocate Ethel Raim is the recipient of the 2018 Bess Lomax Hawes National Heritage Fellowship.
The following profile is reprinted with permission from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Old-time fiddling thrives in Grayson County, Virginia, which many consider the musical heart of Southwestern Virginia and Appalachian old-time music. It is from here that one of the greatest living old-time fiddlers, Eddie Bond, hails. Though he has played on stages worldwide, Bond continues to be a central figure at local music festivals and at picking parties in parking lots, country stores, or any of the other informal settings where musicians gather along what’s become known as the Crooked Road Heritage Music Trail.
Bond was raised up in a family of musicians in the Grayson County mill town of Fries. A tiny town of 600 residents, Fries has a strikingly rich musical tradition, producing such musical luminaries as Henry Whitter, Ernest Stoneman, among others. Fries is six miles from Galax, home of the Old Fiddlers’ Convention, the oldest and largest fiddlers’ convention in the country.
Music descends in families in Grayson and Carroll Counties of Virginia. Bond was taught by a maternal grandmother who played guitar and sang music handed down for generations through the Hill family, musicians well-documented in the Library of Congress’ archival field recordings. His paternal grandmother played guitar and sang; his grandmother Bond was from the same region of North Carolina as Doc Watson and taught Bond many of the old mountain ballads he sings today. One of the most influential members of his family was his great uncle, Leon Hill, a musician who took him to visit many of the local fiddlers from whom he learned. Family friends included master performers such as Kilby Snow and Glen Smith. Bond first learned the guitar, then the banjo, autoharp, and his signature instrument, the fiddle.
Since 2001, Bond has been the lead singer and fiddler for the New Ballard’s Branch Bogtrotters, among the most respected of Virginia’s old-time string bands. The Bogtrotters are staples at Galax-area community dances and gatherings and frequent first-place winners at the Old Fiddlers’ Convention, where Bond himself has won countless fiddle contests and twice been named Best All Around Performer—arguably the highest honor in old-time music. Bond has performed across the country and overseas, including the “Music From the Crooked Road” tours produced by the National Council for the Traditional Arts. He regularly performs at festivals from Australia to Ireland, where he trades familiar tunes with local masters.
Bond also remains deeply committed to his local community—performing locally as a solo artist and with others, and teaching a string band course at a high school in Grayson County. Much as the great old-time fiddling masters did for him, Bond never hesitates to take the time to teach, assist, and encourage the next generation of fiddlers.
Director, Virginia Folklife Program
Paul Wells writes:
Maine musicians Don and Cindy Roy have been awarded a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. The NHF program is the nation’s highest form of recognition for our folk and traditional artists. Fellowships are awarded to artists in diverse fields who not only are master practitioners of their arts but who are deeply involved with their communities and are devoted to passing their traditions on to others.
Partners in life and music for nearly 40 years, Don and Cindy Roy are leading exponents of Franco-American traditional music in Maine. Both are descendants of French families that emigrated from Canada—Don’s grandparents from Quebec, Cindy’s from Prince Edward Island. Don’s virtuoso fiddling and Cindy’s steady, rhythmic piano accompaniment, plus her top-notch step-dancing, have livened up many a house party and entertained audiences across the country.
Music was a big part of life for both Don and Cindy as they grew up. Every Saturday night, and Sundays after mass, family and friends would gather for a soiree, with plenty of music, food, and good times. Cindy recalls those days fondly. “I remember growing up, it seemed to me that there was always a party going on, on Saturday nights. Fiddle-playing friends, guitar players…they would get together at my grandparents’ house. They would dance, they would sing, they would have a great time.” It was through this community network that Don’s and Cindy’s families got to know each other. Don and Cindy met in March 1980 on a blind date to play music and were married the following year.
Both Cindy’s grandfather, Alphy Martin, and Don’s grandfather, Joe Mathieu, were fiddlers, though due to a mill accident that cost Mathieu a finger, Don was never able to hear him play. Fortunately, he had passed his music on to one of his sons, Don’s uncle Lucien; it was through Lucien that Don learned the music. He took up the fiddle in 1975, when he was 15. Don recalls: “My grandfather was my biggest fan. He would sit for hours and listen to me play. Just him and me in the kitchen. He really loved it.” This was the heyday of fiddle contests in New England, and Don soon established himself as one of the top players on the circuit, while also learning from older players such as Ben Guillemette, Bill Darrah, and Gerry and Joseph Robichaud.
Following the fiddle contest years, Don and Cindy pursued other avenues for their music, both locally and on the broader stage. From 1988 to 1996 they led the Maine French Fiddlers, performing at festivals and venues such as Wolf Trap, the National Folk Festival, Carnegie Hall, and public radio’s A Prairie Home Companion. They have been members of other ensembles in Maine and now perform as the Don Roy Trio, with longtime musical collaborator Jay Young on upright bass, at a range of venues, large and small, local and national.
Both Don and Cindy are dedicated to passing on their tradition and love of music to others. Since 2000, they have led Fiddle-icious, a community fiddle orchestra with more than 100 members. Both often teach at music camps, and Don gives private fiddle lessons. He is also a highly skilled luthier whose instruments are in the hands of players across the country. His spirit of generosity and commitment to passing along knowledge and skills to others carries over to the violin making. He has taken on numerous aspiring craftspeople who gather in his shop in Gorham, Maine, to work on their own instruments under his watchful eye and guidance.
Don has received three Individual Artist Fellowships from the Maine Arts Commission and the Harold Carter Memorial Award from the Down East Country Music Association.