Archive for the ‘web sites’ Category

St. James Sessions (#2)

March 20, 2015

st_james from

St. James Sessions is a very welcome website dedicated to the recording sessions held at Knoxville, Tennessee’s St. James Hotel in 1929 and ’30. It might seem obscure at first glance, but from this modest collection of dates came some of the greatest records of the pre-war period.

Curiously (and frustratingly), the best records to come from St. James were by artists who only made one record a piece: Alex Hood and his Railroad Boys’ “L&N Rag” and “Corbin Slide” and Hayes Shepherd’s (as the Appalachia Vagabond) “Hard for to Love” and “The Peddlar and His Wife.”

These records have more style and personality than 18/20ths of their hillbilly contemporaries. Also made here were the two sides of Howard Armstrong (Louie Bluie) and Carl and Roland Martin’s Tennessee Chocolate Drops: “Knox County Stomp” b/w “Vine Street Rag.” Carl Martin’s later records in the early ’30s don’t come close to comparing to the Drops’ tunes from St. James; Louie Bluie’s 1934 dates with Ted Bogan get closer, but we’d take these first.

See also: the four sides of the Perry County Music Makers – with Nonnie Smith Presson’s lonesome yodelling and autoharping – and the killer religious piano blues* of Leola Manning. Her “Arcade Building Moan,” about a fire which killed several children in Knoxville, was included on one of Dick Spottswood’s Folk Music In America volumes, and has long haunted us. This site gave us our first chance to hear her topical murder ballad “Satan Is Busy In Knoxville.”

See also here.

Online Music Depositories and Archives Around the World

August 20, 2014

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Music Depositories and Archives around the World

1. International Library of African Music

The International Library of African Music (ILAM) was founded by the great Hugh Tracey – whose efforts to record African music can be found in the History blog – in 1954. What is particularly significant about this African Music archive is that it is actually in Africa; on its website, it boasts the accolade of ‘The Largest Archive of African Music in sub Saharan Africa’. When it was originally founded by Tracey, it was located in the Gauteng province of South Africa but, when Tracey died in 1977, private funding had dried up. His son, Andrew Tracey, took over as Director and Rhodes University, in the East Cape province of South Africa, agreed to host the ILAM.

Its aims are ‘to discover, record, analyze, and archive the music of sub-Saharan Africa, with the object of establishing a theory of music making in Africa and assessing the social, cultural, and artistic values of African music’ and, as it is owned, with the exception of the instrument collection which is owned by the Tracey family, by Rhodes University, it also enables the university to offer undergraduate and post-graduate degrees in Ethnomusicology that include training in performance of African music.

Diane Thram became Director in 2005 and, under her leadership, an online listening library has been created, in line with the cutting edge of content access, to allow anyone to listen to Hugh Tracey’s recordings, with work currently being done to also make the Dave Dargie and Andrew Tracey Collections available for online access. There are over 12000 30 second recordings from the 1930s, 40s and 50s.

2. Global Music Archive

This archive is housed within the Anne Potter Wilson Music Library in Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music, which is located in Nashville, Tennessee, and was founded in 2003 by Gregory Barz, Associate Professor of Musicology (Ethnomusicology) at Vanderbilt University and the Anne Potter Wilson Music Library. There is currently 1849 recordings available to listen to online in the Digital Collection of East African music, which were recorded by the Ugandan ethnomusicologist and performer Centurio Balikoowa. The Global Music Archive’s (GMA) main aim is ‘to provide access to sound recordings and images of indigenous music from communities in Africa and the Americas’ and, as it is a public facility, it achieves this aim by allowing public access to the archive onsite and online.

 3. British Library: World & Traditional Music

Under their World & Traditional Music collection online, they have sub-divided their content into continents, making the African material easily accessible in one place. In the African section, there are 11 separate collections.

The British Library has approximately 3.5million sound recordings in total available to listen to onsite, with a Reader Pass. However, thanks to the Archival Sound Recordings project, from 2004-2009, the British Library was able to make over 50,000 of these available for listening online. The first phase of the project only enabled online listening to higher and further academic institutions, but this was then extended and now most of the material is made available for anyone to listen to, where copyright permits.

 4. Smithsonian Folkways

Smithsonian Folkways is a not for profit record label, set up by the Smithsonian Institute, the world largest museum and research complex in America. Incoporated in 1948, under the name Folkways Records & Service Co., in New York City by Moses Asch and Marian Distler, it was one of the first record labels to offer world music as a viable commercial product and became incredibly successful. After Asch’s death in 1987, Folkways was acquired by Smithsonian and, under the terms of the contract, Smithsonian had to keep nearly all of the albums ‘in print’ forever, for posterity. It honours this through its custom order service: “Whether it sells 8,000 copies each year or only one copy every five years, every Folkways title remains available for purchase.” Their mission, which the legacy of Asch, is ‘to document “people’s music,” spoken word, instruction, and sounds from around the world’ and is committed to ‘to cultural diversity, education, increased understanding, and lively engagement with the world of sound.’ They currently have more than 3,200 albums and 45,000 tracks and, through the dissemination of audio recordings and educational materials, are seeking to expand this legacy.

Their vast content is relatively easy to search – though of course it helps to know what you are looking for – and one can either search a location or artist in the search bar, or browse through the various collections. The International Library of African Music has many of its albums available to download, under the ILAM collection. As it is a record label, its material must be bought, which is of course a barrier to access, but it is still an incredibly valuable resource for traditional music and enables it to have some sort of commercial value, though it is not for profit.

5. BBC Radio 3: World Music Audio Archive

Presented by Lucy Duran, the World Routes programme on BBC Radio 3 is a mixture of interviews with top performers, live concerts, a monthly CD round-up, and special location features. For 13 years the programme has been exploring the globe and making on site recordings of world music, whilst also giving some background on the culture and history of the recording. From East Africa, they have a 60 minute episode on Kenya – you can listen to recordings of the singer Suzanna Owiyo in Nairobi, the rain songs in the north of the country which frequently suffers from terrible drought and the Massai who sing of the dangers of cattle raiding – and two others on Uganda; one featuring the Bugandan Royal Court Music and the second is about the Busoga Kingdom.


July 6, 2014

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This website is a work-in-progress by Laurent Dubois, David Garner, and Mary Caton Lingold of Duke University. Our goal is to showcase our research on the history of the banjo in the Afro-Atlantic world, including historical documents, visual materials, material objects, and musical transcription and analysis. We focus particularly on Haiti and Louisiana, but also provide information from other areas along with the transcriptions of a wide range of banjo music.

Wayne Perry (#2)

June 21, 2014
Wayne Perry

Wayne Perry

Looks like the complete Wayne Perry  Library of Congress recordings are available here.  More about Wayne Perry here.


This site is a digital resource for the study of the 1934 John and Alan Lomax trip to lower Louisiana, where they recorded a diverse array of songs in English and in Louisiana French. The recordings they made are part of the Lomax Collection, housed at the Library of Congress in the American Folklife Center. This website was developed by Joshua Clegg Caffery, author of Traditional Music in Coastal Louisiana, which contains transcriptions, translations, and annotations of these recordings.

The audio on this site is organized by parish and performer name, and it corresponds, more or less, with the Table of Contents in Caffery’s Traditional Music in Coastal Louisiana. An image of the Library of Congress cards from the original catalog of the Archive of American Folk Song accompanies each audio selection. These images are hyperlinked to the corresponding record in the American Folklife Center’s online interface. All Library of Congress photos of performers are also hyperlinked to their corresponding page in the Library’s Division of Prints and Photographs.

In many cases, the titles and information given on this website may conflict with information in the original card catalog. The original cataloging of these materials contained a number of mishearings, misspellings, misidentifications, and other errors. This cataloging was done, after all, at a time when there was practically no scholarship at all on the vernacular music of south Louisiana.

The goal of this site, and of the book Traditional Music in Coastal Louisiana, is to update these efforts in light of contemporary knowledge and to make corrections where appropriate.

See also here.



Podgathering site: some musical talk podcasts of interest

April 21, 2014

images  is a selective aggregator of exceptional talk podcasts available on the internet.  Several of the podcasts involve musical subjects of possible interest to readers of oldtimeparty, such as

No downloading necessary.  Listen by streaming audio with one click.


British Archive of Country Music

December 9, 2012


Country Music’s history of the last 75 years is represented in the British Archive’s collection of over 500,000 recordings on all formats. The Archive not only houses US recordings but Country Music from all over the world where the media, record producers, or serious collectors may come and browse.

The foremost consideration is the preservation of old-time Country Music.This is not just the David Barnes collection, but includes collections of others who have dedicated their lives performing or collecting country music throughout the years. Many people spend their entire lives researching the various labels and artists only to find at the end that someone with no interest in what they have achieved throws it all away. This must not happen! All their work must be preserved. Magazines, fanzines, discographies, biographies, and photographs must be stored under one roof.


At present the British Archive one of the few places in the world outside Nashville providing a facility which preserves the heritage of country music. it is also very important that donors’ names are recorded so that they will be respected by future visitors to the premises.The British Archive of Country Music is here to preserve the music, so that future generations may benefit from the past efforts of so many devoted people.

Within the Archive there is a library of over 500,000 Country Music tunes, history and biographical works, plus magazines, publicity data, sheet music, song books, photographs, videos, and all manner of memorabilia and artifacts. In addition, we produce CDs for sale.

Here are some titles that may be of interest to readers of oldtimeparty (for artists and track listing see link above):

HENRY WHITTER Early Country Artist CD D 348
CROCKETT’S KENTUCKY MOUNTAINEERS Classic Old Time String Band Music — CD D 023
BUELL KAZEE Legendary Kentucky Ballad Singer — CD D 027
BUELL KAZEE Legendary Kentucky Ballad Singer Vol. 2 CD D 214
RILEY PUCKETT There’s A Hard Time Coming — CD D 040
RILEY PUCKETT Gonna Raise A Ruckus Tonight CD D 115
THE OKEH LABEL Classic Old Time Music — CD D 050
THE COLUMBIA LABEL Classic Old Time Music — CD D 057
GEORGIA YELLOW HAMMERS Johnson’s Old Grey Mule CD D 073
CLAYTON McMICHEN The Legendary Fiddler CD D 081
CLAYTON McMICHEN The Legendary Fiddler Vol. 2 CD D 142
RED FOX CHASERS Classic Old Time Music From North Carolina CD D 108
THE VICTOR LABEL Classic Old Time Music CD D 129
THE VOCALION LABEL Classic Old Time Music CD D 140
FIDDLIN’ ARTHUR SMITH Give Me Old Time Music CD D 215
BLUEBIRD LABEL Classic Country Music CD D 270
THE EDISON LABEL Classic Old Time Music CD D 308
OLD TIME TUNES & SONGS 1926 – 1937 CD D 340


John Quincy Wolf Folklore Collection

December 2, 2012

The John Quincy Wolf Folklore Collection Website

John Quincy Wolf, Jr. was “one of the few real scholars to become interested in Ozark folklore.” 1  This Website contains documents, audio recordings, and other materials from the John Quincy Wolf Folklore Collection, part of the Regional Studies Center at Lyon College.

