Archive for the ‘Hammons Family’ Category

Across the Yew Pines

May 1, 2014


Across the Yew Pines – The Hammonses: Descendents of the Frontier

A film by Dwight Diller (4 DVDs, about 4 hours)

Across the Yew Pines is an opportunity to spend some time in the company of the Hammons family, who were born and raised on the Williams River in East Central West Virginia. Their great- great-grandfather was born in the latter half of the 18th Century in the ‘Indian Nation,’ and the family moved north from there, through virgin forest, to Webster Co and Nicholas Co, eventually settling in an isolated location on the Williams River, where the surviving members were born around the turn of the 20th Century.

This journey brought them through Indian country, the Civil War, and the start and end of the logging boom. Journeying alongside them, and carried by them, came the music, the banjo and fiddle tunes, the many songs, and the family stories that made up their own history.  These shared memories are portrayed here in four DVDs that contain original recordings made during visits to the Hammons’ home. Conversation, music and stories have been woven together, with many still photographs taken at that time set against footage of the forests in which they lived, plus some film of the Hammons at their home, and of the logging industry that formed a part of their early life.

These four DVDs, each lasting one hour, have been put together with the aim of allowing the Hammons to tell us their own story, in their own words, at their own pace, and in their own way. The past is allowed to flow without interference into the present, giving us a glimpse of an earlier way of life.  A CD is included with the transcription of the stories, so that they can be followed while listening to the DVD. The transcription follows as faithfully as possible the dialect spoken by the Hammons. It also contains an introduction to the series, a list of the tunes and stories used, some additional history of the times, and acknowledgements.

Dwight Diller is a native son of the East Central Mountains of West Virginia. He is a musician in the old West Virginia mountain music tradition, and has been teaching this music and its culture for over 40 years. He always had an interest in the old stories of his own family, as well as those of other people in this area, when he was a small boy, and his meeting and subsequent friendship with the Hammons was a continuation of this.

The Hammons Legacy: Volumes 1-3

December 11, 2011

Lee Hammons: Complete Banjo Recordings

Maggie Hammons Parker: Complete Banjo Recordings

A Sampler from The Hammons Legacy

(from Yew Pine Cultural Editions)


by Scott Prouty (

These three recordings represent the first in a new series of releases (known as The Hammons Legacy) containing the combined field recordings of Dwight Diller and Wayne Howard, who both began the documentation of the music of the Hammons Family and their circle starting in the late 1960s.  More than just documenting the family, both men lived locally (Diller was born in Pocahontas County, West Virginia and still lives there) and became friends to the older people and their ways.

The Hammons were among the last generation born into a culture with its roots in frontier life, and imparted much about that culture along with their music to the young men.  The best known recordings of the family were first released in 1973 by the Library of Congress and Rounder Records: The Hammons Family: A Study of a West Virginia Family’s Traditions (AFS L65-66) and Shaking Down the Acorns: Traditional Music and Stories from Pocahontas and Greenbrier Counties, West Virginia (Rounder Records 0018).  These were later combined on a two CD set released in 1998 (Rounder CD 1504/05).

However, Diller was the first person to make audio recordings of the family and introduced them to the outside world, including Carl Fleischhauer and Alan Jabbour, both then with the Library of Congress.  Since these releases, much has been written about the family (including here on the Musical Traditions site, see: Edden Hammons: Portrait of a West Virginia Fiddler / The Hammons Family: The Traditions of a West Virginia Family and their Friends / The Edden Hammons Collection, Volume 1 – review / The Edden Hammons Collection, Volume 2 – review), and their music (particularly the fiddle tunes) has been disseminated widely in the old-time music revival.

However, previous releases (including a couple of selections from Diller’s recordings released by the Augusta Heritage Center) did not (and perhaps could not) give a full picture of their abilities and this series appears aimed at redressing that.  This current set of releases is being produced under the umbrella of a non-profit, the Yew Pine Cultural Traditions by a team headed by Russ Hatton and including Kerry Blech, Todd Denton, Dwight Diller, Gail Hatton, Wayne Howard, Dave Nemec, Jerry Northington and, in the interests of full disclosure, myself. (more…)