Liner Notes for “Far in the Mountains”

Liner notes for “Far in the Mountains”
Eunice Yeatts McAlexander is one of the many Appalachian artists showcased in the 5-CD set “Far in the Mountains,” compiled from field recordings made in 1979-80 by Mike Yates and issued by the Musical Traditions in the UK. Here is the portion of the extensive album notes pertaining to Ms. McAlexander and her songs, posted with permission from Mike Yates. PLEASE NOTE: This PDF is only a small portion of the complete liner notes for the 5-CD set of “Far in the Mountains.”

FITM-Mike on Eunice-combined

Newspaper Article on Strawberry, ca. 1978

Robert Lee “Strawberry” McCloud – Bloomington Breakdown – FRC749

Below is the text of an article that appeared in the Bloomington, Indiana, newspaper, the Herald-Telephone (now Herald-Times), based on an interview with Strawberry McCloud. It appeared probably in late 1977 or 1978, given that Strawberry was born November 11, 1907, and the article gives his age as 70. We can’t vouch for total accuracy, but much of it agrees with information in “Strawberry’s Folk Festival Autobiography” (included in the FRC749 online file) that Strawberry provided around this same time to Kent State Folk Festival organizers when they hired him as a performer (in Kent, Ohio, February 1978).

As we discuss in our introduction to “Strawberry’s Folk Festival Autobiography,” it’s likely that his account of meeting the Skillet Lickers and being part of that band in the late 1920s is a case of resumé enhancement. However, given his detailed memories, we find his friendship with Doc Roberts and experience of playing bass fiddle with the Georgia Wildcats in the early 1930s to be credible.

Also, whereas the article quotes Strawberry as saying he won fiddle contests at West Virginia, Indiana, and Pennsylvania locations, to our best knowledge the events he mentions were not contests but folk festivals where he performed: Augusta Heritage Workshop, Elkins, West Virginia; Indiana Fiddlers Gathering, Battle Ground; and New Harmony (Indiana) Festival of Traditional Music. The Brandywine, Pennsylvania, event also was a festival; as far as we know he did not perform there but may have attended. According to recent interviews with Strawberry’s two surviving children, he did win many fiddle contests in the south central Indiana area.

Other apparent errors in the article are: He was born not in Logan County, Kentucky, but Bourbon County; the reference to “Fayette” probably should be “Fayette County;” the crane accident probably occurred in 1936 (not 1939), before his move to southern Indiana; the tune listed as “Marcy Camel” is actually “Martha Campbell.”

“Once a Skillet Licker, now an art perpetuator
Strawberry McCloud—fiddlin’ and fishin’”

By Tom Ritchie, H-T Staff Writer

…McCloud is a local fiddle player who played with the Skillet Lickers during the early 30’s, and continues to ply his avocation whenever he can around Bloomington….

During the weekend and in an evening, visitors usually interrupt a jam session with friends or a lesson taught by Strawberry to younger musicians as the art perpetuates itself….

“I’ve made a lot of friends through music and we get together and have a good time.”

Fiddlin’ was Strawberry’s chosen profession. During the late 20’s and early 30’s he toured with some of the early “old-fashioned hillbilly music” bands lead by Clat McMichen and Gib Tanner. A long-time friend of the famous fiddler “Doc” Roberts, Strawberry is a self-taught musician, learning and teaching whenever the opportunity came along.

When Tanner turned his style to more popular music and became too “classy,” Strawberry opted for construction work as a heavy machine operator. Music became an avocation—a hobby that keeps Strawberry 70 years young.

Born in Logan Co., Ky, Strawberry spent his childhood years helping his father oversee a 900-acre tobacco farm. His two older brothers played fiddle and the younger McCloud was attracted to the sound…

McCloud’s music career began at eight.

He soon found himself a member of the family band. The group played for square dances, weddings and other local events in and around Fayette, Ky. At 17, he left the family band, and Ky, to pursue a professional career. After spending half a day in Nashville, TN, searching for the Grand Olde Opry building, he found it by an unusual quirk of fate.

“I met Gib Tanner, Clat McMichen, Bert Lane, and Riley Puckett coming up the street. Tanner stopped me and seen me carrying a fiddle, he said, ‘Buddy, you play the fiddle?’

I said, ‘Well, I try to.’

He said, ‘How long you been playing?’

I told him I started out trying to learn when I was eight years old.

He said, ‘Well, I believe you ought to be pretty good by now. Let’s go up to the Grand Olde Opry and we’ll play a lick or two.’ ”

McCloud had been looking for the building and suddenly found himself, not only within a half block of the Opry, but also in the company of some of the leaders of the “old fashioned music” industry.

After Tanner heard him play, McCloud was offered a job with his band. He traveled with Tanner’s “Skillet Lickers” from 1927 to 1929 at a salary of $60 a week. In 1929 he joined Clat McMichen’s band [for] $65 a week. He played with McMichen until 1934. He quit because Clat was getting into “bluegrass and rock and roll and getting away from old time music.”

Shortly after he left Tanner’s band, he went to work driving heavy equipment for various construction firms. His musical career almost came to an end in 1939 while working a crane at the Fort Knox gold vault construction site. When the sling on the crane broke, the boom swung over, crashing into the cab of the crane. McCloud’s arm was smashed by the boom.

For two weeks doctors told him they would have to amputate his arm. He refused to let them, and spent the next 16 months with a cast around the broken limb. The result was that he was forced to learn to play fiddle with three fingers. With an artificial tube in his arm, the little finger of his left hand is virtually inoperative.

His long time friend, “Doc” Roberts, came to see him in the hospital and encouraged McCloud to continue with his music.

“He said, ‘I’ll learn ya some new bow action and how to slide a little in your music, and you can play just as good.’

So I took his advice and went ahead and done it. I’ve won several fiddle contests since then. I won one last year in West Virginia, and one at Battle Grounds, Ind., New Harmony, and Brandywine, Pennsylvania.”

When he came to Indiana in 1937 he won 19 fiddle contests throughout the state and there have been scores since.

“New Money and Marcy Camel are my favorite pieces. I’ve won a lot of contests with both.”

Memories of Strawberry

Robert Lee “Strawberry” McCloud – Bloomington Breakdown – FRC749

‘He lived hard, he worked hard, he played hard’

by Steve Hinnefeld

One day in February 1975, Randy Marmouzé stopped by the trailer where I lived in Bloomington, Indiana, toting his banjo. “Let’s go see if Strawberry wants to play some tunes,” he said.

Randy and I had been playing old-time music together for several years, sometimes at local dances and parties. I’d heard of Strawberry McCloud, a semi-legendary local fiddler who was rumored to have played with Clayton McMichen, but I’d never met him. I think I was a little intimidated.

I’d also heard his wife had passed away, and he’d been through a difficult time. I didn’t know what to expect. Would he want to play music with a couple of young folks who showed up unannounced?

But I grabbed my guitar and we drove to where he was living with his daughter and son-in-law, Judy and Phil Taylor. Randy knocked on the door and asked for Strawberry, and Judy went to get him. I thought he seemed a bit disoriented when he came to the door; maybe he’d been napping. But he invited us in, led us to the furnished basement, got out his fiddle, and began to play.

