Archive for the ‘quotes’ Category

Quotes of the Day (#5)

August 6, 2014

Clayton McMichen’s bar in Louisville, ca. 1948 (from Toby Denham)

Norm Cohen, in JEMF Quarterly VOL. IX, PART 2, SUMMER, 1973, No. 30 

In truth, the frequency of appearance of the Child ballads on hillbilly records is 
quite small. Of approximately 20,000 different recordings released between 1922 
and 1941 less than 60 are Child ballads--or a mere 1/4%.

From a letter to Norm Cohen by fiddler Clayton McMichen:

      "Don't ask me any more questions about that bunch of nothing down there in 
Atlanta.  They were all a bunch of stab-you-in-the-back no-goods...and the longer 
I can keep them forgotten, 
the better."

from T-Bone Burnett (musical director of “Inside Llewyn Davis”):

"It’s American, American music. Traditional—I call it traditional American music. 
I don’t know what else to call it really because it’s, 
it’s the music of the poor people. And it’s beautiful. 
Like all of the great cuisines, all the great food 
innovations not all of them but so many of them—were 
peasant foods; barbecue for instance down here in the South. 
They invented barbecue sauce because they would get the 
meat that would go bad, and they’d have to cook it for two weeks 
to get it, to get it, you know... It would taste so bad they would put 
barbecue sauce, they’d put all kinds of crazy sauce on it. So that’s 
this connection... to the kind of music this is. It’s the kind of 
music that grows out of that same situation."

Congo Square

August 10, 2013


from Cyril Neville (

In the 18th and 19th century Congo Square, in New Orleans,  was outside the city proper and served as a market where slaves and Indians sold and bartered goods.

It was a Native gathering place where they probably had corn festivals and harvest festivals. After the Haitian Revolution in 1804, where people with hoes and clubs threw out the French slave masters, the slaveholders in New Orleans — some of them rich escapees from Haiti — decided to appease the slaves by letting them blow off steam.

My assessment is that in the beginning the Africans were going out there to worship and play music with the Native people and they’d all cook and play music together and eventually it attracted the Europeans. They came to see what the hullabaloo
was about and they [the Europeans] started throwing money at the players.
It was the first time that Africans played music for anything but to honor the ancestors or religious rituals. The
Europeans allowed it so Haiti wouldn’t happen in America.”

“Out of the Rock”

May 27, 2013

kora and balafon and dancers

by Alan Lomax, from

When are we going to realize that the world’s richest resource is mankind itself, and that of all his creations, his culture is the most valuable? And by this I do not mean culture with a capital “C”- that body of art which the critics have selected out of the literate traditions of Western Europe –but rather the total accumulation of man’s fantasy and wisdom, taking form as it does in images, tunes, rhythms, figures of speech, recipes, dances, religious beliefs and ways of making love that still persist in full vitality in the folk and primitive places of our planet.

Every smallest branch of the human family at one time or another has carved its dreams out of the rock on which it has lived- true and sometimes pain- filled dreams, but still wholly appropriate to their particular bit of earth. Each of these ways of expressing emotion has been the handiwork of generations of unknown poets, musicians and human hearts.

Now, we of the jets, the wireless and the atom blast are on the verge of sweeping completely off the globe what unspoiled folklore is left, at least wherever it cannot quickly conform to the success-­motivated standards of our urban- conditioned consumer economy. What was once an ancient tropical garden of immense color and variety is in danger of being replaced by a comfortable but sterile and sleep- inducing system of cultural super-highways- with just one type of diet and one available kind of music.

Quotes of the Day (#4)

May 9, 2013


Jody Stecher asked legendary Bahamian guitarist Joseph Spence why he played everything in D. 

Spence replied:  “I used to know all them keys! I knew ‘em all: A, and B, and D, and H…I used to know all them keys!”

Stecher asked, “Well, Mr Spence, if you knew all those keys, how come you don’t use them anymore?”

Spence replied, “I got TAHRD of ‘em!”

English folksong collector Cecil Sharp had spent a total of 52 weeks in the southern Appalachians during the years 1916-18.  Along with his assistant Maud Karpeles, he had doggedly trudged across the region, bagging a total of some 1,600 pieces before he became overcome with illness and fatigue.  At the end of his travels Sharp wrote:

“What I want more than anything else is quiet, no children, no Victrolas, nor strumming of rag-time and the singing of sentimental songs – all of which we have suffered from incessantly.”


Fiddler Eck Robertson:

"I should have been a millionaire instead of a pauper. 
I got beat out of everything I made, everything I was entitled to, really. 
'Cause people'd take advantage of me every dadgum time that I trust anybody. 
I got to where I just couldn't trust nobody. Every time I'd trust them, 
they'd beat me out of everything they could."

Quotes of the Day (#3)

February 14, 2013


from “Accordions, Fiddles, Two Step, and Swing,” edited by Ryan Brasseaux and Kevin Fontenot (Center for Louisiana Studies, 2006):

Folklorist Barry Ancelet, referring to “Valse du Vacher,” notes that fiddler Dennis McGee, “whose name reflects Irish roots and whose facial features reflect American Indian origins, describes the loneliness of a cowboy’s life in French to the time of a European mazurka clearly influenced by the blues.”

attributed to Yogi Berra:

Interviewer: Are there any great fiddlers alive today?

Yogi: No. All the great fiddlers alive today are dead. Except for the ones that are still alive. But so many of them are dead, that the ones that are still alive are dying to be like the ones that are dead. Some would kill for it.

from the Spring 1997 volume of the Chattanooga County Historic Society Quarterly:

Singleton LaFayette Norris (Fate Norris, of The Skillet Lickers) died on stage Nov 11, 1944 after playing for the March of Dimes benefit in Subligna, Ga. He said, “I’m not afraid,” and fell to the floor.

Screen shot 2013-02-09 at 12.54.01 PM

Quotes of the Day (#2)

August 6, 2012

1.    Frank Proffitt, voicing his opinion about the flashy technical playing of bluegrass legend Earl Scruggs:

“I’d like to learn to play like that, and then not do it.”


2.   Arthur Kyle Davis, remarking on the popularity of the ballad, “Barbara Allen,” in Virginia:


3.  Bob Dylan, describing traditional music:

Woody Guthrie

June 11, 2012

“No Next Step”: Quotes of the Day

January 23, 2012

“For those on the path to discovering American roots music, Roscoe Holcomb’s sound seems to be the end of the line.  Listeners may start with bluegrass, folk songs, old-time string bands, or Appalachian ballads, but once they get ot his music, there is no next step.”   John Cohen, (From the liner notes to “An Untamed Sense of Control.”)



“Almost any line you could draw through the whole field of popular musical culture would have Alan Lomax somewhere on it – probably in several places. Without Lomax, it’s possible that there would have been no blues explosion, no R&B movement, no Beatles, no Stones, and no Velvet Undergound’.”    Brian Eno, (Quoted in the CD booklet of “The Alan Lomax Popular Songbook.”)


“The first CD I got after The Harry Smith Anthology was the Folkways stuff  with Dock Boggs in the 1960’s. I put it on the stereo for the first time, and when “New Prisoner’s Song” came on, I just burst into tears. I sobbed openly for a while. And then I collected myself and thought … “My musical tastes have CHANGED.”  Mike Seeger, (Quoted in “The Young Musicologist,” in The Celestial Monochord: Journal of the Institute for Astrophysics and the Hillbilly Blues