Ozark Folksongs contains transcriptions and audio files to hundreds of folksongs collected by Wolf from 1952-1970. Songs are indexed by song title. Sacred Harp documents Wolf’s interest in Sacred Harp singings.

Wolf, along with wife Bess, traveled the back roads of the hills and hollows of north central Arkansas for more than a decade beginning in the early 1950s in search of singers and musicians willing to sing and play their songs as Wolf saved them for posterity on his reel-to-reel tape recorder. When arthritis limited Quincy Wolf’s mobility in the 1960s, the couple increasingly turned their attention to musicians and genres found closer to their Memphis home, and one song in this collection reflects that change in geographical focus.

Bess Wolf donated the collection to Arkansas (now Lyon) College in 1981. An English professor by trade and self-taught folklorist, Wolf, unlike many of his contemporaries and predecessors, did not limit his recordings to songs and tunes that fit the academic definition of “genuine” folk music. He recorded whatever his hosts felt like playing, including hymns, Jimmie Rodgers songs, and popular, traditional-sounding Tin Pan Alley numbers.
Many of the songs in this collection would not have met the “authenticity” standards of the professional folklorists, but Wolf’s populist approach revealed the willingness of many in the hills of Arkansas and elsewhere to embrace the products of the American folk and popular traditions and the creations of local lore as willingly as they did the Child ballads and other British songs long sought and cherished by collectors.

Music Memory

November 1, 2012
Legendary 78 rpm record collector Frank Mare has granted Music Memory access to digitize his
collection, and the transfers are being overseen by Mike Tyson of Preservation Audio.

In many ways, the era from 1925 to 1950 represents the Golden Age of roots music. It was during these years that the rich, vibrant tradition of folk music made its way onto the new mass media of radio and records. This was the age when far-sighted collectors and ambitious commercial record companies began preserving parts of this vast, complicated heritage, and helped spread it around the world, where it stimulated many of the great genres of pop: jazz, blues, gospel, western swing, rockabilly, rhythm and blues, and rock and roll.

These fragile 78 RPM records, produced in an age before tape, before mixing, before multiple microphones, often in makeshift studios, carried the message of this powerful music into coal camps, railroad yards, juke joints, small town barber shops, the porches of thousands of farm houses and company towns — wherever people could grab a few moments of rest from their work and relax to the sounds of a music that was uniquely theirs.

Over the years, most of these 78s were worn out, broken, thrown away, made into ashtrays, used as target practice for local carnival ball-throwing contests, plowed into landfills, or donated to scrap shellac drives during World War II. Today, not one household in a hundred even has an old-fashioned Victrola that can even play the discs.

Yet a handful of collectors and scholars sensed the importance of this culture, and sought to act before it was too late; they began collecting the old 78s, cleaning them, figuring out the best way to get the best sound from them, trading them with other collectors, learning what they could about the names on the labels. On a 78, the listener received no liner notes on recording information as he or she does today: you got a name (which might well be a pseudonym) and a song title (which might not be the one the artist gave to them). To establish a social and musical context for these records, you had to do painstaking research — not only in old company files, but actually beating the bushes in towns from which the musicians came.

Music Memory is continuing the work started by the collectors and researchers in the 1950s and ’60s. We share their passion to keep the history of our musical heritage from being forgotten and are committed to preventing that from happening. As of October 2012, we have digitized more than 10,000 records on location at the homes of several prominent record collectors. Our goal is to build a database complete with audio, discographical information, artist and composer biographies, song lyrics and notation. Our hope for this database is that it will serve as a musical Rosetta Stone for future generations by showing the links and cross-influences of the many musical styles captured on phonograph records in the first half of the 20th century.

Max Hunter

July 2, 2012

Associated Press Writer
SPRINGFIELD, MO — Max Hunter, a folklorist who collected hillbilly songs, stories and expressions such as “ugly as a mud fence” and “pretty as a speckled pup” has died of emphysema at 78 (in 1999).

Hunter, who died Saturday, was known to run moonshine through the hills, chase chickens, haul hay or perform just about any task he could trade for a song or story.

“He devoted 30 plus years of his life trying to preserve and save what hillbillies stood for: simplicity and an easier way of living,” his son, David Hunter, said Tuesday. “It’s a part of history that would have been lost if it wasn’t for Dad’s tapes.”

Over the years, Hunter became known as one of the nation’s premier collectors of traditional Ozarks songs and stories, most of which are now on file at the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Insittituion.

During the 1950s, Hunter was a travelling salesman who spent time in motel rooms playing his guitar and recording songs. He later expanded his hobby by recording folklore from people he met on southwestern Missouri’s dirt roads.

But pulling a story out of a hillbilly could sometimes be more like pulling teeth. To win their trust, Hunter would offer to help with chores or run errands.

“It was very well known that he ran moonshine down into Arkansas on several occasions. Then he would go back and get a song for doing the delivery,” David Hunter said. “I think they respected that.”

Some of the songs he collected came directly from the Ozarks. Others could be traced back hundreds of years.Some, Hunter later discovered, had even been chronicled at Harvard University in the 19th century, in a collection of traditional ballads then thought to be extinct.

Other tidbits Hunter collected included ways to cure warts (start by stealing your neighbor’s dish rag), or suggestions for warding off bad luck after a black cat crosses your path (put your hat on backwards and the cat won’t know if you’re coming or going).