I recall that his playing initially seemed a bit shaky, apparently after a spell of not having the fiddle out of the case, but he warmed up quickly. He played familiar tunes like Soldier’s Joy, Arkansas Traveler and Black-Eyed Susie, but his versions were idiosyncratically his own. He played in a lively, assertive style that left no doubt that he knew just what he wanted the music to sound like. 

Strawberry McCloud, c. 1977.

Strawberry McCloud, c. 1977.

Randy had played with him previously, in jam sessions at a bait shop and a country store near Smithville, just south of Bloomington and close to where Strawberry lived. But, for the most part, my friends and I, mostly in our 20s, had been learning music from records by revivalist groups like the Fuzzy Mountain and Highwoods string bands and from reissues of old 78s. Strawberry introduced us to music that was fresh, authentic and genuinely “old-time,” not the warmed-over bluegrass we’d sometimes hear from older local musicians.

Before long we were playing together frequently, often with other young musicians joining in. Strawberry moved into a small house across the street from Judy and Phil, and that became the site for music gatherings. We also played at Randy’s rented house on Shields Ridge Road south of Bloomington.

Strawberry would fix strong cups of instant coffee and we would sit in his front room and play. Aspiring old-time musicians like Mark Feddersen, Donna Doughten, Bob Herring and others, would join in. Strawberry’s son-in-law, John Neff, would occasionally stop by and play the old upright piano in the front room. Guitar player Jeff Claus and fiddler Judy Hyman, dedicated and accomplished musicians and students of old-time music, moved to Bloomington in 1976 to study at Indiana University, and Jeff became a regular guitarist with the informal groups.

Strawberry's house

The house in Bloomington where Strawberry lived with Ren Oschin and where he often hosted music sessions from 1975 to 80.

Soon Strawberry was playing for new audiences, often at the weekly Bloomington Old-Time Music and Dance Group dances. His irregular tunes and timing sometimes gave the contra callers fits, but Bloomington dancers loved the drive and exuberance of his playing. “He was so much fun to dance to,” recalled longtime dancer Martha Steel Marmouzé , who married Randy Marmouzé in 1977. “The music was sassy. We would sway our hips and drag our feet.”

The more Strawberry played, the more tunes he would unearth from memory. His repertoire included not just hoedowns but waltzes, blues numbers, and pop tunes including Tin Pan Alley and country standards. As Teri Klassen explains in the essay on his tunes and influences, he had lost the use of the little finger on his left hand in a construction accident, but he compensated with a style that relied on blue notes, slides and syncopation. He radiated confidence when he played.

Bob “Strawberry” McCloud was born Nov. 11, 1907, in Bourbon County, Kentucky, just east of Lexington. When he was a child, his family moved a few miles to Clark County, near the small city of Winchester. He recalled that he started playing the fiddle at age 8, learning from his two older brothers — he also had three sisters — and from musicians from the region, eventually including Doc Roberts. This was pre-rural electrification, and the family didn’t have a radio or phonograph, so learning took place in person.

Strawberry as a young child

Strawberry as a young child with his mother and his older brother Jack. Photo courtesy Junior McCloud.

The self-described “black sheep” of the family, he married young. The 1930 census shows him, age 22, living in Clark County with his wife, Irene, her parents, and their 3-year-old daughter, Dorothy. The marriage didn’t last, however, possibly because music, travel and the musician’s lifestyle got in the way.

In his later years, prompted by an audience, he would talk about playing with Clayton McMichen and the Georgia Wildcats and, sometimes, with Gid Tanner and the Skillet Lickers. We haven’t found documentation of this, and the stories may have been embellished. But the basics seem likely, at least regarding McMichen. Old-time bands of the late ‘20s and early ‘30s were often loose groups of musicians, according to our research. They would pick up sidemen by their availability for contests, radio broadcasts and tours, and it’s not surprising there aren’t records of his playing with the groups.

Also, Strawberry played at such a high level late in life, suggesting he was a professional level musician when he learned and polished his skill as a young man. He enjoyed being the center of attention and gravitated to the microphone if one was available. He never seemed to doubt his fiddling was special.

But music didn’t pay the bills for a growing family. Encouraged by his older brothers, Strawberry became a heavy equipment operator. He was proud of his skill at running a grader and other machinery, but work could be sporadic, and it was dangerous in an era before OSHA imposed safety regulations. Strawberry suffered serious injuries at least twice, once spending months in the hospital.

Strawberry at age 31

Strawberry at age 31. Photo courtesy of Junior McCloud.

At age 33, he married 16-year-old Anna Louise Jackson, the daughter of a barber and a piano player in tiny Owensburg, Indiana. They had eight children, one of whom died in infancy, and raised them with considerable help from their extended family. They moved often to follow construction work. One son remembered that he never finished an academic year in the same school where he started it.

Strawberry kept playing music socially, however. His and Anna’s two oldest surviving children – Judy Taylor, born in 1941, and Junior McCloud, born in 1944 – said their parents got together with friends nearly every weekend, with tubs of beer in the back yard. “There might be three guys there playing music, there might be 10 or 12,” Junior said.

Strawberry’s children said the McCloud family life included “good times” but also “bad times.” Regarding her father, Judy Taylor said, “He lived hard, he worked hard, he played hard.”

We’ve heard a couple of stories to explain the nickname “Strawberry.” One version is that he was “as wild as a strawberry roan horse.” In another, he was fiddling at a party while a red-haired woman danced suggestively. He yelled, “Go, Strawberry Roan!,” just as his wife walked up. Friends started using the moniker to needle him, and it stuck.

Anna McCloud died in October 1973 at age 49. Her loss was a serious blow for Strawberry. Mike Johnson, who grew up near Smithville and played guitar with Strawberry as a teenager, remembered that he was sometimes incapacitated by grief and alcohol and played little for the next year or so.

Strawberry’s nephew John Willie Myers

Strawberry’s nephew John Willie Myers playing guitar at an outdoor gathering. Photo courtesy of Junior McCloud.

In time, he seemed to thrive again playing music with young musicians and often for young audiences. His powerful, bluesy fiddling and Randy Marmouzé ’s driving and relentless clawhammer-style banjo playing were an excellent match, and they loved playing with each other. Before long, Strawberry McCloud and Friends (sometimes as the Bloomington Ramblers) were playing gigs around Indiana: the Old Fiddlers Gathering at Battle Ground, a festival at New Harmony, a music and dance demonstration at Conner Prairie living history museum. He and his companion Rene (later Ren) Oschin traveled to music festivals in Ohio and West Virginia, where Strawberry was a featured artist, led workshops and shared his music with a larger audience. He also enjoyed reconnecting and playing with musicians closer to his own age, including his nephew John Willie Myers, who lived in Liberty, Indiana.

A lifelong smoker, a tobacco chewer, and off-and-on heavy drinker, Strawberry developed severe health problems in his 70s. He died Oct. 4, 1980, at age 72.

Strawberry McCloud and friends at Battle Ground, Indiana

Strawberry McCloud and friends at the Indiana Old Fiddlers’ Gathering, Battle Ground, Indiana, 1977. From left, Randy Marmouzé, Mark Feddersen, Strawberry, Jeff Claus and Steve Hinnefeld. Photo: Martha Marmouzé.

