Archive for the ‘Charles Faurot’ Category

Charles Faurot

August 5, 2014

Charles Faurot

edited excerpt from Tom Mylet (

In the 1960’s Charles Faurot moved to New York. “I was married, working for a major bank in Manhattan, living in Brooklyn. I was buying tapes of 78s from Dave Freeman (of County Recordings) but hadn’t met him. One nice Sunday morning I’m going for a walk, out to get the paper. As I’m walking by a rowhouse, the apartment on the first floor had its window open and I could hear someone playing the dobro. So I stopped and…I couldn’t reach the window but said; Hey in there, I hear you playing the dobro. I like that kind of music. Can we get together? And the guy comes to the window and says: We just got out of bed. Why don’t you come back in a couple of hours? So I did and that guy was Bill Vernon.” (Bill had a well known bluegrass radio show in NYC and later Roanoke, VA.)

Bill and Mary T. Vernon lived in this nice little apartment. Because he collected 78s there were all these shelves taking up most of the space. Bill, of course, knew Dave Freeman. Bill introduced us and Dave took me to concerts at Loy Beaver’s. Loy would put on bluegrass bands that were passing through. All the money went to the bands. Besides collecting 78s, Loy was also a mortician and embalmed Franklin Roosevelt.”

In November of 1964 Charlie recorded Wade Ward. The following summer, during the Galax Fiddler’s Convention he recorded Kyle Creed, Fred Cockerham and George Stoneman. Charlie was taken with how differently they all played and asked Dave Freeman who was also at the convention if he would want to issue the recordings. According to Charlie, the original record jacket “was like a Folkways…heavy cover with the notes on the inside. We had Peter Bartok do the mastering. He had done the New Lost City Ramblers album and happened to be Bela Bartok’s grandson.” A classical composer, Bela Bartok based some of his music on the folk music of his native Transylvania.

The summer of 1967 found Charlie and fellow old time enthusiast Richard Nevins renting a house in Galax, VA to use as their base to record. A veritable who’s who of old time banjo recorded for Charlie and Rich: Tommy Jarrell, Fred Cockerham, Oscar Jenkins, Kyle Creed, Esker Hutchins, Matokie Slaughter, Dan Tate, Oscar Wright, Willard Watson, Gaither Carlton, Sidna Meyers. A similar number of bluegrass and old-time bands were also recorded. These recordings became the cornerstone of the old time music revival.

After almost fifty years playing and recording banjo and other old time music Charlie sees a lot he likes and some things he’s not so fond of. “I think these organized jams, with three or four fiddles and banjos playing exactly the same are taking the music in the wrong direction.” In light of the fact that Charlie’s idea when he and County put out “Clawhammer   Volume 1” was to show how differently the styles of the four banjo players were, it’s hard to disagree.

See also here and here.


Charles Faurot Reminisces

June 24, 2013

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from “Making Round Peak Music,” by James Randolph Ruchala:

 Charles Faurot tells of how a record collecting trip led to the first records of Tommy Jarrell, Fred Cockerham and Oscar Jenkins:

At the 1967 Galax Fiddlers Convention, Rich Nevins and Dave Freeman, both avid collectors of 78’s, ran into Oscar Jenkins. Because Oscar’s father, Frank, was one of DaCosta Woltz’s Southern Broadcasters, they asked him if Oscar thought Tommy Jarrell, also a son of one of the members of the Southern Broadcasters, might have some 78’s.

Oscar replied, “I don’t know.”

They asked him, “Do you want to take a drive over there?”

He said, “Why not.”

And off they went. Shortly after arriving at Tommy’s house, Dave and Rich asked, “Got any 78’s?”

Tommy answered, “No. Say, Oscar, got your banjo in the car?”

“Sure do.”

“Get it and we’ll play some tunes.”

…. When Rich and Dave found me back in Galax, they were raving about the live music they had just heard. In the days that followed, Rich and I spent a lot of time recording Tommy and Oscar together….
During a break in one of the early recording sessions, one of us mentioned we knew Fred Cockerham. Tommy perked up and said, “You know Fred? I grew up with him.”

We wasted no time going to Fred’s house and bringing him back to Tommy’s. When they got back together again for the first time in a number of years, it was as if they had never been apart so tight-knit was their playing.

Charles Faurot and Paul Brown

October 19, 2011

Forty years ago a young man named Charles Faurot traveled from New York City to southwestern Virginia. He was looking for older, traditional banjo players to record for a tiny country music record label. He found them and produced three albums of intense mountain music. They became the objects of devotion among a generation of younger players from around the world.

PAUL BROWN:  I was playing a lot as a kid and doing okay I guess. I heard recordings, everyone from Pete Seeger to old mountaineers on records my parents had given me. Then at college I ran into a few other players and one of them had two records I found amazing. The first was titled Clawhammer Banjo. The other was creatively titled More Clawhammer Banjo.

(Soundbite of song June Apple)

BROWN: These albums were concentrated, distilled, intense. This is Wade Ward. He’s playing a tune called June Apple, he’s on Volume One. He was from Independence, Virginia. I listened and for every single thing I thought I knew on the banjo there were suddenly a hundred or a thousand things out there to discover. The music sounded tribal, but no one was the chief because each player sounded so individual. Like Kyle Creed with his staccato single notes on a tune called Ducks on the Mill Pond.

(Soundbite of song Ducks on the Mill Pond)

BROWN: Or Gaither Carlton with his strange tunings and lonesome sound. Check out his version of Little Bert.

(Soundbite of song Little Bert)

BROWN: I was blown away. In 1976 I made it my business to go find some of these people. Some of them had died by the time I started out, but I had good friendships with several. As it turned out, I was one of thousands of teenagers and young adults who latched onto those Clawhammer banjo records, and one of several hundred, I guess, who actually went looking for the old players. And I wouldn’t take a million dollars for those years now. I worked in truck stops, sawmills and factories so I could go play music with the old guys on my off hours, and head to a fiddlers convention on the weekend. But there was one person I had never met. A shadowy presence who was gone from the scene by the time I got there. He was Charlie Faurot, the guy who had made the three banjo LPs that were changing my life. Thirty years later I finally called him up. He’s seventy years old now. Told me he was from Chicago. He got interested in folk music at home in the fifties when he discovered the banjo. He went to Yale and it was there in New Haven that he got his first old-time banjo. He loved playing Clawhammer. (more…)