Open Session, Turners Falls

July 14, 2016 by

Come one, come all~


OPEN OLD TIME SESSION every 4th Wednesday, 8-10pm, at the Rendezvous, 78 Third Street, Turners Falls, MA. Everybody welcome! for more info.

2016 Harry Smith Frolic

July 2, 2016 by


VIDEO – Homemade Music in Stickerville – Weiser, ID

June 22, 2016 by

Slippery Hill’s Jon Bekoff (RIP) Audio Archive

June 14, 2016 by


Jon sideview

Jon Bekoff (1959-2015) was a generous teacher and patient mentor to lovers of Old Time, Cajun, and World music. Although Jon never made commercial recordings, he profoundly influenced and inspired Old Time musicians throughout the US and internationally, particularly after he permitted YouTube documentation of his music. Larry Warren collaborated with Moonshine to create an archive of the audio recordings of Jon. This is a work in progress as there is still much yet to upload (so keep checking back). Much of the music shared here was collected or recorded by Nate Paine, Jon’s protege and closest jamming partner during Jon’s last decade. We students and friends of Jon wish that ALL recordings ever made of him could be posted here, publicly, free, and downloadable – as an archive for posterity and most importantly, for future music students’ learning. Because the recording settings were largely informal, private lessons or jams, we have opted to leave out the names of Jon’s accompanists, listing only the tune name, key, session location and year. The intention is to allow Jon’s music to inspire others, with the hope that others might also contribute private recordings of Jon that are not listed here, even if the accompanists might sound imperfect.  

Where there are multiple versions of Jon playing a tune, Larry selected a 3 minute sample from one of them for streaming. However, as any of you who played with Jon know, he never played the same way twice, and within a melody, a single 3-minute clip could be different than the rest of the recording. For this reason, all full versions of the recordings are also available for download at the bottom of the page.

post script: Jon died a year ago today, leaving behind elderly parents. His father Sy (almost 90) is sadly this month moving to Canada, for financial reasons. Let us hope the move goes well, because he is a kind man, who practices what Jon also practiced, cultivating affection for all beings.

post post script: The Jon Bekoff Project  was set up by Moonshine to support informal Georgia oldtime music learning projects. The first recipients to complete the JB Project scholarships can be seen with their Georgia oldtime mentors here: and here doing what Jon also liked (jamming on world music)


JB photo credit: Matt Betz

Frank Malloy – 89 y.o. Georgia fiddle music composer

June 7, 2016 by

from Fiddler Magazine: 2016-05-24 “The Wild and Wonderful World of Frank Maloy”

by Paul Anastasio

Frank’s compositions can be heard here:

“Doom, Blang, Doom, Blang.” When you hear this, you know that Frank Maloy is counting off one of his many original tunes. No “One, Two, One, Two, Three, Four” for Frank. He prefers to use his late Brother Joe’s count-off. Naturally, if playing a waltz he would count “Doom, Blang, Blang.”

As with so many aspects of Frank’s life, his way might be considered a bit out of the box. Highly musical, but just a little different.

Frank has been a musician and a composer for most of his 89 years—wildly creative and possessed with an encyclopedic memory. Frank not only remembers innumerable gigs and recordings going back well before 1940, but he can also name many of the musicians who played the gigs and even specific tunes and keys.

A typical Frank Maloy query might go something like this:

“When you listen to the Johnny Lee Wills radio show #20, on ‘Feed Me Corn and Watch Me Grow,’ do you think that’s Joe Holley playing the hot fiddle solo?” or

“Remember that Bob Wills session back in 1946 where Louis Tierney played a hot chorus on ‘Sweet Sue’ in the key of G?” I just made that last one up, but these reminiscences are typical of what goes through Frank’s mind every waking hour.

Naturally we mortals are lucky to even remember the recording, much less the specific tunes and keys. Frank could probably even sing or play the hot choruses. Multiply this by thousands of reminiscences, and you’ll begin to get the hang of his conversations.

As accomplished a fiddler as Frank is, I was surprised to discover that he somehow also found time to learn to play alto and tenor saxophone, clarinet, guitar, bass, and mandolin. He even learned to tap dance at an early age, and tapped for exercise into his 70s.

Frank truly has no idea of how many original fiddle tunes he has composed. We know that he composed at least 159, one for each Georgia county. Regular Fiddler Magazine readers might remember a review of his book of tunes and CD set a few years back.

Astonishing as it may seem, these compositions are just the tip of the iceberg. His friend and fellow musician, Tom Mindte, estimates that he has written at least 1,000. Frank’s tune titles are, to say the least, a bit idiosyncratic. “Ethelyn’s Dancing Arpeggio Waltz,” “Chuck Nation Flowery Branch Reel,” and “Billy Puckett Old Time Key of G Breakdown” are just a few examples. Considering that the 159 Georgia county tunes were composed in the span of just a few months, it’s anybody’s guess how many he’s composed in the rest of his 89 years. Fortunately for all of us, Frank shows no sign of slowing down his compositional output.

A typical Frank Maloy day might begin with him noodling on the mandolin until a tune comes to him. He’ll then transcribe it and name it after a place or person.

Frank was born in Milan, Georgia, on January 2, 1927, into a family in which nearly everyone played string instruments. As a youngster he started off playing fiddle with a bow his mother haired with sewing thread. Frank studied the violin with several teachers and also completed the U.S. School of Music correspondence course, giving him a good background in music theory. Fascinated by old time fiddle tunes, he ordered 1000 Fiddle Tunes, published by M.M. Cole, from the Sears, Roebuck catalog, and began playing the tunes.

Frank had two brothers, Grooms and Joe, both of whom were musicians. Brother Grooms, who played mandolin, guitar, and fiddle, was tragically killed in action in the Philippines in World War II.

Frank and Brother Joe, however, continued to perform, and by 1946, the then-teenaged boys were playing on radio station WBHB in Fitzgerald, Georgia, with Charlie Dowdy and the Prairie Boys. By 1950 Frank began a 10-year stint playing on radio and TV with Uncle Ned and the Hayloft Jamboree at WMAZ in Macon. Later, Frank and Joe reunited in Macon to perform in their own group, The Swingmasters.

During the 1980s, Frank and Brother Joe played beach music—also known as shag music—and 1950s rock and roll in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Returning to south Georgia, they performed with the Dave Mercer Band for over a decade.

Brother Joe, who played bass, guitar, mandolin, and fiddle, passed away in 2005. We are fortunate that Tom Mindte’s Patuxent Music was able to record a terrific CD in 1999 featuring Frank’s fiddling and Brother Joe’s guitar work. Entitled Time Will Tell, the disc, CD065, is still available on the Patuxent website (

Remarkably, the Maloy brothers had never commercially recorded until the release of this CD. On it, the brothers play swing-era standards—good, sophisticated tunes including “Poinciana,” “Embraceable You,” and “Charmaine,” with only one Frank Maloy original.

You’d think that Frank, a strong music reader, learned his tunes at least in part from commercial sheet music. His ear, however, is so strong that he generally transcribes melodies and chords strictly by listening to recordings. One tune we recorded on Frank’s upcoming disc, Duke Ellington’s “Sophisticated Lady,” has at times four chords to the bar. It goes without saying that in order to transcribe pieces that complicated, Frank must possess what my old bassist friend Harlow Atwood called “ears on stalks.”

Frank’s name might ring a bell with Fiddler readers, as for over 30 years he was a contributing writer and tune transcriber for the fine old publication The Devil’s Box.

When Frank begins reminiscing, chances are he’ll not only mention playing a dance back in 1946, but some of the numbers he played on that date and their keys as well.

[For the rest of this article, as well as transcriptions of Frank’s tunes “City of Albany Waltz” and “Paul Aiken Breakdown,” as well as some of “Frank’s Exercises,” subscribe to Fiddler Magazine, or purchase the Summer 2016 issue.]

[A former student of Joe Venuti, Paul Anastasio is a veteran of the bands of Merle Haggard, Asleep at the Wheel, Larry Gatlin, and Loretta Lynn. For information on 4-day intensive workshops and skype lessons with Paul, contact him at (206) 440-1844 or Be sure to visit his website devoted to the music of Mexico’s Tierra Caliente at]


Kaia Kater – clawhammer banjoist-singer

June 5, 2016 by



Kaia Kater is lauded for being one of the youngest performers in the roots scene at 22 years old. But what’s special is that she’s blowing up the roots music scene in spite of her age, not because of it. Her old-time banjo-picking skills, deft arrangements, and songwriting abilities have landed her in the national spotlight on both Canadian and American soil. Born in Quebec of mixed Afro-Caribbean ancestry, she now resides in Toronto and spends extensive time in West Virginia, where she ardently studies balladry and traditional dance. As an original songwriter, she works to incorporate her perspective as one of the few people of color in roots music into the complex racial history of the traditions themselves. Her music combines beautifully subtle old-time banjo with soft sensibilities, mixing elements of both Canadian and American historical traditions with a decidedly modern sound. This Ear to the Ground piece features interview dialog and live session performances of Kater’s original tunes. Recorded and filmed by Beehive Productions in Saranac Lake, NY

Moonshine Holler in Turners Falls 5/13

May 2, 2016 by

Flyer - Moonshine Holler(2)

The Jon Bekoff Project for the Advancement of Georgia Old-Time Music

March 27, 2016 by

The Jon Bekoff (JB) Project was created in the memory of the musician Jon Bekoff (1959-2015) to promote Old-Time Georgia stringband music. The JB Project supports one-on-one and small group learning with mentors knowledgeable and skilled in Georgia old-time musical traditions.

jon GA

Jon was a gentle soul and loved to connect with people through informal learning and sharing of world music.  (For more details of Jon’s musical obituary written by Jon’s fiddle student, nicknamed “Moonshine,” see: )

Within the old-time tradition, Jon had a special fondness for Georgia Old-time music, and used to wear a t-shirt “In Gid We Trust.” In the last half year of his life, Jon made a pilgrimage from his home state of Massachusetts to Georgia, where he visited the home and burial site of the fiddler Gid Tanner, and made a video at Gid’s grave playing “a Gid tune” with Gid’s grandson, Phil.

(see ). After Jon’s death, “Moonshine” collaborated with the Center for Public History in Georgia to endow this humble project to spread a little bit of Jon’s karma, through informal learning initiatives.

The Center for Public History staff at the University of West Georgia administer the Jon Bekoff Project for Georgia Old-Time Music Project as part of its Regional Music Project.

Who can apply?

The program accepts applications from:

  1. Individuals who want to pursue lessons, workshops, or classes in Georgia Oldtime music. Applicants need not live in Georgia.
  2. Mentors versed in Georgia old-time music who want to organize music jam-workshops or study groups; or who want to develop open-access instructional videos. Mentors need not live in Georgia.

Applicants in the first category will:

  1. demonstrate an interest in the music of Georgia string band traditions
  2. possess a basic command of their instrument

In most cases, the funds will go to the mentor, not the applicant, except for music camp scholarships.

Who can be a mentor?

Musicians who are experienced teachers of traditional Georgia string band music may apply to the Center for Public History to be accepted into the program. The Center for Public History program staff will maintain a list of approved mentors.

Mentor applications will include a biography and evidence of their expertise in this field. The review committee will evaluate these applicants to determine if if they meet the program criteria as mentors.

All mentors must submit a vendor profile form and W-9 form to  the University of West Georgia to process payments.

Award amount

Each project should specify a budget.  Typical grant awards are approximately $500.  Applicants may apply for up to about $1000 for large projects.

What types of experiences are eligible?

Mentors set the course prospectus relative to the grant award and can teach in the following settings, including but not limited to the following formats.  All projects are expected to be completed over a four to six month period.

  • 1:1 learning.  Student travels to mentor although the duo can choose to meet at mutually agreed upon settings outside of the mentor’s home. Student may opt to learn on several instruments during this time (e.g., fiddle, banjo, banjolin, guitar) to master all parts of traditional string band ensemble.(For example, this might involve  10  two to three-hour instructional sessions with a mentor for $500)
  • Small group intermediate workshop series.  An applicant organizes a small group workshop series with a specific mentor. The mentor and an applicant select a location to hold a workshop for three to six participants, selecting tunes to be covered in advance of each session, for learners to play together. For example, the workshop could be a “Skillet Lickers study group” to work through the repertoire of this or the group could focus on other famous Georgia old-time musicians like John Dilleshaw, A.A. Gray, Clayton McMichen, Riley Puckett, or others. The initial proposal will list the participants, but these could change during the course of the series with the mentor’s approval. (For example, this might be five, three-hour sessions for $100 per session per workshop leader.) Most of the tunes studied should be Georgia tunes.
  • Facilitated introductory Georgia music jam-workshop series– The mentor applies to the program to facilitate regional one-off educational demonstrations followed by jams, featuring the mentor’s repertoire of Georgia music.
  • Development of instructional materials for Georgia traditional music, such as YouTube videos, DVD, or other media that could be hosted online. Mentors apply for funding to create instructional materials focused on Georgia old time stringband music traditions.
  • Intensive residencies. This category provides an opportunity for out-of-town learners to study with a mentor over several consecutive days.  For example, the residency could be three five-hour days, which would include time devoted to listening to and discussing source material together. The application should describe the residency. The grant budget may include a small stipend for the out-of-town mentee for travel and residency support.
  • Other formats–We are open to other creative project ideas, provided they are in the spirit of informal group learning.  For example, if someone wants to organize a day of workshops and jams, to promote Georgia Oldtime and Blues music. Applicants can also apply for 500$ scholarships to attend a music week camp class if one of the classes is taught by an approved project mentor (e.g. Mick and Evan Kinney’s Rags and Blues fiddle class at Mars Hill, NC, June 5-12, 2016 see )


Application process

Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis and reviewed monthly. Awards will be distributed each year on a first-come, first-served basis, as funds allow.

Applicants should the following points in their application:

  1. A project narrative that includes the following:
  2. Name and contact information for the applicant
  3. Applicant’s musical background and experience
  4. Reasons for pursuing the apprenticeship, class, etc.
  5. Description of proposed type of apprenticeship, class, etc.
  6. Name and contact information for mentor or information about the class/camp
  7. Proposed project
  8. Proposed schedule
  9. Proposed budget
  1. Student applicants must also submit YouTube or other video recording that demonstrates their musical skills

Submit all applications to:

Dr. Ann McCleary, Center for Public History, University of West Georgia, Carrollton, GA 30118, 678-839-6141

Knoxville Stomp – Celebrating Knoxville’s Lost Musical History, May 5 – 8, 2016

March 27, 2016 by

Celebrating Knoxville’s Lost Musical History


From Knoxville Mercury

In 1929 and 1930, a series of recording sessions—more than 100 commercially released tracks of country, jazz, blues, and gospel music, plus many more that weren’t issued—were made at Knoxville’s long-gone St. James Hotel, on Union Avenue. Bear Family, a German record label renowned for its luxe archival reissues of old-time and country music, is set to release a box set of the existing recordings next spring, and a handful of local organizations involved in the project have announced plans for a suitably grand celebration of the set and the music it documents.
The 2016 Knoxville Stomp Festival of Lost Music, set for May 5-8, is a collaboration among the Knoxville Public Library and its Tennessee Archive of Moving Image and Sound, WDVX, the East Tennessee Historical Society, and Visit Knoxville. The weekend-long downtown event will include live music, speakers, panels, film screenings, a 78 record collectors’ show, and a corresponding exhibit at the East Tennessee History Museum that will run from April 11 to Oct. 16.

The music headliner is Dom Flemons, a co-founder of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, a North Carolina string band that takes its name from the Tennessee Chocolate Drops, one of the acts that recorded at the St. James Hotel. WDVX will also stage a Saturday concert on Market Square, featuring local bands performing music from the St. James recordings. Amanda Petrusich, whose 2014 book, Do Not Sell at Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World’s Rarest 78 rpm Records, explored the world of old-time and blues music collectors, will also appear, as will Joe Bussard, a 78 collector from Maryland whose efforts in the 1950s and ’60s preserved much of the music we now have from the 1920s and ’30s.
“That means that a friend of mine will go up and get him and I’ll drive him back. He doesn’t fly,” says TAMIS co-director Bradley Reeves of Bussard’s appearance. “To me, it’s worth it to have this guy here. He’s the reason for all this. He started it all, at least on my end.”

Reeves met Bussard in the 1990s, when he was working at the Library of Congress. When Reeves drove from Washington, D.C., to Bussard’s house outside Baltimore, Bussard played a song by Ridgel’s Fountain Citians—one of the songs from the St. James recordings. It was the first inkling Reeves had of the sessions and the first time he realized that he might be able to make a career out of preserving Knoxville culture—so having Bussard here again to talk specifically about those Knoxville recordings is a big deal for him.

Reeves and TAMIS archivist Eric Dawson (a regular contributor to the Knoxville Mercury) have been instrumental in the research for the Bear Family box set. The TAMIS collection provided much of the material—dates, photos, biographical information—for the hardcover book that will be part of the set. (They collaborated with Ted Olson of East Tennessee State University and Tony Russell, a noted country-music historian from England. They’re all expected to take part in panel discussions, along with Jack Neely and Bear Family head Richard Weize.) Reeves and Dawson have tracked down new info on Maynard Baird, the leader of a well-known Knoxville jazz combo in the ’20s and ’30s, and Odessa Cansler, a blues singer whose records were never released.

“She fascinates me,” Reeves says. “The records that she recorded but were never released because of the Depression—oh, man, they sound like they could be something really special. We found a great niece who’s 98 years old. She had a picture of Aunt Dessie in her scrapbook.”

The Knoxville sessions are noted for their diversity, especially compared to similar recording sessions in Johnson City and Bristol, which were largely old-time and country music. The St. James recordings were more cosmopolitan, reflecting a vibrant urban culture that’s barely remembered. Reeves says this project can help restore some of that lost history.

“It’s enriched the collections. It’s enriched our knowledge of Knoxville music history in a way that is just unbelievable,” he says. “It’s made me proud of Knoxville—I’m really proud of our heritage and our music diversity. People have a tendency to pigeonhole you as a bluegrass town, but man, it was always going on here, and these sessions capture that.”

Documentary: Floating Dancer: The Story of Robert Dotson, the Walking Step, and the Green Grass Cloggers

March 1, 2016 by


Floating Dancer: The Story of Robert Dotson, the Walking Step, and the Green Grass Cloggers acquaints viewers with Robert Dotson and the Walking Step, a percussive dance step the Green Grass Cloggers deciphered from Robert’s flatfooting style of dancing in 1978 and helped spread far beyond Robert’s home community of Sugar Grove, NC, where he lived for the majority of his 91 years (May 13, 1923 – January 13, 2015). Teaching the Walking Step has proved to be an effective way for the NC-based Green Grass Cloggers and other clogging teams to introduce new dancers to flatfooting and clogging at festivals and workshops in several states and countries.

© 2016 Pilcrow, Possum & Persimmon. Directed by Leanne E. Smith. Produced by Leanne E. Smith & M. Chad Smith. Edited by M. Chad Smith & Leanne E. Smith.

Read more here about the Green Grass Cloggers


Across the Blue Ridge – Paul Brown’s revived weekly radio show

February 21, 2016 by


This weekly radio hosted by Paul Brown can be accessed online. Listen to episode 8 here:

In the late 1980s, then-WFDD News Director Paul Brown created Across the Blue Ridge, a radio program that told some of America’s most fascinating stories through the lens of Appalachian music and cultural history. It became an instant hit and was broadcast on WFDD for more than a decade until Paul left WFDD for NPR in Washington, DC. With Paul back in his cherished Blue Ridge region, and ready to present more music, share discussion with more interesting characters, and be your friend and guide in discovering the rich offerings of traditional Appalachian music, we created a partnership with Paul to bring back the beloved Across the Blue Ridge radio show.

Across the Blue Ridge 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. Across the Blue Ridge is smart, irreverent, fun, serious, and entertaining all at once. How could it not be? Its host, Paul Brown, is a well-known former NPR journalist and radio producer who also happens to be a prize-winning banjo picker, fiddle player singer and storyteller. The show is filled with those “a-ha” moments for which public radio is known – moments that help listeners make new connections regarding history, art, music, politics, and the past, present, and future.


East Texas Serenaders #2

February 3, 2016 by


from Texas State Historical Association (

East Texas Serenaders was a musical group of four East Texans from Smith and Wood counties and one of the most unusual bands of the 1920s and 1930s. Their rare left-handed fiddle player, Daniel Huggins Williams, won contests all over East and Central Texas. The guitar player was Cloet Hamman, with a gift of good bass runs and a faultless rhythm. On the group’s first recordings Patrick Henry Bogan, Sr., played an upright bass, but later played a three-string cello with a bow; the bass didn’t travel well on top of the car in bad weather. John Munnerlyn played tenor banjo with a steady colorful style.

The Serenaders first recorded two pieces on December 2, 1927, in Dallas for Columbia Records. They subsequently recorded fourteen songs for Brunswick about 1928. Finally, in 1937 they recorded eight songs for Decca. Munnerlyn left the group about 1930 and was replaced by Shorty Lester, whose brother Henry played second fiddle on later recordings. The rags and breakdowns the group played were clear steps toward swing and string-band music, a departure from the standard fiddle-band tradition. Some critics have given the Serenaders credit for the beginning of western swing. Hamman, Bogan, and Munnerlyn made one of the most forceful rhythm sections in string-band history.

Bogan was born on January 5, 1894, and died on June 24, 1968. He started playing guitar early and then took up the bass fiddle and chorded the piano. He decided to play the cello later because it was smaller; he removed a string, he said, because he didn’t need it. He worked for a time on a ranch near Happy, Texas, in the Panhandle, served in the United States Navy during World War I, then worked for Wells Fargo and the post office in Mineola.

Huggins Williams was born in 1900 and died in 1974. His father, originally from Milan, Tennessee, played fiddle, and Huggins would sneak the fiddle off the shelf to practice when he was nine years old. He began to learn several tunes before his father became aware. Since he was left-handed, the boy was reaching over the lower strings to play the upper ones. His father bought him a left-handed fiddle and arranged lessons from a local teacher. Williams played with Lew Preston in the Tyler area in later years. He also tutored one of the really great jazz and swing fiddle players of all time, Johnny Gimble of Nashville—a fact related by Gimble to Bill Malone.

Cloet Hamman was born on May 5, 1899, and died in June 1983; he was the last of the Serenaders to die. His father, Will, was a famous breakdown fiddler and piano tuner from near Lindale, Texas, who won every contest he entered until he was about seventy years old. Cloet learned guitar backing him up. While working on his tractor in later years, Cloet got his fingers hung in the moving machinery and subsequently lost some fingers in the accident and was unable to play thereafter.