Under lock and key at Springfield’s Greene County Library, Hunter’s collection fills shelves several feet high, with copies also kept at the Unviersity of Missouri at Columbia. There are 14 hours of jokes on tape, more than 1,000 native expressions like “got to get my ears lowered” (haircut) and more than 2,000 folksongs.

“It’s just a total, different lifestyle that’s not out there anymore,” Hunter said in an interview last year. “It was a way of life that was slowly being lost. Words were being lost, actions, thoughts, just a complete lifestyle of some people.”

For Hunter’s work, the state’s Arts Council in 1998 presented him a Missouri Arts Award, its highest honor.

See to browse his collection.

Springfed Records

May 25, 2012

Check out Springfed Records:

“Uncle Dave at Home”: This CD features Uncle Dave Macon at his most relaxed and authentic, sitting before his own fireplace on a warm spring Sunday afternoon in Kittrell, Tennessee, halfway between Murfreesboro and Woodbury. The recordings in this CD are informal, amateur recordings made on a portable tape recorder. They were made circa May 1950, a little over a year before Uncle Dave’s death.

“Sam and Kirk McGee Live: 1955-1967”  Live recordings from Bean Blossom, New River Ranch, and Smithsonian Festival.


SFR-CD-101 Uncle Dave At Home

SFR-CD-102 Billy Womack in Retrospect: Down at the Barbershop

SFR-CD-103 Sam and Kirk McGee Live: 1955-1967

SFR-DU-33002 Norman Edmonds-Train on the Island
SFR-DU-33004 Various Artists-Fiddlers of the Tennessee Valley
SFR-DU-33007 JT Perkins-Just Fine Fiddling
SFR-DU-33009 Perry County Music Makers-Sunset Memories
SFR-DU-33014 WL Gregory and Clyde Davenport-Monticello: Tough Mountain Music
SFR-DU-33015 Fiddling Doc Roberts-Classic Fiddle Tunes
SFR-DU-33017 JT Perkins-Fiddle Favorites
SFR-DU-33021 Sam McGee-God Be With You
SFR-DU-33023 Frazier Moss-All Fiddler!
SFR-DU-33024 Perry County Music Makers-Going Back to Tennessee

SFR-DU-33028 WL Gregory and Clyde Davenport-Homemade Stuff
SFR-DU-33029 Indian Creek Delta Boys-Volume 1
SFR-DU-33037 Omer Forster, Houston Daniel and the Highland Rim Boys-Flowery Girls
SFR-DU-33042 Indian Creek Delta Boys-Volume 2
SFR-DU-33044 JT Perkins-JT



The Old Time Machine

February 28, 2012 is the world’s first completely virtual old time machine, an ever expanding repository of old-time backup tracks for many of your favorite old time tunes, recorded with real live old timey instruments!  Each tune is presented in several different backup arrangements (slow and fast guitar backup, guitar and banjo, guitar and fiddle), so that you may choose the one that best fits your needs (for more tips on how to get the most out of these tracks, go here).  The fiddle and banjo versions are intended to help familiarize you with the tunes.

Each playlist is organized by key and the key is also announced at the beginning of each track.  The banjo and fiddle tracks are panned to one side or the other, so you may adjust the level of each by adjusting the balance in your system (assuming you’re listening in stereo, which is recommended).  If you want one track to play repeatedly, just click the loop button (circling arrows).  Additionally, the chord changes for each tune will appear in the left-hand box on the player.  Click the “chord charts help” folder on the player for more information on how to read these (you’ll need to click twice to get the chord chart to appear).  You may also dowload a .pdf file of all the chords to all the tunes here.

In Her First Heaven

February 17, 2012


Here, are the stories of six woman, stories told in living rooms, in kitchens, in parking lots: the recollections of old friends, daughters, sons, and sisters.

They played banjos and fiddles, they sang songs to those who listened, and for themselves. These are stories of rifles, and pies baked. Of dreams held back, and dreams realized. There are stories of faith, and stories of hard work.

They played old time music in Kentucky, all. Old time music, I have come to understand, is the music that came out of families, and households; which some took to stages, but all kept as one part of the fabric of their lives.

I heard recordings of these women last winter, on the internet, on CDs.  And I missed not knowing their stories; the kitchens, the living rooms, the laughter, the dancing it seems, are woven into this music and, I would argue, cannot quite be separated.

The musicians who I have had the honor and joy of knowing, who’ve taught me tunes and bowings and how to hold my banjo, they have taught me about life, too. About patience, and humility, and how to listen closely.

So, who are these people in the recordings? How did they celebrate music in their life? And what lessons can they teach us—beyond the bowstrokes they used?

I must say, here, too, that I began this project with a particular focus—to find the stories of women musicians. The intent was to get at an answer to a question—why it seemed there were so few women who played a part in this music’s history? It’s true, their ranks among records and field recordings are smaller, particularly when it comes to fiddle. I only found more questions; was it a matter of women not playing? or not playing for field recorders, and the written record? As I became involved, learning the specific stories of the women who did play, I became discontent with the idea of noting general trends, at least for the time being. The landscape of Kentucky is diverse, each community with its own cast of characters. It seemed more interesting, and more honest, then, to hear the stories of the women who did play, with such vigor and joy. I wanted to let them speak for themselves.

