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

Lowe Stokes at Brandywine

Lowe Stokes, Georgia Fiddler – FRC723

By Joe LaRose

A previous version of this article served as liner notes for Heritage 048, Georgia Fiddle Bands, ©1983 Heritage Records.

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’s Senior Musician: “Music keeps me young.”

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

Fred McBride: Going Across the Mountain

Fred McBride – North Carolina Fiddle and Banjo – FRC722

by Lucas Pasley

Article courtesy of the Old Time Herald, Volume 13, Number 10.

I remember the first time I saw Fred play down at a little jam around Wilkesboro. I was young and in search of a real old time sound, and when I heard Fred I almost fell on the floor. I drove straight up to Alleghany County and told my grandmother I’d found my hero fiddler. She smiled and said, well, what’s his name?” “Fred McBride.” I said reverently. “Fred McBride!” She yelled back as she sat up in her recliner. “Good Lord,” she said, “You’ve known him your whole life – you’ve seen him at every family reunion you’ve ever been to!” Continue reading

Memories of the Hammons Family: Maggie Hammons Parker

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

Darley Fulks: Kentucky Wild Horse – Tune Notes

FRC716 – Darley Fulks – Kentucky Wild Horse

by  John Harrod, September 2015

Darley Fulks (1895-1990) in his long life worked as an oil driller, traveling both north and south from his native Wolfe Co., Kentucky, meeting other musicians, and learning tunes everywhere he went. But the greatest portion of his repertoire came from the older generation in his own county. Many of his tunes came from his grandfather and some he could trace to his great-grandfather. Consequently, his music represents both an exceptionally old collection of tunes, many pre-dating the Civil War and unique to him, and an exceptionally diverse range of styles Continue reading

Old Time Music of Alleghany County, NC

by Lucas Pasley

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

Carlton Rawlings

FRC718 – Carlton Rawlings – Bath County, Kentucky Fiddler

by John Harrod

INTRODUCTION

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

Vesta Johnson, Missouri’s Well-Kept Secret

FRC715 – Vesta Johnson with Steve Hall – North Missouri Dance Fiddling

by Bob Bovee

I’ve known Vesta Johnson since 1977, played tunes with her at her home and on stage, learned from her, and consider her a friend and mentor. She has likewise been a friend and teacher to countless other old-time musicians over the years. I interviewed Vesta at her house last winter, but our visit seemed more like a conversation with an old friend than a formal interview. Continue reading

Darley Fulks

FRC716 – Darley Fulks – Kentucky Wild Horse

by Jeff Todd Titon

Darley Fulks (1895-1990) was from Campton, in Wolfe County. He told John Harrod he was glad to have been alive when he was, early on, to learn the old tunes; he thought he was probably the last to know some of them. He felt most of the tunes he learned came to Kentucky from Virginia, but the bluesy tunes came from the lower South. Fulks’s grandfather and uncle played Continue reading