John Munnerlyn, of Mineola, worked for the United Gas Pipeline Company west of Mineola. He moved to Houston about 1930. Shorty Lester, on tenor banjo on later recordings, was said to be from the Garden Valley area in Smith County west of Lindale. His brother Henry, second fiddler on later recordings, was from somewhere in North Texas.

Many of the Serenaders’ recorded pieces were written by Williams—”Acorn Stomp,” “East Texas Drag,” and “Arizona Stomp,” for instance. The group got “Shannon Waltz” and “Sweetest Flower Waltz” from a northern fiddler named Brigsley who taught Huggins to play several ragtime tunes as well. Hamman composed “Adeline Waltz.” “Mineola Rag” and “Combination Rag” include bits of other tunes. The Serenaders so refined their music that they set the stage for other western and Texas bands by relying on their ragtime, waltzes, and tin-pan-alley style, using syncopations, flatted notes, and a fast tempo. From the radio they picked up some of the influence of Cajun music, Chicago jazz, and the new swinging sounds of popular music.


East Texas Serenaders perform Mineola Rag, recorded 11/28/1930/:

editors note: Old-time musicians have long debated the proper key of Mineola Rag – die hard 78 fans often argue that the tune was played out of Eb and Ab, while others assume that it must have been in D and G or F and Bb. If you look closely at the above photograph you will notice that both guitars are capo’d at the 3rd fret and both guitarists are playing a C-shape, indicating that Eb was a key commonly used by the band.

The Corn Potato String Band

January 12, 2016 by

Ben Belcher, Aaron Jonah Lewis & Lindsay McCaw


The Corn Potato String Band has earned high praise in traditional American music, keeping old time fiddle and banjo music from a one-way trip to the dustbins of history. Theirs is a story of struggle, hard knocks and triumph. Essentially unable to cope with modern life, the members of this band are outcasts of society who survive by playing the lost music of the flatlands where they were raised.

The Corn Potatos have delighted audiences with their driving fiddle tunes and harmonious singing across the US, Canada, Europe, Mexico, and India. They are all multi-instrumentalists dedicated to continuing the music and dance traditions of the Central and Southern US. In addition to being champion fiddlers they play banjo, guitar, bass and mandolin and deftly handle many different antiquated styles including ballads, “ho-downs,” country “rags” and southern gospel, specializing in twin fiddling and double banjo tunes.

Peor Es Nada performed by the Corn Potato Stringband, from their 2014 self-title album:

Documentary: Great Southern Old Time Fiddlers’ Convention: Chattanooga (1925 -2015) & Details on 2016’s

January 10, 2016 by

Documentary on the founding history and revival of the Southern Championship of Old Time Fiddling: Chattanooga’s “Great Southern Old Time Fiddlers Convention.” The beginning describes the convention’s eclectic origins and rise to popularity among early 1900s old-time musicians; the second half describes the revived festival and features several modern greats of southern fiddling (e.g., Bill Birchfield, RIP) and buckdance (e.g., Thomas Maupin). Matt Downer was the creative force behind this revival.

The 2016 Great Southern Old Time Fiddlers Convention will be held March 12, 2016. Come one and all for cash prizes in fiddle, banjo, dance, song, and stringband. You will be standing in a long tradition of musicians who competed in Chattanooga, including Gid Tanner, Uncle Dave Macon, Lowe Stokes, Clayton McMichen, Riley Puckett. (Blogger’s note: would be nice to see more women competing!) See also Jon’s 2015 post on the festival

Kenny Hall #2 – This Ain’t Western Swing!

January 8, 2016 by


from “Kenny Hall (October 14, 1923 – Sept. 18, 2013) Jamming With The Angles” 

The last several years have seen Kenny and friends jamming together regularly on Wednesday evenings at the Santa Fe Basque restaurant in Fresno. But on Wednesday, September 18, 2013, Kenny missed this jam session. But he had a good excuse – because that’s the day Kenny went to join the jam session we all hope to see some day. And I have it on good authority that he was heard haranguing the angel with the harp: “Hey, BIG chords now. Bring that E string up a bit. Now take the A string down. Stay off the four chord there – this ain’t Western Swing. Key of D. Let’s go!”

Continue reading at:

Check out Kenny’s unique mandolin picking style on his rendition of Rainbow:



The Carter Family Documentary That Was Kicked and Started

January 6, 2016 by

carter_ap_image03A long but interesting story about the Carter Family documentary….

Source: The Carter Family Documentary That Was Kicked and Started

While it’s a little hard to admit that every now and then I can lose my focus and get sidetracked, there are those occasions when I take on a particular subject only to end up somewhere else. For example, about a month ago I sat down to write a short essay about the Carter Family, and by the time I got to the second paragraph I had shifted the focus to the African-American influence in roots music, featuring videos from Uncle John Scruggs to Grandmaster Flash. But after spending several months of researching and reading books about Sara, Maybelle and A.P. Carter, listening to hours of audio recordings and radio transcriptions, and watching an excellent documentary titled The Winding Stream you’d think I would be prepared this time around not to stray from the path. Wrong.

As much as I’d love to retell the story of the Carter Family for those who may not know how they’ve left an everlasting imprint on American music, it is the journey of award-winning independent producer, director and writer Beth Harrington and the way she brought the Carter’s story to the screen that has currently captured my interest. It’s too good of a tale to not be told. And better still, most of it will be in her own words. God bless digital footprints.

On November 15, 2010 a Kickstarter campaign was created to help fund a feature-length documentary. At the top of the page it’s described as an “epic story of the dynasty at the heart of American roots music – The Carter and Cash families.” Here is an excerpt of the introduction:

My name is Beth Harrington, and I’ve been a documentary filmmaker for more than 30 years. I’m also a former musician – a singer in the band Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers. So there you have it, my two loves – music and documentary film.

A few years ago, I successfully combined these loves on a film called Welcome to the Club – The Woman of Rockabilly. It was really well-received, so much so that it got nominated for a Grammy Award. Needless to say, this encouraged me to move ahead on my next music documentary, The Winding Stream which has the subtitle “The Carters, the Cashes and the Course of Country Music.”

I’d been aware of the Original Carter Family – the biggest “old-timey” music act of their day – and their musical legacy for a long time. But working on Welcome to the Club and meeting Rosanne Cash (who narrated that film) made me think it was time to do a film about this music dynasty that stretched from the 1920s to the present. I wanted to explore how the Carters practically “invented” country music and how legions of musicians – from Woody Guthrie to Elvis to Johnny Cash to Joan Baez to Jeff Tweedy, to name a few – all feel a debt of gratitude to them. And, as a result, how the tradition instituted by the Original Carters has carried on in their family and in the culture at large.

And I realized that, even though small parts of this family’s epic story had been told before, no one had presented this big picture. No one had shown the connection to the Carter Sisters, to Johnny Cash, to the folk movement and to the Americana movement. And no one had told the story using both original recordings AND contemporary roots music artists performing (and discussing) the music.

I started shooting The Winding Stream in 2003 and, with Rosanne Cash’s help, one of the first interviews I did was with her dad, Johnny Cash. Sadly, it was to be one of his last interviews; he passed away only three weeks after we’d spoken with him. This forced the realization that I needed to step up production because we were losing some of the key players in this story. I felt a real urgency to get these interviews on tape. I spent a lot of my own money doing so. And I’m very glad I did. But I knew I would need more.

What stuck out for me when I first read those words was the year that Beth noted she first started to shoot this film: 2003. Seven years later she was seeking money to complete editing, sound design, music and footage rights, animation, graphics and titles. That right there is the definition of vision, focus and tenacity.

For those of you who’ve either started or contributed to a Kickstarter or any other crowdsourcing project, it’s a leap of faith that you’ll get to your goal. Sometimes there’s just not enough money donated to keep it going, and there are other times that the original idea turns out to be either flawed, abandoned or simply unable to be completed for any infinite number of reasons.

But there was something I noticed about The Winding Stream campaign that was different than most, aside from the fact that the picture was actually completed and released: in five years Beth has published forty-two updates to her supporters. What follows is a look into what it took to get this film to the finish line. I’ll share a few of her updates with a little selective editing, and dispense with quotation marks since y’all know it’s Beth’s writing.


Update #4, December 8 2010: Hi everyone. Well, as you may know by now, we’ve reached our Kickstarter goal! I’m moved and grateful to all of you who contributed to this campaign. And you did it in three weeks. Thank you so very much!

Update #15, March 21, 2011: Just a quick note to let you all know that we’ve been putting the funds we raised with your help to very good use. Just back from Bristol, Tennessee/Virginia (yup, it’s a city in two states) and we got five critical interviews done, plus a musical performance with the Carolina Chocolate Drops.  Wildly successful trip.  Probably a Nashville shoot still in our future and one in California and we’ll be close to done shooting.

Update #17, February 28, 2012: I realize it’s been a while since I’ve updated you on things connected to The Winding Stream so here’s a little updateWe’re well into post-production now which means there is a glimmer at the end of the tunnel (not exactly a light yet, but soon). Since last I wrote we’ve received two grants – one from the National Endowment for the Arts and one from the Roy W. Dean Foundation which have helped us considerably and are big honors, needless to say. We’re in the running again for funding from the Independent Television Service and should know in a while if we get that. We’ve started to show excerpts from the film now – once at a fundraiser here in Washington State and more recently at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival in Missoula, MT. Both times the reactions have been very positive which has buoyed our spirits a lot as we move along.

Update #18, April 29, 2012: We’re writing to let you know about some new developments with The Winding Stream. We’re moving into full post-production soon with our pal, editor Greg Snider at the helm. And we’ve found a wonderful animator to do cool photo-animations for us, Mike Olson. I’m at work on the companion book to the film, and we’ve had interest from cable channels, film festivals and theatrical and DVD distributors for when the film is done. Our hope is to wrap it all up by the end of the year.

May 3, 2012: A second round of Kickstarter funding begins.

Update #25, June 21, 2012: In the last 9 years I have amassed a treasure trove of what I consider to be important interviews with people who were witness to some of our most important shared cultural history. The early days of radio, the infancy of the record industry, the growth of interest in what would later be called “country” and “folk” music. People like Johnny Cash, Janette and Joe Carter, Mike Seeger, Charles Wolfe and others knew the Original Carter Family and were among the last living witnesses to the Carters’ role in all this. The people I just named have all passed away in the time we’ve been working on this film. I started to view completion of this film as a sacred trust. These folks had taken the time to share this with me.

This material couldn’t just languish on a shelf. It had to be made into the film I’d promised. So we stuck with it. Through years when everyone turned us down. Through times when we scraped by with tiny amounts of money that would get us one more interview. Through lots and lots of days of colleagues and friends — er, actually, that’s redundant; my colleagues on The Winding Stream are my steadfast friends –donating their time and talent and energy to this. Through many sleepless nights when I did think that I was – indeed – plum crazy to persist.

June 27, 2012: Funding for the second Kickstarter campaign is met.

Update #28: January 7, 2013: Hi everybody! Wanted to let you all know how much progress we’ve made on The Winding Stream! We have a final cut of the film and are now clearing rights for the music and archival images. If all goes well, we should have a completed film very soon. Thanks again for helping us get this far!

Update #29, February 1, 2014: Stopping by to let you know that great things are happening for The Winding Stream. We just recently learned that this labor of love- that’s taken more than a decade and the efforts of numerous talented people to complete – has been chosen for this year’s South by Southwest Festival in Austin.