Can Kickers

January 2, 2012

Our old albums, Dead Music and Dead Music Volume II have been out of print and unavailable for a long time now, but we’ve finally remedied this by putting them up on Bandcamp.  And just in time for Christmas.. well, not really.  So for all of you who have bugged us for them or who are interested in listening to or downloading these, our original albums- here you go:

You can also get to them through our Facebook page:!/pages/Can-Kickers/105572152805943

Our newer records, Mountain Dudes and Dying Not Dead are also available on Bandcamp (or through the mail if you email us!)

Hope you like.


The Can Kickers

Another Old Time Lyric Site

December 19, 2011

Here is another large online old time lyric collection.  This and the Bluegrass Messenger site have it pretty well covered.

Gus Cannon (#1)

November 11, 2011

The Long Time Coming site (see previous Dock Boggs post) has a companion site dedicated to Gus Cannon and Cannon’s Jug Stompers:

The author offers biographical and discographical info, lyrics, photos,  audio clips, and a link to this essay by Bengt Olsson from “The Complete Works, 1927-1930 (Yazoo 1082).”  Below is the first section.  Click here for the complete essay.

by Bengt Olsson

Gus Cannon was born at Henderson Newell’s plantation a mile or so north of Red Banks, Marshall County on September 12, 1883 (incidentally that makes him a Virgo — earth). The Frisco railroad tracks ran (they still do) through Red Banks & though the trains never stopped, the railroad was considered the most important thing in the vicinity. The one incident that really stands out in Gus’ memory of the first years is witnessing the Frisco have a wreck outside Victoria, a small town just north of Red Banks where Gus & his mother were gathering flowers at the time of the accident. Except for the railroad Red Banks was little more than a store with porkchops as well as hoes & Stetson hats; a few cafes with dancing in the front & dice games in the back & a post office, which stayed closed most of the time.

Gus’ parents, John & Ellen, were sharecroppers & as such they moved about within the Red Banks/Victoria circuit. Usually parents had their kids help out in the fields once they were old enough to carry a bucket of water. A grown man would make around 50¢ a day — certainly not much, but on the other hand 20¢ bought a steak-dinner back then. Quite naturally (“I’m 88 years young”–1971)–, Gus’ memories of the childhood days are hazy, but some recollections (omitting the train wreck) still shine through.

“My daddy was in slavery time. John Cannon…got his name from the man who owned him. He used to tell us that in them days they put the big ole colored man with the good-looking women to raise children. Shit, I’m telling you the truth. I’m straight…I’m telling you what I know.” Another incident that Gus recalls is stealing a watermelon from his dad’s watermelon patch, a couple of minutes away from the house the family stayed in at the time (late 1880’s). The old man was very strict with taking care of the picking himself. “You know, dad saw that there was a watermelon missing & he tracked me. That evening when I’d gone to bed, he came on with a razor. Oh Lawd, he whopped the hell out of me, ’cause I did not not ask for it (stomps his foot)! I been honest ever since.”

Early Records of Oldtime Music From East Tennessee

November 2, 2011

A photo of participants in the Mountain City, Tennessee Fiddler’s Convention of 1925

Richard Blaustein’s “Talking Fiddle” site includes recordings, photos, and history related to fiddlers   Am Stuart, J.D. Harris, Charlie Bowman, John Dykes, G.B. Grayson, Jimmy McCarroll, Allen Sisson, the Tenneva Ramblers, the Allen Bros., Clarence Ashley, Ridgel’s Fountain Citians, Tennessee Ramblers, and Vance’s Tennessee Breakdowners.


Charlie Bowman by Richard Blaustein 


Charles Thomas Bowman was born in Gray Station, Washington County, Tennessee on July 30, 1889. Playing old time music was a major form of home entertainment for country people throughout the United States and Canada in those days.

Like Clark Kessinger, little Charlie Bowman started out on banjo but soon switched to fiddle. His first fiddle cost $4.5O; fifty cents was a full days wages for a farmhand at that time.

All but one of the nine Bowman children played music; Charlie and his brothers would later record together as The Bowman Brothers. Charlie made his first recording in 1908 — on an Edison cylinder phonograph owned by a neighbor! The Bowman Brothers started playing at local dances and other events. They soon began to get paid for playing music; each of them got seventy-five cents,an impressive amount of money back then.

In 1920 Charlie entered a fiddle contest in nearby Johnson City. First place went to Clayton McMichen, a great North Georgia fiddler who later went on to record with Gid Tanner and Riley Puckett, among others. Charlie took second place, winning thirty dollars! He then entered and won so many fiddle contests in East Tennessee and the surrounding region that other fiddlers started to complain about him!

A revival of interest in old time fiddling was growing all across the United States by that time. In 1923 Victor Records offered Charlie Bowman a recording contract, which he turned down. Al Hopkins was so impressed when he heard Charlie play at a Johnson City fiddle contest that he invited Bowman to join the Original Hillbillies, who were already recording for Okeh. Bowman turned down his offer.

But in 1925, Hopkins and Bowman met again at a now historic fiddle contest in Mountain City in remote Johnson County, the easternmost county in the state.
Getting to Mountain City is still not an easy task today, and one can only imagine what it was like to travel there in old fashioned automobiles over narrow primitive roads back in 1925, Nonetheless a number of major figures in early country music managed to get there, including Fiddlin John Carson, who came up all the way from Atlanta, Georgia. East Tennessee fiddlers swept the contest. Dudley Vance from
Chinquapin Grove near Bluff City in Sullivan County took first prize; Charlie Bowman from Gray Station in Washington County took second place, and the very first Tennessee fiddler to make commercial recordings, Uncle Am Stuart from Morristown in Hamblen County, came in third.