Working on this recording project, Teri Klassen and I have often wished we had asked Strawberry so many questions: about his life, his family, where he learned his tunes and why he played them the way he did. And we’ve wished we had kept better records of the things he did say. We were young, and we were focused on the music and the fun we were having. The questions could wait.

But we are deeply grateful to the friends who had the foresight to make and preserve these field recordings and who shared them for this project, especially Randy Marmouzé (who died in 2016), Ren Oschin (who died in 2022), Ted Hall (who died in 2023), Gary Stanton, Kerry Blech (and the Kent State Folk Festival), Andy Cahan, Jeff Claus, Wayne Erbsen, and Gerry Milnes (and the Augusta Heritage Workshop). We also greatly appreciate Judy Taylor and Junior McCloud for generously sharing memories and photographs of their father and their family.

Listening to these recordings has taken us back and reminded us that Bob “Strawberry” McCloud was an amazing fiddler and a special individual. We were fortunate to know him and to play music with him. We hope – as he would have hoped – that his tunes will liven up your dances and music sessions.

Strawberry McCloud: Sassy Old-Time Fiddling

Robert Lee “Strawberry” McCloud – Bloomington Breakdown – FRC749

By Teri Klassen

Strawberry as a young child

Strawberry McCloud with his mother and older brother Jack, 1912. Courtesy of Junior McCloud.

Fiddler/bass fiddler/heavy equipment operator Robert Lee “Bob” or “Strawberry” McCloud (1907-80) spent his first 30 years in the Bluegrass region of Kentucky, just west of the eastern Mountain region. Both areas were rich in old-time music, but the Bluegrass was more populated and tied to mainstream culture. According to Encyclopedia Britannica,

“The Bluegrass region is markedly different from eastern Kentucky, both physically and culturally. With a more northward orientation than its Mountain neighbour, the Bluegrass is more affluent and more cosmopolitan…”

It likely had more of a Black presence since, historically, that is associated with areas that had plantations and prosperous farms that could afford slaves.

Strawberry (holding cigarette) with older brothers Stanley and Jack. Courtesy of Junior McCloud.

Strawberry (holding cigarette) with older brothers Stanley and Jack. Courtesy of Junior McCloud.

The 1910 US Census shows Strawberry at age 2 in Bourbon County, then just south of Bourbon, in Clark, in 1920 and 1930. His father managed a 900-acre tobacco farm (according to a ca. 1978 newspaper interview) and later worked at a horse track near Lexington (according to Strawberry’s son Robert “Junior” McCloud [1944-]). The fifth of six children, Strawberry lived with his parents, Willard and Nora, until about 1925. He learned his first tunes from his father and two older brothers. Nearby fiddlers (White except as noted) included: Doc Roberts,

Strawberry’s “favorite” fiddler and a major influence though their styles differ (Madison County; 1897-1978); Van Kidwell (Madison; 1901-85); Jim Booker, African American (Jessamine; 1872-1940); George Lee Hawkins (Bath; 1904-91); Darley Fulks (Wolfe; 1895-1990); and Walter McNew (Rockcastle; 1912-98). Older-style fiddlers such as John Salyer (Magoffin; 1882-1952), William Stepp (Lee, Magoffin; 1875-1957), and Manon Campbell (Letcher; 1890-1987), tended to be in the nearby but more isolated Mountain area.

Strawberry McCloud, age 18.

Strawberry McCloud, about age 18, 1925. Courtesy of Junior McCloud.

Strawberry expanded his musical horizons first by playing fiddle and bass fiddle at house dances (he told of walking to one in winter having styled his hair with lard, only to have it melt in the heat of the dance) and fiddle contests (he met Doc Roberts, who became a mentor and friend, in 1923 at a contest in Winchester, the Clark County seat). In his later years (the latter 1970s) he told younger musicians and a Bloomington Herald-Times reporter that he had played with the Skillet Lickers in the late 1920s and with Clayton McMichen’s Georgia Wildcats from 1930 to ’34 (see the newspaper article “Once a Skillet Licker…” and his “Folk Festival Autobiography” elsewhere on this website). It’s possible, however, that he added the Skillet Lickers part of the story for effect, as two younger-generation musicians recall that a few years earlier (about 1974), he told them he had played bass fiddle with the Georgia Wildcats but, asked if he had played with the Skillet Lickers, responded that he had not. We so far have not found Strawberry’s name on any Wildcats recordings, but his detailed memories lend credence to his account. For instance, he told of having to be at Louisville radio station WHAS at 7 a.m. to do live spots for Howell Furniture Co. and Arm and Hammer baking soda, of earning $65 a week (“good money in them days”), and of life on the road: “We went as high as five days and nights and never see a bed, just sleep in the car a-traveling” (see his “Folk Festival Autobiography”).

Strawberry at age 31

Strawberry McCloud, age 31, in 1939, soon after moving to Indiana. Courtesy of Junior McCloud.

Mixed Race Music. In Strawberry’s youth, the 1910s to mid ‘30s, old-time music was a mixed-race culture in this part of Kentucky (and elsewhere), even in the Jim Crow Era. As John Harrod wrote in notes for Traditional Fiddle Music of Kentucky: Along the Kentucky River (Rounder CD 0377):

It seemed as if music had once provided a common ground where the racial codes of society might be temporarily suspended. Bands 11 through 20 are from [W]hite fiddlers who learned these pieces directly from this older generation of [B]lack fiddlers in Madison and Jessamine Counties (1997:14).

In this period, the “old-time” fiddle repertoire expanded beyond hoedowns and hornpipes with British Isles roots to include country blues and rags with Southern U.S. mixed-race origins and popular songs of the 1890s to 1910s (see Tony Russell’s Rural Rhythm on “the wide repertoire” of recorded country music in the mid 1920s to early ‘30s [2015:43]).

Perhaps the combined factors of the early-1900s rise of (question-authority) popular youth culture, post-World War I “Roaring ‘20s,” and Prohibition (1920-33) drew young people, especially in rural areas with mixed-race populations, to sometimes forego Jim Crow strictures (which had mainly urban applications, such as separate water fountains and theater seating). Darley Fulks told of learning “Martha Campbell” about 1915 (when he was about 20) from Black musicians in Mt. Sterling (Montgomery County seat). Introducing “New Money” at a 1978 festival workshop, Strawberry said, “That came out in 1913. The Colored people played against the Whites in Louisville, Kentucky, at the state fair, and my brother [Jack] learned it there from a Colored guy by the name of Walter Jones. . . So I learnt what I know a little about it from my brother, and then Doc Roberts out of Richmond, Kentucky, learnt me the rest” (Andy Cahan recording of a 1978 KSU Folk Festival workshop). Historical accounts of Doc Roberts, Jim Booker, Taylor’s Kentucky Boys, Owen Walker, Charlie Walker, and Van Kidwell also testify to old-time music as a mixed-race culture in this area at this time.

Repertoire. Later in life, 40 years after becoming a heavy equipment operator, changing music from full-time occupation to “pastime,” and relocating to southern Indiana (1937), Strawberry’s repertoire had grown to include mid-century pieces such as “Tennessee Waltz” (released 1948), “Sugar-Foot Rag” (1949; included on this CD), and “Fraulein” (1957). But in his retirement, settled in Bloomington, Indiana, and inspired, perhaps, by its old-time-music-and-dance revival scene, he revitalized many tunes of his youth. They account for most of the tracks on this CD, and fall in three main categories:

1) group- or step-dance-oriented hoedowns from an earlier era. Many are cross-regional (“Soldier’s Joy,” “Cripple Creek,” “Cumberland Gap,” “Forky Deer,” “Mississippi Sawyer,” “Sally Goodin’,” “Black-Eyed Susie,” “Flop-Eared Mule,” “Turkey in the Straw,” “Run, Boy, Run”); others hearken to the Kentucky Mountain/Bluegrass area (“Martha Campbell,” “Coon Dog” [not the Virginia-based Spangler tune], “Waynesboro,” “Buck Creek Gal,” “Brickyard Joe” [not on this CD]);. The tune Strawberry called “Paddy on the Turnpike,” though possibly original, is also in this style;

2) fiddle versions of 1890s-1910s popular songs: “Sweet Bunch of Daisies” (1894), “I Don’t Love Nobody” (1896), “Frankie and Johnny” (1904), “Casey Jones” (1909), “Silver Bell” (1911);

3) couple- and jazz-dance-oriented (foxtrot, two-step, shimmy, stomp, waltz) rags and blues of the 1910s-30s: “Darktown Strutters’ Ball” (1917), “Wang Wang Blues” (1920), “All I’ve Got’s Done Gone” (1925), “New Money” (1928), “Carroll County Blues” (1929); and (the possibly original) “Shimmy-She-Wobble.”

Strawberry’s style of playing old hoedowns seems influenced by his affinity for the rags and blues that were the rage in his youth. As evidence:

1) He plays only in standard tuning, mostly in the keys of G and C, including some hoedowns that older-style fiddlers tend to play in cross-tuning (AEAE or GDGD). He thus sacrifices (or works harder to get) some qualities facilitated by key-specific “wildcat” tunings (AEAE, AEAC#, ADAE, GDAD, etc.), such as droning and bow-rocking across two or three strings.

2) Scarce or absent are: single-pitch bowed trills (what Tommy Jarrell called “catching up the slack,” see Brad Leftwich’s Old-Time Fiddle: Round Peak Style, pp. 14, 17); intricate melodic variations exemplified by Doc Roberts (Kentucky; 1897-1978) and Ed Haley (West Virginia, eastern Kentucky and elsewhere; 1885-1951); and the common variation of playing a low part high or high part low (he does this, however, in “Cumberland Gap” and “Mississippi Sawyer”).

3) Strawberry’s strong suits include slides (sometimes chords fingered on two strings); blue (slightly flatted) notes and tremolo, usually on the high string; syncopation (emphasis on the off-beat, often at the ends of phrases); and staccato, sometimes several notes in a row, usually in the low part, producing a syncopated woodpecker (rat-a-tat-tat) effect (my term).

Strawberry McCloud at the Wednesday Night Dance

Strawberry McCloud at the Wednesday Night Dance, with Ted Hall, banjo; Teri Klassen, guitar; and Donna Doughten, piano. Courtesy of Teri Klassen. Photographer unknown.

Martha Marmouzé, long a regular at Bloomington’s Wednesday Night Dance, said, “[Strawberry] was so much fun to dance to. The music was sassy. We would sway our hips and drag our feet.” See also Steve Hinnefeld’s “Memories of Strawberry” essay here online; and Strawberry and the Bloomington Ramblers in concert here and here (with dancers) at Eagle Creek Folk Festival in Indianapolis, probably 1977. See also Bruce Greene’s essay, “John Salyer’s Fiddle Style” (1992)

A factor in Strawberry’s style that likely promoted slides on the high string and possibly blue notes is that a 1936 crane accident during construction of the Fort Knox “gold vault” damaged his left-hand little finger. Doc Roberts visited him and told him how to compensate:

He said he’d show me how to slide my music, and he’d show me a good bow action. And I’ve got that today… He said the two most important things in music is bow action and good timing… I can’t use my hand like I used to ‘cause it gives me a little trouble by going to sleep. I have an artificial tube in my arm. (See “Strawberry’s Folk Festival Autobiography”)

Strawberry McCloud Kent State Folk Festival, 1978

Strawberry McCloud with Andy Cahan and Tina Liza Jones, Kent State Folk Festival, 1978. Photographer: Kerry Blech.

Four decades later, it was Strawberry who visited Doc, hearing he had had a stroke. “We was crying like babies about old times. He never was beat in a contest, and now he can’t play a lick” (see “Strawberry’s Folk Festival Autobiography”). Doc died in 1978, Strawberry in 1980.

Many of Strawberry’s versions are irregular, or “crooked,” having what Kentucky tunes scholar Bruce Greene has called “structural freedom.” This means that the parts are not the standard length of eight or 16 beats but add or drop beats. Bruce observes it as a “fairly common” feature of older eastern Kentucky fiddlers such as John Salyer (1882-1952) and Manon Campbell (1890-1987). But given that many blues and rags are crooked, Strawberry may have perceived that playing a crooked version of an old tune enhanced its appeal to then-contemporary (1920s-early ‘30s) taste. Some comments he made when performing (captured on tape but not on this CD) suggest he knew that crooked versions were challenging and might entertain audiences and impress other musicians (including contest judges). Upon playing “Tennessee Wagoner,” he asks, “You ever hear it played like that?”; of “New Money,” he assures, “It’s easy to play it if you listen real close”; of “Billy in the Lowground,” “The changes are a little different than most people played”; and of “Sally Goodin’,” “I play it a little different.”

Strawberry’s nephew John Willie Myers

John Willie Myers (1918-2010), Strawberry’s nephew, shown here in Western dress at a family reunion in Bloomington, followed him readily on challenging crooked tunes such as “All I Got’s Done Gone.” Courtesy of Junior McCloud. Photographer unknown.

Clawhammer banjo. On the other hand, Strawberry’s embrace of clawhammer banjo accompaniment in his later years (the 1970s) upholds the comment in his “Folk Festival Autobiography” that he preferred “old-fashioned” music and had left the Georgia Wildcats partly because they were getting too “classy,” adding drums and saxophones (see the Wildcats’ 1938 recording, “[Can’t get nothin’ from old-time fiddlin’,] I’m Gonna Learn to Swing” In this respect, Strawberry preserved an aspect of old-style tunes that was falling from fashion in the 1920s-30s. Clawhammer banjo was largely absent from country rags and blues of that time; Alabama’s Stripling Brothers, Mississippi’s Narmour and Smith, and Tennessee’s Harkreader and Poteet, for instance, were fiddle-guitar duos. Doc Roberts recorded mostly with just guitar; the Georgia Wildcats had no clawhammer banjo. The Skillet Lickers sometimes had one, but fiddles, guitar, and vocals dominate on their recordings. A possible exception to this trend is Taylor’s Kentucky Boys’ recordings of “Grey Eagle” and “Forked Deer” (both with Black fiddler Jim Booker; 1927). Marion Underwood (White) plays old-timey-style banjo but it’s hard to tell if it’s clawhammer or finger-picking (thanks to Paul Brown and Brad Leftwich for input on this). Clawhammer banjo probably was more common in Kentucky’s Mountain region (which had fewer recording artists).

Strawberry McCloud New Harmony Festival

Strawberry McCloud with David Molk and Randy Marmouzé, New Harmony Festival of Traditional Music, 1977. Photographer: Gary Stanton.