Update #33, August 7, 2014: Monday’s NYC premiere of The Winding Stream at Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center was a big hit. We had a full-house and the New York audience embraced the film. We’d also like to announce that The Winding Stream won the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the Woods Hole Film Festival. This is our fourth festival award and we’re very grateful to be recognized this way. Thanks to all of our Kickstarter backers! You helped make this possible.

Updare #37, December 12, 2014: We have a big, exciting challenge! As you may know, we need to finish paying for music and archival footage and rights before we can open the film theatrically, air it on public television, or make it available on platforms like iTunes and cable on demand. We want to make all this happen as soon as possible to build off our festival momentum. We once needed $85,000. But incredibly we have recently received a grant from the Marie Lamfrom Charitable Foundation for half that!

Update #39, September 2, 2015: Hi Friends – I wanted to let you all know that we’ve entered the next phase of the life of The Winding Stream! Theatrical! Thanks to the efforts of our partners at Argot Pictures, we are now taking the film to art houses across the country. We are also thrilled to say that the good folks at Omnivore Recordings are releasing a soundtrack album from the film! That drops on October 16.

Alright…so as you can tell, I’ve been completely swept away by Beth, her team and this unbelievably enchanting film. On a musical highway that’s ninety years long and still stretches out before us, there are unlimited on and off ramps that this filmmaker could have chosen. With a subtitle that reads ‘The Carters, The Cashes and The Course of Country Music’, she brings to life a family tree with endless branches. By using the voices of those still living and the ones who’ve passed on, and enhancing that experience with film, video, photographs and animation, the music and stories are presented with the delicacy and historical context one could have only hoped for.

There is a tendency to receive and process information in bite-sized pieces in this technologically supercharged world we live in. And I’m sure Beth would agree that it would be a mistake to believe that the tales of this great musical family can be told in a mere ninety-two minutes, despite over a decade in the making. (I’d love to see what didn’t make the final cut.) I think of The Winding Stream as a doorway to discovery, and hope that people will be inspired to seek out not only the music which has endured over the years and is readily available, but also take the time to learn more about the folks who absolutely define any such notion of what you might think the term Americana means. This is a story for the ages.

For those of you in the New York area, I plan to attend a screening at the Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville (the most appropriately named town ever) on February 11, and there’ll be some fine live music from the Shovel Ready String Band. Buy your tickets before they sell out and if you happen to see me, please say hi.

Mississippi Fiddle Tunes and Songs  from the 1930’s by Harry Bolick and Stephen T. Austin

December 23, 2015 by



View Video Introduction/Book Trailer.

While in the Mississippi State Archives tracking down Abbot Ferris’s beautiful photographic portraits of musicians from 1939, author Harry Bolick discovered, to his amazement, a treasure trove of earlier fiddle tunes in manuscript form. Since then he has worked to understand how this collection came to exist and be set aside. With Stephen T. Austin, Bolick has transcribed the subsequent 1939 audio recordings. Mississippi Fiddle Tunes and Songs from the 1930s presents the history of the collecting work, with over three hundred of the tunes and songs and a beautiful selection of period photographs.

In the summer of 1936, over one hundred fiddle tunes, many of them unique, along with thousands of songs, were collected and notated throughout a large part of Mississippi. Roughly 130 novice field workers captured beautiful tunes and tantalizing fragments. As a body of work, it is an unparalleled and fascinating snapshot of vernacular music as heard in Mississippi in the early part of the recorded era. However, this music was unpublished and forgotten.

In 1939, building on the contacts made three years earlier, Herbert Halpert led one of the last and best executed of the WPA folklore projects which recorded audio performances in Mississippi. Some, but not all, of those distinctive fiddle tune recordings have been published. Additionally through cassette tape copies passed hand to hand, some of these distinctive tunes have regained currency and popularity among contemporary fiddlers. In Mississippi Fiddle Tunes and Songs from the 1930s, this great music is at last widely available.

Now Available from Amazon and the University Press of Mississippi. 

Featuring over 300 tunes collected as sheet music in 1936 and transcribed from the 1939 WPA field recordings along with beautiful photos and bios for most of the 1939 sources. Including a tantalizing number of tunes collected from African-Americans playing in the Anglo Southern fiddle style. Also included is an in-depth essay on the history of the WPA collecting in Mississippi.

Video of two 1936 tunes from the book performed with Brian Slattery and Nathan Bontrager.

The 3-CD-set from Document Records of the complete 1939 WPA Mississippi fiddle and banjo field-recordings.

Harry has recorded a new cd of tunes from the 1936 manuscripts and it is now available: “Tunes from the Book

All 180 of the tunes in the book from the 1936 manuscripts, as played by the notation program will be posted over the next few weeks in installments at :

Cleofes Ortiz – Violinista De Nueva Mexico

December 22, 2015 by



You’re invited to attend an ‘old time’ dance at the San Ysidro church in Corrales with beloved fiddle player, Cleofes Ortiz. Cleo, as he’s best known, likes to tell the stories of how he learned to play the fiddle as a youngster in Mexico at the turn of the century. He can be found playing in the traditional Mexican style at `bailles’ around New Mexico.

(view movie here:

La Cadena by Cleofes Ortiz and Friends, 1990:

Jack Webb

December 16, 2015 by


June 19, 1902 – June 1, 1956

Jack Webb, colorful Salt Fork valley rancher, was found dead Friday night in the famous 101 Ranch Buffalo pasture that was part of his cattle ranch. Webb, who was believed to be in his late 50’s, was found asphyxiated in the cab of his pickup truck, parked near a creek that runs through the pasture, just south of the Salt Fork in Noble County. John Ramsey, Noble County sheriff, W.E. Rice, Noble County district attorney, and Undersheriff Norman Coffelt, Kay County, who investigated, said Webb had taken his own life. The former Wild West show star, who for a time directed the 101 Ranch Wild West show and starred in it, had been in ill health in recent months. He suffered from cancer. Investigating officers said Webb had been dead since sometime before noon Thursday. He was last seen when he picked up his mail at the Marland postoffice about 10:00 Thursday morning.

Friends Search

When he failed to keep appointments Thursday evening and Friday afternoon, friends began to search and found him in the pasture where the Miller Brothers once kept their famous buffalo herd. Webb ran cattle in that pasture, and others, on land where he once rode as a rodeo star for the 101. He lived north of the Salt Fork near the old rodeo grounds, in a spacious log cabin home he built about 20 years ago. He lived alone. The body was found by Lawrence Evans of Ponca City and Marland, who occasionally helped Webb handle stock on the ranch. Webb left a note asking another friend Gareth Muchmore, to notify his daughter, Mrs. Charles E. Wahl of Princeton, N.J., the former Jean Webb. She and her husband are flying to Ponca City to complete arrangements. The funeral is to be held at 3 p.m. Monday at the Miles Funeral Chapel. Webb’s oft-spoken request is to be on Cowboy Hill in the heart of the old 101 Ranch, just south of Webb’s headquarters ranch. The hill for many years has been the meeting place for cowpunchers of the Cherokee Strip country. He will be buried beside his long-time friend and Wild West show associate, the late Col. Zack T. Miller of the famous ranch.

Trick Shot Artist

Survivors include his daughter and son-in-law, and a grandson, Kenneth Schley Wahl. Webb was known as one of the world’s greatest trick shot artist with either pistol or rifle and was recognized as the greatest living trick roper. During his rodeo career, he also was a trick rider and cowboy singer. A versatile performer, Webb played the guitar and piano, wrote cowboy songs and was writing a book about western characters he had known when he died. He from time to time had sung over radio station WBBZ, and elsewhere, and was a frequent contributor of humorous articles to the Peoples Column of the Ponca City News. He had led an adventurous life, friends said, that included service in the Army ad at one time he was a member of and pistol instructor for the New York State Police. He was a native of California, but considered Oklahoma his home.

The Night Guard by Jack Webb, recorded 5/27/1930 for Victor Records

Lydia Mendoza

December 14, 2015 by


From Texas State Historical Association:

Lydia Mendoza, known as “La Alondra de la Frontera” (“The Lark of the Border”), “La Cancionera de los Pobres” (“The Songstress of the Poor”), and later as “La Gloria de Texas” (“The Glory of Texas”), was born in May 1916 in Houston to Francisco and Leonora Mendoza. From an early age she was taught to play a variety of instruments by her mother and grandmother, and when she was four years old, she made a guitar for herself from wood, nails, and rubber bands. Within a few years Mendoza joined her family in performing songs and variety shows for the Tejano community. Her ability to sing and play the twelve-string guitar ultimately made her the family’s principal bread earner.

In 1928 when Lydia Mendoza was only twelve years old, her family responded to an OKeh Records Company advertisement seeking Spanish-language recording artists placed in La Prensa, the Spanish-language newspaper in San Antonio. After successfully auditioning, the family recorded twenty songs under the professional name Cuarteto Carta Blanca and earned $140. However, they soon left San Antonio to seek work in the sugar beet fields in Michigan. Upon their return to San Antonio by the early 1930s, Mendoza and her family found work performing at Tejano business establishments, on the streets, and at the Plaza del Zacate. During the week they earned twenty-five or thirty cents a day to cover food; on the weekends they pulled in a dollar and twenty-five cents to cover rent. Soon Manuel J. Cortez, a Tejano broadcaster, heard Lydia Mendoza sing at the plaza and offered her a guest appearance on his radio show, Voz Latina. The audience’s quick and positive response to her talent led Cortez to invite Mendoza to appear regularly on his show for $3.50 a week. The money provided the family much-needed income. Mendoza recalled years later, “With that three-fifty, we felt like millionaires. Now at least we could be sure of paying the rent.”

Continue reading at

Monterrey by Cuarteto Carta Blanca, recorded in San Antonio, 1928:

Leon Bukasa

December 2, 2015 by

Photo from

text from

Born in 1925, in the town of Likasi in the Katanga region of Congo, Bukasa left primary school, not to go into music, but to start an apprenticeship as a fitter with the Union Minière. Even his move to the capital Léopoldville, in 1947, wasn’t inspired by his wish to become a musician. He had found a job as a master fitter.

It was Henri Bowane who discovered his talent and who, in 1949, invited him to the Ngoma studios. Soon Bukasa was one of the major stars of this legendary label.

Continue reading at:

Pauline wa ngai, timbe-time yeyeye by Albino Kalombo & Leon Bukasa, Ngoma 1434

West Africa at the British Library – Free CD

November 26, 2015 by

The below link offers sound samples from all over West Africa.

Posted on November 20th, 2015 in Recent posts by .

West Africa British Library Bonus CDWest Africa: Word, Symbol, Song showcases music and literature from the great African empires of the Middle Ages to the cultural dynamism of West Africa today. It aims to demonstrate how West Africans have harnessed the power of words to build societies, sustain religious belief, drive political movements, fight injustice and express creative ideas. Recordings show living traditions, including epic narratives right through to West African rap. The tracks here loosely follow the exhibition’s storyline to highlight historic and unique unpublished recordings in the Library’s collections.

West Africa at the British Library is a free covermount CD exclusively available with the December 2015 (#113) edition of Songlines.


Chartwell Dutiro

November 26, 2015 by

Text taken from a BBC interview with Chartwell, more here:

I started playing mbira when I was four at the protected village, Kagande, about two hours drive from Harare where my family was moved by the Salvation Army missionaries. Even though the missionaries banned our traditional music, I learned to play from my brother and other village elders. My mother also encouraged me as she used to sing to me. The mbira is a traditional sacred instrument of the Shona people, one of the main tribes of Zimbabwe. We play this music in ceremonies that last the whole night long. Some people sing, some dance and others get possessed by the spirits of our ancestors who give daily guidance to the living people.

