Articles by Jerry L. Wright
|Index||Photos||Links to people, places and interesting videos|
|Articles||Products and Recordings||Sacred Harp or Shaped Note Singing|
|Interviews||Jerry Wright||Palestine Old Time Music and Dulcimer Festival|
|Wright Writes||M. D. Anderson|
|The Vickers House||Kennard Auto Service|
|Asheville 1998||Black Dulcimers||Galax Style|
|Boone 1998||Grace is Amazing||Mars Hill 1998|
|Old Time Music in East Texas||Steve Seifert's Trip to Texas 1998||Winfield 1998|
|Ozarks and Appalachian 1997||Music by Steve Hartz||NHCDS Fall Campout 2008|
|Journal of the 2003 trip to Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.||Hazels Balmy and Life Breathing Hot Mic Musicians 2008|
|Mountain Dulcimer Lessons||Winfield 2008||Open Mic|
|Jams||Concertinas at Old Pal 2008||Christmas 2008|
Trip East 2005
Jam in the Bluff Campground
We got back to our campsite after dark. We did hear any music being played around us so we started our own jam session. I told Lloyd that I wanted to hear that new mandolin. Within minutes after we stared our campsite was full of folks sitting and standing all around. The new mandolin sounded good and Lloyd was giving it a workout. Samantha’s fiddle was a good addition to our regular sound.
As folks arrived we would ask them if they had heard any other music in the campground, most had not. But then there was one couple that said there was some music being played down in the 500 numbered sites. We knew those sites, they are primitive - no water or electricity.
After we had played for 30 or 40 minutes we decided to head for the 500 section. We headed down the road and as we walked the road got rougher and it got darker. Then we started hearing music. Finally it was pitch black and it was hard to tell where the road actually was. Fortunately I did have a small pen light with me. I thought the batteries were about down on it but I was surprised how much light it made in a pitch-black environment.
I will go ahead and tell you what we found. There were three camps that we could find, all fairly close to each other. The two on either side were lighted with candles. The jam in the middle was held in total darkness. From where we stood, the only light was coming form the cloudy sky that was mostly black out by the tall and full trees. Then only a matter of feet away from the edge of the jam was the French Broad River. Light was being reflected off of the surface of the water. It wasn’t much but it was just enough for us to see the silhouettes of the jammers. All three groups were playing old time music with the strong fiddle lead. Then there was an occasional gospel song. Between the three jams we did see some familiar faces in the dim light and a few of the faces even recognized and spoke to us so we could identify them. We saw Carl Jones and Beverly Smith, Trevor and Travis Stewart, Jake and Sarah Owens, Tammy Sawyer and John Hermann. We listened as long as we could and then headed back to our trailer. The week had been long and we were tired. We never did see Hollis, Lloyd and Samantha who were down there somewhere. Lloyd may have joined in on the jams but the rest of us couldn’t – for the most part it was very hard core old time music.
We learned that Kasper "Stranger" Malone had passed away in May. In true Stranger style, he died in his sleep with a book in his lap titled Life is Worth Living. I heard one person say that he heard Stranger playing the guitar and asked him how long he had been playing. He replied, "Oh, not very long – only about 12 years." Stranger was 82 when he started playing.
The Henderson Mandolin
Several years ago I ask Wayne Henderson to build two mandolins, one for Hollis and one for Lloyd. Now you probably already know that when you place an order with Wayne that you shouldn’t expect it to be filled right away. Frank Miller was one of the lucky ones – he only waited three years for his guitar. Most folks wait a lot longer than that. Hollis already has a pretty good mandolin but Lloyd doesn’t. Lloyd has been putting off buying a new mandolin in hopes of getting a Henderson.
Well one night a Mars Hill, Lloyd was talking to Trevor Stewart and found out that Trevor had a Henderson mandolin for sale. That doesn’t happen much because most folks don’t sell them after they get them.
Trevor and Travis Stewart are respected old time musicians in and around Madison County. Lloyd came and talked to me about the mandolin. I talked to Wayne. Wayne told me that the price for the mandolin was a fair market value but was about twice of that what he would charge for a new one. I told Wayne, "But sometimes you have to pay to be in the fast lane."
I already knew this but Wayne told me that his instruments seldom change hands. Wayne has a festival at the festival there is a guitar contest. I have seen men standing at the back steps to the stage waiting for the contest winners who received Henderson guitars. They are making offers to purchase the guitar as soon as the winners with guitars in hand hit those steps.
Trevor told Lloyd that he would bring the mandolin to the Bluff Mountain Festival. We found Trevor at the festival. Lloyd played the mandolin and now Lloyd owns a Wayne Henderson mandolin. He loves it. Trevor told me that he purchased the mandolin from someone else. He said that he hated to sell it but it interfered with his fiddle playing. He said the mandolin makes calluses on his fingers that makes a sound on the fiddle strings.
Playing for Flossie Lewis
We knew that Flossie had been having some health problems. Don Pedi keeps us informed. Margaret had been sending Flossie Get Well Cards. Junior and Flossie are Don and Jean’s neighbors. We met them on our very first visit with Don around 1997. Flossie was born in the house that they live in and until she had to go into the hospital had only spent about two nights away from home.
Now Flossie is in her eighties. She has Parkinson’s Disease and a few months ago she broke her leg. She is confined to her bed. To me, it looks like she will never again get out of bed.
Margaret, Hollis, Lloyd, Samantha and I gathered around her bed and played and sang gospel songs. The words to some of the songs became very special and had a message for the folks in that room. It was a very special time.
On the way in the house I noticed the local newspaper. I have known that the paper is famous for it’s sensational headlines. Today paper read JAIL TIME. The front-page story was about some local men who had been sentenced for various amounts of jail time for various crimes. I ask Junior, "Are you having a lot of crime around here these days?" He replied, "Yes we are." "Two of those fellows were arrested for having a meter lab." Junior continued. "Meter lab? Do you have a lot of those around here?" I asked.
The point of that story is that Junior has a different way of talking. He says that he has sugar. That means he as sugar diabetes. He talks of folks having old timers disease.
They are simple people living there on the mountain. They are interesting people.
Homer Ledford Dulcimer
I enjoy knowing the history of dulcimers, old time music and learning the history of the area where we find the music. I enjoy knowing about the instrument builders and the folks who play and sing the songs.
One of the things that I have learned is that Terry McCafferties mountain dulcimers can be somewhat traced back to Ed Thomas who built dulcimers in the 1800’s. The McCafferty design comes from Larry Barringer which comes from Robert Mize which comes from Homer Ledford which comes from Jethro(I can’t spell his last name – it starts with an A) which comes from Uncle Ed Thomas.
When we were at Don Pedi’s house one evening, he came out with a Ledford dulcimer. I don’t think that I had ever held one. I was somewhat moved emotionally as I held the dulcimer. My eyes quickly moved all over the instrument looking for similarities between it and the Mize, Barringer and McCafferty dulcimer. The dulcimer had wooden tuner pegs. The frets were large staples. The odd thing was that it had four strings but the two middle strings were doubled.
Don tuned it up and played it. What a great experience. Then it was handed to Lloyd.
Red Wilson passed away while we were at Mars Hill. Red was a fine old time fiddle player from Madison County. I think we first heard Where the Sun will Never go Down by him.
Dining Hall Board Meetings
The days at the Blue Ridge Old Time Music Week in Mars Hill seem to be full of trips to the dining room. Breakfast, dinner and supper seems to come around pretty often. In fact they seem to come around quicker than normal. I guess it is because we are having so much fun in between the meals. The dining hall is a great gathering place for friends to visit. Being at the table with Carl Jones is always an interesting event. Wayne Henderson and Helen White are also great table companions.
On one day we decided to have a meeting with the folks involved with the Bayou City Old Time Music and Dulcimer Festival which will be held in Houston. At the table were Gordon and Sandy White, myself and Margaret, Gary and Kay Hamilton, Jim Doyle and Boyd Copeland. A lot of the loose ends were discussed. It also gave us the opportunity to make sure we weren’t missing something.
Sheila Kay’s Class
The Song Catching and Story Telling class at BROTMW is wonderful. I insisted that Lloyd take the class. Now he is really glad that he did. The learn ballads and tell stories. Sheila Kay opens up places in your past and present not often visited. She has the ability to get great stories out of the students. On Friday I crashed the class just to hear the stories. I knew they would be good.
Samantha on bass
One evening we were jamming in the pavilion at the Swannanoa
KOA. We stop in there every year to see our friend Bud. For some reason Samantha picked up the bass. Margaret asked her if she wanted to play it. Samantha replied, "Sure." She had never played bass but by the end of the evening she was playing it rather well.
Jim Upshaw’s mandolin project
Jim loaned Lloyd his flat iron mandolin since Lloyd didn’t have a good one before he left Texas. Lloyd decided to take pictures of famous people holding the mandolin. Then he thought of having them hold it in front of their face are partially in front of their face. The pictures are too cool.
Week long guitar class with Carey Fridley
Margaret signed up for a guitar class at Mars Hill this year. Joyce Doyle was also in the class.
Carey was the female in the group – Freight Hoppers. We first heard the Freight Hoppers at Winfield a few years ago. They were very high energy and then there was Carey’s laugh. It was most unusual and distinctive.
We recorded a song learned from one of their CDs.
Climbing Mt. Pisgah’s lofty heights
On Monday we climbed Mt. Pisgah. It was a very strenuous climb. Margaret, Lloyd, Hollis and Samantha made it to the top – I didn’t. It was a hard thing to accept. I have made hikes and climbs like that for years. It is kinda hard to finally realize that the old body just ain’t what it used to be. Actually I would have eventually made it but I was just too slow. They were on the way down and I was still on the way up.
On Tuesday we hiked Graveyard Fields to the upper falls. Samantha got some great pictures. We also hiked to the top of Devil’s Courthouse. It was a beautiful day. The Graveyard Fields are not far from Cold Mountain.
One the way to the falls on the Graveyard Fields trail the rest of the bunch got ahead of me. I was walking at a casual pace looking around as I went. The trail was in bad shape because of recent rains and a lot of human traffic. We some would approach going the other way I would always stop and move to the side of the trail to give them plenty of room to get by. On one occasion a young woman approached carrying a baby in a backpack. At that point the trail had rocks, mud and deep pools of water. I stopped and stood to the side to allow her to pass. Just as she pasted I heard her slip. I heard her as she went down. I turned to see her down in the water. She was already pulling on surrounding rocks to pull herself up. I said to her, "Can I offer you any assistance?" She replied, "No!" So since I wasn’t in a hurry I decided to linger and watch what she would do. I figured that it would be mildly entertaining since I really had nothing else to do. Several attempts to get out only resulted in her sliding back down. When she would attempt to stand and at the same time hold to the rocks with her hands it would result in the baby on her back hanging upside down for a moment as it was strapped in the backpack. After awhile she finally got back upright and headed on off down the trail. I thought about the incident as I walked on. I thought that in a different day or in a different part of the country I would have been expected to help her.
After we came down from the Devil’s Courthouse, we drove in to Brevard and stopped at the Hawg Wild café. When we finished we then went to the Celestial Mountain Music store owned by Lo and Mary Gordon. There is a jam session there every Tuesday night. Margaret attended the Brevard Music Center for six weeks while she was in college.
Samantha’ car was stolen
Tuesday morning Margaret noticed Samantha sitting in her car crying. When Margaret asked, she found out that Samantha just found out that her car had been stolen during the night there in St Louis. It was parked in front of her parent’s house. We all had to have a long talk. Samantha was worried about valuables that were in the car. By that evening the car was recovered with only minor damage. Most of the valuables were also recovered. A lady in East St. Louis spotted the suspects parking the car in a place where stolen cars are normally left. I get in trouble for this all the time but I deal in facts(32 years in law enforcement can do that to a person). In one try, guess the gender, approximate age and race of the ones who stole the car.
Wednesday night on the Parkway
We set up camp on the Parkway near Linville Falls on Wednesday afternoon. It was our first time to use the camper without electricity or water. We filled the water tank up on the camper before we left the KOA in Swannanoa
Margaret saw a man walking by with a guitar – she spoke but he did not respond. Later we started playing and he ran over with his guitar. We later found out that he was hard of hearing and just didn’t hear Margaret speak to him earlier. We learned that he has a daily battle with alcohol. He really wants to beat it. He had some great Christian songs that he had written. We really enjoyed all of his songs and he enjoyed playing along with ours. Interesting fellow.
We met several interesting folks in the Linville Falls campground.
Back in May I walked into Wayne Williams Dodge Dealership in Crockett and asked Wayne, "Do you have something that will pull my little travel trailer?" He said that he did. My next question was, "Up hill?" Again he said that he did.
I am so please with the truck. It is a Dodge with a Cummins diesel; it has four doors and a long bed. It has a manual transmission with six forward gears. It also has an after-market cover over the bed.
The truck had no problems pulling the trailer up through some very steep grades in and around the Parkway in the southern Appalachians. Mount Pisgah is 5721 feet high. We drove up to the parking lot and then hiked to the top.
In regard to miles per gallon. We checked the mpg on the Interstate and was getting just under 13 mpg. We were talking to some folks at a K.O.A. This one man was getting 8 mpg, and two guys with those big motor homes – well, one got 3 mpg and the other 1 mpg. The guy that got 1 mpg paid over a million dollars for the motor home.
Dodge seems to be trying to get the diesel engine quieter and Harley riders seem to be trying to get their engineslouder. We would be on a hike way up on the side of a mountain and hear nothing – but Harleys. I know that they don’t come from the factory that way and I wonder if it has anything to do with performance. I think is must be for attention. I am not impressed.
Camping in the high rent district
While at the Swannanoa KOA, Bud put us in there with the big rigs. All the years past we stayed in the back around the lake with small trailers and tents. Each year we made friends there. This year we met no one in the high rent district. The folks with the big rigs seem to stay inside all day and all night. There was absolutely no visiting. The few people who were outside were only there to watch TV. On the big motor homes they have big doors on the outside that open up to a very large TV. So they sit around in their lawn chairs and watch TV. And when I say large, they are very large.
After doing some more hiking and traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway we arrived at Dustin’s at about 5:00pm. It was a beautiful day. Dustin’s house is down in a valley so you can see far distances. As you look around you see rolling hay fields, houses, barns, a church, the surrounding mountains and open sky. We were greeted by Dustin, Rhonda and Mark. Athena and the other dogs also greeted us; Athena is a Great Piraynese(I know I didn’t spell that right – it is a mountain range in France). She is very large and all white – a beautiful dog.
The next morning we walked around the grounds and visit with all of the dogs, the sheep, and Alpacas. They have six of Athena’s puppies that were 24 weeks old. Samantha and Lloyd had never seen the Alpacas.
Around noon we said our good-byes and headed for Rugby.
We arrived at Wayne’s in Rugby, Virginia. Wayne’s festival is held in the nearby Grayson Highland. Right off we met by Tony, Carmen, Eileen and Kathy
On Saturday morning we all got up and headed for the festival. It is held in the Grayson Highland State Park. It is a beautiful setting. The audience sits on a hillside that creates a natural amphitheater. The contests and concerts are on a stage at the bottom of the hill.
So we got all set up with our lawn chairs. Bill and Jean Lee were there. Dan DeLancey and Linda Thomas were also there. The first thing in the morning is the guitar and mandolin contest.
The bands all day were Bluegrass. That is about all I can say about that. It is just at the end of the day, we had heard every note known to man many times over in rapid succession. We had heard women attempting mountain top ranges while looking for close harmonies. By the end of the day we were all worn out and seriously longing for some old time music. The most entertaining and enjoyable performer of the day was Eddie Pennington.
Saturday evening found us back a Wayne’s house. Hundreds of folks had gathered there for some picking and eating. They had a tremendous amount of food prepared. Everyone ate well. Then we stayed up to about 3:00am-playing tunes. We ended up in a jam session with Robin Kessinger. That was a lot of fun.
Through the course of the weekend I enjoyed watching Margaret get it with the guitar players. The ones who don’t know her don’t pay much attention to her at first but after awhile she is invited more into the circle and then asked to call tunes. It’s fun to watch her get in the jams and quickly learn the tunes. And of course the Bluegrass folks call breaks so she had to play the tunes she so quickly learned for the break. I see guitar, mandolin, fiddle and banjo players doing this all of the time but I don’t see mountain dulcimer players doing it much.
On Sunday morning we all got up and had to say goodbye to Lloyd and Samantha. They were heading for St Louis. On Tuesday Lloyd and Samantha will be in the recording studio.
On Sunday afternoon we said goodbye to all, drove down out of the mountains and headed south. Near Charlotte on I-77 we were driving along and noticed a car come up along side, the passenger side window lowered and a lady waved at us. I recognized her. While camping in Hot Springs, N.C. where the Bluff Mountain festival is held, a friend of ours asked that we come over to his campsite and meet his friends. We walked over there and played a few tunes for them. It was two ladies. After a brief stay, we left never to see them again – well, that is - until they passed us on I-77 several days later.
Hilda, South Carolina
For the past five years, when we leave North Carolina we drive down to Hilda, South Carolina and visit with Allan and Evelyn Gardner. That’s Margaret’s brother and sister-in-law. On one evening while we are there we go down to the Hilda depot and have a jam session. Folks come from all around to sit and listen. The event is getting bigger and bigger. This year and last year, the event was proceeded with a great fish fry by Allan. And this year, the weather was very nice.
Lost another friend
While at Allan’s, we received a phone call from Mona Waldt telling us that our friend, Gail LaFlour had passed away. Mona read it in the newspaper, which said that she suddenly succumbed to an illness. We figure that it was cancer. She learned that she had some form of cancer several years ago but we hadn’t heard much of it and thought she was doing fine.
Jerry and Gail were our next door neighbors on Effie Street in Bellaire. Gail’s brother Jack lived in the house next to them on the opposite side from us. Now all three of the little houses are going and half million-dollar houses are sitting on the lots.
Margaret grew up in Charleston
Actually Margaret grew up on James Island which is right next to Charleston. From Charleston you only have to drive over a bridge to be on James Island.
I was in the Navy and stationed in Charleston from 1969 to 1971. During that time is when I met Margaret.
The Yankees are coming, the Yankees are coming!
Yes, Charleston has been invaded once again by the Yankees and carpetbaggers. I guess that there have been too many articles written about Charleston in magazines like Southern Living. The very people who loathe the South and do everything they can to destroy the history and culture now inhabit it. The famed dulcimer builder, Robert Mize referred to them as "half-backs." The Yankees moved to Florida fleeing from the cold and other miseries of the North to Florida. Once there they found out they were too hot and surrounded by more folks just like them so they began moving have way back settling the Carolinas.
Then there is "Little Joe" Riley, the mayor of Charleston. He is a little reminiscent of the KingPin, Huey P. Long of Louisiana. He does a lot for Charleston but in doing so, is actually destroying parts of her. And in doing so a lot of money is left unaccounted for or is just never brought to the public’s attention.
Going to the beach
We can’t go to Charleston without going to the beach. Just continue across James Island and you will end up at Folly Beach. It is not a real beautiful beach; in fact it is a lot like Galveston except for the fact that the water is several degrees cooler. But it is the beach that Margaret grew up on and where Margaret and I spent a lot of time before we were married.
As I stood in the sand and watched as the water came in over my feet I thought of many things. The wind in my ears had just about blocked out all of the other noise around. I first thought about how great it is to be retired. I feel very fortunate to be able to experience the ability to get up every day and do whatever I want. I also thought of the past. I thought of the years that I spent in Charleston while I was in the Navy. Then I thought of my friend, Gail. That led me to my own life having to deal with the fact that I have cancer. I looked at my feet in the shallow water and wondered how many more times I would be able to experience it. Is that bad? No. Is it natural? Yes. On trips to the mountains and to the beach Margaret and I always marvel at God’s work. We enjoy today and have faith that there will be a better tomorrow.
Discussion on the South and the Civil War
First of all, if you are around Allan Gardner any length of time, you will learn something about government and history. One evening we were invited over to have supper with Allan and Margaret’s aunt and cousin. Their uncle had passed away many years ago and their aunt had remarried – his name is Bill. Their cousin is Ashley.
It was inevitable – one thing led to another and before we new it, we were in a full blown discussion about the South and the Civil War. All of us were knowledgeable on the subject or at least parts of it. Ashley was my age and Bill was in his eighties – very eloquent and knowledgeable man. Margaret said she really enjoyed it. She said it was like being a part of a panel discussion on the subject.
In the second inaugural address by President Jefferson Davis, he mentioned that he feared the North would win the war and that they would write the history. That is exactly what has happened. Very few people I know have any knowledge about issues discussed that evening.
I’ll stop there. It was very interesting.
Thursday morning we got up and drove to downtown Charleston. It is a beautiful place. I fell in love with it the first time I saw it. I was about 22 years old. I arrived in Charleston by plane and took a taxi to the Navy Base. After I was there for a few weeks I purchased a pickup. It was then that I took my first look around Charleston. I was so happy to be stationed there.
A lot of the old section of Charleston has houses that were built in the 1700s. As you walk the narrow streets you see many homes where signers of the Declaration of Independence lived. Those men and their families risked a lot. It should not be taken lightly to stand there and read about who they were and what they did. The historical signs are attached to the front of the house. In most cases the front of the house is right there on the sidewalk. A common house is the Charleston single. The houses were taxed by measuring the front of the house. Therefore they put the front of the house on the side and the side of the house on the front. From the street you can see a couple of windows and a door. The door actually leads to an open porch. Walk down the open porch to the front door. They yards are very small but each is like a small, well-kept park.