Strawberry thus retained aspects of pre-World War I old-time music even as he jazzed up old-style tunes with techniques of mixed-race blues and rags. Banjo-player Randy Marmouzé (then in his 20s) followed him into this territory, adapting clawhammer rhythm to blues and rags even as fiddlers of Strawberry’s generation adapted old-time bowing to rags, blues, and popular songs.

Distinctive versions. Two factors that may underlie Strawberry’s distinctive versions are:

1) Early-1900s conditions in Kentucky’s Bluegrass region meant that old-time musicians in many cases got tunes via short-term face-to-face contact (such as at fiddle contests). Strawberry, and probably most other fiddlers, did not read music (even if they had, tune transcriptions likely were hard to come by) and, especially in rural areas, lacked electrical service for phonographs and radios. In these memory-dependent conditions, tunes inevitably changed, especially crooked and melodically complex ones.

Darley Fulks, born in 1895, recalled the challenge of remembering a tune he heard about 1915 when he was far from home without his fiddle:

Well, I was horseback and I had fifty mile to ride and I lived over here at Bethel… And I never got home til after daylight, and I hummed that piece all the way home so I wouldn’t forget it. And another one they played was “Paddy on the Turnpike” but I thought more of “Martha Campbell” because it had more music in it. I couldn’t hold them both and I held on to that one. Now that coarse [low] part, they don’t play that no more, but them [C]olored folks, they played it.

Under these conditions, the pre-cassette recorder-and-smart phone-era, absence of technology promoted development of different tune versions.

2) The ability to develop a distinctive version or create a new tune, as opposed to accurately executing an established version, may have been a mark of a master fiddler, inspiring admiration and respect. The back-story of a C-tune that Strawberry brought back from the 1977 West Virginia State Folk Festival in Glenville suggests how this process might have occurred. He called it “Virginia Rag” and said he’d heard it at Glenville but gave no specific fiddler’s name as his source.

With input from West Virginia fiddler and tunes scholar Gerry Milnes, we realized that the first part of Strawberry’s “Virginia Rag” is close to that of “Fun’s All Over,” a tune played in West Virginia and eastern Kentucky. But the second part differs. Ohio fiddler and tunes scholar Whitt Mead is reminded of the low part of “Little Brown Jug;” the low part of “Texas Gals” came to my mind.

Ohio musician Joe LaRose, who with other members of the Radio Aces stringband had            jammed with Strawberry at Glenville (old-time tunes scholar and fiddler Kerry Blech of the Radio Aces recorded the session), recalled that the band had been playing eastern Kentucky fiddler J.P. Fraley’s version of “Fun’s All Over” at that festival. Thus, a possible scenario is that Strawberry heard the Radio Aces playing the tune at Glenville, liked it, perhaps played along with it, tried to memorize it (possibly recalling it from his youth in Kentucky), practiced it when he got home, filled in what he didn’t remember with phrases from other tunes, and not knowing the name, made one up that recalls where he learned it (“[West] Virginia”) and the jaunty setting he gave it (“Rag”). Rather than   give up on the tune because he didn’t remember all of it, he pro-actively built it into a new tune he could show off to appreciative friends back home.

Conclusion. Strawberry’s music is a lens onto how folk musicians engage with change, striking a balance between fascination with (or rejection of) what preceded and what is new on the scene. He held on to the old tunes, the legacy of those who came before, but re-tailored them, sacrificing some features but invigorating them with others. It’s a testimonial to the endurance of the music that its tunes are plastic; given an adventurous taste and sufficient ingenuity (driven by necessity to invention, perhaps, when lacking access to the source), a fiddler can hitch a tune template to one style or another, varying notes and rhythm.

Old-time-music devotees will recognize most of Strawberry’s tunes but be wide-eyed (or shake their heads) at some of his settings. Coming of age in what music historian Tony Russell calls the “halcyon age of recorded country music,” he preserved old tunes but adapted (some might say “corrupted”) them to techniques of then-modern rags, blues, and popular songs, even as popular taste moved on to Western swing (late 1930s), then Western-style country (1940s) (Russell 2015:43, 40) and bluegrass (1940s). To the credit of his young protégés, they open-mindedly embraced this uncharted concept of “old-time.”

FRC749 Acknowledgments

It took a community to put this project together, and we are thankful to these members of ours who helped bring it to fruition.

John Bealle, John Beland, Kerry Blech and the Kent State Folk Festival, Harry Bolick, Jon Bowman, Paul Brown, Mike Bryant, Andy Cahan, Andrea Carter, Jim Cauthen, Joyce Cauthen, Jeff Claus, Ron Cole, Donna Doughten, Stephen Downey, Wayne Erbsen, Mark Feddersen, Dan Gellert, Susie Goehring, Tim Goodall, Ted Hall RIP, John Harrod, Karen Horton, Hawk Hubbard, Judy Hyman, Michael Johnson, Joe LaRose, Brad Leftwich, Laura Ley, Theresa Malone, Bill Mansfield, Martha Marmouzé, Randy Marmouzé RIP, Junior McCloud, Whitt Mead, Gerry Milnes and the Augusta Heritage Workshop, Ren Oschin RIP, Chris Rietz, Gary Stanton and WFIU radio station, Judy (McCloud) Taylor RIP, Ben Thompson, Jill Vass, Larry Warren and the Slippery Hill tunes website.

FRC749 Bibliographical Sources

Augusta Arts and Culture website

Bealle, John. Old-Time Music and Dance: Community and Folk Revival. Quarry Books (2005)

Berea College Special Collections and Archives website

Bloomington (Indiana) Herald-Times, Tom Ritchie (staff writer). “Once a Skillet Licker, Now an Art Perpetuator: Strawberry McCloud—Fiddlin’ and Fishin’” (ca. 1978)

Bluegrass Messengers website

Carter, Thomas, with Thomas Sauber. “I Never Could Play Alone”: The Emergence of the New River Valley String Band, 1875-1915. In Arts in Earnest: North Carolina Folklife, eds. Daniel W. Patterson and Charles G. Zug III. Duke University Press (1990)

Digital Commons @ Connecticut College

Greene, Bruce. “John Salyer’s Fiddle Style” Oldtime Central website (1992)

Harrod, John. Comments for Darley Fulks: Kentucky Wild Horse. Field Recorders’ Collective 716 (2015)

Harrod, John. Tune Notes for Darley Fulks: Kentucky Wild Horse. FRC 716 (2015)

Harrod, John. Track notes for Kentucky Fiddlers Home Recordings Vol. 1. FRC 732 (2020)

Internet Archive

Jamison, Phil. Hoedowns, Reels, and Frolics: Roots and Branches of Southern Appalachian Dance. University of Illinois (2015)

Klassen, Teri. “Strawberry McCloud and Old-Time Music in Bloomington,” PowerPoint presentation at the Bloomington Early Music Festival.

Leftwich, Brad. Old-Time Fiddle: Round Peak Style. Mel Bay (2007)

McCloud, Robert L. (Strawberry). Strawberry’s Folk Festival Autobiography (ca. 1978)

McCloud, Strawberry, and the Bloomington Ramblers, “Bloomington Breakdown,” video with Bloomington dancers at Eagle Creek Folk Festival, Indianapolis, probably 1977. Posted by Brad Leftwich

McCloud, Strawberry, and the Bloomington Ramblers, “Sally Goodin’,” video at Eagle Creek Folk Festival, Indianapolis, probably 1977. Posted by Brad Leftwich

[The] Milnes Collection. Recordings by Gerry Milnes

Notable Kentucky African Americans Database


Rorrer, Kinney. Rambling Blues: The Life and Songs of Charlie Poole. Old Time Music (1982)

Russell, Tony. Rural Rhythm: The Story of Old-Time Country Music in 78 Records. Oxford University Press (2021)

Slippery Hill tunes website

Southern Folklife Collection at University of North Carolina libraries (listed as SFC Audio Cassette 637, “Strawberry McLeod [sic] and Wayne Erbsen,” side 1; and side 2!20525/field/contri!escri/mode/exact!exact/conn/and!and/order/relatid/ad/asc/cosuppress/0

Stanton, Gary. “All Counties Have Blues: County Blues as an Emergent Genre of Fiddle Tunes in Eastern Mississippi” In North Carolina Folklore Journal (November 1980)

Traditional Fiddle Music of Kentucky: Up the Ohio and Licking Rivers, Vol. 1. Recorded by Guthrie T. Meade, John Harrod, and Mark Wilson. Annotated by Mark Wilson. Rounder CD 0376 (1997)

Traditional Fiddle Music of Kentucky: Along the Kentucky River, Vol. 2. Recorded by Guthrie T. Meade, John Harrod, and Mark Wilson. Annotated by John Harrod. Rounder CD 0377 (1997)

Traditional Tune Archive website





Track Notes for FRC749 – Strawberry McCloud

Robert Lee “Strawberry” McCloud – Bloomington Breakdown – FRC749

By Teri Klassen

  1. Shortnin’ Bread (1:53) Strawberry McCloud: fiddle; Randy Marmouzé: banjo; Jeff Claus and Steve Hinnefeld: guitar; Mark Feddersen: bass. Recorded by Gary Stanton, January 1978, at WFIU public radio studios on the Indiana University campus in Bloomington. Tracks from this golden session account for about a third of those on this CD; we are deeply grateful to WFIU’s Music Down Home host, folklorist Gary Stanton (aka the Radio Ranger), for setting it up. Strawberry attributes many of his tunes to either Doc Roberts, Gid Tanner, or Clayton McMichen, but his playful syncopated instrumental version of this old-time classic differs from theirs; he either changed it or had another source. Jeff’s falsetto “ah-has” reflect and add to the energy. Wikipedia says it has African American origins with lyrics first published by James Whitcomb Riley in 1900. Doc Roberts recorded a distinctive instrumental four-part version in cross A, titled, “My Baby Loves Shortenin’ Bread” (1925; early 1930s); the Skillet Lickers recorded it in G as “Shortening Bread,” a combination tune and song (1926). Key of G.
  2. Tennessee Wagoner (2:11) Strawberry McCloud: fiddle; Randy Marmouzé: banjo; Steve Hinnefeld: guitar. Recorded by Randy in 1975 at his house near Bloomington, Indiana, or at Strawberry’s house in Bloomington. Strawberry’s version features his signature syncopated phrases and is irregular (18-beat high part, 22-beat low part, both usually played twice), which he seems to recognize as distinctive, asking with apparent pride at the end of one recording, “You ever hear it played like that?” Doc Roberts recorded an even version in C with guitarist Dick Parman (1927) and later in a Berea College video (1971). The Skillet Lickers also recorded an even version in C as “Georgia Wagner” but with a different second part (1930). Key of C.
  3. Sally Goodin’ (2:16) Strawberry McCloud: fiddle; with members of the Radio Aces stringband (probably Gary Hawk: banjo; Tim Goodall: guitar). Recorded by Kerry Blech, June 1977, at the West Virginia State Folk Festival in Glenville. Strawberry gets in a groove with younger-generation musicians on this crooked, staccato-driven, three-part “Sally Goodin’” in the Conrad Motel parking lot (see also #34 “Run, Boy, Run” below). He mostly plays a first part that is 8 beats the first time, 10 the second; then two times through an even (8-beat) low second part; and occasionally throws in a high third part where he gives the high first note a dramatic extra beat. Many versions of “Sally Goodin’” are in cross A; Strawberry plays it in G, as do Doc Roberts (1930), A.A. Gray (with Seven-Foot Dilly and His Dill Pickles, of Georgia; 1930) and Lowe Stokes (no date). A.A. Gray and Missouri fiddler Vee Latty (titled “Black Sally Goodin,” in G; 1950s) also play high third parts. Key of G.
  4. New Money (2:48) Strawberry McCloud: fiddle; Randy Marmouzé: banjo; Jeff Claus and Steve Hinnefeld: guitar; Mark Feddersen: bass. Recorded by Gary Stanton, 1978, WFIU studios. Strawberry said his “New Money,” with its distinctive syncopated phrases and crooked timing, came from his brother Jack, who in turn had learned it about 1913 from Walter Jones, fiddler in a Black stringband that played in the contest at the Kentucky State Fair in Louisville (about 100 miles west of their home). The first part has 17 beats (16 with a pause at the end), the second part 18. Jack was then about 13, six years older than Strawberry. Recorded versions include: Doc Roberts with Asa Martin (1928; said to come from either Owen Walker [Black] or Elza Stone [White]); Bert Layne of the Skillet Lickers (unknown date); Arthur Smith and the Dixieliners (Tennessee, with sock-style guitar; probably 1930s [thanks to Andy Cahan for this reference]); George Lee Hawkins (Kentucky; FRC 732; recorded 1950s or ‘60s); and J.P. Fraley (Kentucky; 1995). In tune notes for the Hawkins version on Kentucky Fiddlers Home Recordings, Vol. 1 (2020), John Harrod writes, “New Money is a tune that was known all over the eastern bluegrass region. It was played by the [B]lack fiddler Owen Walker, whom Doc Roberts learned from, but George learned it from Elza Stone who called the tune Fresh Money.” Key of C.
  5. Forky Deer (1:59) Strawberry McCloud: fiddle; Randy Marmouzé: banjo; Jeff Claus: guitar. Recorded by Jeff, early 1977, at Strawberry’s house. Strawberry plays an even (16-beat) high part (once or twice) and crooked (18- or 19-beat) low part once, reminiscent of eastern Kentucky fiddler Darley Fulks (1895-1990), who played an 18- or 19-beat low part (twice through) alternating with a 10- or 12-beat high part (played twice, or possibly once with 23 beats) (1977). Strawberry’s eccentric version also seems influenced by Doc Roberts’ version of “Forky Deer,” recorded as “Deer Walk” (1930), although it is even. Other even D versions were recorded by Uncle Am Stuart (Tennessee; 1924); Taylor’s Kentucky Boys (associated with Doc Roberts and the African-American Booker Orchestra stringband; 1927); and Charlie Bowman (Tennessee; 1929). Eastern Kentucky fiddler John Salyer plays three parts and pauses a beat at the end of the second time through the low (first) part (home recording; ca. 1942). Ed Haley, of eastern Kentucky and West Virginia, plays it with at least five parts, all of them even (recorded 1946 or ’47). Key of D.
  6. All I Got’s Done Gone (2:41) Strawberry McCloud: fiddle; John Willie Myers: guitar. John Willie (as Strawberry and his children referred to him; 1918-2010) was Strawberry’s oldest sister’s son, 11 years younger than him, and in the 1970s lived in Liberty, Indiana, near the Ohio border, about 110 miles northeast of Bloomington. His adept chord changes in this challenging (convoluted) country blues suggest he was well-grounded in old-time music. Strawberry seemed to relish this bond with his nephew, which may have inspired this especially soulful rendition of the tune. “We ain’t seen one another for 20 years,” he remarked at one point. This session, with just the two of them, is undocumented; Strawberry’s partner in his later years, Ren Oschin (1944-2022), may have made it in the mid-1970s at their home (see also #7 “Raggedy Ann” and #28 “Cumberland Gap” below). This piece is related to: Doc Roberts’ “All I’ve Got Is Done Gone” (1925; 1930), attributed to Owen Walker, a Black fiddler who was Doc’s neighbor and performed locally ; and also to Clayton McMichen’s “Done Gone” (1930). Key of C.
  7. Raggedy Ann (2:22) Strawberry McCloud: fiddle; John Willie Myers: guitar. Undocumented recording session, possibly by Ren Oschin, mid-1970s, her and Strawberry’s house. Like many versions of this tune, Strawberry’s is crooked. He plays the 16-beat low (first) part twice, and the high part with 16 beats the first time but 15 the second time through (or it might be interpreted as one 31-beat part). Posey Rorer recorded it with Charlie Poole and the North Carolina Ramblers (1926), playing the high part twice, 30 beats each time. Our oldest recording is by Eck Robertson (Texas; 1922), whose high part is even (32 beats, played twice) and who plays a third part. Key of D.
  8. Bloomington Breakdown (aka Buckin’ Mule) (2:18) Strawberry McCloud: fiddle; Randy Marmouzé: banjo; Steve Hinnefeld: guitar. Recorded by Randy, 1975, his house or Strawberry’s. This tune probably is Strawberry’s version of Gid Tanner and His Skillet Lickers’ “Buckin’ Mule” (thanks to Jeff Claus and Brad Leftwich), though Strawberry may not have remembered his source. For comparison, click here. Strawberry usually called it “Bloomington Breakdown” but at least once announced it as “Boatin’ up Sand.” When playing it with guitarist Wayne Erbsen at the Augusta Heritage Workshop, he replied, “Yeah,” when Wayne asked, “Did you make that one up?” He plays the first (high) part once (16 beats), the second (low) part one and a half times (16 beats, then repeat the first 8). The parts have a call-and-response complementarity. The first shows off his tremolo; the second starts with a mesmerizing slide. Key of G.
  9. Wang Wang Blues (1:57) Strawberry McCloud: fiddle; Randy Marmouzé: banjo; Jeff Claus and Steve Hinnefeld: guitar; Mark Feddersen: bass. Recorded by Gary Stanton, 1978, WFIU studios. Strawberry’s opening features blue notes and a triplet, then a solid walking-bass guitar line anchors him through the sinuous dips and swings of this blues, possibly the only version recorded with clawhammer banjo. In the risqué spirit of 1920s dance halls, the term “wang-wang blues” refers to a woman missing sex with her man. First recorded in 1920 as “Wang-Wang Blues – Foxtrot” by Paul Whiteman (a White bandleader and composer) and His Ambassador Orchestra (copyright by band members Gussie Mueller, Theron “Buster” Johnson, and Henry Busse), then by Mamie Smith (a Black singer) and Her Jazz Hounds (1921), this blues became a jazz standard. It soon crossed over into old-time. Fiddle renditions include Sid Harkreader and Blythe Poteet, of Tennessee, in G (1928); the Stripling Brothers, of Alabama, in C (renamed “New Born Blues,” perhaps for the sake of propriety; 1929); Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys (1935); and Van Kidwell, originally of the Kentucky Bluegrass region (with the Hot Mud Family; 1974 [?] [See FRC412 track #32]). Key of C.