The mbira is a small instrument made out of hand-forged metal pieces which are placed on a board covered with a metal plate full of sea shells. That gives it a nice buzzing tone. When I play I stroke the metal with my thumbs and right index finger. I usually place the mbira inside a calabash which is a gourd like a pumpkin. This gives it a fuller echoey sound.

It was not easy growing up in a colonized country where the missionaries discouraged our ancestral music. For starters, I was called ‘Chartwell’ rather than ‘Shorayi’, my Shona name which means “You can underestimate me if you wish”. They were suspicious of our musical gatherings which they figured were political meetings so they condemned the music as devil’s music. Yet I more often than not missed Sunday school because I’d have been up all night playing the mbira. This music is every thing to me – you just can’t talk about Zimbabwean history without it. We carry the spirit of our ancestors through the music. During the liberation struggle our people fled to Mozambique where they had the spirit mediums guide them through the music.

We sing all the time – if it rains we sing, if we want the rain to ease off, then we sing. When a baby’s born we sing. If someone dies we sing. We sing when we’re happy and when we’re sad. I wake up in the morning with a song and start yodeling away with spontaneous lyrics about what I’ll be doing that day or maybe about what I dreamed of last night. It’s right in my soul and expresses exactly how I feel at a particular moment in time.

Marenje performed by Chartwell Dutiro from his 2006 album Chivaraidze

Camille Feruzi

November 25, 2015 by

Text from

Camille Feruzi was born in Stanleyville in 1912. At a very young age he taught himself to play the accordeon, following in his father’s footsteps. When his father was at work the young Camille used to secretly practise. At the age of 15 he moved to Leopoldville, but it wasn’t until ten years later that he started his career in music. Together with a sax and clarinet player from Guadeloupe he started a musical group, with apart Camille’s accordion and the Guadeloupean’s sax & clarinet a piano and a guitar. The ensemble played in bars and at private dances.

Read more at the excellent worldservice blog:

Siluwangi Wapi Accordeon? by Camille Feruzi with Franco & TPOK Jazz (1972)

S. E. Rogie

November 24, 2015 by

S.E. Rogie, (Sooliman Rogers) was born in the 1940s in Sierra Leone where he learned to play guitar while still a youngster. He grew up during the formative years of highlife and his palm wine style of playing fit right into the genre. He supported himself as tailor but by the 60s he was ready to go out as a musician on his own. Singing in four languages his songs, ‘Go Easy With Me’, and Koneh Pehlawo’ were big hits. But his biggest hit was the song ‘My Lovely Elizabeth’ which was covered by countless artists and is still know all along the West Coast of Africa. The song was eventually picked up by EMI and that led to a great advancement in his music and in his recordings.

In 1965 Rogie formed a band, the Morningstars, who acompanied his acoustic guitar with electric intruments and the local sounds of African percussion. In 1967 he traveled to Liberia, and in 1970 he began the first of sixteen years in the U.S. performing his African Folk and Cultural Programs in Elementary and High Schools all over California. He received awards from the United States Congress and Senate, the City of Oakland, and the City of Berkeley. In 1988 he returned to his homeland. He died in 1994, just after his release of the album, Dead Men Don’t Smoke Marijuana.

Nyalima Nyapoi by S.E. Rogie from the 1994 album “Palm Wine Guitar Music” from Mississippi Records

Remembering Hiter Colvin – who recorded Monroe Stomp (Stamp)

November 23, 2015 by

hiter 78

from J. Michael Luster. Remembering Hiter Colvin, the Fiddle King of Oilfield and Gum Stump. In Shreveport Sounds in Black and White, by Kip Lornell, Tracey Laird.

The great Hiter Colvin was born in 1900, one of nine children, on Boardtree Creek near the community of Fellowship, northeast of Dubach, Louisiana. His father, Thomas Mayberry Colvin, both a fiddle at a pawnshop in Monroe and told the children that whichever one of them could play it best would get to keep it. Hater earned the fiddle, and the fiddle would eventually earn him the only livelihood he would ever know. Hiter used the fiddle to follow the oilfield money, moving first to the country around El Dorado, Arkansas, where in 1926 her married Eloise Torrence, and eighteen year-old girl from nearby Sandy Bend. The young couple followed the various oil booms and would have three children, including their first, Hyter Colvin Jr (so he spells it) born at Smackover in 1927, before the huge oilfield discovered at Kilgore, Texas, drew them there about 1935.

Hiter Colvin had already been to Texas once and come as close to striking it rich as he would. In October of 1929, he and his guitarist friend Herbert Sherrill traveled to Dallas and recorded six sides for Victor records. These tunes, “Indian War Whoop,” “Monroe Stomp” (spelled “Stamp” on the record), “Dixie Waltz,” “Old Lady Blues,” “Hiters Favorite Waltz,” and “Rabbit up a Gum Stump,” his evocative showpiece said to be a portrayal of the dogs pursuing rabbits down along Boardtree Creek, reveal him to be a fiddler of extraordinary skill. The records sold well for Victor and the company even ran a 2-page display ad in one of its catalogs with Jimmie Rodgers pictured on one page and Hiter Colvin on the other, but Colvin saw little money from them and refused to record again. Beyond his playing, Colvin was also a consummate showman who played the fiddle behind his back, behind his head, on the floor, and he always drew a crowd and sometimes played on the radio out of El Dorado. Jimmie Rodgers himself came to town, trying to convince Colvin to join him on the road, but the fiddler refused, opting instead to keep company with his buddy Sherrill or with a peg-legged guitarist and follow the oilfield money. Before long, Sherrill too headed for Kilgore.

In Texas, Colvin continued to play for boomtown dollars and cleaned up at local fiddle contests. His honky-tonk dances were legendary. On one occasion, he played at a highway nightspot while the celebrated Light Crust Doughboys played to a largely empty house at another across the road. At the end of the evening, the Doughboy bus pulled into the yard at the Colvin house trying to get the man they couldn’t lick to join them, but again Colvin chose to stay put to play in the clubs and sometimes even in the Pentecostal church. He remained in Kilgore for 7 or 8 years during which time his marriage broke up and his family moved back to Sandy Bend. He followed them to Arkansas and there was a reconciliation that lasted a couple of years, but they split for good in 1938.

In the years following his divorce, Hiter Colvin returned home to Louisiana, to the area which had earned the nickname, “the Pint Country” because of the availability of vernacular whisky, where he continued to play to packed dance floors backed up by his nephew Bill Bagwell or others. Back home, folks called him “Pee Wee” for his small size, but remember that the fiddle he carried in a flour sack had a sound that would carry an unusual distance. Hunters in the woods would pause to listen to Colvin playing at some far off dance. E.N. “Nig” Robertson, who used to squirrel hunt with the diminutive fiddler himself, remembers walking the five miles to Bernice to attend a Colvin dance. Times were hard and when Colvin passed the hat he got only 19 cents. “Alright, I’m going to play you nineteen cents worth of music and then we’re going to pass it again,” and Hiter cut loose with his fiddler’s tricks. Owen Perry tells that on riding home horseback from such a dance, Colvin would frequently stop and serenade a sleeping farmer named Campbell who loved a particular waltz and would be good for a generous tip. Perry also remembers well fiddling against Colvin in those years at many a regional fiddle contest, frequently coming in second to the perennial winner. “Owen’s going to beat me one of these times,” Colvin would say but Perry says he knew he couldn’t even hold the master’s bow.

Without question, all regarded Hiter Colvin as the greatest fiddler in north Louisiana and probably far beyond. His genius was singular and beyond his skill with the fiddle, the squirrel gun, and the garden hoe, he seemed to have little aptitude. His own son says he was woefully inadequate at even driving a nail. But he could play and he continued to, on into the television age, appearing on the Happiness Exchange on Monroe’s pioneering television station KNOE, a product of the oilfield success of Governor-for-a-Day James Noe. Colvin began spending time with his brother Brown Colvin down near Colfax, Louisiana, where he played for friends and in the local Pentecostal church near which he would eventually be buried.

In a sad and confusing set of circumstances, eh set his own death in motion. According to his son, Hiter Colvin had been suffering from a toothache when he decided to try and get some relief. He used a shotgun, perhaps in a less-than-expert attempt to remove the tooth. Others contend he was out to end all suffering. Whatever his intentions, he failed and instead inflicted horrible damage to his face and head which required lengthy but ultimately unsuccessful reconstructive surgery. He lived another 2 or 3 years before he was laid to rest in 1975 in a country cemetery between Colfax and Bentley.

Besides the six sides he recorded for Victor and the countless stories still told by the numberless Colvins and Colvin kith and kin of Lincoln Parish, there is one other monument to the great talent of Hiter Colvin. I heard it fleetingly in the tape deck of my truck, a recording made in his brother’s yard in the summer of 1966. Moving easily from breakdowns to swing standard to hymns, Hiter Colvin still conjures, with consummate skill from an assemblage of horsehair and wood, the rabbits and dogs and gum-stump of Boardtree Creek.

photo c/o J. Spence, who adamantly holds that the title of Hiter’s famous stomp was indeed Monroe Stamp, as written on the Victor 78. It should be known, however, that Jack also has the Montgomery Ward reissue (see below) which misspelled his name Hitler Colvin, and misnamed “Rabbit up the Gum Stump” as “Rabbits in the Pea Patch” – so how good are the labels? IMG_1746

Below is the relevant section from the Tony Russell discography of country music (which acknowledges the tune name as Monroe Stamp):


Below is Curly Miller RIP fiddling Monroe Stomp:


Video of boys dancing Sean Nos (Irish flatfooting) and playing Bodrum drums

November 21, 2015 by

The above video link shows how appealing Irish Sean Nos dancing is, especially to anyone who enjoys Appalachian flatfoot dance. These boys alternate between hand drumming and solo dancing, making an all around compelling percussive video. Kudos to their teacher, located in western Ireland.

Why All the Firsts in Georgia Early Country Music? A view from the Georgia Crackers

November 20, 2015 by

When Country Music Comes to Town


(octogenarian clarinetist Dub Hudson performing with the Georgia Crackers and Jerron Paxton, Grocery on Home, Atlanta)

 from the liner notes of The Georgia Cracker’s 2015 CD “Brown Mule Slide” (by Mick Kinney):

Much of what has long been termed country music has ties to city life. Cotton mills, railroads and factories have always played a part in the conveyance of culture between city and country which is reflected in the arts. Even the availability of “store bought” guitars, pianos, pump organs and violins changed the sound and manner of playing.

It is certain that previously isolated rural musicians became aware of Blues, Ragtime, Classical, and Contemporary pieces by trained composers. This influence was evident in their repertoire almost immediately. Although, to this day there is some tension between traditionalists and progressives.

Georgia country artists, in particular, were eager to incorporate not only stylistic shifts but new instrumentation as well. Fiddle bands in Georgia often used “Dixieland” banjo rhythm and quite a few used clarinet. For example, fiddler Clayton McMichen hired the 16 year old clarinetist Robert Stephens Jr in his band the Home Town Band. After Stephens tragic death in an automobile wreck, McMichen continued the formula with the talented Kasper Malone, also age 16. Other notable Georgia hillbilly bands to include clarinet were Hoke Rice & his Hokey Pokey Boys, Walburn & Heathcox, The Jenkins family and Hershel Brown and his Happy Five.