We saw a house were George Washington was entertained. We saw John C. Calhoun’s house. We saw the spot where the Declaration of Independence succeeding from the South was signed.
The old market is very interesting and still very much alive. We always pick up a few things as we peruse through. The shop where all of the Confederate stuff is sold is always full. We always purchase a few things in there.
The Confederacy is alive a well in South Carolina. Folks are just more in touch with the truth there. You can see signs of the Old South everywhere. They are still mad about being invaded. Don’t even mention Sherman.
Between January and May I lost 25 pounds. During the three weeks we were gone we had all kinds of good food to eat. When we got back I discovered that I had gained three pounds. Not bad.
Back in Kennard
We arrived in Kennard on Saturday evening – it was hot and dry. Margaret’s weeklong beginner mountain dulcimer class started on Monday morning. The following week was the tunes week. We had a lot of stuff to do to get ready for Monday morning.
We had a great time on our trip.
Mountain Dulcimer Lessons
We are constantly around beginner players and novice players. The discussion of dulcimer lessons always comes up. At the Camp Street Cafe we meet once a month. There are basically two teachers.
I teach the very beginners. It should be a one time class. It is an introductory class if you will. When I am through they are familiar with the fretboard (no stuck on numbers please). They understand the scale. They know about the 6 and the 6+. They learn how to read tab and they learn a simple strum.
Margaret is the other teacher and she is basically teaching tunes. Most of the folks in there are already decent players. They are learning techniques by learning tunes.
A question. How many techniques does one need to play in a jam session. And it is the jam session that everyone seems to want. The reality is very few will become solo performers.
Now let's regress for a moment and talk about technique. One very important technique is the strum. Margaret introduces it but it is up to the player to refine it. We had rather see folks stick is strumming one way and one way only that see them play what is commonly known as "bum ditty." In reality the bum ditty doesn't work. If you are playing bum ditty for the quarter notes what do you do with eighth and sixteenth notes? Don Pedi is where you need to go for strumming techniques. Now in all probability you will never play like Don but study and learn his technique - it will improve your playing.
If you just have to have more information - go to Steve Seifert. He has some monthly lessons that are outstanding. If you think you need lessons, that is where you need to go. How do I find him you may ask? Well since you are reading this you probably know what Google means.
Now if you are a person that wants to learn to play the dulcimer and you want it all handed to you at dulcimer club meeting just consider this: If you attend club meetings once a month and not touch the dulcimer in between the meetings in all probability you will never learn to play. Of course there are exceptions to every rule. And some people win the lottery.
Advice for dulcimer clubs - get rid of the slow jams. Be courteous to beginners. Be sensitive to their needs. But don't let them get stuck in the slow jam. The slow jam will become the standard and that is not what you want. It will drag a club down because it may turn into a situation where there are more slow jammers than regular jammers. Keep the real tempo the standard. STOP Now don't misunderstand - every song is not played 180 miles an hour. Just make sure the standard is what the good players out there are doing. You know what I am talking about.
If you need tab, there is plenty of it out there. Many good players have tab for sale, Margaret is one of those. You can find tab on www.everythingdulcimer.com Just this advice. Learn the tune anyway you can. Learn it from tab if you must but as soon as you learn the tune, get rid of the tab. If you want to jam - if you want to perform - get rid of the tab. When we play tunes we are constantly changing it up a little. If you have 12 people playing from tab, you have 12 people playing the tune exactly the same way each time.
We had a interesting time with Clover and Rachael Carroll at the Baptist Church in Independence, Texas on November 13th. Clover has been working on a recording project. He was moved by the Scared Harp singing on the Cold Mountain CD. So he wanted to record some of that type singing on the new CD. He invited Margaret to come and lead it. Many friends of the Carrolls around the area were invited. Margaret invited Karel and Larry Wheat.
The Baptist Church there in Independence is where Sam Houston attended. In fact there is a spot in the nearby creek where Sam Houston was baptized - I think he was in his 60's. The pastor pointed out the visible SH and MH on the back of the third pew on the right. Of course that was carved by the only man who had been governor of two states. The initials stood for Sam Houston and Margaret Houston. The pews had been built by slaves of a local resident.
Well we started at 9:00am. Only a few in the group of about 25 had ever song the shapes. Now most were good singers so we had a good group. Margaret started off by talking about the shapes and their purpose.
Our goal that day was to record three songs. We started off with Jesus Is Mine but it was only a practice and introductory song. Since we had already recorded it Margaret had picked out three others for the CD.
The folks in the church where quick learners. By noon we had recorded all three of the songs Margaret had selected. The church itself was a big help. It really sounded good in there. Most everyone had a really good time. As always though, the folks who know the most music theory seem to struggle with the shapes. And rightly so, the shapes were written for folks like myself who doesn't read the round note system.
Another interesting thing about the day - Margaret got to play a pump organ in the church that was way over one hundred years old.
MUSIC - A WONDERFUL PART OF EDUCATION . . .
Yes, I have retired. We are in the process of moving from Bellaire to Kennard. Here is a little history. We bought our house in Bellaire in 1976. We moved to Kennard in 1982. We moved back to the same house in 1992 and now we have moved back to Kennard. While living in Kennard, Margaret taught 6th grade music in Crockett ISD.
Since we have moved back to Kennard, Margaret had to quit her job as a music teacher at Parker Elementary, part of the Houston ISD. Margaret is very sad and will really miss Parker. Fortunately Parker found a music teacher that will replace Margaret - his name is Randal Bardin. Randall was recently in a class for teachers. During the class the instructor asked the students to tell of their experiences in school.
One girl stood up and told of a music teacher she had in Crockett. She said that she never did very well in school but the music teacher was a bright spot in her day. She told how the teacher was always so cheerful and had a smile on her face. She went on to say that the music teacher taught the class a song called Fifty Nifty United States. She said that all through the remainder of her high school and college years, she was able to remember the states by that song she learned in the 6th grade. She said the teacher's name was Mrs. Wright.
Randall stood up and announced that he was replacing Margaret Wright at Parker Elementary. He went on to say how he was helping Mrs. Wright clean out her desk at the of the school year and remember seeing the music to Fifty Nifty United States.
Music can be an important part to the education process.
Trip East 2004
I walked out of my office on May 28, 2004 for the last time. On June 4th we left Kennard heading for North Carolina.
We left a day earlier to head for North Carolina. So instead of going straight to Mars Hill we kept going through Asheville and headed on up to Mount Airy. A music festival is held there every year. We have heard a lot about the festival and everybody should know that Mount Airy is the home of Andy Griffith.
We arrived and noticed that there was a good crowd of folks there. It is held in a park like setting there in Mount. During the next couple of hours we just walked around, checking out the grounds and the way things worked. We were amazed at how many people there that we knew. Some of the folks there were Renie, Alice Gerrard, Tammy Sawyer, Alan Darveaux, Lois Hornbostel, Ward Ring, the Day family, Irene LaFortune, Deborah White, the Youngs, Carl Jones, Beverly Smith, and many other folks that we know from the Asheville area.
Each festival has it’s own uniqueness and Mount Airy is no exception. Renie told us that if you played on the stage or in the contest that you would get part of your money back. It was a very interesting festival. They were announcing the winners to the contest at 1:30 am. Yes that is one thirty in the morning.
While standing in line waiting to get something to eat I spied a man holding what appeared to be a small banjo. Upon looking closer I noticed that it had a diatonic fretboard. That means it is like my pickin stick. I had to go introduce myself. Micheal Fox from Hickory, North Carolina. He is the Director of Public Works in Conover, NC. Mickeal is a very nice fellow and we ended up having a nice long conversation. Then we decided to play a few tunes. Those few tunes turned in to about a two and a half hour jam session.www.angelfire.com/nc2/dulcijo/
Blueridge Old Time Music Festival in Mars Hill, North Carolina
There is always a lot of excitement in our van as we turn off of the main highway and pull up into the little town of Mars Hill. The downtown part of town literally sits on a hill. Downtown Mars Hill consist mostly of a bank, a Baptist Church, a few stores and Mars Hill College. It doesn’t take long to drive through the college and arrive in front of Fox Dorm. Folks attending the festival stay at Fox and Stroupe dorms.
Sunday afternoon is for checking in, greeting old friends and meeting new ones. The dorms are old. No AC so everyone knows to bring a fan. Since we are located in the mountains, the fan is just fine. There are two twin beds to the room. The college provide a pillow, a couple of sheets and a blanket. Veterans to the festival know to bring their own pillow though because the one provided has a plastic cover over it. Even with a pillowcase over it, you hear this crinkling plastic sound all night.
A bathroom separates the dorm rooms. At the Sunday afternoon indoctrination Hilary has to remind everyone to not leave the door locked to the adjoining room when leaving the bathroom. It seems every year someone gets locked out of the bathroom and most of the time it is during a time of crisis.
Song Catching and Story Weaving
In 2003 I took Song Catching and Story Weaving with Sheila Kay Adams. It was so good that I decided to take it again. It was a great experience to be in a classroom with Sheila Kay for a week. As the title of the class implies, we cover stories and songs in the class.
Sheila gives us a little history on the ballads of the area. We learn of folks like Cas Walling, Brazilla Walling and Dellie Chandler Norton. We learned how the ballads were brought over from Great Britain. We started right off learning a ballad – The Wagoner Lad. We learned it the way Sheila learned it – one line at a time.
Sheila also talks of values and ways of life, most of that are currently foreign to us. Very few families still live close together like they once did. Traditions and stories are lost. Our project for the week was to think of a family story and tell it at the end of the week. A few instructions were given.
Each student was encouraged to tell a story. It could be a family story if desired. Sheila gave some instruction on how to prepare for it and how to tell it. One lady told a story her grandmother had told her. When the grandmother was nine years old it was during the time of the Civil War. Her dad was gone and she was with her mother when the Yankee soldiers entered the house. The started stealing everything they could find. Her father had told her mother what to do if this ever happened. Her mother ordered the soldiers out of the house but to no avail. The mother then went outside and made a mark on the gatepost. She then proceeded to seek audience with the Yankee commander who was camped nearby. The Yankee officer rode up to the house and ordered the soldiers out of the house. When they wouldn’t come out, the officer fired a shot in the air and shouted, "Out or death!" The troops came out and left. The sign on the gatepost was a Masonic symbol.
Another lady, who was from the Netherlands, told a story told to her by her stepfather. He said as a young man, he was on his bicycle heading to work one day when he was stopped by some German soldiers during the occupation period of WW II. He was taken to an area where several other people had been gathered up and placed. After a period of time a soldier rode up on a bicycle and after a brief conversation with the other soldiers everyone was released. The young man then found out that an allied flier was down and being hid by some to the townspeople. The Germans had made a decree that they would kill ten people in the town if the flier was not brought forward. The German soldier on the bicycle had brought the news that the flier had been found.
Lawson Hamilton told a child’s story with an interesting twist at the end. First of all, Lawson is about 8 years old. He told us that during a particular night when the whole family was sleeping in one room they were visited by a very mysterious person. Of course only Lawson saw the person – or thing. The next morning Lawson’s mother and father explained to Lawson that it was just a dream. But during the story Lawson described the visitor in detail. Sheila and Bobby looked at each other. The visitor Lawson described fit the description of certain apparitions in the mountains of North Carolina. Bobby believed the story to be true. Bobby McMillon is a local ballad singer and historian.
My Old True Love a novel by Sheila Kay Adams Algonquin Books
Sheila Kay has written a novel based on factual places and people. There is a wonderful CD that goes with the book (sold separately).
Silas House writes: Something ancient and wonderful resides in Sheila Kay Adams’s heart, and we are lucky indeed that she has chosen to share this knowledge with us through the words of this fine, beautifully wrought novel.
Bill Harley writes: Sheila Kay Adams is the real article……. Her traditional ballads go hand in hand with her songs and stories of her own life, like they’re of the same cloth. They are. When Sheila does her work, I imagine the mountains breathe a little easier, knowing there’s someone out there, speaking for them.
Margaret writes: Hilary had asked me to do a bass workshop. These would be held each afternoon for 1 hour, a basic introduction to bass. These folks did not bring their own bass but the students in the morning class agreed to let us use their instruments. We ended up with 14 students on 7 basses.
Breaking into a car
Let me tell you about the time John Curbo almost went to jail. John, Roxanne and Hollis picked up Ronald Rice and brought him to the Mars Hill College. I don’t know all the details but at some point in the day, Ronald realized that he had left his radio in his brother-in-law’s car. Now for those of you who were at Palestine in 2004, you will remember that Ronald is blind and has been since birth. Well, Ronald tells John that the car is parked at the school and gives the make and model of the car. John drives into the parking lot and sure enough, there are two cars parked in the lot and one fits the description. John gets out and as luck would have it, finds the car unlocked. He starts digging around in the car looking for the radio and can’t find it. He tells Ronald, "I can’t find it." Ronald tells him to look in the pocket on the door. Now John is on the driver’s side and has to crawl across to the passenger side where Ronald was sitting. About that time John hears a lady yelling at him. She is saying that John is in her car and wants to know what he is doing. John tell’s her that he is looking for Ronald Rice’s radio. The lady doesn’t know Ronald Rice. Then John tells her that Ronald had left his radio in a car fitting that description but didn’t know that was not the right car since he was blind. The lady didn’t buy into it. She was still keeping her distance and yelling at John. Then John asked Ronald the name of his brother-in-law. The lady said that she did know the man and agreed to walk into the school office to get the matter straighten out. As it turned out, the actual car they were looking for was parked on the other side of the school and the radio was in it. Later when discussing the matter amongst themselves, John told Hollis that he almost got Hollis put in jail. Hollis said, "My dad sure would have been unhappy."
On Saturday after Mars Hill, there is a music festival in Hot Springs, North Carolina. Hot Springs is in Madison County. There is a mountain nearby named Bluff Mountain therefore the music festival is named Bluff Mountain. Betty Smith lives nearby and is one of the organizers of the Bluff Mountain Music Festival. Betty wrote a book about Jane Hicks Gentry who lived there in Hot Springs. Jane was a ballad singer.
The Bluff Mountain festival always has some great music and is a good way to close out the week at Mars Hill. We have our favorite place to set our chairs. It is a great shady spot on the side of the stage. There is also enough area to stretch out and take a nap. After averaging about 4 hours of sleep per night at Mars Hill, the naps at Bluff are jewels of opportunities. The music is good and the day is relaxing.
Don Pedi and Bruce Greene were there. Josh and his Bluegrass band were there. Melony Adams and her ballad-singing friends were there. Melony is the daughter to Sheila Kay Adams. Carl Jones and Beverly Smith were there. Margaret met Roger Howell at Mars Hill. Roger is a fiddle player in Madison County. He knows hundreds of fiddle tunes. Roger asked Margaret to play bass with his band on the stage at Bluff. Just before they were to play that evening -–the rains came. So Margaret lost her oppportunity. But then the rains stopped and Margaret joined Roger in a jam session along with Wayne Erbsen.
The festival is held in a beautiful setting. Hot Springs gets is name from the natural hot springs in the area. There are wooden tubs that you can rent that are filled with the hot water.
There is a down side to the festival – in fact the whole Asheville area. Asheville seems to attract folks of weird and bazaar ways. The strangeness runs the full scale. There are folks who are "Mother Earth" type folks. They want everything organic and non-contaminating. To tell you the truth, I am on the fringes of that way of life. We recycle and enjoy "healthy food". We believe the earth was created by the Creator. We believe we are stewards of the earth but we don’t believe it has an identity. So back to the festival – it seems the festival attracts a lot of folks with life styles a lot different than ours. There is a group of young folks who come out there that wear dread-locks, tattoo themselves all over, pierce everything and wear odd clothes. I noticed that one guy had his face tattooed and then covered it with his beard.
Church with Ronald Rice
On Sunday morning we left our dorm room at Mars Hill College and headed for the Waffle House with John and Roxanne. After breakfast we picked up Ronald Rice up in Bee Tree and drove over to the Redeemed Baptist Church. The church was tucked away up in the mountains in Madison County. We were actually close to Don Pedi, Josh Goforth, Sheila Kay Adams and Ronald Rice but I was so turned around I couldn’t get to any of them from where I was.
There was a man sitting on his porch on the house next to the church. He waved as we got out of our van. John Curbo walked Ronald up to the front door of their church. Ronald yelled back at us, "Bring your instruments." Don Pedi also joined us.
As we walked to the front of the church, the man on the porch next door got up and moved our way. In a few minutes we were all inside introducing ourselves and greeting on another. As it turned out, the man next door was a cousin of Ronald’s – his name was Brian Rice.
I looked on the board up front – the number attending the past Sunday was 12. It was a nice little church – clean and well kept. Since we were early Ronald asked us to play a little. Of course Brian, who is a guitar player, took interest in the pickin’ stick.
At 10:00 o’clock sharp, Brian rang the church bell. Now Brian does that every Sunday but with me it was a great experience. It was a sound of a time and place gone by or depicted in books and movies. Being in that church and hearing bell ring with the surrounding mountains was truly an experience.
Brian started the service. His speech and demeanor was just like what I would have expected. He had some wonderful words that touched my heart – words that were needed. You see I was just about on overload from being at Bluff Mountain the day before.
After a few moments Brian asked Ronald to lead the congregation in prayer. Immediately Brian dropped to his knees and started praying – out loud also. Both had great voices. Then Ronald came to the conclusion of his prayer, as did Brian who ended with the Lord’s Prayer. Ronald remembered Lloyd Wright in his prayer who, by the way, was not with us on this trip.
Then Brian asked us if we would join in on the singing. Everyone was standing and making their way to the choir loft. When we all got up there I noticed that there were about three people left in the audience. We started singing songs that I hadn’t heard in years. Brian led. One song had a chorus that the little girls had a part followed by a reply by the adults. It had the sound of the Worbey girls in Oh! Brother, Where Art Thou?
After several wonderful songs, we all got up and took our places in the pews. Ronald Rice delivered a wonderful message. He had his bible with him. He brought only the books that he needed – he brought three. He had that it takes 18 books to have the complete bible. I watched in amazement when he would say, "Let’s turn to John 6:12. He would flip and feel the pages. Most of the time he would find the scripture before anyone in the audience. Then he would read. He would read as fast as anyone. He was "looking" straight ahead as his fingers went across the page.
Staying with Don Pedi
We spent a couple of days with Don Pedi. Carl Jones stayed a few days also. There was a lot of music being played. One evening Roger Howell came by. Roger played fiddle tunes all evening and I didn’t know but about two. Roger has a CD called "Hills & Heroes." The following musicians join Roger on the CD: David Holt, Jim Taylor, Sheila Kay Adams, Don Pedi and many others. I’m not sure if Margaret can retain all of the tunes she has learned on this trip. One day Carl and Margaret played all afternoon while Don fixed lasagna.
Every year when we travel to Mars Hill we learn more and more. Sometimes it is a hard lesson. I have thought it to be pretty neat that Margaret learns so many old traditional fiddle tunes and brings them back to Texas to teach the dulcimer players. But then here is the down side. You see these fiddle tunes have been passed around for years. They become standards as played by a certain person or region. Timing, rhythm and phrasing is very important. Under Don’s tutelage Margaret has learned to match the fiddle on the mountain dulcimer. The problem is that most dulcimer players can’t keep up with the fiddle. In the case of the beginner or intermediate player, Margaret can’t tab the tune to match the fiddles because it would be too complicated and they would never play the dulcimer or the tune. So Margaret has simplified the tunes. That is the part that scares me. Don says that we have created a whole new genre. What is most important? – a. Play the tune in the traditional way, therefore keeping the tune in it’s truest form. b. Play the tune for the beginner and intermediate mountain dulcimer player. Many fiddlers who play traditional tunes look down on mountain dulcimers and it is because of the latter.
Margaret and I travel all around the county and we love introducing folks to the mountain dulcimer. We have to start the tunes in the simplest form to keep folks playing. If we played up to the standards of the fiddle players, probably 90 percent of the mountain dulcimer players either couldn’t keep up or just wouldn’t play at all.
If you like Don Pedi, there is a reason. You see Don doesn’t play with other mountain dulcimers – he plays with fiddles. Well yes, you see him at dulcimer festival but he is really out of his element there. Don is really an oddity.
KOA in Swannanoa
We had to make our annual stop at the KOA and visit with Bud – the owner. We first met Bud several years ago when a bunch of us camped there for a few days. It was the Wrights, the Hesters, Pat and Gilbert, Marianne, Carol Montgomery and several others. He has a pickin stick and loves it.
Visit with Dustin Sechrest
Dustin and his family have moved to southern Virginia. Dustin is a well-known mountain dulcimer player in the area. We first met Dustin several years ago when several of us attended the weeklong workshop in Boone, NC. We last visited Dustin when he lived near Todd, NC. Dustin and his family raise Alpacas. They live in a beautiful valley near Elk Creek, Virginia.
Wayne Henderson & His Festival
We arrived in Rugby in the late afternoon on Friday. Since the 10th Annual Wayne C. Henderson Music Festival & Guitar Competition started the next day, many cars were parked around the Henderson house and shop. We were in the process of backing out trailer next to Wayne’s garage when he walked out and greeted us. He told us that he had a room saved in the house for us.
We did a little playing and some visiting on Friday night. We started seeing some of the same folks we met last year. The man from Canada was there. Then we met the Dove brothers from Michigan. We met a man who is a writer. He writes for the Wall Street Journal, sports magazines and several others. He had a best seller – the topic was "the most debated sports facts." He is currently writing a book on guitar music. He is spending a lot of time with Wayne. We also met a man who works for the Library of Congress. He organizes concerts. One was a tour called Masters of the Steel String Guitar.
The next morning we got up early and went to Grayson Highlands State Park to attend the festival. We immediately spotted John and Roxanne Curbo – they were in the T-shirt booth. After the guitar competition, Dan DeLancey, Ron DeLancey and Linda Thomas started the concerts.
We had fun at Wayne’s again this year. We re-met our new friends, the Rocci’s, Tony, Carmen, Eileen and Kathy. One couple lives in Washington, the other in California. What dear, sweet people.
We had a really good time with Ron DeLancy (Dan’s brother and bass player). We had the semi-finals of the Andy Griffith Trivia Olympics. You see Ronnie had to prove to us that he was worth to wear that Andy shirt of his (he had failed miserably at Palestine). But we have to say in our full day of attempting to stump him he only missed the mark of Andy excellence once or twice. He is an awesome bass player and taught Margaret’s bass a few tricks that day.
Doc Watson was scheduled to be on the stage on Saturday afternoon. Just as he stared the bottom fell out. It came a hard rain. I saw them leading Doc to a car parked nearby. Doc stayed until the rain had stopped and then put on a very fine concert. Folks got their monies worth that afternoon.
As the festival was drawing to a close, I thought of Larry Barringer sitting on the hill. We went up and played a few tunes for him. I went and got Wayne and introduced him to Larry. Later we said goodbye and went out separate ways. That is the last time I saw Larry Barringer.
Discussion on teaching techniques.
Helen White is a fiddle player, a composer and a music teacher. Helen is currently working on a project to help music teachers teach. Helen and Margaret have had some very interesting discussion on teaching music. From time to time I can add my two cents. When I teach, I teach beginners very basic ideas. While at Don’s, I taught Jean the very beginning basics of the Autoharp. Jean is Don Pedi’s wife. Now I don’t play the Autoharp but I know the chords of D, G and A. The Autoharp has a button for each. One can pick up the Autoharp and play Bile Them Cabbage on the first try mealy by the reading the tab. When the subject of the Autoharp first came up, I realized that Jean was getting too much information. She was being bombarded with the Circle of Fiths and the rudiments of the chord. We didn’t have weeks, we only had minutes. I told her to pay attention and do as I say and made the others shut up. She did it and she was happy. Now if she is really interested she can now proceed in learning more that may include the Circle of Fifths and the rudiments of the chord.
Margaret teaches mountain dulcimer in public school without tab. The 3rd, 4th and 5th graders learn the fretboard and learn the song. Techniques come in time. They fall in love with the tune, the instrument and the joy of playing. All of the other stuff comes later if they want it. The kids are playing tunes two weeks after school starts. They have no musical background. On the other hand, the Susuki kids in the same school may not be playing even one song at the end of the school year. The debate could go on and on but it boils down to a matter of choice. We have heard stories of music teachers punishing children for playing by ear – you may be one of the kids.
Margaret taught beginner bass at Mars Hill. She had 14 students on 7 basses. She would give instruction and about every ten minutes the student would switch and get to do what the previous set of 7 had just completed. The method of teaching had a successful conclusion.
A few years ago I took beginner fiddle at Mars Hill. Before noon on the first day I knew I had made a mistake. By the end of the second day I told the instructor that I would not be back on the third and following days. The next morning I learned that I was not the only one unhappy with the instructor. The directors pulled a student out of the advanced class and split our class. Six of us went with Howard Jones. Howard was able to do in three days what the other fellow couldn’t have done in six months.
Many fine musicians are not fine teachers. The skills of teaching are separate from those of playing. It is a truly rare find when one can both play and teach. One year Margaret took bass from Josh Goforth at Mars Hill. A couple of times I walked through and stayed for a few minutes. Josh is a fabulous player and equally skilled in the art of teaching.
Hilda, South Carolina
We left Wayne Henderson’s at 12:30pm on Sunday. We wanted to stay longer but Margaret had promised her brother that we would be at their house on Sunday evening. Allan and Evelyn Gardner live near Hilda, South Carolina. The Hamiltons had been camping up at Grayson Highland State Park and was going to meet us at Allan and Evelyn’s. We arrived at the Gardners and were saying our hellos. Margaret mentioned something about the Hamiltons and expressed a little concern in regard to the directions that she had given Gary. We were still standing next to our van in the front yard when up drove the Hamiltons. We had only beaten them by about 5 minutes.
During our visit, Allan put on a fine fish fry. We also played at the depot in Hilda, a tradition started about three or four years ago.
Margaret and her brother Allan
Margaret writes: I kept pinching myself on this trip. I did a lot of that in Hilda and Charleston. Just out of per amazement that I am having the joy and privilege of playing music with my brother Allan and his wife Evelyn. A few years ago I could not have imagined this in my wildest dream. It is so special that we have found this common interest in actually, almost a passion for – this music and these instruments. It is so much fun and I thank God for the opportunity.
I knew Allan had "the disease" when one morning at his house, after being awake only about 10 minutes, he said, "Now what was that tune we played last night? It had some notes on the middle string."
Charleston, South Carolina – Margaret’s Hometown
Drove into Charleston. The Hamiltons were going to Allan’s house. Margaret, Hollis and I were going to stay with Juanita Garrett. Juanita’s husband, Bill, had just passed away in March. For those who don’t know, I met Bill and Juanita in 1969 while I was in the U.S. Navy stationed in Charleston. It was through Bill and Juanita that Margaret and I met. So now this is the first visit back to Charleston after losing Bill. When we walked up to the house and Juanita met us as the door, just for a second I thought I heard Bill’s voice.
That evening all of us met down on Folly Beach for some great seafood. Then we walked out on the pier and stayed until after dark. On Friday we left Charleston heading for Texas.
Jerry Wright's Journal of the 2003 trip to Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina
We drove to Kennard and spent Friday night. Later that evening Cliff and Evelyn Dewitt met us. Cliff drove on back to DeSota and Saturday morning Margaret, Hollis, and I headed for Mars Hill. We left at 7:00am. By 11:00pm we were in Knoxville. There we spent Saturday night. On Sunday morning it was just a short trip over to Mars Hill. We drove on Hwy 25 into Mars Hill instead of the usual I-40 to Asheville and then up. It was a nice morning ride. We stopped in Hot Springs and showed Evelyn the house of Jane Hicks Gentry.
We discovered the Blue Ridge Old Time Music Festival while looking for Don Pedi in 1997. We have been back each year since then. Many folks don’t believe it when we say that no one knew we were there for the first three years. We would spend all week trying to understand what we were hearing. It was truly a new experience. We had no idea that many of the performing musicians would be attending a festival in Palestine, Texas some day.
We were some of the very first to arrive at the college. It was a cool morning and signs of a lot of rain in previous days. The Fox Dorm was quite but it wasn’t long before we ran into Hillary, Feeto and Denise. They were busy scurrying around making final preparations. Margaret was on the staff this year and promptly handed a walkie-talkie. We had heard that registration was up this year from all years past. On most years the registration is under 100. This year there was around 170 people signed up for classes. They had to use two dorms. In the past everyone stayed in Fox Dorm. This year Stroup Dorm was added. Hillary wanted Margaret and I up at Stroup to watch out for folks attending the festival for the first time. Well, from Fox to Stroup is almost straight up. On my first trip up, I wasn’t too sure if I liked that change or not. After a day and some instruction from Don, we learned to live with extra climb. For one thing, Don pointed out that when we left the cafeteria, we would go down then up. He taught us to go the higher route so there would not be near as much climbing.
Speaking of the cafeteria, it seems we were always eating. Breakfast, lunch and dinner seemed to roll around all too often. I always thought that it was good fool, especially for a college cafeteria. No, it was not like a national cafeteria chain but the food was good and plenty of it. I always thought that breakfast was especially good. There is one person whose name I will not mention who will say whatever pops into heard head. As we were walking up to the serving line she said, "Doesn’t that look awful." To be nice to her, I agreed by saying, "Yes it does." I really didn’t mean it – I was just being agreeable. Then I noticed the lady behind the serving line standing right there within listening distance. Well, the next day I had to explain to her why I said what I did. We were friends after that. Sometimes I would walk up to the serving line and say something about the food loud enough for folks standing in line to hear what I would say. I would do it just to see the reaction of the other folks in line and then the lady behind the serving line and I would laugh. The time in the dining hall was always a good time to visit. It was a fun place to be.
Back to the first morning, soon the other folks started arriving. It wasn’t long before I saw Joel and Carolyn. Then Johnny Ray from Tyler. David and Paula came in. Paula was in a weeklong dulcimer workshop that Margaret taught at Mountain View one year. She is also the one who won the Old Pal dulcimer at the 2003 Palestine Old Time Music and Dulcimer Festival. A little later we spotted Deborah White. She attended the festival in Huntsville for a couple of years - she now lives in Florida. We also spotted John and Roxanne Curbo from Palestine. We knew they were interested but did not know for sure they would be attending. We also saw Irene LaFortune. We first met Irene over at Covington, La. She was part of the Bayou Dulcimer Club. So, for 2003, we had a lot of friends at Mars Hill. It was quite a change from years past. The Hamiltons from Crockett were also there. It was Gary, Kay, Catherine and Lawson. This was Gary’s second year.
We met Lo Gordon. Lo runs the music store in Brevard, NC and opens it up in the Fox Dorm. He sells instruments, accessories and CDs. He always sells our CDs for we gave him an ample supply. Lo also builds banjos. He builds a model inspired by Sheila Kay Adams. Jim Upshaw has a Sheila Kay model built by Lo.
Laura Boosinger holds a shape note singing workshop each afternoon. We sing sever shapes out of the Christian Harmony book. Sheila Kay has finished a fictional book based on fact. The name of the book is Redemption. Redemption is the name of a song in the Christian Harmony book. Sheila is going to include a CD with her book. She had her husband, Jim Taylor, come on Wednesday and record us singing Redemption and a couple of other songs. They will be on the CD that will be included in the book. Johnny Ray and I stood next to each other every day. It was great fun.
This year Hollis took Rhythm and Repertoire from Jake and Sara Owen. Jake’s parents were part of the Fuzzy Mountain String Band. I took Song Catching and Story Telling from Sheila Kay. Others in the class were Gary and Catherine Hamilton, Carolyn Whittemore and Rita Downer who we met at Mars Hill in 1998.
Sheila Kay’s class was a real experience. We learned about the old ballads and what she called "love songs." We learned about mountain tradition and folklore. There was little instruction. It was mostly exchanging information. Sometime we would be listening intently. Sometimes laughing and sometimes we were even crying. Folks taking other classes would often ask us about the class but it would be too hard to explain. Bobby McMillon came into the class on Thursday. Bobby is from Lenoir, North Carolina. Even as a child Bobby was intrigued by the songs and stories he heard from family members. It was Jean and Lee Schilling who introduced Bobby to Jeannette Carter, daughter of A.P. and Sara. Bobby’s first real public performance was at a festival put on by the Schillings. http://uncpress.unc.edu/chapters/patterson_tree.html
The song, Conversation with Death, was sung in The Song Catcher and Oh, Brother Where Art Thou. The Ralph Stanley sung it in Oh, Brother and Bobby McMillon sung it in The Song Catcher. Sheila says that Ralph got the song from Doc Boggs who got it from Lloyd Chandler. Lloyd is a relative of Sheila Kay. On a trip to Sodom, Bobby and I sat next to a pond while the others walked up to the Catholic Church in Sodom. Sheila Kay was telling stories inside. Bobby sang Conversation with Death while we sat there and talked. I learned that Bobby is kin to Max Woody. We have a rocking chair made by Max. Later we walked up to the church just as Sheila Kay was finishing the story about the time the snake handlers came to Sodom. We all sang Amazing Grace before we left. This year they got a bus to take us to Sodom. In the past we drove up in vans. Some of us wondered how the bus would do. Well we came to a bridge – a narrow bridge. Some fellas were working on the bridge. The bus stopped and Sheila and the bus driver got out. A man at the bridge asked, "What are you-uns doing in Big Laurel with a tour bus?" Sheila Kay replied, "We’re a-going to Sodom." "Sodom?… are you from Sodom?" asked the man. "Yessir," replied Sheila. The man paused, then asked, "Whose girl are you?" They then got out a tape measure and measured the bridge. They then measured the bus. There was about two inches on each side. We made it across.
Sheila Kay Adams http://www.jimandsheila.com/SheilasPages/SheilaHome.html
Cecil Sharp in America http://www.mustrad.org.uk/articles/sharp.htm
Lord Thomas and Fair Ellinor http://www.contemplator.com/folk3/thomas.html
2003 Smithsonian Folklife Festival
Take a look at some of the folks who will be there.
New Southern Ramblers with Ralph Bilzard, Sheila Kay Adams, Jim Taylor, Josh Goforth, Wayne Henders0n, Dwight Dillar, Frank Profitt, Jr., Ginny Hawker, Bobby McMillon, Orville Hicks, Don Pedi and Bruce Greene.
BLUFF MOUNTAIN http://www.main.nc.us/bluff/index.html
Kasper "Stranger" Malone was at the festival again this year. Stranger made records in the 1920’s with member of the famous north Georgi string band, the Skillet Lickers. http://www.greenpeasproductions.com/stranger.html
So on Saturday morning after having breakfast at the cafeteria and packing up, we for Hot Springs to attend the Bluff Mountain Festival. This year David Holt was there along with Stranger Malone, Carl Jones, Josh Goforth, Laura Boosinger, Roan Mountain Hilltoppers, Brad and Alice and Betty Smith. While walking around listening to various jam sessions I go to visit with Cary Fridley and John Hermann. John was playing a banjo uke that Margaret was very much interested in. Margaret talked to him about his pick that is made from a Kool Whip lid. John is a member of the Rockinghams which is a group that Beverly Smith belongs to. We first saw Cary at Winfield when she was with The Freight Hoppers.
During Laura’s set, she invited Catherine and Lawson Hamilton to join her along with Spencer. They sang some "love songs."
That afternoon it started raining. Everyone left except for the die-hards. We broke out the raincoats and umbrellas. Joel and Carolyn were under their umbrella. The music continued. Lloyd decided to head on back to Texas. Suddenly the sun came out and there was a beautiful rainbow over the valley – even the dancing started back up.
We were tent camping in the campground across the road. That evening Margaret went to use the pay phone. We met a man who was hiking the length of the Appalachian Trail. He said that the trailhead was a mile and a half from his home in Canada. The hike would take 5 months. He had heard that only 9 percent of the folks who start it actually complete the trip. He went on to say, "You have to prepare yourself to be uncomfortable for five months."
That night it rained more so there was no jamming like there normally is in the campground. We stayed dry in our REI tents. On Sunday morning we visited with Joel Whittemore then headed back to Mars Hill. At the Fox Dorm we picked up Irene and headed for Swannanoa.
Several years ago, many of us from Texas attended the dulcimer festival in Boone. Afterwards we toured around North Carolina. We ended up in Swannanoa at the Asheville East KOA. We were there with the Hester Family, Carol Montgomery and several others. We would play music while in the campground and got the attention of the Bud, the owner of the campground. He was interested in the music and the pickin’ stick. Well, the bottom line is that he got one from Terry McCafferty and is now playing. His brother went to the music store in Black Mountain and purchased an instrument. The instrument is like a pickin stick but it is the actually a four string guitar – like the tenor guitar that Jim Hull plays. So now Bud and his brother are playing music with smiles on their faces. If you are looking for a good campground with friendly folks around Asheville, check out www.koakampgrounds.com/where/nc/33116.htm or call (828) 686-3121.
We spent 4 nights at the KOA. On the second day, Bud handed Hollis the keys to a camping cabin. So Hollis lived in style while we were there. I met a man from Illinois and a man from Michigan. I gave both lessons on the mountain dulcimer and pickin stick. Both we very excited about being introduced to our instruments. We also met Evan Reilly who wanted to move into the area. He played a real good mandolin and knew all of our tunes and many more. We had some great jam sessions in the evenings. Don Pedi even joined us on Wednesday night. Irene played banjo so that was a great addition to our group.
During the days we traveled the Blue Ridge Parkway. We went up on Mount Mitchell one and had a wonderful time in the clouds. At the gift shop we purchased Blue Ridge Music Trails by Fred C. Fussell. Our friend, Sally Council is mentioned in the Acknowledgments. It states: The field research that produced the data and information needed to plan this project was conducted by teams of professional folklorists. Sally Council and Amy Davis surveyed twenty-two counties in North Carolina and wrote the impressive resource inventory that preceded this guidebook. Council and Davis’s deep interest in the music traditions of the region also created much goodwill for the project among musicians and other residents.
Blue Ridge Music Trails http://uncpress.unc.edu/chapters/fussell_blue.html
On Thursday we broke camp, said goodbye to Irene and Bud. We headed up the Blue Ridge Parkway to Fleetwood, NC. Along the way we spotted at an overlook to have our lunch. While there we broke out the instruments and ended up selling two CDs.
We had been invited to spend Friday night with Dustin Sechrest. http://www.mistyriverin.com/
We met Dustin several years ago on a trip to Boone, NC to attend the dulcimer week. Dustin and Lloyd were about the same age. His family invited us over for some pickin and supper. The live not for from Boone on the New River
Dustin emailed us several weeks before we left Texas wanting us to come by again this year for a visit. While we were at Mars Hill he drove down one evening and me made final plans for the visit.
We pulled up along side the place we had lasted visited and it looked vacant. Then we spotted an Alpaca sign. We looked around and spotted Mark mowing the grass.
As it turned out, Mark, Rhonda and Dustin are building short-term rental on the New River. They have an old farmhouse, the building that was once an office where we last stayed and a newly constructed log house. Mark is also building barn for the Alpacas. The man must work 16 hours a day to get everything done.
After greeting, we walked over to see the Alpacas. Of course we were very curious about the animals but one of the first things we noticed was the large white dog laying down in the middle of them. It turned out the he was a Great Pyrenees that lives with the Alpacas 24 hours a day. We spent about 30 minutes watching, petting and learning about Alpacas. Great Pyrenees http://clubs.akc.org/gpca/
Later Rhonda and Dustin met us and we drove seven miles to their house. We turned off the main road and traveled up and along a mountain stream to their house. It was beautiful, a showplace. Later they took us back down the stream to a cabin where we would be staying. It was a small log cabin, right next to a low waterfall on the stream. It looked like a place you see in travel magazines.
We said our good-byes and left Dustin’s house. Just a couple of miles down the road was Todd, NC. We had heard about the Todd General Store where so much pickin goes on every Friday night. When we saw Wayne Henderson on Night Line, they ended up at the Todd General Store.
It was clearing up on Friday so the trip to Rugby was very nice. It had rained everyday while we were in the Asheville are so it was good to be able to dry out. We pulled into Wayne’s yard around 5:00pm. We set up out tents in his yard then went into his shop to listen to some pickin. Folks from all over were already showing up. After awhile, John Curbo came walking through the door. During the jam that night, Eileen Rocci sang Orphan Girl leaned from a Gillian Welch CD.
Wayne Henderson is the 1995 recipient of the National Heritage Fellowship Award from the National Endowment for the Arts. Wayne’s father played in a band called the Rugby Gully Jumpers with E.C. Ball. Wayne has been a headliner for two years in a row at the Palestine Old Time Music and Dulcimer Festival in Palestine, Texas. Albert Hash was a mentor to Wayne as a musical instrument maker.
We ordered Hollis and Lloyd a mandolin each from Wayne a couple of years ago. Also Frank Miller ordered a guitar but there are no signs of either. In fact I don’t see much hope for them anytime in the near future. Wayne has a lot of folks wanting instruments and just wanting to be around him. I feel very fortunate to have developed a friendship with him the way we have.
I am actually sitting in his shop right now as I type this. Like I said, we spent the night in our tents in his yard. One fellow from West Virginia drove in at 2:00am and parked next to us. He slept in the back of his pickup. I understand Wayne is in his house fixing omelets for everyone right now. I have already answered the phone giving information for the festival. One fellow just walked in and looked around. Another came in and worked on the tension of the neck of his guitar and a couple others came in and talked. One said he would be in his office. I just heard a flush. He is the same fellow that said, "I very seldom remember a name but I always forget a face."
WAYNE HENDERSON’S FESTIVAL
The following were at the festival: (a) Kruger Brothers (b) Spirit Fiddle (c) Jeff Little (d) Ira Bernstein (e) Southern Accent (f) Alternate Roots (g) New Ballard Branch Bogtrotters (h) Wayne Henderson and Friends. There were a few more that I did not get the names of. Most of the morning was filled with Bluegrass and Bluegrass Gospel. Spirit Fiddle is a lady fiddler and a guy playing guitar. The lady was Don Pedi’s first wife. Her name is Robin. Then that afternoon a group started up and Margaret, Hollis and I immediately perked up. They were different. There were three men – all sitting. One playing guitar, one on a dobro bass and one on a banjo. It was the Kroger Brothers. http://www.krugerbrothers.com/
I will tell you right now, if you don’t already know them, pay attention to them. They are amazing. Their set was great and at the end they really worked the audience. I think they received the only standing ovation and encore of the day. John and Roxanne were there. They had even helped put up tents and stuff for the festival on the day before. You could always spot John. He was the one walking around with a cowboy hat on with a great big smile on his face.
We had been there all day and towards then end when Wayne and his friends played, Wayne thanked everyone for coming. He specifically mentioned the Wright Family from Texas and John and Roxanne Curbo. Well a little later I was sitting down close to the front when I noticed that Hollis saw someone he knew. I turned and it was Marianne Drabek. She said that Larry and Silvia Barringer were in the audience and had been there all day. As things were winding down on the stage Hollis and I walked up the hill to find them.
After a brief visit I walked down the hill to get Wayne. Even they Wayne and Larry had met once before, I wanted Wayne to met the man who made my pickin’ stick. Since Larry and Silvia didn’t want to go by Wayne’s house after the festival we decided to play a few tunes right there. The audience had left and the festival folks were dismantling the stage. Dustin Sechrest joined us as did George on the guitar. We see George every year at the Mars Hill festival. Wayne later commented on the jam session on the hill. It was good to see Larry and Silvia again. Marianne was so glad to see me she sat in my lap. Well actually it had something to do with the three-legged stool and the incline of the hill we were on.
Back at Wayne’s house there was a feast going on for the after-the-festival folks. There was a lot of folks and a lot of food. Then the jammin’s started. Folks were in every room of Wayne’s house and in the shop. We went upstairs in his house and met Lucy Allen. We played our fiddle tunes while she did back up on the guitar. Then some folks came in and asked her to sing some of her songs. We ended up purchasing a CD from her.
Later Margaret and I were listening to a jam session in the shop when Hollis came and got us. He said that the Kruger Brothers were playing in the kitchen. We went over there and heard some of the most interesting music I have ever heard. I know that you have heard me make statements like that in the past but I and serious, this music was very different. They were playing old time, Bluegrass, popular and everything with a bass, guitar and banjo. I commented that the banjo player played it like a classical instrument. Later I learned from Wayne that he does have some classical training. Wayne told me that there are from Switzerland. They would like to move to the United States but right now they come over for awhile and then have to go back to Switzerland for awhile. Wayne said that he had known then for a good long while and that they were very nice. He also went on to say that the banjo player was one of the finest musicians he had ever known. All I know is that when I get home, I am going to look for their CDs on the Internet. If their CDs are anything like what I heard in Wayne’s kitchen – it will be some powerful stuff.
Sunday morning we woke up to Wayne Henderson fixing omelets for everyone again. There were two brothers from Michigan, two brothers from California and Washington, Robin Kessinger and I don’t know who all else. The place had really been crazy over the past couple of days.
By Sunday afternoon just about everyone had left. A man and his wife from Canada just couldn’t leave. He stopped next to his car and looked up. He said, "Sunshine, beauty, music and friends." He got in is car and drove slowly away. A man can to Wayne’s shop to video an interview with Wayne. Wayne asked Margaret to come in the shop and play a tune. It was Wayne, Steve Kilby, Steve’s wife and Margaret. They played two songs. We learned that the man was making a documentary for Virginia Cable Television. I visited with Steve Kilby and his wife and after they left, it was only us and the brothers from California and Washington and their wives. Even though we had different styles of music – we enjoyed sharing it. We even did some Shape Note Singing.
On Monday morning we woke up and soon decided to head for Ona’s Country Kitchen for breakfast. The breakfast crowd was Wayne, Tony and Eileen, Carmine and Kathy, Margaret, Hollis and myself. Tony and Carmine are brothers. Tony is lives in Washington and Carmine lives in San Diego, California. After breakfast, Carmine and Kathy had to say goodbye to Tony and Eileen on the porch of the café. The remainder of us drove back to Wayne’s where we started taking our tents down. Wayne wanted us to stay even though he was leaving for Washington DC on Tuesday. Remember that Wayne is part of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Soon Tony and Eileen were ready to leave. The loafers started showing up at Wayne’s. It is understandable why Wayne is so far behind on his guitar building. He performs somewhere almost every weekend, the phone in his shop rings constantly, there are loafers who hang out in his shop every day and then someone stops by to jam in the evening.
We were packed and it was time to leave. Suddenly I thought of the Canadian who had to leave the day before. It was sad driving down out of the mountains. It became noticeably warmer also. Back in Texas around August we will think longingly for those cool few days in the mountains of southern Virginia.
On Friday morning we woke up and learned that Senator Strum Thruman had passed way on Thursday evening, June 26, 2003. Strum Thurman became a senator in 1954. He was born in 1902 and died in Edgefield, SC. We saw one sign in Charleston that said, "We love you Strum, you did a great job." Before we left Charleston we also learned that Lester Maddox had died.
We left Charleston on Saturday morning and arrived in Houston on June 29, 2003. We received an email from Debbie Porter saying that Bob Mize had passed away on June 11th. Bob’s web site: http://home.usit.net/~extra/index.html
Before we left on our trip a friend gave us $100 for CDs. We purchased the following:
Old Time Music in East Texas
The folks at Millard’s Crossing in Nacogdoches wanted some dulcimer players for their Christmas program. All kinds of festivities were planned all over Nacogdoches for the day. Several dulcimer players agreed to participate. The Wright family decided to leave a little early and look around Nacogdoches. Well the rains started. It rained and rained. When we got to Nacogdoches we found the whole thing on the Square was washed out. All of the vendors and demonstrators were packing up in the rain.
I had always wanted to visit the Old Time Music Shop, it was right there on the Square. We parked across the street. It was still drizzling. We ran inside and immediately heard some good music. The Old Time Music Shop is also a General Mercantile. The musicians were in the back. There was a bass player, a fiddle player, a banjo player and a lady on the guitar. It was a good sound. I went to the cash register and visited with the man behind the counter. Then I spotted some clothes in an old display case. I was most interested in a vest that I noticed. There was a problem; it was the wrong size. Then Gary saw one that he liked and it was the right size. Gary is now sportin’ a nice gray vest from the General Mercantile and Old Time Music Shop in Nacogdoches.
The man behind the counter turned out to be Steve Hartz, the owner. Since he had CDs on the counter by the Gillette Brothers and Peggy Carter the conversation soon turned to the music that we love. Then it wasn’t long until we were all in the back room playing old time music. What a wonderful afternoon.
Before we left, I purchased a CD from the counter. It is Crooked Steep & Rocky. Original Bluegrass and Old-time Music by Steve Hartz. I am listening to it right now as I type. It is a great CD. The songs are really good, the playing and singing is good and they play some interesting instruments. Listen to this: A Gibson Mandobass circa 1919, a 1938 Gibson (rosewood) Jumbo and an early 1900’s parlor guitar. Mandolins include a 1909 Gibson three point F4, a 1920’s Gibson Loyd Loar F5, a 1920’s Lyon and Healy style B, a Flatiron A style, a 1919 Gibson H4 Mandola, a 1917 Gibson K2 Mandocello. An array of old fiddles and several different cellos; a McSpadden walnut dulcimer, a Stelling banjo and a converted 1930’s Maybelle Banjo. In the reed section, a turn of the century Beckwith pump organ (harmonium), a 1920’s Jeffries duet concertina and an 1890’s Wheatstone English concertina.
The musicians are Gary Coover, Mike Hartz, Kelly Lancaster, Reggie Rueffer, Steve Hartz, Jimmy Taylor, Brian Tarrant, Randy Elmore, Sheryl Hartz, Jeff Scroggins, Kevin Carter.
It was a very special afternoon. It was raining, we were sad for the rained out festival but it was warm and dry in the store and the music was good. Steve Hartz asked us several times to come back, I think we will.
One of the fellas at the Old Time Music Shop was Charles Gardner. In 1996, the Gary Hamilton Family gave us a book titled, Singin’ Texas by Francis Edward Abernethy. This is an excerpt from that book:
The largest factor in my musical life and education has been the East Texas String Ensemble (pronounced “in-symbol”) in which I have sung and played dog-house bass for the past fourteen years. After a lot of party pickin’, four of us liberal arts faculty members fortuitously jelled in 1968 into a sound that we enjoyed making. Charles Gardner was the focus. He had picked up stringed instruments from his father and played anything and knew all the old songs. Charles played lead fiddle and mandolin. Stan Alexander played a strong guitar and sang a wealth of traditional folk and country songs. Stan had started a folk music club at North Texas that included such modern musical lights as Steve Fromholtz and Michael Murphey. When he was at The University of Texas he as a Threadgill regular along with Janis Joplin and Bill Malone. Tom Nall played banjo and guitar and was just getting into traditional music. Tom had been raised on big bands and cool jazz, which he still plays and moved into a new world with country and western.
A lot of East Texans were involved in my musical education. Brother Woodrow Wilson of Vidor and his daughter Neda introduced me to Sacred Harp music and I’ve loved those old sounds since the first time I heard them. The students of Kirby High School in Woodville introduced me to Josey parties and the songs of the play party tradition. The Williamses of the Big Thicket – Miss Ada and her daughter Lois Parker and Aunt Minnie – are all gone now but I can still hear them signing “Sweet Bunch of Daises” and the old songs that were so close to their lives, which they made close to mine. Nowadays, any time I need to take a short course in traditional music, I drop in at Steve Hartz’ Old Time String Shop on the square in Nacogdoches. If Steve and his partner Tom Cornett haven’t struck up a tune, somebody will soon be along who will.
The book was originally published in 1983. Abernethy’s book is full of old photos and old songs and the stories behind them. I just recently finished A Singer Among Singers, Jane Hicks Gentry by Betty N. Smith of Hot Springs, NC. Several of us went up to visit with Betty and Bill Smith this summer. I feel a great comfort in seeing how the two books complement each other. Jane Gentry was a singer in the mountains of Western North Carolina in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. She was basically an isolated woman so the songs she knew she learned from folks in the same area as she lived. Since this was a time in our history when the population was moving West, her songs came from Europe and not from Texas. Yet some of the songs remembered by Abernethy are the same as those song by Jane Hicks. Are you following what I am telling you here. Those songs and stories came from England and went west, passing through and stopping in places like Madison County in North Carolina and Polk County in Texas. The words change a little but that is only natural. Also consider that the words and tunes were passed on from one person to another. There were no CDs, cassette tapes, TV, radio or anything except the human voice.
“Jennie Jenkins” was the only song Jane deliberately taught her daughter Maud Long. Abernethy says that Juanita Martin of Sour Lake in the Big Thicket sang a song from her childhood that she remembered for its play with words and tumbling refrain – it is “Jennie Jenkins”. “Jennie Jenkins” was recorded by Laura Boosinger on her Sing it Yourself CD.
In 1916, Cecil Sharp was collecting ballads and Jack Tales in and around Madison County, NC. Sharp was an English musician and collector. The following is from Betty Smith’ book.
In 1916 Cecil Sharp, an English musician and collector, came to Maidson County. He was interested in songs and ballads of British origin. The “Laurel Country” along the North Carolina – Tennessee border proved to be fertile ground. Sharp visited singers in five Appalachian states, but here he found the most primitive conditions and the most songs. Sharp brought with him an assistant, Maud Karpels, and for the first time both texts and tunes were written down. From Jane Gentry he collected seventy songs and ballads, more than from any other singer he encountered in the Southern Appalachians. Forty of these are included in Sharp’s English Folk Song s from the Southern Appalachians, a collection unparalleled in America. We know about Jane Gentry and her songs because of an incredible set of circumstances linking John and Olive Campbell, the Russell Sage Foundation, Frances Goodrich, the Presbyterians, Dorland Institute, and Cecil Sharp.
Sharp came to the southern mountains at the request of Olive Dame Campbell, wife of John C. Campbell, director of the Southern Highland Division of the Russell Sage Foundation. Beginning in 1907, John Campbell traveled through out the southern mountains for more than ten years doing a social survey, and his wife often traveled with him. It was in December 1907, on one of their first field trips, that they visited Hindman Settlement School in Kentucky. Olive Campbell, a New Englander, had sung, “Barbara Allen” as a child, but during his visit she heard it sung by Ada Smith, one of the students.
‘Twas in the merry month of May,
The green buds were swelling,
Poor William Green on his death bed lay
For the love of Barb’ra Ellen.
Campbell was overwhelmed by this experience. He wrote:
Shall I ever forget it! The blazing fire, the young girl on her low stool before it, the soft strange strumming of the banjo – different from anything I had heard before – and then the song! I had been used to singing “Barbara Allen” as a child, but how far from that gentle tune was this – so strange, so remote, so thrilling. I was lost almost from the first note, and the pleasant room faded from sight; the singer only a voice. I saw again the long road over which we had come, the dark hills, the rocky streams bordered by tall hemlocks and hollies, the lonely cabins distinguishable at night only by the firelight flaring from their chimneys. The these, too, faded, and I seemed to be borne along into a still more dim and distant past, of which I myself was a part.
In Singin’ Texas, Abernethy writes: The most widespread of the Child ballads in Texas as well as throughout the English speaking world is “Barbara Allen”. It was old when Samuel Pepys heard Mrs. Knipp, an actress, sing her “little Scotch song” in 1666. In 1765 Oliver Goldsmith told how his old dairymaid sang him into tears with it. “Barbara Allen” was included in the venerable Percy Collection. It was collected by Romantics during the ballad craze of the early nineteenth century and has been found in every part of the United States in the last century and in this. In tune and words the variants are numberless. The worst version I ever heard was on a record by Vernon Dalhart (Silvertone 25016-B), and there is one Texas version in which Barbara becomes a Negro man named Boberich Allen.In a 1927 letter from L.D. Bertillion to J. Frank Dobie, the writer tells about the first time he heard “Barbara Allen.” Somebody was having a gathering in Bell County during the 1890’s and the group decided for entertainment to have everybody sing the most up-to-date song he knew. The song went around and only a few of them were over forty years old, until it came Abe Richards’ time to sing. In the writer’s words, Abe “said he had recently learned a good one of the very latest, which he would be pleased to sing – provided they would permit him to lie down to sing, as he could do better lying down, and of course the consent was unanimous, whereupon he removed both spurs in order not to scar the floor, turned down an old fashioned rawhide bottom chair for a head prop, cleared his throat loudly, and in all sincerity and dead earnest opened up on the very latest, which song was none other that Barbary Allen. Now then I confess it was new to me, and a number of others considered Mr. Richards rather up to date in music, and all would have been well save for the fact that one or two of the audience remembered hearing their grandmothers sing the song, and I believed it was a favorite cowboy song in Texas before the pale faces became thick enough to make the Indians consider a massacre worthwhile…
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you might be able to guess from the title ("Grace is Amazing"), this
is a CD of all gospel tunes - 13, to be exact.
Those of you who have had the pleasure of hearing Debbie in concert, or
have her previous CD ("A Dulcimer for You, Darling"), are already
familiar with her considerable talents, not
only as a dulcimist, but also as an extremely
gifted vocalist. This new project
will not disappoint. The title cut
is an original song by Debbie. The
rest of the cuts are a selection of familiar (and a few not-so-familiar)
inspirational old hymns, all featuring Debbie's vocals.
as on her debut CD, Debbie has enlisted an astounding array of talented musician
friends to help her. David
Schnaufer contributes one of his signature arrangements on the opening cut,
"Wings of a Dove". Sue
Carpenter plays finger-picked chromatic dulcimer on a lovely rendition of
"My Mother's Faith". Neal
Walters and his wife Coleen contribute both instrumental (autoharp and bass) and
vocal talents for "In the Sweet By and By".
Maddie MacNeil plays hammered dulcimer and weaves some amazing vocal
harmonies with Debbie on "In the Garden". And "still-under-30-dulcimer-playing-phenom", our
own Steve Seifert, contributes an amazing New Orleans jazz-style dulcimer track
to "Just A Closer Walk With Thee".
He can also be heard on "Farther Along", and still had enough
energy to help with the engineering (ah, the wonders of youth! Not every cut on
this album has a mountain dulcimer track, but when you hear guitar legend
Stephen Bennett play his "harp guitar" (3 of the cuts), you'll swear
you are hearing a dulcimer (the highest compliment I can think of to give ANY
guitar player!) Stephen also plays
his slide guitar, National Steel guitar, and standard guitar on several of the
other cuts. Other back-up
instrumentation scattered throughout the album include banjo, harmonica, jazz
clarinet, flute, fiddle, and piano.
musician Adie Grey, who also can be heard on Debbie's debut recording,
contributes harmony vocals on several cuts on this album as well, as does Shake
Russell. Lee Rowe, current National
Mountain Dulcimer Champion, doesn't play on this recording, but he contributed
his considerable graphic artist expertise to the project.
To order your copy, contact Debbie directly at Lyricsmama@aol.com, or call (toll-free) (877) 856-2714. You won't be disappointed!
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A TRIP TO THE OZARKS AND THE APPALACHIAN MOUNTAINS. written July 1997
This article is not about the Wright’s family vacation but about a musical experience. It is about good times and good people. It is to inform you as to what all is out there and what good times you can have. First of all, we left Texas and drove to Mountain View. It was our first return since 1994 when we passed through there and purchased our first dulcimer from McSpaddens. Margaret had to hold back the tears as we talked of the importance of that day in 1994. We talked about what all we have learned and done. Then we talked of the friends that we have made. It was all made possible because of the dulcimer. We would have never heard the Sweet Song String Band, Aileen and Elkin Thomas. We would not have known Larry, Sylvia, Calvin, Ken, Doyle, Karen Daniels, Bob and Maude Mize, Gary, Troy and Justin. The list goes on and on. We would have never met the great craftsman. We would never have experienced the feeling of creativity and expression found in music. What would Hollis and Lloyd be doing on weekends? Well, the memories were running wild as we pulled into the little mountain town on June 5th. We had made reservations at the Ozark RV Park campground which is right next to the Ozark Folk Center. We were all so excited when we got out of the van and walked up into the little cabin that was used for the campground office. It wasn’t long before we were walking around the square in Mountain View. What an experience. Groups of musicians all around the courthouse and across the streets. Hundreds of listeners enjoying the music. Lawn chairs are optional. Some folks enjoy walking from group to group. The groups are spaced out just far enough apart to not interfere with the next. At first we had to just walk around and take it all in. It took us awhile before we were able to get out our instruments. We looked in the familiar spot where we saw the dulcimers in ’94. None there. We decided to find a spot for just the four of us. It wasn’t long before we had listeners. Then Karen and Chuck Daniels from Kansas joined us. We were also joined by Lloyd and Joyce Woods. Lloyd is a left handed dulcimer player from Kansas. Karen is an instructor for the Orthey Autoharp Festival in Pennsylvania. We were doing some fine jamming. Karen and Hollis hit it off right away. Jim Spoor, owner of The HayLoft, asked me about my pickin’ stick - said he had one in his craft shop - been there for a couple of years and didn’t know anything about it. In our campground, we met the Rogers from Palestine-friends of Doyle Campbell. We sat next to them at the evening show at the Folk Center. Charles Whitmer was on the program. After the show we visited with him and he agreed to come to Crockett for a Shape Note Singing class. We went by The HayLoft to see the pickin’ stick. The builder was a wood worker but didn’t understand musical instruments. On the way out, we ran into Karen Seiffert. If you were at the Huntsville Festival, she is the one who did her arrangement of Jesus Loves Me. The trip to McSpaddens - well, it is indescribable. Walking through the parking lot towards the front door…. then we were inside. Of course, no one knew us but within about five minutes, everyone knew us. They were most impressed with Lloyd. Lynn took Hollis and Lloyd on a tour of the back of the shop while Margaret was talking with Sue Eslinger, Jean Simmons and Mary Katherine McSpadden. I was showing a customer how to play a dulcimer. We were back in there the next day and the fellow was in there buying a dulcimer. He had asked for me when he first went in - he thought I worked there. Back in the campground, I saw a guy walking around with a pickin’ stick. I walked up to him and he said, “I heard you and I had to have one - I found this one at The HayLoft.” All was not lost - he got a good deal and I showed him how to correct the mistakes. The owner of the campground found us and returned some money - said he had over charged us. I had to take the van to a mechanic for transmission problems. The mechanic gave me an Arkansas ride to use and only charged me $60 for the repairs. Back on the Square one night, we were listening to three guys - two with guitars and one dobro. They were great. There was an older gentleman standing next to me. Someone mentioned that Tom was present. The lead guitar player said, “Tom, come on up and give us a song.” The gentleman next to me began to make his way through the crowd. He sang songs like Laredo and Cool Water. He had the smoothest voice. His name was Tom Cleveland. We ended up buying one of his tapes. He had lived around Mountain View all of his life. Later we heard that another man that we had met on the Square went to McSpaddens and said that Jerry Wright from Texas sent him there. Well, it was time to move on and as we pulled out of Mountain View that morning at 9:00am, we noticed that there was one small group of pickers there. <> Our next stop was Bristol, Tennessee. There we met John Huron. John made Lloyd’s fretless banjo. We spent an evening with John and his wife, Sandy. Fine folks. We talked, jammed and toured his shop which is in the basement of his house. It was a real neat shop. People provide John with groundhog hides after the meat is given to the poor people in the area. John took us to the side of his house where the hides are tanned in Oak ash and water. We also saw some stretched and tacked on the side of a wooden shed. We learned that the next banjo after Lloyd’s went to the Smithsonian. John also makes dulcimers, he learned from Bob Mize who learned from Homer Ledford who learned from J. Edward Thomas. While we were there, Bob Mize called wanting to know when were were coming over. The next morning we drove down to Blountville looking for the Mize residence. We walked pasted his house and on up the hill to his shop. There are large stacks of wood everywhere. The shop is covered with tar paper and the electric line is 12-2 w/ground Romex running through the tree limbs from the house. Inside the shop, you will see the tools of the trade and thousands of pieces and parts for dulcimers. The shop may have been cleaned once or twice. I took notes as we assembled dulcimer number 3446. It was an interesting day. The meal that Maude prepared couldn’t be beat. They are really fine people. You need to locate a Foxfire 3 and look at the article on dulcimer building. <> That afternoon we were off again heading for Chucky. There is a state park at the site of Davy Crockett’s boyhood home. We spent a night there last year and met Barney Shelton. We were looking for him again. He is a fine guitar and mandolin player. Sure enough, he was there and it wasn’t long until the instruments came out. <> We heard Don Pedi was in Mars Hill at an Old Time Music Festival. The festival was being held at the college in town. We walked up and met a man with a guitar case. We introduced ourselves and questioned him about the evening’s events. He said everyone was breaking up into jam sessions and invited us to join in. Later that evening there was a concert by the instructors. It was great. After the concert we met Don and he invited us to a jam. It was there that we gained an understanding of Don’s style of playing. He truly plays fiddle tunes on the dulcimer. He was jamming with Alice Gerrard, an old time fiddle player. We were told about a jam in Asheville that we should go to. So on Thursday night we headed into Asheville following the directions. We were told to go down a certain road to a lot of cars parked on the side of the road. Then walk up the driveway to the back of the house. We did and what we saw were people everywhere. They were on the front porch, all in the house and all around the back yard. In the back was what started out being a garage. It looked as if it had had a couple of additions. The garage door was up and the inside was full. Some in a circle playing but most sitting or standing - just listening. A lady we didn’t know spotted us and went to get four chairs. There were pictures, papers and things all over the walls. On one side was the food area. It looked like a Southern Baptist dinner on the ground. After a while we decided to get our instruments. We tried playing but didn’t know most of the songs. But soon the main group of players started breaking up. Then someone noticed my pickin’ stick and asked about it. It wasn’t long before we were in the center playing our songs on our instruments. There were no dulcimers there. Then a fellow showed up with an autoharp. Soon we were doing the gospel songs and everyone was singing. We met Mrs. Hyatt and learned that they all meet there every Thursday night and have been for the past forty years. Mrs. Hyatt was 80. While we were there, we met Max Woody - chair maker. I can’t tell you how many places we were invited to play. One guy offered to give us 30 minutes on the stage the next night in Marshall, NC at the depot. On Saturday, we met Don Pedi again in downtown Asheville and spent a couple of hours with him in a park. I will tell you more about Don in a future newsletter. By the way, Don will be at Glen Rose next year. <> On to Wilksboro but on the way, we stopped off at Marion, NC and visited with Max Woody. Max is in Foxfire 10. We ordered a rocking chair for Margaret. He is running about 2 ½ years behind so I guess we will be going back that way again in a couple of years. <> In Wilksboro we visited with R.G. Absher, another fine musician. We made a tape on R.G.’s back porch - it ain’t half bad. <> Then down to Charleston, SC to visit with Margaret’s brothers and back to Texas in time to make the 4th Saturday DCDS meeting. WHAT A TRIP…..
