from notes to “The Six and Seven-Eight String Band of New Orleans” (Folkways 2671) by Samuel Charters:
Dr. Edmond Souchon, the guitarist, is a prominent New Orleans surgeon; the mandolin player, Bill Kleppinger, is customs inspector of the Port of New Orleans; the string bass man, “Red” Mackie, is head of a pine oil manufacturing firm; the steel guitarist, Bernie Shields, heads a department of a large ship- ping concern. Their music-making has been a hobby, pursued with all the devotion and consuming all the time that only very busy men can find for such things.
Undoubtedly, there were other groups of southern musicians who transposed their impressions of jazz and folk strains for performance in small string bands. Remnants of the tradition have been found in other areas (see “Music from the South,” Volume 5, Folkways FP 654), and the folksinger, Leadbelly, has said that he played with a small string band that roamed the streets of Dallas, in 1910. In this group, he played guitar, accordion, mandolin, mouth harp and string bass, – as required by changing personnel.
But the lives of all the early Negro string bands that roamed the South were short, and none of these bands, whose musicians underwent a variety of adventures, ever achieved any historical continuity.
This is a blank that has been filled in by the members of the Six and Seven-Eights group, whose more fortunate position has enabled them to stay with music over a longer period of time. How long the period has been can be imagined by Dr. Souchon’s recollections of some of the first guitar-mandolin music he knew, on hearing string duets in Volume 5 of “Music from the South:”
“… the mandolin-guitar duets brought back many fond memories, for I used to pay a Negro mandolin and guitar player 25¢ an hour to let me come over to his cabin, back of Pass Christian, and play along with him. He taught me much, and a great deal of his style was exactly as these two players on the record. ”
Six and Seven-Eight String Band plays “The Original Dixieland Jazz Band One-Step”: