Category Archives: Old Time Music

The Music of Walter Raleigh Babson (1900-1987)

FRC313

By Andy Cahan

Walter Raleigh Babson was among the few banjo and fiddle players from coastal North Carolina still living in the late twentieth century. Originally from Ash, in Brunswick County, he lived at Wrightsville Beach for about the last 25 years of his life. He worked for many years as a carpenter and was a skilled woodworker as well. In earlier times he worked in various trades Continue reading

Tommy Jarrell

FRC211 and FRC212

By Ray Alden

Thomas Jefferson Jarrell was born in 1901, the son of Ben and Susan Jarrell. His father was the fiddler for Da Costa Woltz and his Southern Broadcasters, a string band that recorded nine 78 rpm records for Gennett in 1927. Just as his father eclipsed his brother Charlie as a well known fiddler, Tommy would surpass all of his ten siblings in music. Oddly enough, Ben did not push Continue reading

Tommy Jarrell at Pinewoods Camp

FRC211 and FRC212

By Jerry Epstein

I first went to Pinewoods Camp Folk Music Week in 1965 — a life changing experience in more ways than I can count. It was the first time I had an opportunity to live with source traditional artists, and I had enough sense to realize that there was something special here that would not be found on the coffee house circuit. I met Jean Ritchie in 1965, Louis Killen in 1966, and Norman Kennedy in 1967. Continue reading

Rector Hicks

FRC709

About Rector Hicks

Rector Hicks was born out in the country around Chloe, Calhoun County, West Virginia in 1914. Although his father played mouth harp, no one in his immediate family was a fiddler. Rector learned from fiddlers in the area, beginning to play the instrument when he was about ten years old. Rector said that he never played for dances, a typical training ground for a country Continue reading

Dink Roberts

FRC209

By Eugene Chadbourne, All Music Guide

The titles of tunes this historic North Carolina banjo man recorded evoke the rowdy milieu he came out of : “High Sheriff,” “Old Corn Liquor,” “Black Annie,” “Roustabout,” “Fox Chase,” and so forth. But his importance as a link to Afro-American traditions as well as Appalachian styles means his music has been the subject of intense study by archivists and ethnomusicologists. Continue reading

An Evening with Lee Roy Stoneking, with a Few Unexpurgated and Incomplete Comments on Field Recording Traditional Artists During the Heyday of the Folk Festival and Fiddlers’ Contest Revival

FRC708

By Howard (Rusty) Marshall

On a chilly, clear evening in November 1975, I had the opportunity to record and photograph the fiddler Lee Roy Stoneking at his home in Clinton, Missouri, a few miles from the farm where he was born. Stoneking had invited his son, Fred, to come play backup guitar, but Fred couldn’t make it. But his daughter, Judy Vanderville, was handy, and the session turned out nicely, with Continue reading

A Visit with Lee Stoneking

FRC708

by Brad Leftwich and Linda Higginbotham July, 2014

From 1982 to 1986 my wife Linda and I performed at the Mountain Folks Music Festival, held for ten days every June at the Silver Dollar City theme park in Branson, Missouri. It was a great experience, and we met and became friends with traditional musicians from all over Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri. One of the musicians we got to know was Fred Stoneking, who was Continue reading

P. T. Bell

FRC410

P.T. Bell Biography

By Dan Foster

Peter Tumlinson Bell was born. February 26, 1869, near Gallinas Creek, Atascosa County, Texas. His grandfather, Jonathan Bell had come to Texas from Mississippi in 1853 and settled 60 miles southeast of San Antonio. Jonathon Bell was killed in a gunfight the following year, leaving his young son Marion “Mace” Bell to be raised on the frontier by an older brother Bill. Mace and his brothers had many narrow escapes fighting Indians and struggling to survive in the South Texas wilderness. Continue reading

Bill Owens Biographies

See Texas Fiddle Bands (FRC409) and P.T. Bell (FRC410)

From various sources

William A. Owens, a Folklorist, Author and Professor, Dies at 85

By Joan Cook Published: December 12, 1990
William A. Owens, a folklorist and author who taught at Columbia University for 28 years, died on Saturday [Dec. 1990] at the Ramapo Manor Nursing Center in Suffern, N.Y. He was 85 years old and lived in Nyack, N.Y. He died of complications from Alzheimer’s disease, a spokesman for the family said. He joined the Columbia faculty as an English teacher in 1945 and became a full professor in 1966. He was director of the school’s summer session from 1959 to 1969, when he was named to the new post of dean of the summer session. He retired in 1974 with the titles of dean and professor emeritus. Continue reading

John Summers

See John Summers – Master Indiana Fiddler (FRC310) and John Wesley Summers: A Historical Sketch of My Father (article)

By Joel Shimberg

Mr. Summers’ old friend, Judge Dan White, had gone on vacation to a dude ranch in Colorado. He met a young couple from Los Angeles, Dan and Lorna O’Leary, who admired his fiddling. He told them that they should hear his friend, Dick Summers, and sent them these recordings. (‘Dick’ was a childhood nickname.) The tapes were given to a member of the New Lost City Ramblers (John Cohen), who gave them to Art Rosenbaum, who lived in Indianapolis, Indiana. Art later visited Mr. Summers and did extensive recording. Continue reading

John Wesley Summers: A Historical Sketch of My Father

See John Summers (FRC310) and John Summers (article)

By Rev. John K. Summers

How do you go about writing about a “master” of his profession? My father was not only a perfect farmer, but without a doubt, the finest interpreter of Irish jigs and reels and old Scottish schottisches via the violin. He was self-trained, having started when he was just 2 years old. His father, my grandfather, Simon Summers, took this small toddler on his lap, put a violin under his chin and held his hand as he pulled the bow across the strings. That lad was to grow up loving the violin and the music of yesterday.

Continue reading

Obray Ramsey and Byard Ray

FRC113

By Eugene Chadbourne

Obray Ramsey is the banjo-picking cousin of old-time music instrumentalist Byard Ray, and the two worked regularly as a duo until they were “discovered” playing at an Asheville folk festival during the folk music revival of the ’60s. From that point on, the two men’s musical career took a strangely twisted path. Late-night television mongers who may have made it all the way through the strange psychedelic rock western Zachariah, may wonder who the two old-time musicians are that show up in one of this epic’s many strange musical wonders, and the answer would be Ray and Ramsey. Continue reading

Shelor Family Bristol

The Shelor and Blackard Families

FRC112

Jesse Shelor (born December, 1894) was the youngest boy of the fourteen children of Reverend William Ellis Shelor. Even though all of Jesse’s brothers played fiddle or banjo, it was not their influence, but rather a more startling event that started ten year old Jesse fiddling.
One day Jesse’s father came home, picked up a fiddle, and played “Callahan”. This impressed young Jesse greatly since he had no idea his father played! Continue reading