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If you have ever seen David Schnaufer, his McSpadden dulcimer is black. Some have wondered why. Even though I interviewed David, I did not find out why is dulcimer is black. But then the other day, I was reading Appalachian Dulcimer Traditions by Ralph Lee Smith. It reads as follows: Uncle Ed was a neighbor and good friend of Balis Ritchie, father of Jean Ritchie. Jean says that in 1923, McKinley Craft, another friend and neighbor, sent a Thomas dulcimer to McKinley’s kinsman Joe Craft in Arkansas, and that Lynn Elder, the pioneer Arkansas dulcimer maker, based his pattern on this instrument. She also provides a down-to-earth explanation of why Uncle Ed painted many of his instruments black. "Did you know," she wrote to me, "that Uncle Ed told us that the reason he painted some of his dulcimer black is that he had might-near a whole bucket of paint left over from painting his barn?”
James Edward “Uncle Ed” Thomas was a dulcimer maker in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Terry McCafferty’s dulcimers are based on that same design. Terry got the pattern from Larry Barringer who got his pattern from Robert Mize who got his patterned from Homer Ledford who had a Thomas pattern.
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Appalachian State University Boone, North Carolina August 1998
On Friday afternoon, the Wright Family loaded the van and the pop-up trailer and headed up US 59 out of Houston to Corrigan where James Butcher would be waiting. The excitement was high. After visiting with James, his mother and sister, Margaret assured them that James would be well taken care of for two weeks. Then the troupe pulled out and headed for Tyler, Texas were Billie Joy Upshaw and her parents and brothers would be waiting.
On Saturday afternoon, the Texans arrived in Boone, North Carolina and set up camp. That evening, Terry and Barbara McCafferty came over for a visit from a neighboring campground.
Sunday morning was shared with a Youth Group from South Carolina in the campground. Then we all went over to where the McCaffertys were and visited with Darrel and Hazel Hall, the McCaffertys and Joel and Carolyn Whittemore. That afternoon we went to the University and registered. One of the first people we saw was Lois Hornbostel who quickly ran over and gave Hollis a big ol’ hug. I then went to down to the Industrial Building and found Bob and Maude Mize setting up for the dulcimer building class.
Monday morning started off with an indoctrination by the staff. Lloyd, James and Wendy Evans were recognized as having received scholarships. There was a very large Texas representation in the auditorium. After that, it was off to classes for everyone and I went back down the hill to the Industrial Building where the future dulcimer builders were gathering. There were 10 men and 2 women in the class. There was only small chitchat in the room. Soon Robert Mize laid out the ground rules for the week and then told the students to walk over to the other end of the room and pick up a long cardboard box containing the parts and pieces of a mountain dulcimer. He informed them that all the boxes were the same and to just go ahead and grab one. Meanwhile Maude and I were going through the variety of tools, equipment and dulcimer parts that Bob had brought from his shop. It was all in boxes and cans – somewhat unorganized. You would have to visit Bob’s shop to understand. He told me once that the girls had cleaned up his shop one time and he couldn’t find anything for weeks.
Bob started his instruction and it was all Maude and I could do to keep him supplied with tools and parts. There was always a great sigh of relief when we finally uncovered the tool that we were so desperately looking for.
I visited with a man from New Jersey. He told me his story. His wife wanted a dulcimer for Christmas so he went to a music store to purchase one. He was informed that they did not have any in the store but could order one. It was ordered from the Dulcimer Factory in Fredricksburg, Texas. The wife was excited when she arrived in Boone only to learn that her dulcimer was not playable. Several major builders attending the weeklong Workshop told her that the dulcimer could not be fixed. The man was looking at that box of parts and pieces in dismay. He was under a lot of pressure. He had never sanded a piece of wood much less know how something like a dulcimer was made. His wife borrowed a dulcimer for the week with expectations of going back to New Jersey with a fine dulcimer built by her husband. He could not imagine the dulcimer being built by Friday.
There were many stories in that class. One man had taken the dulcimer building class to learn about patience. He had heart problems and was trying to change his life style. Larry Clemente, a retired fellow from Gainesville, Georgia took the class just because he had nothing else to do for the week while his wife took classes. One man had taken the class two years earlier and was coming back for a refresher course. Norma Rowe was in the class. Her son is Lee Rowe who recorded Bonaparte’s Revenge. She was making the dulcimer for her son.
It was a delightful and rewarding week. Bob Mize is full of stories and tales. Sometimes when he gets a little out of line, he is called down by Maude who is never far away. Bob’s knowledge of wood is endless. It is very beneficial to be in his presence. Maude is a very sweet person to be around. She always makes one feel comfortable around her. During the week, their daughter, Jane; her husband, Keith; and their son, Steve joined Bob and Maude.
The students worked hard. They came in early and worked all day. There was a lot of sanding, scraping, gluing and clamping. Bob held everyone in awe as he bent the wood for the sides over a flame and used his stomach as a guide. He told us that Maude had to keep him at the same size or his dulcimers would not have the proper shape.
Suddenly by Wednesday, the parts and pieces started to take on the look of a dulcimer. Some were amazed at how well the cherry worked. By Wednesday afternoon, the finishing began. By Thursday noon, the strings were on all of them. On Friday, all of the dulcimers were lined up on a table with the students standing next to them like proud parents on the other side of the glass in the maternity ward at the hospital. All of the folks who had been taking classes all week came by and admired the dulcimers with wonder. I saw a couple of the guys receiving hugs from their wives. I even heard a couple of them giving admirers advice as to how to build a mountain dulcimer. I can not tell you how much fun it was for me that week.
To top it off, after everyone went back to class Friday afternoon after viewing the dulcimers, Larry Clemente and I were talking. We were talking about playing the dulcimer – he was interested. I invited him to sit down and I would give him a short lesson. He took it all in and wanted more. His wife had been playing for a couple of years but he had no idea how easy it was to get started. He wanted to know more and more. After about 45 minutes to an hour, he was playing by ear, playing Bile Them Cabbage in melody, harmony and an octave higher. He was doubly delighted and couldn’t wait to show his wife.
Hollis had Bill Taylor as an instructor. Hollis really liked him. I got to know Bill when he came over to the builder’s class and talked about compensation of bridges. Bill is a great builder, player and a fine person.
James and Lloyd played on the stage one afternoon and the Wright Family played on the stage Thursday afternoon.
Roy Teal from Averill Park, New York told me that he had recently purchased a stum stick. He invited me to his room and asked me to bring mine. The next day, he purchased one from Terry. There were several dulcimer builders at Boone with their dulcimers. It was very interesting looking at all of them. Ron Ewing, Bill Taylor, John Stockard, Steve Endsley, Robert Mize, Kurt Zimmerman and Terry McCafferty were there – to name a few. Kenneth Bloom was also there with his newest – the bowed dulcimer. You would have to see it and you would also have to know Kenneth Bloom.
Speaking of Kenneth Bloom – there was a dulcimer orchestra there. Over 200 dulcimer players signed up for the orchestra.
Dr. Bloom, to say the least, is one character.
The music was arranged by the infamous Professor Bloom.
The parts for the orchestra were mailed out about a week and a half prior
to our departure. Most folks did
not have time to work over their parts, so the first rehearsal was pretty much
cold turkey. There were two lead
sections, a rhythm section and a bass section, not to mention the bowed section
(yes, dulcimers played with a fiddle bow.)
Our group had representatives in each section. Barbara McCafferty was on the lead, Billie Joy and Darryl
Hall were on rhythm. James and
Lloyd, the golden boys, were in the vaunted bowed section, as well as Joel
Whittemore. Carolyn Whittemore and
Margaret were in the bass section. We
had three pieces to play: Simple
Gifts, a Celtic Medley, and Amazing Grace.
Some were having a hard time of it, because this was a lot more like
reading real music, rather than just playing along with a dulcimer group on a
tune. There arose a need for extra
rehearsals. One night we began a
rehearsal at 11:00pm. One day we
practiced through lunch and supper. We
accompanied the legendary Jean Ritchie as she sang “Amazing Grace.”
The whole thing was an unforgettable experience.
Professor Bloom is to be commended.
The arrangements were extraordinary and a heck of a lot of work to put
together. He is rather eccentric but has such an endearing way about him.
I think that the dulcimer orchestra was a real highlight of the week.
Ralph Lee Smith has been on the trail of the mountain dulcimer for years. His most recent book, Appalachian Dulcimer Traditions, covers those trails. Ralph Lee Smith was at Boone, bringing with him a J.E. Thomas and Charles N. Prichard dulcimer. Margaret met Ralph Lee while I was down the hill with Robert Mize and the dulcimer builders. She told me that she had witnessed Ralph Lee playing the small black dulcimer, made by Uncle Ed Thomas. She said, “Jerry, I wish you had heard it, it was the sweetest little thing you have ever heard.” Later in the day, I approached Ralph Lee Smith where he was set up with his books and dulcimers. At once, I spotted the black dulcimer, placed horizontally on a stand. I approached it slowly. There it was, a dulcimer by a man that I had studied so much about. A man that I was actually related to in the dulcimer world. I got close. I first noticed the staples that were used as frets. Sure enough, only the melody strings were fretted. I remember that someone had asked Uncle Ed why he painted some of his dulcimer black and he responded, “I had might-near a whole bucket of paint left over from painting my barn.” I stood quietly, it was a very special moment for me. Ralph Lee didn’t notice me, he was busy talking to another person. Suddenly he looked my way and out of the corner of my eye, I saw Margaret to my left and she was pointing at me. Margaret had already told Ralph Lee about me and now she was pointing me out to him. Without a thought, Ralph Lee grabbed the dulcimer and placed it in my hands. I have been in a lot of situations in my life. As a police officer, I have literally been in life and death situations. Not to lessen those situations, I am telling you that because I am trying to explain to you the feeling that I had as I held that dulcimer. I felt as though I had to sit down. I did. Would you believe me or understand if I told you I had a tear in my eye.
During one of the evening concerts, Ralph Lee Smith was on stage with Jacob Ray Melton. It was a highlight of the evening.
During the next couple of days, I got to visit with Jacob Ray Melton and his wife several times. A member of the Melton family, won the dulcimer contest in Galax, Virginia in 1935, 1936, 1937, 1939, 1940, 1941, 1942, 1974. You can read more about Jacob Ray in Appalachian Dulcimer Traditions by Ralph Lee Smith.
Another highlight of the concerts was Frank Proffitt Jr. Frank’s mother, Bessie Hicks Proffitt, was born on Beech Mountain, N.C. Frank Proffitt Sr. was born in Laurel Bloomery, TN. They were descended from the original Scothc-Irish and English settlers of the northwestern North Carolina and northeastern Tennessee area. Both of Frank’s grandfathers made and played dulcimers and banjos. He leaned many stories from Ray Hicks, who is now nationally known as a master story teller and a “National Treasure.” Frank Sr. became internationally known in the early 1960’s as the source of the ballad “Tom Dooley, “ as popularized by the Kingston Trio, which was collected from him by Frank and Anne Warner in 1938. They became lifelong friends of the Proffitts and Hicks. Born ten years apart in the early part of the century and raised in different parts of NC, Frank Proffitt Sr. and Frank Warner met on Beech Mountain in Wataugo County one summer’s day in 1938. They swapped songs, won each other with warmth and sly humor, and began the life’s work of their yet unborn sons.
The famous ballad , Tom Dooley, was handed down from Frank Jr’s great grandmother, Adeline Pardue. Frank Jr. told the that his grandmother said she learned it as a young girl from Tom Dooley himself when she passed by his jail cell shortly before the day of his hanging, May 1, 1868. She later married John Proffitt and moved to Laurel Bloomery. It was this version that the Kingston Trio used for their number one hit recording. Frank Sr. sang it on this 1962 album Frank Proffitt, Reese, N.C., Folk Legacy Traditional 1.
Frank Jr.’s second cousin was Stanley Hicks. Lloyd Wright has a fretless banjo which was made by John Huron, a design that can be traced back to Stanley Hicks. (see the Nov 97 issue for the DCDS newsletter for more information on Stanley Hicks)
Frank Jr. and his wife sat in front of us at one of the evening concerts. At the intermission I got to visit with him. He is a very nice man. We just loved his singing and banjo playing. We have one of his tapes, it’s good. I asked him about the business of Tom Dula and the Kinston Trio. He told me that it was all true.
The more we travel and the more we learn, we are realizing that most of our musical heritage comes from just a few counties in North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia. A lot of the family names that you will hear are somehow related. Names in our history is Presnell, Hicks, Glenn, Melton, Hicks, Thomas, Prichard, Thomas, Proffitt and Mize. Places to be noted are Madison County, Beech Mountain, Wataugo County, Yadkin County and Hindman Settlement School.
Another musician that we became aware of is Thomasina. We have seen her at several festivals but this time we got to know her better. We jammed with her one night at Boone. We also have a CD of hers, A Peaceful Storm. It is worth owning.
On Thursday, we were invited to Dustin Sechrest’s house up in the mountain near Boone, next to a folk of the New River on the Railroad Grade Road. It was a great evening. Listen Texans, we had to wear long sleeve shirts and sit by the fire that was built outside. Dustin was another teenage scholarship recipient for the Dulcimer Workshop.
In closing on our Boone experience, Lois Hornbostel did a wonderful job holding it all together. Many of you know Lois. She deserves a warm “THANK YOU.”
The Dulcimer Workshop broke up Friday afternoon and we went back to the campground and packed. Then we headed for Asheville because that night we were heading for the Depot at Marshall.
Saturday morning we got up and headed for downtown Asheville. It was the 4th of July and they were having the 71st Annual Mountain Dance & Folk Festival which was started by Bascom Lamar Lunsford. The group from Mrs. Hyatt’s was going to open the show at noon. As we drove into the area of the Square, Hollis spotted Sally Council. Remember from last month’s newsletter – she is the lady traveling around documenting all the music in North Carolina. We stopped in the middle of the street in downtown Asheville as she ran over with hugs and greetings.
We were going to visit Don Pedi who was doing a radio show and invited Sally. She had a couple of other folks with her. It was very interesting in the radio station with Don. Between songs he would visit with us. Then I found out that the man with Sally was a newspaperman from Raleigh who was following her around doing a story on her. He got interested in our story and I ended up spending about an hour with him.
Then on the Green, we saw all the folks we knew from Mrs. Hyatt’s, the depot in Marshall and Mars Hill. Max Woody, the rocking chair maker from Marion, NC was there as well as Adam Landers, Josh Goforth, Jerry Adams Travis & Trevor Stewart and Laura Boosinger. I got to looking around and decided that I knew most of the folks around there. Lee was running the show and remembered us from Mrs. Hyatt’s last year. She asked Lloyd and James to play several numbers then they were joined by Hollis. The crowd was going wild. Margaret and I then joined them and did The Yellow Rose of Texas and Dooley. The sound was travelling for blocks through downtown Asheville.
The music continued all afternoon. The musicians were back to back. The music never stopped. Hollis and I tried clogging. Then Billie Joy, Margaret, James and Lloyd to a short clogging class. That got them all fired up. The cloggers from Mars Hill College showed up. The college recruits cloggers like some colleges recruit football players. It is high energy with a lot of hollering and yelling. Great fun.
Don Pedi played a couple tunes as well as David Letcher. By the time it started cooling off real good, there was an estimated crowd of 6,000 out there. The fireworks started at 10:00pm. What a day, it is highly recommended if you can get out in that part of the country next year.
On Sunday, we met Josh Goforth and Adam Landers up on Don Pedi’s mountain. We walked down to Junior’s and picked vegetables which were cooked for supper. A great day. That night Don had to go into Asheville for his radio show but Josh, Adam and Lloyd jammed on the front porch. It was a moon lit night and Margaret and I walked down the hill. The lights from the inside of Don’s house were just bright enough shining through the windows to make it look very interesting. There were no other lights or sounds. The fireflies were hovering just above the ground and up in the trees. The mountains rolled in towards Don’s property. The music was coming off of the porch like it was amplified. I realized that we were hearing it exactly the way folks heard it a hundred years ago. It was a very special time.
On Monday, we decided to go to the Biltmore. If you haven’t heard of it, the Biltmore is the largest house in North America. It was built in the late 1800’s. It is worth seeing. As we were pulling into the parking lot, there stood Shirley and John Richards from Odessa. Shirley is a dulcimer player who had signed up to meet us at Mountain View.
Tuesday found us at Robert Mize’s house in Blountville, Tennessee. Terry and Barbara were there also. I used Terry’s video camera and captured Bob putting a dulcimer together in his shop. Bob and Maude’s Grandniece, Carrie had received a scholarship for Boone. She and our Texas teenagers had gotten to be friends. So when Carrie found out that we were coming to Blountville, she stayed a couple of extra days. Another wonderful day.
Wednesday morning we headed out of the campground at around 8:00am. It was going to be and long day but our destination was Mountain View, Arkansas. We arrived in Mountain View at 7:00pm. I don’t have to tell many of you what happened after that. I lost count past 70. I can’t believe over 70 people from all over Texas would jump up and travel that far for a weekend. We really had a good time. As promised, breakfast was cooked at the campground. We had bacon, sausage, pancakes, eggs, toast and grits. Charles McMath and Ed Hamrick were great helps on the three electric grill that we had set up. I don’t know who all helped washing the dishes but there were several tubs set up with soapy and clean water. It all was a great assembly line with everyone helping.
We played on the Square, played in the river, went through the cave, shopped, visited, went to concerts at the Folk Center. By the way, Polly and Calvin Williams arranged for Lloyd and James to play on stage at the Folk Center. It was a great end to a near perfect two weeks. I hope we all get to do it again some day.
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Trip to North Carolina June 1998
We arrived in Mars Hill on Sunday afternoon. It is a very nice but small, college town. It was cool when we arrived – NICE. We went in Fox Dorm and learned that Don Pedi had been in Kentucky and had not arrived. Hillary Dirlam gave me directions to Don’s house. We struck out. We followed a winding road through a valley between two mountain ranges. All of the available flat ground was planted in tobacco. We then found the road up to Don’s house. It was actually the old road leading over the mountain to the other side. It was steep, winding and rocky. Up we started. Everyone was hanging on as the van rocked and pushed up the mountain. A couple of times, I had to stop, back up and get another start at going up. Finally we reached the Pedi residence. Don was not home. We started back down. As we slowly made our way down, suddenly a man stepped out of the woods with a pack of dogs. I rolled down my window and ask, “Are you Junior?” Don had told me about his neighbors, Junior and Flossy. He waited for a couple of seconds as he looked around. He replied that he was. Then he said, “You must be those folks from Texas.” We stayed and visited for awhile. Junior looked like he was one of the tobacco raisers biggest customers.
During the week, there were classes in the morning, a mid day concert, more classes in the afternoon, an evening concert and then jamming until one or two in the morning. We met folks like Trevor Stuart, Alice Gerrard, Bruce Greene, Brad Leftwich, James Bryan, Laura Boosinger, Riley Baugus, Travis Stuart, Jerry Adams, Rhonda Gouge, Wayne Henderson, Carl Jones and of course Don Pedi was there. These are some of the finest old time banjo and guitar pickers and fiddlers in the business.
One morning we were driving between Ridgecrest and Black Mountain when I spotted Tom Fellenbaum walking his dog by the side of the road. We stopped and visited for a spell. He told us he recently got married. Mike Ratcliff and Ken Ryan have Fellenbaum dulcimers.
Max Woody has been making chairs for 48 years. Margaret, his sister, helps Max in his shop and loves to talk. Making biscuits and ice cream was a hot topic. Last year we visited with Max in his shop in Marion, N.C. and ordered a rocking chair from him. He custom makes the rockers, he measured Margaret Wright so her feet would be flat on the floor. His tools are old and his shop is full of wood and chair parts. This year we picked up our chair and brought it back to Houston.
Alice is the editor of THE OLD-TIME HERALD. There is a lot that I don’t know about her but it is something about her that truly fascinates me. I have heard her play the fiddle and guitar for hours on end. She must know a million old songs. She also sings. She sang with Brad Leftwich in the jams at Fox Hall.
Mrs. Hyatt is now 81 years of age. There has been a jam session in her back yard on Thursday evenings for the past 30 years. It is a great experience. There are on pickers on the front porch and folks roaming around in the house. People are in the driveway and on the side of the house. But the focus is on what was once, the garage. It appears that there was an add-on at some point to accommodate the pickers. The garage door is raised and there sit all of the listeners. Further in the garage sit the pickers. If there is any spare floor space, you may see a couple of dancers.
We moved in and sat down. Margaret started playing her dulcimer and Lloyd started playing the guitar. Then a few of the folks remembered us from last year. One man saw my pickin stick and asked for me to play it. We stepped outside. He was amazed. I told him a little about the dulcimer. He said he loves music and wanted to play something all of his life. I borrowed Lloyd’s dulcimer and in a few minutes he was playing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. He was hooked. I gave him a list of dulcimer builders.
Later on we had a nice visit with Mrs. Hyatt. It was then when she shared the poem with us. It was in a frame up on a shelf. When I read it aloud, several around me were quiet and noticeably moved by the words.
THE BLUE RIBBON
Who’s to say who picks the best or who will win the
For all who play and all who try are winners in my eyes.
They hold a piece of history, right there in their hand
And every time a tune is played, by another bluegrass band.
Another generation hears a song of days gone past
And those who play are richer for the music that will last.
So be proud of all the pickers and all the tunes they play
Cause they’re the ones that carry on the songs of
Just before we left, we stopped and visited with a 19-year-old dobro player and a banjo picker. I asked them to play for me and they were glad to. Most interesting instrument.
Kay Justice was one of the instructors at Mars Hill. Kay is an old timey singer. She does some with the guitar but a lot is a capella. It was just a joy to sit in the room with Kay singing and teaching. I just love these songs. Many are church songs. Now the songs and the styles may not be accepted in our church in Houston, but to me, they are some of the best I’ve ever heard. The style is beautiful and it is more friendly to folks like me who don’t sing in the choir at church. Everyone feels very much welcome in the style Kay does. Then on the last day, we had a very special treat. Alice Gerrard joined Kay. We also learned that Kay knows Charles Whitmer.
And more on singing…. The class before Kay’s was Shape Note Singing taught by Laura Boosinger. Now here in Texas, Charles taught us 4 shapes but out there, they teach 7 shapes. I decided to listen instead of sing. My brain was just too taxed to add the additional three shapes. Now Margaret and Lloyd joined right in. In fact, Margaret became a welcome addition in the tenor section. Laura teaches out of the Christian Harmony book. Lloyd was inspired by the singing and decided to join in and liked it. Don Pedi was in the melody section. It was a great sound.
Friday night at Mars Hill, the students were featured in the evening concert. Actually the shape note singing was my favorite. Don Pedi’s dulcimer class was featured and Hollis, Margaret and myself were asked to join. I had not gotten out my pickin stick much during the week since there were many old time purists there. But I did play it when the dulcimer class was featured. Later that evening, some were curious about the instrument.
After the Friday evening concert, we all took off to Marshall. Marshall is just a few miles from Mars Hill. The road there is very winding and it dead-ends at the French Broad River. The mountain comes right down to the river with only a small amount of flat land. That is where the town of Marshall is located. There is enough room for one main street with buildings on each side. The depot was about to be torn down when the county received grant money, which fixed it up. Every Friday night, folks come from all over. I can not describe the atmosphere with words. Pickers are grouped up in different areas. Then the inside is very active. There is a stage, a lot of seating area and then a dance floor. The dancing is clogging or some form of it. One doesn’t necessarily need a partner. It is very noisy. There is a lot of yelling and hollering. One comforting thing is that there is a sign at the door that says, “If you have been drinking, don’t come inside.” We saw one old couple make their way to the dance floor. The wife was on a walker. They helped her to her spot and her husband positioned herself in front of her and started dancing. Everyone was having fun. Lloyd, Josh and a couple others were outside picking when Jerry Adams walked up and told them to raise their right hand. He gave their group a name and told them they would be on the stage in 5 minutes. Lloyd didn’t know what was about to happen. It was the last event of the evening – the dance off. This session was to determine who would give out first, the dancers or the band. It was awesome.
I had seen Sally Council earlier in the week at Mars Hill. We started talking to her and learned that the State of North Carolina had hired her for one year to document all the music in North Carolina. She finds music at events such as Mars Hill, the Marshall depot and Mrs. Hyatt’s in Asheville.
I tried to figure out why the music is so popular out there. I think maybe folks in our part of the country, just don’t get out much – it must be TV.
After it closed down in Marshall, we went back to Mars Hill and they were still jamming in the Fox Hall at the College. We spent a lot of time listening to Bruce Greene and others. Margaret got out her dulcimer and tried to keep up with the fiddle tunes. She said it was like getting a Masters Degree in ear training. She decided that if you love the music enough, you will find a way to play it.
Saturday was a workday. Don was having a dulcimer retreat the following weekend and needed some help getting his place in order. Don had a mower and we borrowed another one. About ninety percent of the land was up hill. Hollis and Lloyd mowed most of two acres on the side of the mountain. Fortunately, the weather was perfect – COOL. By the end of the day, things were looking good. Then we took down our tent and loaded up the van. That night we played until late in the night. It was such great fun to jam with Don.
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Steve Seifert was a big hit in Texas. He went to Beaumont, San Marcos, Galveston, Pittsburg and of course Crockett and Houston. He and Debbie Porter arrived in Kennard on Sunday. Debbie left him there and drove back to Pittsburg. We arrived from Mars Hill on Monday and found Steve at our log house in Kennard. He spent all week with James Butcher, Christina Ryan, Benjamin Hester and Lloyd Wright. I understand they also did some recording. Steve brought his recording equipment with him.
Steve and Debbie gave a concert at the Wooden Nickel on Friday night then it was up early on Saturday and on to Houston for the last workshops and concert for his Texas Tour.
Now folks, stay with me on this. Before Steve left for Texas he made a tape. The tape wasn’t ready for him to bring on his Texas Tour. When the tape was finally put together, they were boxed up and shipped to Thomas’ Corner in Kennard, Texas. Margaret picked up the box when it arrived. The pre-release of Steve Seifert Mountain Dulcimer Sizzlin’ Summer Texas Tour ’98 was first introduced at the Wooden Nickel in Crockett, Texas.
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All known dulcimers made by members of the Melton family are of the Galax
style. Within the style, body
shapes include single-bout (most common) and box-shape.
Features of most Galax-style dulcimers include: large bodies; four evenly
–spaced strings all tuned to the same note, of which two are fretted and two
play as drones; mechanical tuner, two on each side of the head, that have been
cut from guitar or mandolin tuner plates; and semi-circular tailpieces pierced
with one to three holes. Some have
soundholes drilled in the bottom, and some have double bottoms, presumably to
keep the bottom sounding board from being damped as the instrument sits on the
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The Legend of “The Stranger From the West”
On day in 1885, a stranger on horseback rode through the district where Eli and America Presnell were living in the area of Beech Mountain North Carolina. The Presnells had a four-year-old son named, Nineveh. The stranger needed lodging and the Presnells offered their little mountain home. When the stranger unpacked his horse, he brought a dulcimer into the house. Eli was taken by what he heard and saw. Before the stranger left the Presnell home, Eli asked to examine the instrument and make a tracing of it.
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WINFIELD, KANSAS 1998 by Jerry Wright
Lloyd and I left Houston at 7:00am on Thursday morning and drove to Lufkin. There we picked up Ken Ryan. We were off on what we would later refer to as an adventure. We were excited without knowing what to expect. When friends heard we were going to Kansas, they all thought is was so far away. For someone that had been to North Carolina two times and South Carolina once during the summer, it didn’t seem like a long trip at all. Ken and I had a lot to talk about. The time passed quickly and suddenly by Thursday afternoon, we were drawing close to Winfield, Kansas. So many folks just refer to it as Winfield, actually, it is the Walnut Valley Festival and 1998 was the 27th. It is also known as the National Flat-Pickin’ Championships. There are contest for guitar finger picking, guitar flat picking, mandolin, fiddle, banjo, autoharp, hammer dulcimer and mountain dulcimer. We didn’t talk about it much but in the back of our minds was the mountain dulcimer contest. One of our own was going to be in the contest. This year was not just going to be a bunch of folks from other places who we didn’t know. This year it was going to be Lloyd Wright, a 16 year old from East Texas. I did have a preconception of what to expect since I knew Aileen & Elkin Thomas were going to be there. I also knew that Steve Gillette and Cindy Mangsen would be there. These are my favorite folk singers. There were others that I had heard and would enjoy hearing again. Lloyd shared that excitement with me but Ken had only heard folks talk about Aileen & Elkin and had never even heard of Steve Gillette and Cindy Mangsen.
We were driving the blue Astro van. Lloyd and I were to sleep in the van, (I had removed all of the seats) and we brought a small tent for Ken. We had heard stories of Winfield and were prepared to “rough it.” Joyce Doyle of Houston and put us in touch with her brother in Wichita but we weren’t sure if we wanted to leave the festival at night. Also knowing us, we had stayed up late at other festivals. At Winfield – we would learn what “late” really meant.
As we approached the City of Winfield, we started noticing Walnut Valley Festival signs. They didn’t give directions but we just kept following them. We followed them right through town. Then we were following them out the other side of town. I decided to turn and look at the backside of the signs – it said the same thing so I knew we had to stop and ask someone.
We got our directions and learned that the festival was real close to downtown. We made a turn and went over some railroad tracks and suddenly before us lay a sea of cars, campers, tents, and people. We could see that there were many permanent building on what appeared to be a series of baseball fields, football fields and rodeo arena. There was a stream of cars entering the main gate – we got in line.
After finding a place to park the van next to the horse barn, we struck out to find the place of the mountain dulcimer competition since we knew in would be at 9:00am the following morning and had to be there even earlier to register. We were walking through a sea of people when we spotted Polly Williams. She told us where to find Billie Joy and Jim Upshaw. After a greeting, I called Margaret and let her know that we had arrived – it was a little after 7:00pm.
There is no way for me to tell you what all happened next. As Ken said, it was truly an adventure. There were four official and two unofficial stages. Stage One has bleachers for the arena. It was a huge covered stadium. The other stages are BYOC (bring your own chair). Stage Three was my favorite.
It wasn’t long before we found Dana Hamilton at the McSpadden booth. When Dana learned that we hadn’t been to Winfield before, he offered to give us a tour. It turned out to be a great way to break us in.
I guess I got to sleep at about 1:00am Friday morning. Lloyd and I were in the van. Ken just laid on the ground next to the van. What seemed to be in the middle of the night – actually it was and I had only been asleep for about an hour, a big motor home parked next to us. They never turned the engine off. Then when they finally decided where to park, they got over there and it seemed they were practicing parallel parking for their driver’s license test. Well, I woke and decided that I needed to find the little boys room. I walked in the horse barn and thought that they “go” in there all the time. Then I remembered seeing some porta-potties out by the showers. I’ll tell you about the showers later. Well it was dark and it seemed quiet where I was and I felt all alone. It was a lovely night. I could hear the unofficial Stage Five off over in the Pecan Grove. I got in the porta-potty and suddenly a great bluegrass jam started up. They were just on the other side of the porta-potty. It was kinda nice – I thought of maybe just staying in there the rest of the night.
Friday morning, bright and early after only a couple hours of sleep, Lloyd and I got up so we would be sure a meet the deadline for signing up for the dulcimer contest. There were twelve contestants. The young man from Texas who won at Glen Rose in 1997 was also there. Most of you know by now that Lloyd did not place. There were two two-time National Champions in the contest. The winner was Larry Conger. We have one of his CDs. It was the 8th attempt for the 2nd place winner. Mark Tindle came in 3rd. Just a note concerning Lloyd. He is a great player and a great kid. His smile on the stage showed his confidence. Later while walking back to the van I asked him three questions. 1) How are you? Answer: Fine. 2) How do you feel about your playing? Answer: I’ve never played better. 3) Would you do it again? Answer: Yes.
On Friday evening I was able to get a spot right up next to the stage and there I camped out. Back-to-back I saw Cathy Barton & Dave Para, Andy May, Steve Gillette & Cindy Mangsen, Steve Kaufman and Aileen & Elkin Thomas. What an evening. My most favorite musicians on earth. I knew of Steve Kaufman and already have a CD by him and Wayne Henderson. If you remember, I wrote about meeting Wayne Henderson at Mars Hill, NC this summer. Steve is a three time National Flat-Pickin’ Contest Winner. Need I say more? If you don’t know A&E, I will tell you more about them later.
Well, little did I know but the night had just begun. We then went to Stage One and got a good seat to see No Strings Attached and a group that Lloyd wanted to see called Cherish the Ladies. I knew No Strings Attached since I had seen them at SamFest in 1997. They are wild and kooky but very entertaining. But wait, here comes the sleeper. Who are the all female group called Cherish the Ladies? I just really wasn’t prepared for what I was about to witness. I have to be honest, I just wasn’t impressed with what my mind had conjured up about this all-girl group on stage. It only took about 30 seconds for me to have a complete change of mind. I now have two of their CDs and my Winfield cap is signed by Joanie Madden, one of the Ladies. They play and sing Irish songs. If you like that type of music, their CDs are a must. I’m not going any further than this with it – words just won’t do it justice… well, maybe one more thing, they had a young man and woman with them that do the Irish dancing. Ken, Lloyd and I just about went crazy.
I think I laid down in the van at about 3:00am Saturday morning. Ken found his spot on the ground. I think Lloyd came in around 4:00am.
Saturday morning we were up and it started all over again. The contest were awesome. You may never hear talent like that anywhere on this earth. The finger picking contest went on for five and a half hours. We heard Cindy and Steve, A&E and the Ladies again. I’m not even going to try to tell you how much fun it was. You will just have to experience it some day.
After the concerts on Saturday, Lloyd ended up with Steve Mayfield and Ken and I ended up somewhere in the Pecan Grove. Let me see if I can describe some of this to you. The lay out of the place is very much like any major city. You have what you would call downtown. Then there are communities that have their own personalities. There is an area that is full of motor homes and trailers. A lot of these folks don’t stay up late. Then there are areas where anybody and everybody has pitched tents, parked RVs and sleeping in cars. But down in the Pecan Grove is where the rowdies have dug in. Tents, cars, vans and campers are jammed into the area and are a matter of a distance measured in inches apart. We got in there and Ken said, “You know, I am a professional surveyor and right now I can’t tell you where I am.” We ended up in an area where they were serving food. It was 2:30am and there was a long line of folks waiting to be served. Bands of people would walk through, get in line, eat and wander on to another jam session. Jam sessions were everywhere. The one we were at and in fact – the food was made by Beppe Gambetta. Beppe is from Genoa, Italy and has been nominated for the International Bluegrass Music Association Guitar Player of the Year Award.
We sure wanted to stay but Sunday morning we go up and headed back to Texas. What an experience – what an adventure! Margaret has already been hooked on Cherish the Ladies by listening to the two CDs I purchased. You know, Lloyd and I both commented that we can still feel our wrist band.
And the rains came. Well the syrup making in Kountze and Christmas in Crockett were on the same Saturday. Those are the things that we dread - when two good events are on the same day. We finally decided to try to make both. We decided to go to the syrup making in the morning and Christmas in Crockett in the afternoon. There was one other issue - rain! It had been raining hard for several day.
There was a light sprinkle when we got up Saturday morning. We decided to head for Kountze. It rained on us all the way. By the time we got to Kountze the rain slowed back down to a sprinkle. The folks at the syrup making had already cut and squeezed the cane. They were already in the process of cooking. They put up tarps over the cookers. Eunice and Ray were there. David Ellison from Beaumont was also there. Not only is he a good mountain dulcimer player, he is very good on back up guitar - exactly what dulcimer players need. The crowds were light because of the rain but the one who were there were committed. They were there to participate or watch syrup being made. I am thinking that only a few who read this will truly understand the importance of this event or the importance of making the syrup. Have you ever watch Walter Cunningham pour syrup all over his dinner in To Kill a Mockingbird? Walter went to school with Scout and Jem. Remember how Scout commented on the act and how Copernicus admonished her. Atticus Finch and Copernicus understood the importance of syrup in the Cunningham family. Ribbon cane syrup was a major source of vitamins and minerals to my family along with other folks living in East Texas in the late 1800's and early 1900's. And yes, it is Jem. That is the way Haper Lee spelled it in the book.
We did some playing and singing. Many Christians are in that part of the country so there was a lot of participation when we started singing the hymns. The sight of everyone standing for the blessing for the noon meal and the men removing their hats were enough but the gentleman's prayer was a literary piece of art. The prayer established the importance of the event and the people present. Thanks was given to God and blessings were pleaded for.
The syrup was finished. We got our six jars. The rain started again and it was time to leave. Tractors were standing by to assist in the journey to pavement.
If you get a chance you should attend this event. It is a home spun folk event - it is Americana!
Floyd Boyett and his friends keep the window open to our past.
Jam sessions can be very frightening or one of the most funest things you will ever want to do. I know that funest is probably not a word but I think you know what I mean.
For the beginner the jam could be very intimidating. Well it shouldn’t. Just position yourself so you can hear yourself but not disturb the jammers. The jam can also be frustrating for the beginner. Some beginners will learn to play a tune at home and then can’t play it in a jam. The reason is the beginner is listening to the jammers plus their own instrument. That is more data going into the brain than the single dulcimer at home. Also the beginner may have learned the tune a little slower than the jammers. Another thing, the person playing at home has the freedom to stop and start or even slow down during harder areas of the tune. Then they get in the jam and the jammers don’t slow down.
Then there is a matter of seating. There is the knee to knee jam and then there is the large circle.
First let’s talk about the circle jam. When we joined the North Harris Dulcimer Society we were introduced to the circle jam. All of the jammers sat in a circle no matter how few or many. We went around the circle and everyone called a tune. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this method unless there just gets to be too many players and as long as all of the players are on the same page. When I first got my pickin’ stick from Larry Barringer, I would sit about four or five feet behind someone in the circle. When I learned enough, I moved into the circle.
The circle is friendly. You always hear – come on in a join us. Then the next thing you would hear is all of the chairs backing up to make the circle larger.
The ability to hear is the main drawback of the circle. When you get folks who are not used to playing with each other or there are too many beginners in the circle – the timing becomes an issue. In a large circle there could be as many as three sections in the circle playing the tune in a different place.
I have grown to enjoy hearing the other instruments. I like hearing the dulcimers playing the harmonies and rhythm. This is the very thing that confuses the beginner but to me it is the best part of the jam. I also enjoy hearing the guitar and bass when available. I really can’t hear all of those sounds in the large jam circle.
Now I will address the issues of the knee to knee jam. The knee to knee jam is great for the folks inside the first couple of layers but the folks far outside the center feel a little detached from the jam. I will not join a jam where I have to sit too far from the center. All of the things that are good about the knee to knee jam are lost. In the knee to knee jam all of the instruments in the center can be heard. That is where it is the best. It is like being in the hollow square of the Shape Note Singing session. The knee to knee jams may look very uninviting for the late arrivals. Actually the knee to knee jam is a good jam for the beginners to join. They just need to sit on the far edges of the jam and learn the sounds of the tunes and try to hit the notes that they can.
Both types of jams are acceptable. Both have positive and negative issues. Neither is better than the other. It should depend on the situation and the players.
I see no problem with starting multiple jam sessions. That way folks can do what they want to do and folks have the freedom to join the jam of choice. I started playing in 1994 – my likes and dislikes have changed during that time. I personally no longer enjoy a large jam session. During the large jams, I had rather just sit somewhere away from the jam and listen to the music and possibly visit with a friend.
Now one thing that does sorta irritate me is the person who grumbles about the jams – whether circle or knee to knee – and does nothing about it. Don’t always depend on someone else to create a good time for you. Take the lead and start something. You don’t have to be a leader or have a dynamic personality – just get with a friend and say, "Let’s jam." Then see what happens.
But in both styles of jams, beware of the loud instruments – especially loud instruments that are playing incorrectly. Most of the time dulcimers are so quiet that a person playing wrong notes are never heard. But the bass, guitar, banjo, bodhran, pickin stick, bones, spoons, cymbals, saxophone and tuba can be very annoying in a mountain dulcimer jam session. Even the hammer dulcimer can be a great source of irritation.
There is such a thing as jam etiquette. You can even find some of these rules written down from time to time. Most of the time it is just a thing that is understood – use common sense. Here is a good one – never more than one bass in a jam session.
