Archive for the ‘John Dilleshaw’ Category

John Dilleshaw

March 12, 2012

by Kerry Blech (Old Time Herald volume 6, number 6)

John DilleshawSeven Foot Dilly-1929-1930, Complete Recorded Works in Chronological Order
Document 8002 (CD reissued from 78s) (78:10)

John Dilleshaw-guitar, speech, vocal; Pink Lindsey-fiddle, guitar, mandolin, bass; Harry Kiker-fiddle; Shorty Lindsey-(tenor) banjo; Joe Brown-fiddle; Ahaz. A. Gray-fiddle, vocal; Archie Lee, Bill Brown, and Hoke Rice-speech; probably Lowe Stokes-fiddle.

While in Chicago in 1972 visiting a 78 collector friend in his basement apartment, decorated floor-to-ceiling with vintage musical artifacts, he put a disc on, having intuited some of my interest. The tube amplifier translated that signal: “All right boys, we come up here to play for these folks up here on Dog River; now let’s get started. What’ll be a good tune to get started with? ‘Lye Soap!’ ‘Lye Soap.’ Bust Down!!!” and that was my introduction to Seven Foot Dilly and His Dill Pickles, a breakdown band in the North Georgia fiddle band style, with hot flatpicked runs by leader John Dilleshaw that would make Riley Puckett envious, a pulsating bowed bass, a ripplingly rhythmic tenor banjo, and some of the finest country humor and commentary one will ever encounter. I fell in love with a band’s sound and didn’t rest until I had heard everything by them. Now, you too can be inspired by this reckless band, as all their recordings are contained on this one silvery disc.

What was it about the sound of the Dilleshaw ensembles? The rhythm section, for sure. They had a wonderfully effervescent dance beat, with a unique underpinning of that bowed bass, that lively tenor banjo, and the accents and counterpoint of Dilleshaw’s left-handed guitar-playing. And Dilleshaw had a talent (or his A&R men did) for attracting great fiddlers to his recording sessions. A.A. Gray, Joe Brown, and most of all, Lowe Stokes, were already legends in the southeastern part of the United States by the time these discs were cut. And Pink Lindsey and Harry Kiker were no slouches either.

The band mixed some chestnuts, usually with some little hook in them to make them stand out from the crowd, with rather rare tunes. “Streak O’ Lean” might fall into the former category, as it was a popular regional piece that was recorded under various titles by John Carson and the Skillet Licker circle, among others. But the A-minor section is almost jarring behind Gray’s rhythmic bowing. “Kenesaw Mountain Rag” should be easily identifiable as a version of “Cumberland Gap,” but with masterfully subtle variations from the standard melodic course.

And of course they had their own takes on “Chinese Breakdown” and “Wyzee Hamilton’s Breakdown” (also known locally as “G Rag”), but rather than telling you which of their fanciful titles overlaid these familiar tunes, I’ll let you discover that for yourselves. In addition to their personalized stamp on the familiar, their rarities included “Sand Mountain Drag,” “Bibb County Hoe Down” (perhaps the best breakdown ever recorded?), and “Hell Amongst the Yearlings,” among others. I’ve not heard these melodies elsewhere. (more…)


John Dilleshaw’s “Spanish Fandango”: Southern Marvel #4

January 21, 2012

John Dilleshaw (left)

John Dilleshaw and The String Marvel play “Spanish Fandango.”

Recorded March 22, 1929, Atlanta, GA.

Thanks to Jas Obrecht for permission to share his research on “Spanish Fandango,” excerpted below from his wonderful site

In times before radio, records, and electric lights, people often played music to amuse themselves after dinner and at social gatherings. “Parlor guitar,” a favorite European musical fare during the late 1700s, caught on in America. Played with bare fingers on small-bodied instruments, parlor guitar became immensely popular, as evidenced by the stacks of musical scores published during the 1800s.

Many of these compositions called for the guitar strings to be tuned to an open chord. The most common of these tunings, open C (with the strings tuned C, G, C, G, C, and E, low to high) and open D (D, A, D, F#, A, D), clearly had European origins. The origins of open G, a favorite banjo tuning, are more difficult to trace. Two parlor compositions in particular would play a crucial role in the development of the blues.

Our journey begins with Henry Worrall. Born in Liverpool, England, in 1825, Worrall moved to the United States in 1835 and eventually settled in Cincinnati, Ohio. For a while he worked as a glasscutter’s apprentice, but his passion was guitar music. A skilled performer and composer, he became a music professor at the Ohio Female College. One of his prize guitar students, Mary Elizabeth Harvey, became his playing partner and wife. In 1856, he completed Worrall’s Guitar School, or The Eclectic Guitar Instructor, which remained in print through the 1880s.

On June 29, 1860, Worrall walked into the Clerk’s Office of the Southern District Court of Ohio and filed copyrights for two instrumental guitar songs. “Worrall’s Original Spanish Fandango” called for the guitar strings to be tuned to an open-G chord (D, G, D, G, B, D, from low to high), with the explanation that the music was to be read as if the guitar were in standard tuning. Some of the song’s flourishes sounded like watered-down versions of earlier nineteenth-century European music. Its little alle vivace finale, for instance, could have worked as a Rossini opera coda. But with its lilting melody and easy chord changes, this song is clearly the direct ancestor of one of the most common blues strains.

Two words stand out in Worrall’s title. “Fandango,” thought to be of African origin, first appeared in the English language in the 1760s, used to describe a “native ball,” or dance. Then the term was applied to a lively 3/4 time dance that originated among Spanish-speaking people. An April 1796 playbill for New York’s John Street Theatre, for instance, advertised a “Spanish Fandango” between the play and the afterpiece, listing four dancers and five singers who did not appear in the play. Eventually the word was used to describe the music itself.

A prime example of an early recording of “Spanish Fandango” is John Dilleshaw & The String Marvel’s 1929 version  Dilleshaw, a 6’7” giant of a man, had learned the song while growing up in north Georgia’s rural hill country. On the recording, one guitarist fingerpicks leads in open G while the other flatpicks basic accompaniment. The musicians have changed Worrall’s sedate 6/8 to a more swinging 2/4 and added alternating bass and bluesy bends, but the final chorus’ droning bass recalls the feel of older parlor guitar pieces.

Lye Soap

September 14, 2009

“alright boys we come up here
to play for these folks
up here on dog river tonight
so lets get started
what would be a good tune to get
started with?


Lye soap?   .. Bust Down!”