Al Hopkins and the Origina Hillbillies were also there. Hopkins invited Bowman to join the Hillbillies again, and this time Bowman accepted. Country music was taking off, and The Hillbillies were very popular. Charlie and The Hillbillies cut several records for Vocalion in New York City, where they also played on local radio and made lucrative appearances at vaudeville theaters.At the height of their popularity, The Hillbillies played for President Calvin Coolidge and also appeared in a short film.

By 1928, though, Charlie Bowman went back home to East Tennessee. That same year Frank Walker of Columbia Records set up a makeshift studio in Johnson City
and advertised for local talent in area newspapers. Charlie and his brothers auditioned for Walker and recorded a number of classic old time songs and tunes for Columbia.

When Frank Walker returned to Johnson City in 1929, the Bowman Brothers made more records for Columbia; that same year Charlie and his daughters Pauline and Jennie traveled up to New York City and cut several records for Vocalion. Unlike many early old time performers, Charlie continued to work as a professional country entertainer through the Great Depression and the austerity years of World War II,
Charlie Bowman finally retired from show business in 1957, He died on May 8, 1962.

See previous Charlie Bowman post.

Banjo Ancestors: The Early Banjo in the New World

October 18, 2011

The story of the banjo begins in the 17th century when African slaves in the New World began making and playing lute-type string instruments with drum-like gourd bodies. In 1678, the French colonial government of Martinique restated an edict issued twenty four years earlier prohibiting African slaves from gathering together for dances and socializing. The new ordinance specified kalendas. More commonly known as la calinda (also calenda), the kalenda was a social gathering of slaves in which they danced dances of clear African origin to the accompaniment of a drum or two and the banza. (In later years, some reports also mentioned the inclusion of the violin in a typical calinda band.)

Eleven years later, Sir Hans Sloane wrote the first report of the early banjo which gave a description of the instrument. In the account of his 1687 sojourn through the West Indies (written in 1689 but not published until 1707), Sir Hans described the “Negroes” in Jamaica as playing strum-strums, which were “Instruments in imitation of Lutes, made from small Gourds fitted with Necks, strung with Horse hairs, or the peeled stalks of climbing Plants or Withs.”

Banza and strum-strum were just two of the many names for the earliest forms of the banjo, which made their first appearance in the Caribbean, most likely sometime in the 1630s or ’40s. From 1689 on through the early 19th century, European observers documented other terms for these instruments such as Creole bania (Surinam), bangil (Barbados, Jamaica), banshaw (St. Kitts) and merry-wang (Jamaica). Two of the most common names were banza in the French, Spanish and Portuguese colonies and banjar (also banjer, banjor, banja, banjah, etc.) in the English colonies.

(From Shlomo Pescoe’s excellent site dedicated to banjo history. Thanks to Shlomo for this intro.)

Hispano Music and Culture of the Northern Rio Grande

October 3, 2011

Hispano Music and Culture of the Northern Rio Grande: The Juan B. Rael Collection is an online presentation of a multi-format ethnographic field collection documenting religious and secular music of Spanish-speaking residents of rural Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado. In 1940, Juan Bautista Rael of Stanford University, a native of Arroyo Hondo, New Mexico, used disc recording equipment supplied by the Archive of American Folk Song (now the Archive of Folk Culture, American Folklife Center) to document alabados (hymns), folk drama, wedding songs, and dance tunes. The recordings included in the Archive of Folk Culture collection were made in Alamosa, Manassa, and Antonito, Colorado, and in Cerro and Arroyo Hondo, New Mexico.

The mp3 recordings in this collection are free downloads.

The Strachwitz Frontera Collection of Mexican and Mexican American Recordings

September 28, 2011

The Arhoolie Foundation’s Strachwitz Frontera Collection of commercially produced Mexican and Mexican-American recordings (the Frontera Collection) is the largest repository of Mexican and Mexican-American vernacular recordings in existence. With funding from Los Tigres del Norte Foundation the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center has sponsored the digitization of the first section of the collection by the Arhoolie Foundation. These performances were recorded primarily in the United States and Mexico and issued on 78 rpm phonograph recordings during the first half of the twentieth century. This vast digitized collection of approximately 30,000 recordings is now available to researchers and the general public.

Search collection here:

Folkways Liner Notes Available as Free PDFs

September 22, 2011

Smithsonian Folkways offers free downloads of liner note booklets of all the great old Folkways LPs, including Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music.  Anywhere on the website, just click on the picture of an album (or CD) to get to the album detail page.  The download link for the liner notes on the album detail page is just above the track listing:  “Download Liner Notes.” The liner notes have extensive biographical, historical, and musicological info as well as lyrics, etc.

Folkways Records was founded in 1948. Led by Moses Asch (1905-1986), Folkways sought to document the entire world of sound. The 2,168 titles Asch released on Folkways include traditional and contemporary music from around the world, spoken word in many languages, and documentary recordings of individuals, communities, and current events.

Here is just the FIRST PAGE of the complete list of 116  Smithsonian Folkways old time recordings.

OTM Biographical and Photo Sites

September 20, 2011

A.A. Gray

If you are interested in online biographical sketches of old time fiddlers and bands from the classic era, David Lynch’s and Ahmet Baycu’s have pages dedicated to biographical info. These 2 links and the Dixie Archive blog also feature photos of the artists.


In a 1934 interview, fiddler A.A. Gray said, “Once I toured south Georgia with a big crowd, playing in a lot of conventions.” In the same interview, he also had something to say about his strategy for winning. “I find that the tune you play has a lot to do with winning prizes. A fellow just ahead of me [on the south Georgia tour] used ‘Bully of the Town’, and that’s a mighty good piece. He won four prizes in a row. Finally, I happened to think of ‘Bucking Mule’. It’s a hard piece, but it’s snappy, and you do a lot of fancy work behind the bridge that makes the fiddle bray like a mule. I won so many prizes [with that tune] that the other fellows got to calling me ‘Mule’ Gray.”

Historic AFC LP Liner Note Booklets

September 19, 2011

From the 1950s through the 1980s, the Library of Congress issued long-playing albums (LPs) of recordings from the collections of what was first called the Archive of Folk Song, later the Archive of Folk Culture, and finally the American Folklife Center.  Some of these titles had formerly been released as 78 rpm records in the 1940s. These albums included instrumental music, song, storytelling, and occupational calls such as “field hollers” and “cattle calls.”  The LP albums were accompanied by liner note booklets of eight to sixty pages, packed with information about the recordings and the traditions they represented.


Jug Band Lyrics

September 17, 2011

by Robert Crumb

For a huge collection of classic era jug band lyrics, see

From that site, the sublime 3rd verse of “K. C. Moan,” by the Memphis Jug Band (1929):

Mmm, mmm, mmm

Mmm, mmm, mmm

Mmm, mmm, mmm

Mmm, mmm, mmm

Homage to Dock Boggs

September 16, 2011

Dock and Sarah Boggs

Lyrics to all of Dock Boggs reissued recordings, I believe, can be found here:

The site also contains discographical info, tunings, biography, articles, stories, photos, and audio clips of interviews with Boggs.

Lectures by The Shaman-in-Residence

September 12, 2011

Harry Smith

The Harry Smith Archive offers a number of audio links for lectures given by Harry Smith in the last years of his life.  These appear to have been recorded while Smith served as the Shaman-in-Residence at the Naropa Institute’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics from 1988-1991.

In the lecture linked below, Harry Smith describes two Native American ceremonies he witnessed in the early 1940’s in the Pacific Northwest. Interspersed with his account of the ceremonies, he discusses tangentially various related topics, including Native American health before the European invasion, Native American sign language, the migration of symbols, misogyny in anthropological accounts of Native American peoples, creation myths, and cosmology.  (from

Sound quality improves after about 1 minute.

Old Time Lyrics site

September 10, 2011

Texas Gladden and Alan Lomax

Richard Matteson at Bluegrass Messengers offers what appears to be the largest online collection of old time song lyrics, with extensive notes and discographical information.

This gent is thorough: he includes 24 versions of “Froggie Went A-Courtin’.”

Rain down bonny mish ki-me-oh.
Kero kiro gilt and garo
Kero kiro karo
Rap Jack penny winkle flammydoodle yellow buckle
Rain down bonny mish ki-me-oh

Online Collection of Rare Cajun MP3s

September 9, 2011

Dennis McGee

For a huge collection of free, downloadable Cajun music mp3s from collector Neal Pomea, see

Neal writes: These recordings all come from my private collection with considerable help from other French music fans. I post them here as a labor of love without gain and with no wish to cut into any else’s profit. I simply make these important and scarce recordings available here due to their inherent interest to the Cajun music community, to preserve and promote appreciation for the likes of Nathan Abshire, Austin Pitre, Ambrose Thibodeaux, Revon Reed, Sady Courville, Preston Manuel, Roy Fusilier, and many other great musicians!

Fiddler’s Map – double click on image for full size readable version

September 7, 2011

by Ahmet Baycu (

I know it’s unreadable for some reason, but double click on this map to enjoy a larger readable version.  Ahmet Baycu  created this great map and posts it on his site, Roots of American Fiddle Music.

Ahmet writes the following:

As we all learned this music and its historical context, I thought it significant to observe the various geographical positioning ot the OTM artists of the 1920’s. Hence, this map should give you an idea of the general configuration of some of these groups, and how mountain ranges and distances can drastically affect the stylistic development of their music.  The band names are linked to their particular bio on the site but will not work on this page.

John Donald Robb Field Recordings (1944-1979)

September 6, 2011

John Donald Robb

The John Donald Robb Archive of Southwestern Music is dedicated to preserving the musical heritage of New Mexico and the Southwest. Created in 1964, the archive has grown to house over 1,600 hours of recordings. Collecting began through the efforts of former University of New Mexico Fine Arts Dean John Donald Robb, for whom the archive iis named.The archive’s collections preserve examples of the rich cultural milieu of Southwestern music.

These are free, downloadable recordings, at

They consist of Hispanic, Native American, and Anglo music recorded between 1942-1979 in different parts of New Mexico. The collection contains Hispanic folk music such as the alabado, the pastore, the decimal, and the corrido. Additionally, Native American chants and dances, as well as Anglo cowboy and frontier ballads are represented in the collection.



September 5, 2011

For an exhaustive collection of resources related to traditional Jamaican string band music, see

The classic mento sound is the acoustic, informal, folksy rural style. Still sometimes referred to as country music in Jamaica, it’s easy to imagine farmers and their families celebrating harvest with a mento dance. Typical instruments included banjo, acoustic guitar, a home-made saxophone, clarinet or flute made from bamboo, a variety of hand percussion and a rumba box.  Fiddle was occasionally used.  (edited from
Listen to the the 4th tune in the medley below for an outstanding example  of Jamaican country  fiddling. The recording is “Quadrille Figures 1-2-3-4 No. 8,” by Chin’s Calypso Sextet (more of their music is available on iTunes and

Old Time Music Songbook

September 3, 2011

Ahmet Baycu posts this PDF collection of old time lyrics on his fabulous site He writes:

This songbook is in fact just lyrics and not the music to over 150 of my favourite OTM songs/tunes.  I have in most instances transcribed the words from the original recordings, not from internet search engines.  I have included many interesting photos, all unnamed however for your amusement and
study. Don’t worry about mistakes you may encounter!

