Archive for the ‘Frank Blevins’ Category

Frank Blevins

December 9, 2011

Frank Blevins, unknown

      Born in 1911 and raised along little Horse Creek, he was the youngest of eight children. Frank’s father, Avery Blevins, was an accomplished fiddler who exposed his children to the traditional music of the Lost Provinces.  By the age of six Frank was teaching himself to play his father’s fiddle, and soon developed a distinctive style of his own.
      A lengthy convalescence from a hunting accident at age twelve provided time to hone his skills.  Frank’s constant companion was his older brother Edd Blevins, who played guitar.  The two brothers built a repertoire of old-time mountain songs and tunes, playing at local dances, corn shuckings, and school events.  They were soon joined by a neighbor, Fred Miller, who played banjo in a style inspired by the now legendary Charlie Poole.
     In 1927 the trio auditioned for a talent scout from the Columbia Phonograph Company and in November of that year traveled to Atlanta to make records under the supervision of Frank B Walker.  A name was created on the spot for the band: Frank Blevins and His Tar Heel Rattlers.  Only 16 years old at the time, Frank led the band with spirited fiddling and singing that belied his age.
       Inspired by a few shots of Georgia corn liquor, they first recorded the traditional mountain dance tune Sally Ann, a rendition with such verve and passion that it rivals any other. Next they performed I’ve Got No Honey Babe Now, a song that shares some lyrics with the old banjo piece Honey Babe, but with a different melody.  Old Aunt Betsy was a Frank Blevins original, combining a simple theme with exuberant delivery.  The session ended with a second traditional dance tune, Fly Around my Pretty Little Miss.

Following their recording session, the Tar Heel Rattlers traveled to West Virginia, touring the coal camps, earning a few dollars playing for workers who were eager for entertainment.  In Beckley, West Virginia, the band got a chance to hear their first Columbia release, as Fred Miller recalled : We knew our record had come out and we wanted to get one.  I went into Beckley with Frank and Edd to the music store there.  We went in and asked the woman who ran the store if she had those records.

She said, “There should be a bunch on the train when it comes in, should be about thirty minutes.”

So we messed around the music store.  And she didn’t know we were musicioners, that woman didn’t.  Pretty soon she went and got them records and come back.  She put on that Old Aunt Betsy, that was the first one she played.

She said, “Boy, that fellow can really play a fiddle.”  And Frank said, “Oh, he ain’t so hot.  If I had my old fiddle I could play as good as he could.”  She said, “You’re kidding me, you can’t play a fiddle.”  He said, “I can, but I ain’t got my fiddle.”  She said, “I got every kind of stringed instrument you can think of back there in the back room.”

She went and got a guitar, a banjo and a fiddle.  The three of us we went and tuned up a little bit around the stove.  Then Frank started to saw away!  He laughed and throwed back his head and went to singing Old Aunt Betsy and stomping his foot.  When he quit, the woman said, “How on earth did you learn that record? I t just came out !”

And Frank said, “Lady, I didn’t learn it, I made it !”.

The Tar Heel Rattlers returned to Atlanta on April 17, 1928 for a second recording session that yielded two further sides on the Columbia label : Don’t Get trouble in Your Mind, a folk song using a tune similar to Mollie and Tenbrooks, the well-known horserace ballad of the late 19th century; and Nine Pound Hammer, a work song associated with both mining and railroads.  Once again Frank Blevins gave the songs his distinctive imprint, applying youthful energy to age-old subjects.