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 →
In addition to the fiddlers mentioned in the main article, who were his mentors or who directly influenced his playing, John Kennedy played music and associated with a number of other musicians in Pawnee and Osage Counties back in the day. Continue reading →
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 →
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 →
Of the many legendary fiddlers from old time music’s “Golden Age,” the period of commercial recording from the mid-twenties to the early thirties, Lowe Stokes seemed to have an aura of myth that went beyond his superb fiddling on records by the Skillet Lickers and others. Continue reading →
Ora Watson – Watauga County, NC Old Time Music – FRC720
Article courtesy of Old Time Herald, Volume 11, Number 1
By Mark Freed
Leaving my office in Boone, North Carolina, one afternoon in May, I drove to the western part of Watauga County for a visit with Ora Watson. I parked my car, grabbed a banjo from the back seat, and walked inside where I found my friend Cecil Gurganus visiting with Ora in the living room. Ora asked me to come closer so she could see me, so I got within a few inches of her face. Continue reading →
Maggie Parker – Hammons Family Songs & Music – FRC713
by Wayne Howard
Article courtesy of the Old Time Herald, April-May 2010.
I had gotten well acquainted with Lee Hammons by the summer of 1970, but I still hadn’t met Dwight Diller, who had indirectly led me to Lee. At the end of his school year at West Virginia University, Dwight came home. By the time of Pioneer Days, in mid-July, we were fast friends; and Dwight was rapidly acquainting me and my wife, Barbara, with the “mountain music” scene. Continue reading →
Despite having produced well-known fiddlers such as Guy Brooks, Art Wooten, and Tim Smith, Alleghany County’s rich old-time fiddling tradition has remained largely out of the spotlight. This CD attempts to capture not only the importance of Alleghany’s fiddling heritage, but also its own unique character. As with other mountain musical communities, the common threads of tradition met the innovative touch of the musicians to create a complex and powerful sound.
There was, however, a tremendous flow of exchange between Alleghany and bordering counties. According to Brad Leftwich, Tommy Jarrell learned his unique version of John Henry from Alleghany County, and prominent Alleghany fiddlers such as Huston Caudill traveled to Virginia for work and played with Grayson County fiddlers such as Luther Davis. State and county lines meant little to the flow of music and musicians, and Alleghany’s musical heritage is richly interwoven with the surrounding areas. Continue reading →
FRC718 – Carlton Rawlings – Bath County, Kentucky Fiddler
by John Harrod
Northeastern Kentucky was still a hotbed of old style fiddling in the 1970s and ’80s when Gus Meade, Mark Wilson, Bruce Greene, and I began making regular visits to record and learn from the many interesting local fiddlers who were still going strong at the time. We were astounded at the sophistication and complexity of the styles, the level of performance, and the dramatic Continue reading →
FRC717 – Ralph Whited – Old Time Alabama Fiddling by Joyce Cauthen
Ralph Whited lived in one house in Oneonta, AL from the day he was born in 1919 until the day he died in 1994. Oneonta sits in the foothills of the southern Appalachian Mountains, below Sand Mountain and 35 miles north of Birmingham. The Whited home, inherited from Ralph’s prosperous grandfather, was large enough to comfortably house Ralph’s parents, Henry and Elizabeth Whited, and their 6 robust sons Coy, O’Dell, Ward, J.D., Ralph and Brady. When Ward and J.D. took up playing guitar, it became a musical gathering place. Continue reading →
A few of our long-time loyal customers were inquiring about the yearly sets we offered in the past. Please note that all of our CDs and DVDs are still available and with the capabilities of the new web site we are able to offer quantity discounts that allow you to make your own sets at the same lower prices.
In any case, we have attached a list of the past issues that were grouped in sets. You can download the list here.
FRC710 – Dean Sturgill – The Spencer Branch Fiddler
Dean Sturgill is an old-time fiddler and poet from Ashe County, North Carolina. For many years, he led the popular Grayson Highlands Band. In the early 1990s, he self-published these three books of wonderful poetry about life in the mountains (available for download in pdf below). He reads his poem, “The Fees Branch Fiddler” in the video.
by Henna R. Armstrong, Getzville NY – 18 Dec. 2007
I was tickled to read on the web page about the trip down to Portsmouth to get Jimmy on tape. You see, Jimmy Wheeler was my father’s first cousin. Jimmy’s mother, “Aunt Em,” was a sister to my grandmother, Nell Odell. I was raised in Portsmouth but we rarely visited the Wheelers, and I don’t remember Jimmy and his sisters at all. My dad told me about going there one time after I Continue reading →
Oct. 5, 1982 – First recording session with Jimmy Wheeler in Portsmouth, Ohio
Arrived approx. 2 p.m. unexpectedly.
Found Jimmy and two of three sisters sitting under awning between house and shop/garage, smoking cigarettes and drinking Old Milwaukee in red and white cans, a welcoming wave. Jimmy didn’t remember my name though I’m positive he remembered me. His sisters Dottie and Merle were friendly. Dot remembered me, Merle didn’t. Continue reading →
Fred Cockerham, one of the seven children of Elias and Betty Jane Cockerham, was born on November 3, 1905. He was the only one from the Round Peak community to attempt the difficult life of a professional rural musician. The way that Fred began playing the fiddle is similar to the way many country musicians began. Basically, this story can be heard on Continue reading →
Fiddler James Fulton “Jimmy Natural” Myers was born about 1895 and died in 1979. According to Blanton Owen, who recorded him in the mid-1970s, he was born near Woodlawn, Virginia, between Galax and Hillsville. He farmed, worked for the WPA during the Great Depression, and was a mason’s helper. He learned to play from his father, who played banjo, and from “Old Man” Continue reading →