One more issue here. Make the music played in the jam musical. The jam doesn’t consist of 8 solo players – it is 8 folks playing one tune and making it musical. There is a blend. All of the jammers should not be playing the tune in exactly the same way. This is the very flaw of folks playing from tablature. Every tune is not played as fast as you can. Each instrument should blend in and out of the overall sound of the tune. Some folks play the melody and some play the harmony. Some hit all of the notes and others chord or emphasize certain notes or sections of the tune. It is the coming together of different interpretations and ideas to make one musical tune. Eight solos on one tune is just that and sounds like that. Also there is a matter of feeling to a tune. Play it with feeling. Then if there is a singer, the instruments should follow the singer. In a good jam the players should be playing off of each other and blending back together as one.
Listening is more than half of the player’s responsibility. Pay attention to the group and listen to be sure you are in tempo – not rushing ahead of the leader.
There are two instruments that have a mighty impact on a mountain dulcimer jam session; the bass and the guitar. The function of these to instrument are 2 fold. 1) Keep the steady beat. 2) Define the chord progression. Both are a full time job and can make or break the jam. Both of these instruments should plan to do their homework. Practice at home with CDs or small groups who are willing to be guinea pigs. A serious jam is not the place for a novice bass player or a loud guitar player.
Level of playing
There are two camps involving jams and the level of playing. Some folks believe the slow jam is the answer to the issue of getting new players up to speed. There may be some built- in flaws to this method however.
Now in regard to the jam sessions – not every song is played at break-neck speed. You can read more about this in the Jam section.
If you do use the slow jam method – folks shouldn’t stay in there too long. At some point they need to hear how the tune actually goes. If folks stay in the slow jam and the regular jammers move on, the slow jammers will set the standard for that area. So don’t fall in the trap of folks who play in the slow jam becoming teachers and leaders. If the slow jam become the norm, the standard will be lowered.
Slow jammers must to gradually move into the regular jam.
For obvious reasons the really good jammers need to have the opportunity to jam without being interrupted by new or intermediate players. There is time for instruction and a time for a really good jam.
Sometimes there probably needs to be a time for just dulcimers to jam together. Mountain dulcimers are quiet and can be over-powered by other instruments. It is also a fact that for many folks, it is hard to pick out the melody line in a banjo, fiddle or even a hammer dulcimer. The frailing of the banjo adds a lot of sound that will distract the not so seasoned mountain dulcimer player. Then there is a matter of chords on basses and guitars. See Chords for more information on this subject.
We lost Buford
I don't even remember how Buford came to us, I guess it was around 1994 or 1995. It wasn't long until the young Black Mouth Cur mix was part of our family. He had a great disposition, enjoyed lazily laying in the corner of the room or in a nice part of the yard. He didn't get into too much trouble. He was hardly ever a second offender.
I think Lloyd first started calling him something and a member of the NHCDS said he looked more like Buford with the long legs, drooping ears and round brown eyes.
Buford enjoyed being with us but didn't demand our constant attention. He minded me very well and I could handle him with voice commands, hand signals and even just a look. Now he was a little hard headed so it was my job to make him think that it was his idea.
If you have never seen Buford, he is on the CD cover of Northfield with Lloyd.
The small brown contrasting spots over his eyes were cleverly used. He also had a way of holding his ears. Buford could talk to you with those eyes and ears.
Right after Christmas of 2007 I could tell Buford was showing his age. Then he developed a cough. I started noticing that he was loosing weight. He kept me up all night of January 1, 2008. I though he was dying. On January 2nd I took him to the Vet. I had to pick him up and carry him since he couldn't walk. We went to the Vet and in the back of my mind I realized that the Vet may tell me that this would be a good time to put him down. Needless to say I was very uncomfortable about the the whole thing.
The Vet x-rayed Buford and found that he had a heart murmur. You see Buford was treated for heart worms when he was young and I was told then that problems would come from that as he got older. The Vet said that it wasn't a mild murmur yet it wasn't a real bad one either. Standing there listening to that I suddenly realized that a doctor at M.D. Anderson told me that I had a murmur.
The Vet said that Buford had an enlarged heart and that the size had pressed the airway to the lungs up against his spine. So he wasn't breathing good and wasn't getting blood through his system like he should. That is why he was getting weaker and weaker.
I asked the Vet if we needed to put him down and the Vet said, "No." He told me that there was a new drug that would dilate the blood vessels and make the heart work better. He also told me that there was nothing to do to fix the murmur. He gave Buford a month to a year to live.
I brought Buford home and gave him his first dose of medication. Within a hour Buford settled down on his rug by the wood heater and rested for the first time in a week. He looked like his normal self. That evening was good and he rested well all through the night. On Thursday the 3rd, I had to go to M.D. Anderson for my monthly shot. Margaret and Hollis were going to school so we had to leave Buford outside. He walked out of the house on his own.
When I returned home I found Buford in a protected area on top of an old seat cushion - a place he enjoyed. I immediately allowed him to come in the house since it had been a cold day and was going to be a cold night. April and the kids came over and we all enjoyed supper together. Buford was on his rug. He was very peaceful and relaxed. Then late that evening he asked to go out. He got up and walked out on his own. I was amazed at the results of that medication only after two pills.
Well Buford walked out and Margaret saw him standing in the yard. It was dark and cold. He was looking around as if making a decision. We never saw him again. He did it his way.
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I have a little something to say about open mic. I am not necessarily talking about a particular place. These issues just raise their ugly head from time to time. Many of the festivals have open mic, the Christmas Party for the NHCDS had open mic and there are open mic sessions at places like The Mucky Duck and Camp Street Cafe.
* Be tasteful. Your presentation does not have to be perfect. On the contrary, we enjoy the armature musicians. If we wanted perfection we would go to the Civic Centers in nearby cities. Just do the best you can and think of the audience. The open mic is a two sided event. It is for the performer and for the audience.
* Included in tasteful, you may want to think about doing Christmas music especially at a Christmas event.
* If you are a performer be a good one but when you are in the audience be a part of a good audience. I have seen performers who are totally interested in themselves and no other performer. That doesn't go far with me.
* Don't apologize for your efforts. Be prepared. For example you don't need to take your cases with you up to the stage when it is your turn.
* If you are asked to do only a certain amount of songs, try to understand what that means. The audience really isn't interested in what route you took to get to where you are. Now let's stop right here. I know that I am bad about talking too much and I really try to be aware of it. One thing that I have noticed is that the clock doesn't stop when I get onto a stage.
* A lot of folks who run open mics are now telling the performer how many minutes. If you have seven minutes and you want to talk about everything in the book for six minutes - you have one minute for your song. Surely you understand that 6 plus 1 equals 7!
* A couple of months ago Lloyd was running the open mic at the Camp Street Cafe. A Bluegrass group showed up. When Lloyd told them how long they could play, they said that each member would sign up. WRONG!
So anyhow - get my drift here? Open mic is a good thing for everyone, don't go and mess it up. The audience shouldn't be hostages.
a review posted on a concertina website March 2008
CONCERTINAS AT THE PALESTINE OLD TIME MUSIC AND DULCIMER FESTIVAL
Our Palestine concertina workshop,
within the larger Palestine Old Time Music and Dulcimer Festival, concluded last
night; by all accounts, it was another successful weekend in this wonderful east
Texas town. We had sixteen concertina players within an overall festival of
perhaps three or four hundred folks; our concertinists played Anglo, English, as
well as Hayden, Crane and Jeffries duets. Jody Kruskal and Mark Gilston both led
workshops; Jody concentrated on old-time style for both anglo and all systems,
and Mark focused on song accompaniment, primarily on the English system.
As last year, Jody keyed in on the innate ability of the bellows to provide the appropriate rhythmic background for old time music; ding DINGa ding DINGa is the bellows-driven motor running in the background as buttons are pushed and music is made. We were joined by several beginner walk-ins this year (not all made it into the attached photos), and Jody had a high degree of success getting the newbies each to play both melody and chords to the Tombigbee waltz---in one session. Jody led four separate workshops, and both he and Mark played in our concertina band as well.
Harold Herrington was on hand, as usual, giving repair help, but also showing off his very nice, brand new and attractively priced square Anglo. He already has orders for several, and picked up one or two more during the festival.
There were five concerts during the two and a half days, with a number of old time and old-style musicians from all over the south...very classy but unassuming people. Mostly banjos (almost all clawhammer style...this is not a bluegrass event), fiddles, dulcimers, mandolins, guitars in various types of string band groupings. A most amazing thing was to see a guy from Brooklyn (Jody of course) bringing the house down with his old-time concertina music, in this most conservative of old time music settings. A standing ovation rewarded both his superb musicianship and his ability to connect with the crowd. At the Saturday concert, during a time slot just before a break, the concertina throng formed a sizeable band and played a very nice old time waltz. With the vamping of a bass English along with that of Jody and our duets and Anglos, and a crisp melody line from the English system and some of the Anglo folks, it sounded like a cross between a calliope and an old Sally Army band. Very well received.
Great music sessions in the back rooms and out in the yards. Shape note singing sessions. A bunch of old Baptists in the front hallway belting out old gospel hymns to an ancient and none-too-tuned upright piano. An old-fashioned square dance in the old auditorium.
I should mention the organizers of this event...the Wright family, who live in the nearby, even smaller east Texas town of Kennard. The music they look for is of an old, pre-commercial style (not necessarily narrowly "old-time"), played by musically gifted people who are without exception unassuming and just nice folks. Showboats and overly commercial types are not in the target. That---together with the fact that the event takes place in a charming turn-of-the-century former schoolhouse in an equally charming little town just brimming with azaleas, dogwoods and wisteria in full bloom---makes the festival really special. The Wrights operate the festival in a decidedly not-for-profit manner, personally assuming any losses, and applying any overages to the next year. Their many friends help out, making quilts and fine musical instruments to be raffled off to pay for the expenses of performers. This year's event ended on the wedding eve of one of their sons, who along with his wife-to-be and several talented musical friends performed some old timey dance tunes and sang a few hymns; the entire festival throng had been invited to attend the wedding the next day, in the lush spring landscape of the red sandy hills at their home place.
I've been to many music festivals, and none have matched the charm of this one. We concertina folks have been made most welcome for four years now, and we will definitely be back. One other thing---a small victory, perhaps---the Wright patriarch, Jerry Wright expressed a yen to try out the concertina, to see if he could 'get any music out of it'. I'll be heading out in coming weeks to his place, to loan him an Anglo and pass on a few tips. Concertinas making a return to heartland American culture? Perhaps, one tiny step at a time.
by Dan Worrall
The first meeting of the Hazel’s Balmy and Life Breathing Hot Mic Musicians chapter of T.A.G.S.R.W.C. officially met on the 4th of July, 2008 at the Kennard Auto Service - an old service station that has been remodeled by the Wright Family as a space for music lessons and performances. Margaret Wright called the meeting to order and we started a game of Andy Griffith Show Trivia played with great enthusiasm. Margaret made a motion invoking special rules to discard all questions concerning color episodes. Since Margaret and her family had graciously sponsored the event, we honored her wish. As play proceeded, members enjoyed a refreshing repast of Leonard Blush’s Fruit Slush made by Margaret Wright, and Malcolm Merriweather’s Heckmondwike Fruity and Nutty Scones made by Gary Hamilton.
There followed a viewing of one our favorite episodes, "The Haunted House" and members then turned their attention to a very spirited game of Mayberry-opoly. Game play was suspended when Mrs. Wright arrived with the main course for dinner, Brisco Declares for Aunt Bee Brisket. Also on the menu were Eleanora Poltice’s A+ Fruit Salad, potato salad, baked beans, pasta salad, and coleslaw. All the dishes were declared “extra good” and were eaten with much gusto. The dessert, Count Istavan Teleky’s Miracle, Magical Million-Dollar Pound Cake was prepared by chapter president Lawson Hamilton.
Following the hearty consumption of supper, more guests arrived to play instruments in a rustic old-time jam. Near the middle of the jam, Mrs. Wright called a halt to the music, so that members of our club could perform special musical and vocal numbers for the enjoyment of the guests. Lawson Hamilton performed a number from the light classics, "Ciribiribin" on piano. Margaret and Jerry Wright performed as Aunt Bea and Brisco Darling from "Brisco Declares For Aunt Bee" in which Aunt Bee recites the poem "A Fading Flower of Forgotten Love" by Agnes Ellicott Strong. Hollis and Margaret Wright reenacted the scene from "Opie’s Ill-gotten Gain" from season four in which Barney attempts to recite the Preamble to the Constitution. Mr. and Mrs. Wright then sang "Down in the Valley" in imitation of Peggy and Andy. The performance ended with Lawson Hamilton playing "Flow Gently Sweet Afton."
The performances completed, jamming recommenced with a selection of tunes that would not be strangers to the front porch of the Taylor home. As the shades of evening fell, guests repaired to the driveway for a spectacular fireworks extravaganza directed by Jerry and Hollis Wright.
As the first official meeting of Hazel’s Balmy and Life Breathing Hot Mic Musicians concluded, members were filled with a spirit of patriotism, good cheer and bonhomie - confident that both Andy and the country were honored by our proceedings, knowing that as long as people still watch Andy and take the lessons of TAGS to heart, there is hope for our glorious nation.
By: Lawson Hamilton, President
July 15, 2008
Check out http://www.mysteryridge.com/
Speaking of Steve Hartz, he has another book out. It is called Settlers of the Western Woods. Wondrous Tales and Oldtime Musical Excursions from the World of Early Texas. His first book is By the Muddy Angelina.
Both books have CDs with them.
In Settlers of the Western Woods, story number 6 is titled I'm on My Journey Home. The accompanying CD has a traditional Sacred Harp song sung by myself, Margaret, Gary Hamilton, Catherine Hamilton, Sheryl Hartz and "Ab" Abernethy.
It was a real pleasure to do a project with Mr. Abernethy.
The Handbook of Texas Online
Always the adventurer, Abernethy has worn many hats during his illustrious career. From spelunking in Mexico, pirating salmon from commercial Alaskan fishing boats, playing in a musical string ensemble, writing songs and poetry and to serving as a leader of the Texas Folklore Society.
Photos of Ike Flooding at Winfield
Craig Harrell takes first place at Winfield.
Actually we did real good considering the damage many received.
We prepared for Ike. I have a generator and we had plenty of gas. I got the gas a week in advance.
We have some galvanized tubs and we drew up plenty of water. We also had drinking water in 6 ½ gal plastic containers.
I have a deep cycle battery (the type that goes on RVs). So I had electric lights in the house without running the generator.
There was one thing that we weren’t prepared for. Our stove runs off of Propane gas. The Kennard School called the local churches and gave away thousands of dollars of food that they had in their freezers. The School called local churches to help distribute the food. Lloyd and April called me and asked if I could help. The complete back of Lloyd’s pickup truck was full of food. There were frozen hamburger patties, French fries, hams, pork, fish, frozen apples, cartons of milk and juice and the list went on and on.
We distributed what we could but many people had no way to cook the frozen food. That meant that so much of it would thaw out and go to waste. So Margaret decided to cook the food and pass it out over the next several days already cooked. Well guess what. It is a gas stove but it has an electric pilot. That meant that I had to run a gas generator to keep a gas stove going. Folks, I am afraid that we sometimes paint ourselves into a corner for the sake of convenience.
Actually there was one more thing that happened. Do you know what make a frost free freezer? HEAT! We would only run the refrigerator/freezer a little at a time to keep it cool. Well guess what? We plugged it in and it was time for the heater to start up so it ended up making cool food warm.
I think we need to go back to matches and ice picks.
We were on the porch watching everything when we heard on the radio that the eye of Ike was over Kennard, Texas.
For ourselves, we had only a little damage. Those oak limbs go right through tin on a barn. We own a building in downtown Kennard and I had to use a chain saw to drive the 1.4 miles to our building. It weathered fine. That is Kennard Auto and that is where we have many music events.
I have lived in East Texas or Southeast Texas all my life and Ike was just another one of those hurricanes – it happens every year. A HS classmate of mine was looking on the Internet and found her house was gone – just a slab.
The Kennard School cancelled school for the week so since we were camping anyway, we just packed up and headed for Winfield. http://www.wvfest.com/ We saw our friend, Craig Harrell get first in Autoharp and Josh Bailey get 2nd in mandolin.
During one of the contest two couples were sitting behind me. They started asking questions. I ended up explaining to them that some of the contestants only know four songs. They play two and if they get called back they play two more. On more than one occasion the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place winner would be called back to play one for the audience and couldn’t. Sure enough it happened again this year. One contestant said that he liked one of the songs he played in the contest and just played it again.
The fairgrounds at Winfield were closed due to flooding. So all of us stayed either at the City Lake, at Oxford or around the auction barn. Some even stayed in the WalMart Parking lot.
It was estimated that there were about 12,000 campers at the City Lake. We arrived on Tuesday night and pitched our tents on one of the peninsulas around the lake. It was really pretty nice until Friday and Saturday nights. You could go anywhere without stepping on a tent or a drunk. One drunk camped by us and we watched him for about an hour trying to put his tent up. He finally got it up or either someone else help him but we didn’t see it.
Hollis, Samantha and some of the others saw one guy passed out on the roof of the restrooms.
We met some very nice people. One guy came by and was just beside himself he was enjoying the music so. He was an Irishman living in Scotland. We not have an invite to go to Scotland and stay with him.
Carp Camp was over at Oxford and we went there on Friday and Saturday nights. It is more like the Walnut Grove in the fairgrounds. We had a mix of Pecan Grove at the lake with us. Carp Camp Parade 2007 David Munelly visits Carp Camp
I have already mentioned that Josh Bailey came in second for the mandolin contest. Then Dana Hamilton entered Josh in the guitar flat picking contest without Josh knowing about it. He did end up in the competition. In fact Margaret paid $5 to match Dana’s $5 for the price of the admission.
So to get back, the Bailey kids signed up Dana for the hammer dulcimer contest. Dana went along with it. Listen to me – you are not going to win if you try to mess with Dana Hamilton. Anyway, Dana borrowed a hammer dulcimer. He went back and drew a number. He was back with the other contestants practicing. Josh and Stephen Bailey went and got Samantha, Hollis, Lloyd and April. They all came in to watch Dana compete.
I knew that that had all just bit on a well baited hook. The contestants came up one by one and when the last contestant was called Dana was among them. The first round of the contest ended and Dana was not there. It was time for the judges to tabulate the scores. Then Dennis (the MC) walked out on to the stage and announced that was contestant was late but disqualified. It was Dana. He played and brought the house down. Nothing like that has ever happened before.
Great videos, photos and information about Winfield.
My family and I attended the 2008 NHCDS Fall Camp Out at Stephen F. Austin State Park. It was a great weekend weather wise. All weekend it was warm days, cool nights and not a cloud in the sky. Our place in the park was way in the back and away from all of the other campers and day use folks. We had a very nice screened and well lighted shelter that even had a full kitchen. The tent campers could make their camp anywhere around the shelter. There was plenty of grass covered ground for this. I chose a nice grassy area on the other side of a wet weather ditch. We needed a lot of room since we set up canopies, jammin’ area, a kitchen and enough tents for Margaret and I, Hollis, Lloyd and April and Faith and Caleb. Glenn Morrell joined our little area with his tent.
I arrived at the State Park early in the day and set up part of the Wright Compound. The remained of the family had to work and didn’t arrive until a little before ten o’clock. I left the jam in the shelter to go help them with their tents. When we completed our job of getting everything set up we headed for the shelter to join the jam and just to learn that everyone was leaving. There we stood – half way between our camp and the shelter hold all of our instruments. Then we made a decision just to go back to our camp and play some tunes. We came to the camp out to visit and play tunes. There was no one to visit because they all went to bed so we just started our own jam. Glenn and Mark heard us making plans so they decided to join us. There was no electricity on the site but I had plenty of lanterns and rope light which ran off of a RV battery.
During the jam we never played Soldier’s Joy or any of those on a normal play list. Lloyd mainly played banjo and guitar and April played guitar. Hollis played the mandolin and Margaret the mountain dulcimer so we didn’t have a bass but the bottom end was covered by the guitars. We quit around two A.M.
Earlier in the day when I was setting up, it seemed every time a park employee drove by they were telling me what I could and could not do. The first one told me that I could not park my pickup on the grass and it had to be in a designated parking area and not even on the side of the road. Well I did that and wasn’t too much inconvenience. The second one told me where to set my fires. You see, I was doing Dutch oven cooking and needed a fire. I even carry my own metal fire box which sets up on legs. There was an official fire site next to the shelter. Then there was a bare spot between our camp and the shelter and we compromised on that spot for my firebox. Then there was the third one. When he found out that we play music he reminded me of the 10:00 PM quite time for the park. I politely challenged the policy. I pointed out to him where we were. There was a great distance between the shelter that the NHCDS rented and the rest of the campground. There was even a patch of woods between us. There would be no way the remainder of the campground could hear us. Then he asked about amplifiers. That is when he got a five minute sermon on amplified music. He gave in and ended the conversation by saying, Let’s just keep this between us.”
Now something that I just mentioned brings up a negative point concerning the camp out site. I have already discussed this with members and even though it may be negative, it is not a complaint. The perfect place within a short driving distance may not exist. But anyway here is the problem. The shelter and the tent campers were separated from the RVers by that patch of woods that I mentioned. Our friend, Harry Medley, had his RV all fixed up and decorated and no one even got to see it. I remember having the Fall Camp Out at Livingston where everyone was camped together. But there we were faced with the ten o’clock thing so there are problems with finding the very best place.
Sara and Mike fixed breakfast for all of us on Saturday morning. I have something to say about the Windmeyers later on. We were on our own for Saturday lunch.