Our vision for this album was to show the wide variety of Georgia music when country music went to town. We hope you enjoy our renditions of the fine artist’s material. See and sample the tracks from Brown Mule Slide here:

Georgia Country Music Firsts:

-First country record (Fiddlin’ John Carson)

-First recorded lap guitar (Darby & Tarlton)

-First Country yodeler (Riley Puckett)

-First recorded Country brother duet (Cofer Brothers)

-First Country family band (The Jenkins family)

-First Country clarinet band (McMichen’s Hometown Band)

Here is a 11/2015 video of the Georgia Crackers featuring their octogenarian clarinetist Dub Hudson, playing Unexplained Blues:

Below is a 2012 video link to Jerron Paxton joining the Crackers with Atlanta’s Dub Hudson, again highlighting the clarinet’s role in this sub-genre of oldtime music:

photos and videos in this post c/o MoonshineV Oldtime Field Recordings  YouTube Channel

Ramona Jones RIP 1924-2015 -Fiddler, Hillbilly Country Music Entertainer (Hee Haw, Grand Ol’ Opry)

November 19, 2015 by



91 year-old oldtime fiddler Ramona Jones died this week. The below YouTube video provides a sample of her fiddling, played in 1987 with a woman clawhammer banjoist, in Nashville.


Born Ramona Riggins in Van Buren, Indiana in 1924, she was part of the first generation of Grand Ole Opry performers beginning shortly after she met and married “Grandpa Jones” (Louis Marshall Jones) in 1946. The two were performing together on a radio show in Cincinnati when they met, and continued working together professionally with Grandpa often taking the top billing.

In 1969, they signed on to be featured artists on the new Hee Haw television program for CBS. Though it only ran for three years on the network, Hee Haw was hugely popular in syndication for the next 20 years, bringing down home humor and traditional country music to homes across the nation.

Ramona played fiddle, guitar, and mandolin on shows with her husband, and they often sang duets.  In skits, Grandpa would joke and play the fool while Ramona maintained a dignified presence on stage.

She is remembered as a fine old-time fiddler and proponent of the mountain and hillbilly music that characterized early commercial country radio.

In this below 2013 video, embedded on the (click to access), Ramona recalls her husband, Grandpa Jones, who was in the Country Music Hall of Fame, and how she learned fiddling from her dad, since she was 5 (i.e., long before she met Grandpa)

Below is a photo of David Holt with Ramona and Grandpa, who Holt regarded as a mentor. (

2014 North Georgia Folk Festival: 30th Anniversary VDO by Neil (and Art) Rosenbaum

November 18, 2015 by

Persons featured in this video include:

Art Rosenbaum

Skillet Lickers (3rd and 4th generation)

Mick Kinney, Evan Kinney (and the Stone Mountain Wobblers)

Max Godfrey

Norman Blake

Along with interviews and memories of past NGFF performers now gone. Each year, the festival celebrates the finest in folk art, crafts, and music from North Georgia and neighboring areas and is produced entirely by volunteers from the Athens Folk Music and Dance Society ( The AFMDS is proud to present the 31st Annual North Georgia Folk Festival on October 10, 2015 at Sandy Creek Park, Athens, Georgia. VDO by Neil Rosenbaum

Gospel legend, Rev. Johnny L. ‘Hurricane’ Jones: 1936-2015 – Atlanta’s Singing Preacher

November 17, 2015 by


An Atlanta minister and musician known as “The Hurricane” has died.

Rev. Johnny L . Jones preached to small congregations in the latter part of his life, but his charismatic style and prodigious musical talents earned him wider recognition.

When people talk about Rev. Jones, often, they talk about the music. See this tribute made in 2009 by Dust to Digital’s Lance Ledbetter:

Fannie Wair, who listened to Rev. Jones’ music and preaching at Second Mount Olive Baptist Church in Atlanta for nearly six decades, explains it: “He don’t only sing. He plays the guitar, he plays the organ, and can’t nobody play no piano like him.”

Wair first met Jones in 1956, when she hired the gospel group he was singing with at the time to perform at the church she then attended. A little while later, she heard him preaching on a local radio program.

For her, that was it.

She went to see him at Second Mount Olive Baptist Church, and never looked back. “You go hear him preach or sing one time, you want to go back again,” she says.

Rev. Johnny L. Jones drew upon the influence of the gospel groups he sang with before becoming a minister, including The Jolly Four Gospel Singers and The Sensational Five.
Credit Dust to Digital Records

The Birth of “The Hurricane” and Musical Fame

Through the years, Jones had gospel programs on WAOK and WYZE in Atlanta. According to Walter Russell, a deacon at Second Mount Olive, it was WAOK’s Esmond Patterson who gave Jones the nickname he’d carry throughout his career.

“He named him ‘The Mighty Hurricane.’ Because when he preached, a lot of times he’d go into a spin like a hurricane. The Mighty Hurricane, Johnny L Jones,” Patterson says. “[A] lot of times, he’d stop playing and just start singing old time hymns that most people never did use music by. But he could sing those also.”

Rev. Jones recorded his services, and in the 1960s, Jewel Records released some 45s of his work. In 2010, Dust-to-Digital Records released several remastered CDs of his music and preaching. In a review, The New York Times called the sound of one of those sets “electrifying from start to finish.”

Rural Beginnings…and a Piano Not Meant for Boogie-Woogie

Jones grew up in a farming family in Howell Crossroad, Alabama. He sang in the choir of his Baptist church, and when he was 17 or 18, more than anything else, he wanted a piano. But, as his wife, Dorothy Jones tells it, his family was poor. So his mother devised a plan, around the family’s cotton harvest. “She said, ‘John? We’re gonna all pick this cotton. And if we have any extra money… we’re gonna buy you a piano.’”

The plan worked. They got the piano, and Jones taught himself to play by ear. But one day, his wife Dorothy Jones says, he was messing around, and played a few bars of boogie-woogie music.

His mother heard it. She was not amused. The family had not bought their son a piano on which to play boogie-woogie.

Dorothy Jones laughingly tells the story: “And she came in there with a stick, and hit him across his hands and said, ‘Don’t you ever try to play no blues!’ So from that day on, he started playing gospel. He was a pianist and he sang.”

He sang with several gospel groups before moving to Georgia in the mid-1950s where he became a minister at Second Mount Olive Baptist, drawing crowds with his captivating style.

The Fire that Burned the Sanctuary, but Not the Church

Rev. Johnny Jones would frequently tell people, “The fire burned the building, but not the church.”
Credit Dust to Digital Records

One Sunday in 1973 while Jones was preaching, a fire broke out. No one was hurt, but the West End church was completely destroyed, and many people stopped coming to the new, smaller spaces where they’d hold church. But Jones kept preaching.

“He said ‘The fire burned the building, but not the church,’” says Deacon Walter Russell, describing how, in the 42 years that followed, “he would preach and sing and play the organ, just like he did when the church was standing, and we all enjoyed and had a good time.”

Those who knew him best will remember that voice and climactic preaching. But they say they’ll also remember his unflaggingly upbeat personality, his devotion to his faith and five children, as well as, a commitment to his congregation that endured, even when times got hard.

On Nov. 8, Jones preached from the first sermon he ever wrote at Second Mount Olive. That night, he passed away. The family believes the cause to be a brain aneurysm. He was 79 years old.


Legends of Folk: The Village Scene (PBS) documentary on the folk music revival of 1960s

November 16, 2015 by

Email subscribers need to click on the title of this post to see the YouTube thumbnail. LEGENDS OF FOLK: THE VILLAGE SCENE celebrates the folk movement in Greenwich Village in the 1960s, featuring rare and stunning performances. Books on this era have been posted previously in OTP, because Jon Bekoff was fascinated with the folk revival in the village in the 60s. e.g.,

YouTube-accessible Documentary on Dena Epstein, the Jewish librarian whose book on slave music proved Africans brought the banjo to the New World

November 15, 2015 by

This 56-minute documentary is to me something Jon Bekoff would call “made with love,” his expression for non-fictional works that are both profoundly scholarly and attentive to the human spirit. Read Jon’s 2014 post on Dena’s life and work after she died.

1987 Footage of Snake Chapman fiddling “Pat Him on the Back” 

November 14, 2015 by

A tune Snake learned from his father. “That’s just a tune my dad made about his hound dogs. I think there was one that would bite you if you didn’t pat him on the back. So my father just told someone to ‘pat him on the back.'” For more information on Snake, see the 2013 OTP post on him:

Malawian Ragtime Blues

November 14, 2015 by

Text from “Zambian Music Legends” by Leonard Koloko

Wilson Makawa was a Malawian born musician who worked on the Northern Rhodesian copper mines in the 1950s. He had a slick touch on the guitar and performed with Alick Nkhata and his Quartet. Wilson Makawa was a songwriter who effectively brought out Cichewa and Tumbuka traditions in his music. His songs were mostly social commentaries capturing the mood in villages and towns. Among his solo hits were tracks like ‘Bambo Siyaya’ [listen below] – a social comment condemning domestic violence; ‘Chitutuko’ – a patriotic song about freedom and economic development; and ‘Bwera Kuno wachikondi – a love song.

His music was so melodious that it went on to attract younger singers in years to come. ‘Bambo Siyaya’ was reworked by Keith Mlevhu under the title ‘Achimweme’. Another local singer Thomas Mambo did ‘Kumalembe’. Both tracks came through in the mid 70s. Later in the new millenium South Africa based Malawian musician Erik Piliani won himself a SAMA (South African Music Awards) nomination for his album title ‘Chitutuko’, the title track being a remake of the famous Wilson Makawa song. It is a piece reflecting on the migrant’s anguish at finding himself away from home and familiar people.

Wilson Makawa performing ‘Bambo Siyaya’. Audio taken from ‘Opika Pende: Africa at 78 RPMS’ from Dust-to-Digital and Excavated Shellac

Fans of American music may hear a resemblance between Makawa’s playing and the rhythms employed by early ragtime and blues guitarists such as Charlie Patton.

Charlie Patton performing ‘Shake It and Break It’ recorded in 1929.

Max Hunter Biography Project (Ozark folk song collector) – by Sarah Jane Nelson

November 13, 2015 by

max hunter

For the past year I have been conducting research on the life of Ozark folk song collector Max Hunter and great progress has been made. My present goal is to have a biography written by the Spring of 2017; but the research continues, even as I write. As many of you other song chasers are undoubtedly aware, Hunter’s archive (out of Missouri State University) includes almost 1600 Ozark Mountain folk songs, recorded between 1956 and 1976. Several of these songs have links to “variants” (i.e., alternative versions) which makes this archive a veritable candy shop for browsers. Other songs in the collection remain, for a variety of reasons, comparatively obscure. Fortunately, for this researcher, there are vast archives of information on Max’s collecting activities. Unfortunately, Max died in 1999, so I never had the opportunity to speak with him directly. And because most of his most prolific song contributors were quite elderly, it is a challenge to find information on some of them. (OTP: here is an NYT obituary: )

I am currently running a GoFundMe campaign to meet some of the financial challenges of doing my research long distance, and if you go to my link you can read a little more about what I’ve been up to: Any contributions, no matter how humble, will be ever so gratefully accepted! However, I’m equally interested in hearing from anyone who:

1) Purposefully used songs in this collection for performing/recording purposes

2) Knew Max personally

3) Knew any of Max’s “informants” or was in touch with anyone who did. I’d particularly welcome further information on Kris Ann Parker (of Springfield), Arkansas singer Stephanie Isaacs who performed at Eureka Springs as a child, in addition to anyone else listed as contributors.

