Author Archives: 23tomfred45

John Cohen and Peter Hoover

Two of our collectors passed away in 2019. Ray knew each of them for a long time and both were involved with the Field Recorders’ Collective from the very beginning. We will miss their contributions both in music, knowledge, and camaraderie.

John Cohen (August 2, 1932 — September 16, 2019)

John CohenThe NPR tribute to John (linked below) starts: “John Cohen straddled two worlds: as a photographer, he immersed himself in the avant-garde visual arts scene of 1950s New York; as a musician, he was an integral part of that city’s folk revival of the same era.” All very true, though for those who knew him well, John straddled many more than two worlds. Every time we saw him he loved to discuss some new interest such as South American textiles, inform us of the history and back stories of the tunes and songs we played and stories of his experiences following his passions throughout his long and productive life. He was certainly a valuable contributor to FRC and to the traditional music scene in general. He will be missed.

John was responsible for these FRC recordings:

  • John Summers (FRC310)
  • Reverend Gary Davis (FRC116)
  • Berkeley in the 1960s (FRC609)
  • The Lost Recordings of Banjo Bill Cornett (FRC304).

Some Links:

Peter Hoover (April 29, 1939 – October 11, 2019)

Peter HooverPeter Hoover was a larger than life character, both figuratively and literally. His many, diverse passions as well as his undeniable quirkiness are documented thoroughly and lovingly in the obituary piece that appeared in the Ithaca Journal. In 1959, Peter took it upon himself to journey South, to meet older-generation musicians and to record their music. He did this over a period of three years, and the recordings that he made have resulted — thus far — in 10 excellent CDs issued by the FRC.

These FRC recordings were from Peter’s extensive collection:

  • Calvin Cole (FRC704)
  • Addie Leffew & Claude Wolfenbarger (FRC509)
  • Heywood Blevins (FRC508)
  • Wade Ward (FRC507)
  • Dan Tate (FRC506)
  • Byard Ray, Manco Sneed & Mike Rogers (FRC505)
  • Sidna & Fulton Myers (FRC504)
  • Santford Kelly (FRC503)
  • Marcus Martin (FRC502)
  • Uncle Charlie Higgins, and Wade Ward & Dale Poe (FRC501)

Some Links:

Track Notes for FRC738 – John Dee Kennedy of Pawnee, Oklahoma

John Dee Kennedy of Pawnee, Oklahoma – FRC738

By Brad Leftwich

John Dee Kennedy (1914-1997) was a self-effacing man who, in his prime, was considered by many to be the best breakdown fiddler in Pawnee and Osage counties, Oklahoma. In a generation where most of his contemporaries were playing Western swing, bluegrass, or Texas contest-style fiddle, John perpetuated an older family and community tradition that can be traced through the mountains of Arkansas all the way back to eastern Kentucky in the 19th century. These field recordings were made by Linda Higginbotham and Brad Leftwich at John’s home in Pawnee, Oklahoma, 1982-1985. Continue reading

Kentucky Fiddlers Home Recordings Vol. 1 Track Notes

FRC732 – Kentucky Fiddlers Home Recordings Vol. 1

by John Harrod

One day in September 1977 I got a phone call from George Hawkins asking if would I give him a ride to the fiddle contest at the Bath County Fair. I had visited him a couple of times previously and was struck with his way of playing. He was someone I wanted to learn from and he was willing to oblige. I was a little surprised to learn that they still had a fiddle contest at the Bath Co. Fair but I should not have been. What few contests still taking place at the time would draw a few fiddlers who could scratch out hackneyed versions of some bluegrass tunes, but the old traditional styles no longer appeared at the contests because the judges were as swayed by what appeared on radio and television as the fiddlers were, and an old time fiddler had no chance of winning. But this contest proved to be different in all respects. There were no bluegrass fiddlers, only old time players from three adjoining counties who all knew each other. Continue reading

Teodar Jackson – Texas Fiddler

Teodar Jackson – African-American Fiddling from Texas – FRC728

by Dan Foster

Teodar Jackson (1903-1966) was an old-time fiddler with deep roots in Texas. He was born in Gonzales County where his family had farmed since his grandfather came there from Mississippi sometime after the Civil War. African Americans numbered roughly a third of the county’s population in the 1880s. Communities like Wesley Chapel, Monthalia and Canoe Creek were small rural sanctuaries where many young musicians came of age to the sound of old-time fiddling at dances and country suppers. By the 1940s the family had moved north to the Austin area where Mr. Jackson remained a fiddler known to all as “T-olee” and to family as “Papa-T”. Familiar dance tunes, blues and rags made up a large part of his repertoire, but in addition he played a number of set-pieces that hint at something perhaps older, otherwise lost to our ears, until his playing was recorded by Tary Owens in Austin in 1965. Continue reading

Web Links and Videos for Jim Shumate

Jim Shumate: Pioneering Bluegrass Fiddler – FRC727

Continue reading

Jim Shumate

by Wayne Erbsen (photos courtesy of John Miller)

Jim Shumate: Pioneering Bluegrass Fiddler – FRC727

To die-hard fans of bluegrass music the name Jim Shumate is practically a household word. After all, he played with Bill Monroe in the mid 1940s and was the first fiddler for Flatt and Scruggs when they formed their own band, the Foggy Mountain Boys. The three tracks he Continue reading

Vernon Spencer & the Spencer Family of Big Springs, KS

Vernon Spencer of Big Springs, Kansas – FRC726

by Tricia Spencer

Vernon Douglas Spencer was born September 22, 1921, on the family farm in Big Springs, Kansas. He was the baby of 11 children born to his parents Harley and Cora and around the age of 4 or 5, he asked his daddy for a fiddle. He was given a fiddle and Vernon taught himself how to play learning tunes and songs that were popular on the radio as well as tunes that his daddy played on the harmonica. Music was a large part of Vernon’s life from an early age. Living off the land, hunting, and music were done daily. Vernon’s grandaddy left Louisville, KY, at the age of 15, and it was this generation that bought land in Big Springs and brought along a part of Kentucky with them. Continue reading