There were some workshops during the day and groups of folks visiting and playing tunes. Some were carving pumpkins and I even had a short nap. Life is good. Oh, another thing – I had mentioned to Dan Worrell at Old Pal that I would like to know more about the concertina. Well he showed up with a loaner for me and a lesson. I am reminded of 1994 when I first picked up Larry Barringer’s pickin’ stick. Dan brought me a book and gave me some great instructions but I don’t know if he was prepared for and didn’t know how to handle my approach to music. I was turning his G sharps and all that music talk into numbers. I only want to know it is a 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 61/2 or 7.
Then Saturday evening all the stops were pulled out. By the way, that is a music term. There was a plethora of good food and I haven’t even gotten to the deserts. Well, rather going into it in detail, I just say that we ate well Saturday night.
The Saturday night concert was wonderful. There were several individuals and couples performing. It reminded me of days past when some many of my friends would “do something” during these campout or Christmas concerts. I remember songs and tunes by Joe and Riva, Larry and Sylvia, Carl Scott, Polly and Calvin. Theresa Moore always has something interesting for us. I remember Lane Goldsmith with his homemade guitar that folded so it could be taken on trips. Rhonda would usually have something. Barbara Moore brought down the house this year.
Now I am going to address the “performance” by Mike and Sara. I was a little slow on getting what they were doing then it hit me when Mike started talking. Mike was wearing suspenders with a wig on his head. Well, it was just a partial wig. You see, he was mostly bald. Sara was wearing a Palestine T-shirt. Suddenly they appeared to be some form of an image of myself and Margaret. And staying true to form, Sara sounded very nice like Margaret and Mike sounded a little too much like me.
After the concert we had a fine jam session outside around the fire and were captivated by the Barred owl that stayed with us the whole time.
And talk about wildlife, there was a very large coon population in the campground. They would start gathering just before dusk. They would watch us to see what we were doing, mainly to see if we were cooking or eating anything. As soon as you walked away they would move in. I had heard what they were doing but for my first encounter I was standing in our open camp trailer. There is a ramp on the back. As I was walking down the ramp two very large coons were walking up it.
On Friday night they were waking me up constantly. It sounded like they were checking all of the boxes and equipment. It sounded as if they would get a camp box and shake it. Then it got real noisy when two of them started fighting. They could not get into our food because everything was put away but they did manage to tear up the camp site.
Coons that become accustom to food like that will leave their natural habitat, they will be brazen and will do what ever it takes to get their way. They become fat and lazy. They scheme and become devious; they take what is not theirs without any remorse and even demand what they want. Then when things don’t go their way they even fight amongst themselves.
Now we knew that we would have to get up early Sunday morning and fix breakfast. We also new that the time change (fall back) was at 2:00am Sunday morning. Margaret set the alarm on her cell phone for 6:30am. We were still up at 2:00am and Margaret looked at her cell phone and at 2:01am it became 1:01am. Shortly there after we went to sleep.
Well I heard the alarm on Margaret’s cell phone go off and drug myself out of bed a crawled out of the tent. It was still dark. We took our electric grills over to the shelter and the very thing that I feared me came true. We plugged in the grills and turned them on. We heard all sorts of noises in the breaker box. All of the plugs were on the same breaker. So we had to reconsider who we were going to fix breakfast. The menu had pancakes, bacon and eggs.
Well we go set up and noticed how early it still was. Folks were starting to move around so we went ahead and started feeding. All along from time to time someone would mention how fast we were able to get things ready in such a short amount of time.
It was finally Hollis who explained to him mom on Sunday afternoon after we arrived at home what really happened. You see, Margaret set the alarm for 6:30am. When the time changed and the cell phone clock changed, it also changed the alarm setting. The phone alarm automatically set itself back a hour to 5:30am. So we went to bad a little after 2:00am which became 1:00am and got up at 6:30am which had become 5:30am. Anyway what ever it did, we only got three and a half hours of sleep.
Thanks to everyone involved for making it a fun weekend.
On December 23, 2008 we drove to Whitaker’s Christmas Tree Farm and no one was there so we didn’t get a tree. Since we didn’t have a Christmas tree I decided to improvise. I had recently cut down a medium size pine tree. I sawed off a piece of the trunk that was about 12 inches in diameter and 8 inches thick. I then cut the green top into pieces that met my specs. I drilled holes in the top of the trunk that I had cut and carefully arranged the branches in such a way to make a wonderful looking batch of green pine needles. I used a little wire in some places. I then called Margaret – she loved it. The lights and decorations made it a thing of beauty.
The mail from the 22nd was still on the counter top so we started opening bills, ads and Christmas cards. We received one of the most interesting Christmas cards. Our name and address was properly placed on the envelope. The return address was in the correct place with the name of our friends and their address so we knew who the card came from. The envelope had three stamps on it and equaled the correct amount for a letter. The stamps had been cancelled and dated. The envelope was sealed. Then we opened it and to our amazement the envelope was empty. That’s right, no card, no Christmas letter, no photographs, no nothing. We looked at each other and then immediately called our friends in Oklahoma. We all had a good laugh and wished each other a very Merry Christmas.
Without Christmas we would have no future memories of the year we had to make a special tree or of the time we received that extraordinary Christmas card. So that card was much like the birth of Jesus and salvation he brought to us. We had to have faith that the card would bring to us greetings from our dear friends. It would have a joyous message bringing us good cheer.
Twice in my life I have been to the caves below the city of Bethlehem, it is place where most believe the birth of Jesus occurred. I know that Jesus was not born on December the 25th. I know that there are many things in our celebration that comes from pagan rituals. But the Wright family has turned all that around. We celebrate the birth of Christ. We look forward to Santa Claus. We put up a Christmas tree (or a reasonable facsimile); our house fills up with the aroma of baking and many delightful things to eat. We visit with family and friends. We exchange presents and share with folks who may need a little help. We sing Christmas songs and are filled with good cheer. Then when it is all over Margaret and I sit on the couch and look at the pretty lights on the tree and think of Christmas past. And we have faith that on the night of His birth, the heavens opened and the choir of angels sang bringing us good news.
We think it is a wonderful time of year.
We arrived at Wayne Henderson's house in Rugby, Virginia on Thursday, June 18, 2009. Wayne's guitar festival was going to be on Saturday. Many guitar players were already starting to assemble. There were two large motor homes parked on the adjacent property to Wayne. Wayne has a modest home there in Rugby and his guitar shop is a small building just a few steps from his front door. If you ever go to Grayson Highlands State Park click here and if you stop on the first overlook, you will be looking down on valley where Rugby is located and you will see Wayne's house and shop.
I walked into Wayne's shop and one of the first people I met was Don Wilson. I learned that Don had been working with Wayne in his shop. Don has even been building most of the body for some of Wayne's guitars. Later I spoke with Wayne and he told me that Don was a fine person to work with and that he had really enjoyed him being around. So, back to Don. Well, I soon learned that Don had repaired a guitar for Carl Jones. Carl later told me that eight years ago the guitar was destroyed at an airport. Carl asked Wayne to fix the guitar and it has sit there for eight years. Then Carl said that he met Don and asked Don to fix it. Don did fix it and gave it back to Carl while we were there. It was beautiful. I looked at the case and it looked as if a fork lift had gone right through the side of the case and guitar.
Margaret had told me that she really liked the OM size guitar. Well, since I had only given her a flashlight for her recent retirement I inquired about Don's guitars. Don opened a case and showed me an OM that he had made. I asked him if was for sell and he said, "As of yesterday afternoon it was." I replied, "Well (pause) I wonder if you ...... Don stopped me and told me that he didn't take orders. He said that he made guitars for his own entertainment and joy. Then he also told me that he has to know the person to whom the guitar is going. I said, "Well, have a seat - my name is Jerry - let's get to know each other." That was on Thursday.
Wayne told me a little more about Don. It seems Don does just about whatever he wants to do. Wayne said, "That big motor home out there is Don's. He bought the chassis and the exterior. Don built the interior himself."
Then on Friday I was walking across Wayne's yard and Don walked by. We stopped and visited. Don said, "I have been listening to you and I believe you are a man of faith. That started a whole new conversation.
On Saturday after the festival Wayne puts on a big feed in his yard, house and shop. There are always a hundred or so people there. Margaret and I were quietly eating our supper when Don walked up with a guitar. He sat it down between us and before he turned and walked away he said, "Take a look at it."
Margaret didn't even know what was happening. She didn't know that Don and I had been talking. So, after we finished our meal we opened the case and looked at a very nice looking OM that had Wilson on the head. We picked it up and walked back to our tent and Margaret started playing it. She said that it was very nice. A few minutes later Don walked up. I said, "Well, we looked at it - what's next?" Don asked if we wanted it. Margaret didn't know what to say at first but after awhile she said that she would like to have the guitar. A deal was struck and Don said, "It's yours." Then Don invited us to see the inside of his motor home. I do not have to words to describe what I saw inside that Prevost shell. Prevost Don and a couple of helpers did all of the work and the plans were not on paper but in his head.
This is what Wayne has to say about Don. Wayne: I do the most of it myself. But, I do have helpers that come in and do things. I have one guy, a friend of mine named Don Wilson, from Florida, who I’ve known since he was fourteen years old. He’s almost as old as I am. He and his family have been coming to the mountains down in Virginia ever since he was fourteen and and they have a place there where they bought land. He’s a magnificent worker and he’s a mechanic. He builds tour buses like you would not believe and the detail is as good as my guitar here. And the work that he does on those things, the electrical and plumbing systems in them, and you walk in that thing, it’s all in marble and gold and stainless steel. It really looks like a Taj Mahal when you look in that thing. Every trick in the world, and he’s just a wonderful craftsman like that, and he’s really into, even more, these guitars. He’s talking a lot about making them; he’s made a few, he sells. But, he loves to come work in my shop and I love having him too.
Interview with Wayne Henderson. Link to interview Clapton's Guitar link
Don told us that he had made the guitar two years ago when his father was ill. He said, "I needed something to do so I built the guitar. I didn't even know that the guitar was in the bus. I was looking around in the storage area when I saw the case. I knew what it was and I instantly thought of you."
TRIP TO WYOMING AND WINFIELD 2009
After church on Sunday, September 6, 2009 we met Harry Medley at Kennard Auto Service in downtown Kennard. Harry had his Casita packed and ready to go. We pulled out onto Hwy 7 with Harry behind us and headed for Graham, Texas to visit with Jim and Cathy Upshaw.
Monday morning we left Graham. Jim and Kathy were leaving the next day and was going to meet us in Pinedale, Wyoming. We drove to Capulin, NM and stayed at the RV Park across the Highway from Capulin. Margaret had some “not so good” apples and Harry had cinnamon and nut meg. We had our supper and then some great stewed apples.
Tuesday morning got up and headed north to Colorado. On our way through Colorado we saw Pikes Peak and the Air Force Academy. Then Harry called us and told us to follow him. We exited the Interstate and followed Harry to a church that he and Sandra once attended. The pastor was there and he gave us a tour.
We spent Tuesday night in a town Wyoming at a KOA. Wednesday morning we drove on to our destination – Pinedale, Wyoming.
So why Pinedale? A couple of years ago a lady named Maureen attended the Campbell Folk School. There she met a lady who was playing the mountain dulcimer. Maureen was interested in the dulcimer and noticed the tab that the lady was using. Maureen learned about Margaret through the tab. Later she found out about Margaret’s workshops in Kennard so Maureen attended one. After that Maureen wanted us to come to Pinedale where she lived. Arrangements were made, we invited a few friends and so that is how we ended up driving to Pinedale.
So we arrived in Pinedale and met Maureen in a city park. From there we drove to her house which was very close by.
That evening Maureen invited some friends over for supper and we had a jam session that evening.
Wednesday morning we got up and went to a school. There we played for two groups.
Played for school, home, church and community concert.
Margaret and I attended an Emergency Management meeting with Maureen. Maureen is the vice chair with the local Red Cross.
We drove up to the Upper Green. Maureen’s son and his wife and sons lived up there. When we arrived, the boys were splitting wood for the winter.
Harry decided to leave and drive back down to Colorado where he was going to meet his son.
So we woke up on Sunday morning to a great Maurine breakfast. After breakfast we collected the appropriate clothing and needed items for a trip into the mountains. On this morning we were heading to Grand Tetons National Park.
It had been a cold night but was warming up. There was a light rain. But then while we pulled out of Pinedale and headed west for the hour drive to the Tetons the weather cleared up. It was still cool and cloudy but we were out of the rain.
After touring around and seeing some great over looks we decide to have some lunch. Maurine choose a place near the visitor center that was known for their pizza. The place was packed and judging by the various waist lines, those folks were focused on their reason for being there.
Then we walked upstairs and ended up on an outside deck. It was a little cool but the view was outstanding. Our pizza was delivered and I struck up a conversation with some folks. A short time later a light rain started and then it started hailing. Fortunately it only lasted a few minutes and we enjoyed the remainder of our time on the deck.
We spent some time in a Visitor Center. Then we drove to Jenny Lake, one of several beautiful lakes in the Tetons. I went down to the rocky beach, found a comfortable place to sit and there I stayed. It was beautiful.
We arrived back in Pinedale just in time for Maurine’s supper.
I got up early on Monday morning. No one else was awake. I went down stairs and wrote the following poem:
She was a girl from the Shoshone tribe
When she married Richard Leigh.
They called Richard “Beaver Dick”
And his life would be recorded in history.
They say he was only 16 years old
When he came in this region
He came to hunt and trap
And he stayed for many a season.
It was a land of fire and ice
And Dick acted as a guide
So there he was in this beautiful land
Living with his Shoshone bride.
They decided to live in this land
Children came to Dick and Jenny
Life there was hard but good
And they expected the seasons to be many.
But then one day something called Small Pox
Took the lives of the children and Jenny
But life must go on so Dick stayed on
But he grieved for his children and Jenny.
Richard Leigh is buried on a hilltop
At the mouth of the Teton Canyon.
But now there are two lakes
And his memory can live on and on.
Beaver Dick Lake and Leigh Lake its companion.
Beaver Dick Lake and Leigh Lake
Perpetuate his memory
The adjoining body of water is Jenny Lake
So many today travel to see.
Jenny Lake lies just outside
the mouth of Cascade Canyon
Formed by a glacier which deposited debris
Fed by Cascade Creek an icy mountain companion.
They say she reaches a depth of 226 feet
The water is so pretty and green.
Yet along the shore around the lake
The water is clear and pristine.
Jenny Lake in Grand Teton National Park
Was named by F. V. Hayden
In 1878 his maps show Jenny Lake
Dick’s beautiful Shoshone Maiden.
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When everyone got up we had our breakfast. Then we said our goodbyes to Maurine – she was going to work. She does something for an attorney. Then Kathy and Jim Upshaw left, they were going back to the Tetons and then to points unknown after that. Next Jeff showed up to tell us goodbye. Jeff and I were able to have a good bible base discussion while Hollis and Margaret put the finishing touches on the packing of the luggage and musical instruments.
So we drove the remainder of that day and into the early evening. We found a KOA Camper Cabin in our campground guide – called ahead and had the cabin reserved.
The next day which would be Tuesday, we got up and 5:00am and hit the road – we were ready to get to Winfield.
We arrived in Winfield, Kansas on Tuesday afternoon. As so many times before, we drove across the railroad and there before us were thousands of campers. In the past we always arrive on Thursday – but this was Tuesday and it already looked full. It is an amazing place.
We found our site and immediately started setting up camp – we would be there for 5 nights. From time to time we would pause and meet our neighbors.
Tuesday evening during a jam session at our camp to looked at Margaret and said, “Margaret, you should enter the mountain dulcimer contest.” Now I knew she would not win or even come in with the top five but I thought she should enter. We followed Lloyd and so many others as they went up and down the old competition trail. I also considered the fact that a good contest needed some good competition. To truly be number one there has to be a lot of losers.
I told her that she wouldn’t be embarrassed and just go up there and have a good time. So she choose four fiddle tunes that she plays all of the time. She had Hollis join her with the bass. She announced that she would indeed sign up for the contest.
Wednesday around noon my blood sugar dropped and it took me most of the day to come back. Harry fell ill also. His oxygen level was low and the blood pressure was high.
As we were getting ready to meet Craig is looked up and say Bill and Jordy putting up their tent right across from us.
Wednesday Margaret and Hollis joined Craig Harrel on Stage 3. That is the same stage that I have sat and listened to Aileen and Elkin so many times in the past. No camera.
Across the “street” from us was the Brigadoon Camp. We first met Stephanie who was a fiddler, familiar with old time music. We visited with those folks over the next few days and became friends with many of the group.
So on Friday morning Margaret and I were at the contestant’s booth and she signed in. I brought the bass and a little while later Hollis arrived. Margaret and the contestants went into the back and I went out into the audience area. There is met with several friends, one being Jim Wood, owner of McSpadden’s. When I told Jim that Margaret had signed up he said, “Well, she’ll certainly play a different style.”
A little while later Margaret showed up and announced that she had drawn number 17 out of 18 contestants. But during the contest, we learned that several of the contestants did show up.
After contestant number 18 played the judges made their first decision. Five were not called back and Margaret was not in that five. Since we had already talked about that and were expected, there was very little disappointment. On the other hand, we were very pleased that Jacob Greene was called back. Then Jacob went on to win the National Championship. That is when we realized that four Championship winners were present. Two previous National Mountain Dulcimer Champions were Scott Odena and Lloyd Wright were present. Craig Harrel represented the Autoharp community with his 2008 International Autoharp Championship. And now Jacob just won. All were previous or present members of the North Harris County Dulcimer Society.
Later we were talking to Craig Harrel about the score sheet used by the judges. We learned that arrangements were 40 percent of the score. Well Margaret must have received a zero for that category since she played the tune just as she would in a jam session.
Later back at our camp Margaret told me that I may have created a monster. I think she is going to try to learn a few techniques and do some arraigning and return in 2010 as a serious contender. So we had a great time at the Walnut Grove. Finally it was time to head home.
2009 Left Kennard around 2:00pm and headed for Bennington, Oklahoma. The closer we got it started looking like rain. Then we arrived. Hollis was glad to see us. The rain was imminent - friends volunteered to help. Then the rains came. We waited it out and when it finished we continued setting up our camp. Our spot had a sign the read: Reserved for Bodaga #3 and #4. That evening we met Bing and Kathy and Dave.
On Friday morning there was a flurry of activity around the grounds. People were putting up tents for jamming/workshop, registration and vendors. Because of some medication I am taking joint pain is a continuous problem. I visited Annette Lewis in her booth. She was set up with one of those massage chairs. Before the massage I could not raise my arms above my shoulders. After the massage I could raise my arms over my head. It felt so good.
I love going to Winter Creek Reunion, it gives me plenty of time for jamming and plenty of time for visiting. I love visiting and meeting interesting people. I enjoy visiting with old friends. It is truly a reunion.
Lloyd and April arrived a little after midnight on Saturday morning. The camp was already set up and they only had to crawl into their sleeping bags.
During the weekend Margaret led Sacred Harp Singing which was well attended. The concerts were great. I continue to be amazed at the easy Lloyd handles the stage. April continues to develop her personality on the stage and it shows she is having fun. Of course I just love Cathy and Dave’s music. Bing brought something new and interesting to the concerts.
Then Sunday morning the rains came down. I tell folks that I had to be drugged from WCR which is true but the true meaning may be a little different than they think. David had to use his tractor to pull many of us to the road.
2009 We drove down to Houston on Saturday afternoon and visited with the North Harris County Dulcimer Society. It had been a long time since we visited with them and it was a lot of fun seeing our friends again. Things have changed a little. Mary Ann Walker is their new president and they are meeting at a church off of Hwy 290.
So many were there but to mention a few, Joe and Riva Laughlin were there as was Ken Kinsel. Steve Britton was present and announced that it would be his last meeting with the NHCDS. Steve is moving to the Seattle, Washington area. He has family up there and he also announced that he would be getting married. He said he would be having a Druid wedding in the rain forest. Steve has been a member since 1993. There aren’t many members who have been there longer. The Wright family dropped in on a club meeting in the summer of 1994 on the recommendation of Lynn McSpadden.
Before the business meeting was over I ended up being in charge of the fall camp out. I’m not sure exactly how it happened but I think it was right between the new and old business. So, let’s start getting ready right now for a great campout. If you have always wanted a travel trailer, motor home or a tent – now is the time for you to consider your purchase. You see, how can we have a campout without camping out?
So you may be getting a call from me. We will need cooks, entertainers, decorators, planners, organizers, clean up crews, workshop teachers, Sunday morning chapel leaders and all of the folks who make a campout a great campout.
The one main problem with where the campout out will be held is that the campers are not all together and they are not close to the building that we use for out functions. Now the nice thing is that the building that we use is far enough way from the campers that our activities during the day and at night will not interfere with the other campers in the park. Lake Livingston was a great place for the campout but the Park had quiet time rules.
After the meeting with went home with Mike and Sarah and spent Saturday night with them. Then on Sunday afternoon we picked up Casandra and drove to Galveston where we spent two nights.
Galveston is still recovering from Hurricane Ike. Some of the buildings that I remember are gone and some are so damaged they will have to be torn down. The old Balinese Ballroom is gone.
The Balinese Room was fabulous: air conditioning, casino gambling, superb food and drinks, and stellar entertainment. The Maceos booked top stars at the Balinese Room. Headliners included Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Groucho Marx, Jack Benny, George Burns and Gracie Allen, Duke Ellington, Mel Torme, Jayne Mansfield and Gene Autry. Also appearing were Sophie Tucker, Joe E. Lewis, the Ritz Brothers, Peggy Lee, Marjorie Reynolds, Phil Harris, Guy Lombardo, Ted Mack, and Jimmy Dorsey. ZZ Top wrote the famous song “Balinese” in 1973: “And everybody knows, it was down at the Balinese.”