4) I’d also welcome stories of the Eureka Springs Festival back in the day when Max was MC’ng, or similarly, of Silver Dollar City.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Sarah Jane nelson

Patrick Jones Tells the History of Calypso in Trinidad

November 12, 2015 by

LP-CoverPatrick Jones at age 71 Image from Cook Records 5016

Text by Caldwell Taylor from

Patrick (“Chinee Patrick”) Jones (1876-1965), pyrotechnician, political gadfly, human rights campaigner, anti-colonialist, Carnival band-leader and raconteur extraordinaire, is an unsung master of calypso.

He was a leading exponent of calypso‘s oratorical style, a form that characteristically contained four eight-line stanzas sung in the minor key. The oratorical was essayistic, expository and florid and it is no wonder that it was favored by calypso’s “connoisseurs of words”, including “Executor”, “Atilla the Hun,“ Growling Tiger” and “Pretender”. Echoes of the oratorical can be heard today in “Chalkdust”, “Valentino”, “Black Wizard”,  “Scholar”, and a Barbadian-Canadian bard  named “Structure”.

“Chinee Patrick” emerged in the first decade  of the twentieth century and in his heyday he did battle against songsters like “Fijonel”, “Executor” ,and “Chieftain Douglas”. In a 1956 interview with American folklorist Emory Cook,  Chinee Patrick recounted a 1920s lyrical “war”  against Lord Executor, then regarded as the preeminent extemporizer (“extempo artist) in the land and the true successor to “the greatest extempo calypsonian of all time”, the “Senior Inventor” (Henry Forbes).

Patrick Alexander Jones was born in Port of Spain, to a Chinese shopkeeper father and mixed (Euro-African) mother. Patrick’s father was a scion of
the Chen family, whose Chinese ancestors were known for their radical nationalist politics. Indeed, Patrick’s father and his father’s brother were both sent to the West Indies as indentured laborers, exile being punishment for the brothers’ radical  politics.

The following audio excerpts are from Emory Cook’s 1956 interview of Patrick Jones, released on “Calypso Lore and Legend”

Liner Notes That Changed His Life (Anthology of American Folk Music) – Lance Ledbetter

November 11, 2015 by

From which includes audio version of this story.

Lance Ledbetter runs the record label Dust to Digital here in Atlanta, along with his wife, April. They specialize in high-quality reissues of music from all over the world, and they are probably best-known for the 2004 box set, “Goodbye, Babylon,” which was nominated for two Grammy awards.

“To me, the design, it’s a thing of genius,” says Lance Ledbetter of the the liner note booklet that accompanies the anthology.
Credit Kate Sweeney / WABE

But there would have been no “Goodbye, Babylon” without Harry Smith. And that’s the story Ledbetter tells in this installment of Page-Turners.

In 1952, Smith produced three records known collectively as “The Anthology of American Folk Music.” It’s known today as one definitive collection of American roots music of the early 20th century.

Ledbetter bought the box set when it was released on CD in 1997. That night he discovered, packed alongside the discs, a booklet, which was stapled and photocopied and covered in weird collages of cut-and-pasted images. These were the liner notes for the anthology, and it was curator, Smith, himself who had originally cut and pasted all the images.

It was also Smith who had investigated and typed footnoted stories, annotations and personal commentary for each of the set’s 84 tracks. This booklet represented years of his painstaking research into the nation’s country, folk, and so-called “race” tunes, and formed one of the authoritative sources of American music for the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

For Ledbetter, the experience of just listening and reading along felt electrifying.

“I felt like I was going into this big, beautiful house for the first time,” he says. “I got to look out all the windows and hear all the sounds, and it was just a life-altering event.”

One of the things that struck him most was the way the liner note booklet was laid out.

“It was a thing of genius,” he says. “You can read it and get little hints of how this music is connected to this music.”

The night he bought the anthology, he stayed up all night, playing musical detective and marveling at the detail and design.

That experience was the inspiration for the idea that became Ledbetter’s own box set, “Goodbye, Babylon,” seven years later—as well as his life’s work with Dust to Digital.

Even now, “The Anthology of American Folk Music” has a hold on him.

“This is a set I recommend to everyone,” he says.

“The energy that had been distilled into this book was palpable,” says Ledbetter, “and I could feel it.” The liner note handbook accompanying the anthology includes cut-out collages from sources including (but not limited to) 78 RPM record catalogs, farmers almanacs, department store catalogs, and the covers of songbooks.
Credit Kate Sweeney / WABE

“I do believe this is something that can have a positive impact on anyone that’s into music. It doesn’t have to be folk music or music from the past. To me, it’s just…music.”

Web Bonuses (See link for audio)

Reality check: Are you amassing a healthy record collection, or are you just … amassing?
In this web bonus, Dust to Digital’s Lance Ledbetter talks about what he sees as the difference. He mentions Joe Bussard, a collector of 78 RPM records who lives in New Jersey.

Atlanta in the early days of folk and country
In this web bonus, Lance Ledbetter tells a story about Atlanta and the skyrocketing career of a fiddler whose work appears on “The Anthology of American Folk Music.” Also: Harry Smith’s account of how the term “race record,” once used to describe music performed by African-Americans, came to be.

Dust to Digital has recently released a collaboration with record collector Joe Bussard, titled “The Year of Jubilo: 78 RPM Recordings of Songs from the Civil War.”

A Glimpse into the Parlour – by David Bragger

November 7, 2015 by

My life has basically been an obsession with old-time music for a decade and a half. I learned at the feet of master musicians, listened to tens of thousands of recordings, decoded the bow strokes and mysterious intervals of legendary fiddlers and I woodshedded for years. I still do. Eventually I began teaching old-time music, out of the sheer love of the music itself and the desire to pass down what I’ve learned to others. Apparently, I have a knack for teaching the elusive art of bowing so I spend everyday of the week teaching just that. Throughout this obsessive time period I’ve wondered what it would be like if we had extensive footage of many of my favorite dead musicians. To see, up close, hours of playing from Fred Cockerham, Marcus Martin, Joseph Spence, John Lusk, etc. would be astounding. To see their body language, the nuances of hand movement and even their faces while performing can give great insight to the curious musician and student of old-time. As a player and teacher, I’m very interested in the physical dimension of music.

So I started thinking about my favorite musicians of today. Even in the digital smartphone age, there is a serious dearth of beautiful, archival quality footage of today’s living masters. Even today’s touring musicians quite often have only shaky smartphone footage on YouTube and maybe a couple well-produced music videos shot in Europe that were essentially performed to a pre-recorded track. In a past life I was a filmmaker and amateur folklorist recording the folktales and music of itinerant street magicians in India, the last vestige of medicine show performance. Naturally I decided to bring the documentation of folk art back into the fold and start recording the best of the best in old-time. By establishing the Old-Time Tiki Parlour, I set forth on this very path. I’ve assembled a team of artists, graphic designers and producers for my team. One requirement: the team must all be old-time musicians. That way, everything from close-up angles to the liner notes are all presented, recorded and composed by musicians that know the music inside and out.
In the last couple years, I’ve produced and recorded twelve old-time music releases on CD and DVD. So far, Dan Gellert, Rafe & Clelia Stefanini, Eric & Suzy Thompson and my solo fiddle CD “Big Fancy” are available. All releases feature music, first and foremost. These are not documentaries or hipster music videos. These releases showcase great musicians, in a room alone, doing what they do best. No fancy effects or studio tricks permitted. I’m currently editing footage and recording more musicians. I recently put together a video that highlights some of the musicians I’ve shot to give you a glimpse into the past, present and future of Tiki Parlour Recordings. Enjoy!

Montague Square Dance 11/7/2015

November 5, 2015 by


The Montague Square Dance is back! The first dance of the series will be Saturday November 7th, 7-10 pm. At the Montague Common Hall ( FKA the Montague Grange), 34 Main Street, Montague, MA.

Will Mentor calling with music by The Farwells (

$5-10 sliding scale. All are welcome, young and old, all dances will be taught.

Sub-Saharan African Country Music

November 5, 2015 by

R. Crumb’s Record Room Pt. 20

John’s Old Time Radio Show w/ Robert Crumb. “SUB SAHARAN AFRICAN COUNTRY MUSIC”. Fantastic sub-saharan African 78 records that were influenced by Western Country and or Hawaiian music… and then some that weren’t. Special Guest Robert Crumb plays 78 rpm records from his fabulous record collection from the South of France on John Heneghan’s Old Time Radio Show.

Listen here:

Jules Verne Allen

November 5, 2015 by


Jules Verne Allen was one of a handful of authentic and documented cowboy singers and writers — along with Carl T. Sprague — who lived the life that his songs dealt with. He also learned those songs before radio and records carried them to the world, when they were still part of an oral tradition. A cowboy from the age of ten, and a participant in cattle drives until the end of the first decade of the new century, Allen began singing as an amateur for the pleasure of his fellow cowboys.
After a stint in law enforcement, including a possible period as a Texas Ranger, and service in the army during World War I, he began working as a professional singer in the 1920s and was appearing on radio in Dallas, San Antonio, and Los Angeles by the end of the decade, sometimes under various pseudonyms, including Longhorn Luke. Allen began cutting music for Victor starting in 1928, and cut a total of a dozen sides for the company that year and the next. He cut what were among the earliest known versions of “The Cowboy’s Dream,” “Home on the Range,” and “Days of Forty-Nine.” His recording of “The Dying Cowboy,” more familiar as “Oh Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie,” is one of the more notable authentic oral tradition-derived versions of a song dating, in that form, at least since the 1830s.
Allen was also a composer and writer in his own right, and published Cowboy Lore, a collection of three dozen songs accompanied by details about cowboy life, in 1933 — it has been reprinted several times, most recently in 1971, some 26 years after his death.

“Long Side The Sante Fe Trail” by Jules Allen

Recorded April 8, 1928, Victor Records

Canute Caliste

November 4, 2015 by

A breakaway performed by Canute Caliste, violin, and group, recorded July 30, 1962 by Alan Lomax


Few internationally celebrated artists can have spent their lives working in humbler surroundings than the naive painter Canute Caliste, whose studio was a lean-to shack in the backyard of his wooden house on the tiny Caribbean island of Carriacou, off the coast of Grenada.

Surrounded by chickens and other farmyard animals, Caliste, who has died aged 91, produced fascinating, quirky paintings of island life that attracted a wide fan base in Europe and the United States, where art collectors embraced him as a charming and idiosyncratic painter in the primitive style.

Frequently as eccentric as the paintings he produced, Caliste had a sign at the end of his garden path in the village of L’Esterre that read: “This way to the great artist.” He may not quite have warranted that epithet, but, for many, his awkwardly painted figures and reportage style conveyed the charm and traditions of the Caribbean in much the same way that Lowry encapsulated industrial northern England. His paintings of fishing boats, cricket matches, carnival dances and domestic rows usually displayed a good deal of humour and no particular concern for accuracy – though a devout Roman Catholic, for instance, his painting of the Last Supper depicted 15 disciples.

Working mainly with acrylics on hardboard, Caliste could knock out 20 paintings in a day in his prime, and would run out of supplies almost as soon as he got hold of them. Though he had many other interests – and he was an accomplished musician – he lived to paint, and did so for most of his life.

Caliste claimed to have been inspired to begin painting seriously at the age of nine, when he was told by a vision of a mermaid that, if he followed the Bible, he could achieve anything he wanted. After that, mermaids appeared as a constant theme in his work, but his main preoccupation was the everyday scenes of Carriacou, an island 13 miles square, 23 miles north-east of Grenada.

Though he initially painted purely for his own enjoyment while making a living as a boatbuilder and fisherman, Caliste’s talent was spotted in the late 1950s by a local nun, Sister Trudy, who sold some of his works in a gift shop she ran. As tourism to the island increased in the 1960s, Caliste, by now well into his 40s, began to pick up word-of-mouth trade as visiting “yachties” trekked up the hill to his studio from the nearby harbour – or came by taxi from the island’s capital, Hillsborough – to buy souvenir paintings at a few dollars a time.

When an American, Jim Rudin, arrived in Grenada from New York in 1966 to open the Yellow Piou art gallery in St Georges, a friend of Caliste brought over a selection of his paintings from Carriacou, and Rudin liked what he saw. He exhibited Caliste’s work for the next 20 years, selling in decent quantities. Indeed, it was Rudin who suggested, in the 1970s, that Caliste write short commentaries at the bottom of his paintings to indicate what they were depicting. Caliste took to the idea, and his scribbled jottings, full of spelling mistakes and bad syntax – “Lovers coartin”, “general hurspetal in Grenada” – became one of his endearing trademarks.

Also in the early 1970s, the US-based anthropologist Donald Hill brought Caliste to further attention by including him in a doctoral thesis on Carriacou and buying up large amounts of his paintings, some of which he gave to Smith College in New York.

But Caliste’s big break came in the late 1980s, when another American, Lora Berg, who lived in Barbados and worked in the US embassy there, visited Grenada and happened to see his paintings. She asked to meet Caliste and decided to produce a coffee-table book, The Mermaid Wakes, showcasing his work. Published in 1989, the book brought Caliste to much wider attention, and almost immediately his work was in greater demand. Art lovers from the US and Europe began ringing Rudin to commission Caliste to produce works similar to those in the book, and his paintings even found their way into the collections of George Bush senior and the Queen.

As he became more renowned, Caliste was visited by foreign journalists and began appearing habitually in magazine articles and travel literature. The Grenada tourist board latched on to him as a marketing vehicle for Carriacou, and he was exhibited at venues around the world, including the Research Institute in New York, the OAS Museum in Washington DC and the Pedro De Osma Museum in Lima, Peru.

His paintings – always signed “Mr Canute Caliste” – were so unusual that they rarely failed to elicit a reaction, positive or negative. “People used to walk into my gallery and their eyes would nearly always fall on his work,” said Rudin. “Then they’d either say they were the best things I had in the gallery or ask me how I could exhibit such junk.” None the less, Caliste’s work generally met with puzzlement in the West Indies, where the general reaction was: “My child could do that”.

In terms of quality, Caliste’s golden era was probably in the 1980s, when he also painted some large works on canvas. In his latter days, the quality declined as his sight faded, and although he could still produce good work into his 80s when he put his mind to it, he fell into the habit of reproducing versions of scenes he had done before, rather than painting something new.

Relative to the average income in Carriacou, Caliste made a lot of money from his art, but most of it went on supporting his 22 children (predominantly by two women) and around 100 grandchildren. Even before the death of his wife Vonice – and well into his 80s – he was fond of keeping much younger girlfriends, and would be happy to supply them with various material needs.

As a result, he still lived in the same humble house, with its outdoor oven, that he had built for himself as a young man. He often said it was providing for his children that was the motivating factor behind his prodigious work rate.

Caliste’s lifestyle barely changed; he rarely left Carriacou, apart from a couple of funded trips to the US or to attend an occasional official function in Grenada as a VIP, and he produced many of his documentary-style paintings – such as those on the Grenadian revolution of 1979 – from television images and his imagination.

A quietly spoken but open and friendly man, he was slim and energetic throughout his life, and generous to a fault. If a visitor happened to make a personal trip to his studio, they were likely to come away with an armful of paintings bought for well below their market value. Even Caliste’s more mundane works sold for around $300-$400 and his better ones could fetch in excess of $2,500. But in person, he would happily sell at $10 a time, often throwing a second in free.

In Grenada and Carriacou, Caliste was more widely respected as a fiddle player who specialised in playing music in the endangered quadrille dance style. He performed at weddings and boat launches well into old age, and even featured as the star turn on at least two CDs of Carriacou music marketed around the world. What he lacked in technique he made up for with his dedication to retaining the old culture of Carriacou, which is known for its especially strong African tradition. As a result, the islanders called him, reverentially, “Old Head”.

· Canute Caliste, artist, born April 16 1914; died November 20 2005

Stone Mountain Wobble – Young Americans Doing Oldtime Right (Part 4) – Evan Kinney Fiddler

November 2, 2015 by

At a gathering of oldtime musicians in Tennessee, we find another example of young Americans playing real oldtime music, 1920s deep South style. Georgia-born Evan Kinney fiddles with ragtime rhythm section with Matt Kinman & Ali Kafka guitar, Mickey Nelligan banjolin, Chris Ryan banjo, Rachel Meirs cello. Moonshine buckdancer. 2015 Sewellfest Pikesville. Evan learned fiddle within the past 7-10 years, but  grew up hearing his dad Mick Kinney playing oldtime. Vdo recorded by MoonshineV YouTube Oldtime field recordings channel.

Bflat Rag – Young Americans Doing Ragtime Right (part 3) – Ashley Carr fiddles

October 26, 2015 by

At a gathering of oldtime musicians in Tennessee, we find excellent examples of young people doing the real Old-time music — Deep South style. Alabama Ashley Carr (and Rachel Meirs) on fiddle. Van Burchfield & Ali Kafka guitar, Mickey Nelligan banjolin, Evan Kinney cello, Joni Carr uke…. Pikesville, Tennessee, 2015. Key of Bflat (duh). Vdo recorded by MoonshineV YouTube Oldtime field recordings channel.

Shannon Waltz – American young folks doing Oldtime right (part 2) – Kevin Martin fiddles

October 13, 2015 by

At a gathering of oldtime musicians in Tennessee, we find excellent examples of young people doing the real Old-time music — Deep South style. Kevin Martin on fiddle. Van Burchfield & Coleman Akins guitar, Tre On bass, Chris Ryan & Carol Anne Rose banjo,…. Pikesville, Tennessee, 2015. Key of F, recorded by East Texas Serenaders. Vdo here recorded by MoonshineV YouTube Oldtime field recordings channel.

Skyland Rag – American young folks doing oldtime right (Part I) – Rachel Meirs on fiddle

October 12, 2015 by

At a gathering of oldtime musicians in Tennessee, we find excellent examples of young people doing the real Old-time music — Deep South style. Rachel Meirs on fiddle. Van Burchfield & Ali Kafka guitar. Mickey Nelligan banjo mandolin. Joni Carr uke. Evan Kinney cello….. Pikesville, Tennessee, 2015. Key of F, recorded by the Rector Trio. Vdo here recorded by MoonshineV field recordings YouTube channel.

Foot Notes: Flatfooting with Charmaine Slaven (DVD or streamed)

August 30, 2015 by


Charmaine’s new flatfooting instructional DVD is now available! You can access it on digital streaming through the Roots Channel for $17 (lifetime access) or order the physical DVD for $24. Both formats available here:

A review from Nic Gariess ““Charmaine Slaven is rapidly gaining renown as an invigorating presence in the West Coast old-time music & dance scene. Here, she shares her personal flatfoot style, drawing on Appalachian percussive dance combined with her own singular creativity and musicianship. Throughout this cozy instructional DVD, Charmaine leads us, woodstove-side, through the basic rudiments of freestyle old-time solo dance. Along the way, she shares helpful tips and insight, making this project an invaluable tool for anyone seeking a glimpse inside the structures and style of American mountain dance.”

– Nic Gareiss, percussive dancer and ethnochoreologist”

Below was filmed by MoonshineV (Portland Oldtime Gathering, 2012)

The Harry Smith Project Live (DVD)

August 30, 2015 by

DVD reviewed by Amanda Petrusich; November 6, 2006



Between 1999 and 2000, producer Hal Willner and Meltdown Festival artist-in-residence Nick Cave staged a series of epic five-hour-plus concerts in London, New York, and Los Angeles, intending to celebrate Smith’s work as an experimental filmmaker and musicologist by pairing contemporary artists with bits of Smith’s films and The Anthology‘s ancient folksongs: Beck, Beth Orton, Phillip Glass, Van Dyke Parks, Elvis Costello, Wilco, Steve Earle, Lou Reed, Marianne Faithfull, and a mess of other artists agreed to participate. The Harry Smith Project documents the concerts, pairing two CDs of live cuts with a DVD of concert footage (some featuring the legendary camera-stylings of D.A. Pennebaker and his team) and The Old, Weird America, a documentary about the global endeavor.

Working musicians cover The Anthology‘s songs all the time, and The Harry Smith Projectisn’t the first time modern stabs have been documented in deference– Smithsonian Folkways released The Harry Smith Connection in 1997, the soundtrack to a pair of tribute concerts held in Vienna, Virginia to celebrate The Anthology‘s CD reissue (featuring tracks by Dave Van Ronk, Jeff Tweedy, The New Lost City Ramblers, and others.) Still, many of these songs are so specific to their time and place– Beale Street, dusty Delta crossroads, southern chain gangs, Appalachian cabins, Tennessee coal mines– that a contemporary re-creation, no matter how well-intentioned or well-rendered, still feels a little ridiculous, like stomping through Colonial Williamsburg eating a hot dog and wearing a baseball cap. And while plenty of the cuts on The Anthology were “covers” to begin with (most early country and folksongs were re-workings of traditional gospel songs), they were captured at a time when folk music functioned a little bit differently– when it was a vital and necessary method of documenting and lamenting the daily struggles of the poor, and not yet a political tool or floppy, coffeehouse luxury. Consequently, The Harry Smith Project works best as homage: These songs are buried treasure, beloved not only for their melody and performance, but for what they indicate about an America long obliterated. It’s always nice to hear them honored (and to appreciate their songcraft without being distracted by rudimentary production techniques), but plenty is lost in translation.

Howling the Carter Family hit “Single Girl, Married Girl”, Petra Haden never quite captures Sara Carter’s strained desperation (Sara’s husband, Carter patriarch A.P., was notoriously absent; Sara later left him for his cousin, quit the band, and moved to California), sounding weirdly jubilant instead. Wilco’s take on Richard Rabbit Brown’s “James Alley Blues” is rich and convincing, with Jeff Tweedy grumbling on point, all sad-faced and earnest: “Towns right now ain’t nothing like they used to be/ I’ll tell you all the truth/ Won’t you take my word from me/ I seen better days and I ain’t putting up with these.” Beck’s version of Robert Johnson’s “Last Fair Deal Gone Down” features loads of sloppy slide and haphazard, soulful yelps, while the box’s highlight is traditional cut “Sail Away Lady”, performed by Uncle Bunt Stephens on the original Anthology, and rendered beautifully here by Van Dyke Parks and the Mondrian String Quartet.

The Harry Smith Project inadvertently asks big questions about the state of contemporary blues and folk, and works as an honest, loving tribute to the songs that informed the musical sensibilities of countless performers– and, hopefully, will lead its listeners straight back to the big, red box every American music fan should own.