The Roots of American Fiddle Music

September 2, 2011

Ahmet Baycu’s site, Roots of American Fiddle Music, is a unique and extensive collection of old time music resources, including 120 free, downloadable mp3s of classic 78 rpm recordings.  Old Time Party will spotlight special features of the site in the coming weeks, including the overview below, by Ahmet:
       I started this site quite a few years ago to spread the OTM word via photos, bios, downloads, and anything else I could digitize. Since then, there has been an explosion of info interesting posts by hundreds of like minded folks.  Still, there should be plenty here for all newbies to this music to get you started on your journey, including OTM crossword puzzles and a good sprinkling of humor. Be forewarned however that paths here do not travel in straight lines.
      There are quite a few complete  and partial OTM recordings here for download or stream scattered throughout the site. If you are a Skillet Licker fan, there is a nice little package of 25 of my favourite instrumentals in very good quality for download or stream here:


September 1, 2011  offers free streaming video of documentary films about American Roots Cultures.  Dozens of their films relate to Appalachian and old time music, including:

Almeda Riddle : Now Let’s Talk About Singing

Dreams and Songs of the Noble Old (featuring Tommy Jarrell, Sam Chatmon, etc.)

Homemade American Music (featuring Tommy Jarrell, Roscoe Holcomb, etc.)

Morgan Sexton : Bull Creek Banjo Player

Prince Albert Hunt

Remembering The High Lonesome (John Cohen)

Honking Duck 78s (Scottdale String Band)

August 26, 2011  offers over 700 78 rpm recordings from the 1920’s and 1930’s for your listening pleasure.

The collection is searchable by artist, title, and year.

There are many rare gems on this site, including four by the mandolin-led Scottdale String Band:

“My Own Iona,” “Hiawatha Breakdown,” “Come Be My Rainbow,” and “Stone Mountain Wobble.”

Does anyone have a copy of:

Scottdale String Band (Barney Pritchard [gt], Marvin Head [gt], Charlie Simmons [banjo/mandolin]),

OKEH 45188 Down Yonder / Sea March       

10 October 1927, Atlanta, GA

Juneberry 15000 Old Time Series – Part 15

August 24, 2011

Juneberry’s latest MP3 CD in the 15000 Series contains, among other gems,  four  (possibly) previously unreissued  tracks by the Georgia duo of George Walburn (fiddle) and Emmett Hethcox (guitar) :

“Home Brew,” “Macon Georgia Bound,” “Polecat Blues,”and “Wait For The Lights To Go Out.”

Altogether there are 17 Classic Old Time MP3 CDs/DVDs for sale at this site, as well as the option of custom designing your own CDs from the huge Juneberry archives:

And don’t forget to browse the  huge selection of downloadable classic old time MP3’s  in the Juneberry Listening Room:

Slippery Hill (Larry Warren) has posted MP3s of the entire Milliner/Koken collection

August 22, 2011

Larry Warren of has been maintaining a public digital collection of C, F, and Bb tunes for some time.  He has now added to his site digital audio versions of most or all of the 1404 fiddle tunes in Claire Milliner and Walt Koken’s collection

As a result, everyone on planet Earth has easy access to virtually the entire old time repertoire via the internet.

When you see Larry, please give him a warm “thank you.”  Below is a description of the project in his own words.

The Slippery-Hill site really started at an Old Time party in Newfound Lake, NH back in 2005 I think. There was a C tune session that went on for 3 or 4 hours. I got thinking that I only knew 6 or 8 tunes in the key of C. So I started collecting C tunes. I have traded out of print LP’s and cassettes for years so I have quite a big collection to choose from.

Then I decided to make the C Tune web page so other people could listen to them. I started with a couple hundred tunes. Well, people started coming across the site and sending me suggestions and if I didn’t have the tune they’d send it to me. The F tune and Bb pages came shortly after that. The DDAD, GDAD and Calico pages are more recent additions. As of today (08-22-2011) there are 465 tunes on the C tune page. To me that’s amazing.

Before I started that C tune page it was hard to find people to play in C. Now it seems like everybody places C tunes. Or maybe it’s my imagination.

The Milliner-Koken idea came to me the day I got the book in the mail. Even if you don’t read music the book is worth the price of $90. It’s an incredible resource.

I can read music, but learning a tune from dots on a page, is to me, far far to much work. I have to listen to the tune. So why not have a web page with all the tunes from the book on it. Try to get the exact source Clare and Walt cite in the book. I must say I’m still working on that part. I didn’t want to get too carried away until I could get Clare and Walt’s blessing on the project. I got that at the 2011 Mt Airy music festival. When I left the festival I had my lap top with me and I got to work. My goal was all 1404 tunes up there by CliffTop. (more…)

Listen to a recent Pat Conte interview and radio show

August 19, 2011

Pat Conte, by Robert Crumb

The site below lists audio files that you can download to your computer of John Heneghan playing and talking about records from his 78rpm record collection.  This link will take you to Old Time Radio Show #3, featuring Pat Conte talking and playing some of his favorites recordings.