  10. Hen Cackle (1:21) Strawberry McCloud: fiddle; Donna Doughten: piano. Recorded by Gary Stanton, 1978, WFIU studios. “Hen Cackle” (with various titles) was popular in Strawberry’s youth as a novelty number that calls for instruments to imitate a chicken (as Strawberry does at one point here). The number of parts (Strawberry plays three) and number of beats per part varied. It was generally in the key of G. Gid Tanner and Riley Puckett mixed “Chicken Pie,” “Hen Cackle,” and extensive henhouse sounds in a vaudeville rendition (1924). Homer Davenport and the Young Brothers, of Tennessee, played five parts (four in G, one in C; 1925; titled “Old Hen Cackled and the Rooster Crowed,” with Jesse Young on fiddle). DeFord Bailey, a Black Tennessee harmonica player who was featured on the Grand Ole Opry, played three parts (1928); and the Skillet Lickers played two (1928). Clayton McMichen and Riley Puckett also played it (no date). Key of G.
  11. Tuesday Night Waltz (2:59) Strawberry McCloud: fiddle; Steve Hinnefeld: guitar. Recorded by Randy Marmouzé, 1975, his or Strawberry’s house.  This tune with one part in C and one in F that Strawberry called “Tuesday Night Waltz” is a version of “Wednesday Night Waltz.” It was first recorded by the Leake County Revelers, of Mississippi, in D with one part but with a few measures of an unrelated hoedown in the middle (1927; see the discussion of “tune-switching” under #32 “Martha Campbell” below). Thanks to Jordan Wankoff for recognizing its true identity. Strawberry also played a tune that he called “Wednesday Night Waltz” (not on this CD) of which we have found no other recording; perhaps at some point he mixed up the names. Leake County Revelers’ fiddler Wil Gilmer said he found the tune “out in Texas somewhere” The notion of Texas as a point of origin is supported by the fact that Texas fiddler Bill Northcutt also played it in D with one part, though he modulated to G as a variation (1968). Southeastern bands, diverging from the Leake County Revelers, tended to play it in C, sometimes with a second part in F.  The many subsequent recordings, in addition to Northcutt, include: Kessinger Brothers of West Virginia, in C with one part (played an octave low as a variation; 1928); North Carolina Hawaiians, in C with one part (slide guitar takes breaks first in waltz time 0:58-1:54, then in a faster hoedown rhythm 1:54-2:24; 1928); Stripling Brothers, of Alabama, two parts, in C and F (1929); Fiddling Doc Roberts Trio, Kentucky, two parts, in C and F (1931); Riley Puckett (vocals and guitar) with an anonymous fiddler (likely Clayton McMichen), one part, in G (1934). According to the Traditional Tune Archive, it was “in the repertoire” of Freeny’s Barn Dance Band, Mississippi, ca. 1930. Probably influenced by Doc Roberts, Strawberry plays two parts, in C and F, a rare case of him playing in F. Keys of C and F.
  12. Cripple Creek (1:48) Strawberry McCloud: fiddle; Randy Marmouzé: banjo; Jeff Claus and Steve Hinnefeld: guitar; Mark Feddersen: bass; Donna Doughten: piano. Recorded by Gary Stanton, 1978, WFIU studios. Strawberry’s rendition of this standard hoedown is even (16-beat high part played once [usually], 8-beat low part played twice) and in G. It features punchy syncopation and staccato, and an emphasis on the offbeat at the end of the high-part (and some low-part) phrases. Randy goes to town on banjo, closely following but occasionally complementing melody and rhythm. The tune’s provenance is unknown; the lyrics may date to ca. 1900. . “Cripple Creek” is often in cross A, for instance, by Tommy Jarrell of North Carolina (on fiddle and vocals; 1983 video), who plays an 8-beat low part two or four times, and a 16-beat high part twice; and by Marion Reece of North Carolina (1936), who plays an 11-beat high part twice and an 8-beat low part seven or nine times. The Skillet Lickers also recorded it in A (1929). Like Strawberry, Charlie Poole and the North Carolina Ramblers (probably Posey Rorer on fiddle) played it in G, two 8-beat parts, both played twice (titled “Shootin’ Creek;”1928), as did Lowe Stokes (early 1980s). Key of G.
  13. Cindy (2:36) Strawberry McCloud: fiddle; Randy Marmouzé: banjo; Jeff Claus and Steve Hinnefeld: guitar; Mark Feddersen: bass. Recorded by Gary Stanton, 1978, WFIU studios. Boosted by driving guitar and clawhammer rhythm, Strawberry gives this often-sedate song some blue notes, high tremolos, and swing. It is one of just two A tunes in this CD collection (see also #23 “Sugar-Foot Rag”) and one of two on which he sings (see also #18 “Coon Dog”). He plays each of the two (16-beat) parts once and sings three widely known verses: 1) “Went to see my Cindy, She’s standing in the door, Shoes and stockings in her hand, Feet all over the floor. Get along home;” 2) “Wish I was an apple hanging on a tree. Every time my Cindy passed, she’d take a bite of me. Get along home;” 3) “Cindy in the springtime, Cindy in the fall, If I can’t get my Cindy, I don’t want none a-tall. Get along home.” We speculate that Strawberry sang regularly when performing in his youth, perhaps when he played bass with the Georgia Wildcats, as he has a strong confident voice and knows verses to many songs. The “Cindy” melody may be from an 1800s African American spiritual (“The Gospel Train”); a 1904 collection of African American folktales included the lyrics (Wikipedia). The Slippery Hill tunes website lists versions under several titles in keys of D, G, and A. Strawberry’s is in A (standard tuning), as were recordings of Clayton McMichen and Riley Puckett (1927) and John Chism with Pope’s Arkansas Mountaineers (1928). Key of A.
  14. Mississippi Sawyer (2:07) Strawberry McCloud: fiddle; Randy Marmouzé: banjo; Steve Hinnefeld: guitar; Donna Doughten: piano. Recorded by Randy, 1975, at Strawberry’s house. Strawberry’s version of this widely known, clawhammer-showpiece hoedown is jaunty and crooked. The high part is even though the phrasing might fool you (16 beats played twice); then he plays a crooked (18-beat) second part once; then he plays the first part twice again but an octave low, almost like a third part. Georgia fiddler Earl Johnson’s version also is crooked (1927; 1929). The Skillet Lickers play an even (16-beat) first part twice, and an even low part once (1929). The Kessinger Brothers drop a beat in the first part (1928-30). McMichen’s Georgia Wildcats recorded it about 1931, but we did not find it online; in a later McMichen recording, he adds a beat in both parts (medley; 1939). Key of D.
  15. Darktown Strutters’ Ball (1:58) Strawberry McCloud: fiddle; Randy Marmouzé: banjo; Jeff Claus and Steve Hinnefeld: guitar; Mark Feddersen: bass; Donna Doughten: piano. Recorded by Gary Stanton, 1978, WFIU studios. Shelton Brooks, a Black composer, published this spectacularly syncopated ragtime/Dixieland tune in 1917 (Strawberry was about 9). The Six Brown Brothers recorded it that year (“Darktown Strutters’ Ball – Fox Trot”), as did the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. Within 10 years it had crossed over into old-time; the Skillet Lickers recorded it (1927), Riley Puckett in (1930). When Fats Domino (Black rhythm-‘n’-blues/rock-‘n’-roll singer and pianist) recorded it in 1958 (released 1987), he substituted “downtown” for “Darktown” in the lyrics. Strawberry plays one 38-beat part at a stately yet jaunty pace. Key of C.
  16. Flop-Eared Mule (1:29) Strawberry McCloud: fiddle; Donna Doughten: piano. Recorded by Randy, 1975, Strawberry’s house. Backed by piano, Strawberry’s lively rendition of this popular hoedown is playful, perky, and even (though he varies on playing the parts once or twice). The tune resembles several with European and British Isles roots, including schottisches and polkas (Wikipedia). Recordings of the 1920s and ‘30s, usually with one part in G and one in D, include: Blue Ridge Highballers (1926), James Cowan Powers (1927), Doc Roberts (1928), Byrd Moore (as Robinette and Moore; 1928), Skillet Lickers (1930), Skillet Lickers (1934; Gid plays mandolin lead, and there’s an alternate second part). Keys of G and D.
  17. Frankie and Johnny (1:53) Strawberry McCloud: fiddle; Randy Marmouzé: banjo; Steve Hinnefeld: guitar. Recorded by Randy, 1975, his or Strawberry’s house. In this rendition, Strawberry plays this widely recorded ballad as an instrumental blues with punchy (staccato) low notes and wailing, warbling high notes (many of them, both low and high, blue). On another recording, he sings several verses (and says it is his daughter Judy Taylor’s favorite song). Hughie Cannon copyrighted the music in 1904 (there may have been earlier versions); brothers Frank and Bert Leighton published lyrics and a variation on the melody as, “Bill, You Done Me Wrong,” in 1908, then as “Frankie and Johnny” in 1912. Old-time versions from Strawberry’s youth include Charlie Poole and the North Carolina Ramblers’ “Leaving Home,” in C (1926); Tennessee-based Dykes Magic City Trio, in F (1927); Riley Puckett and Clayton McMichen, in D (1929); and McMichen’s Georgia Wildcats, in C with twin fiddles, mandolin, and sock-style guitar (1938) Key of C.
  18. Coon Dog (1:34) Strawberry McCloud: fiddle and vocals; Randy Marmouzé: banjo; Jeff Claus and Steve Hinnefeld: guitar; Mark Feddersen: bass. Recorded by Gary Stanton, 1978, WFIU studios. Strawberry plays “Coon Dog” as a hoedown but sings a verse (and Jeff adds a few howls): “I sold my fiddle, and I sold my gun, For the best damn coon dog ever run.” On one recording, he introduces it with, “I’ll give you a good easy one.” It is not the cross-A Virginia tune descended from Wallace Spangler, rather, an eastern Kentucky tune in G. Recordings include Buddy Thomas (1973), from northeastern Kentucky fiddler Alfred Bailey (1918-96); and Cecil Crank (1973), of Carter County, some 80 miles east of Strawberry’s 1920s Clark County home See Traditional Tune Archive Key of G.
  19. Silver Bell (2:32) Strawberry McCloud: fiddle; Randy Marmouzé: banjo; Jeff Claus and Steve Hinnefeld: guitar; Mark Feddersen, bass. Recorded by Gary Stanton, 1978, WFIU studios. Introducing it on one recording, Strawberry says, “My grandpa played it all the time, but I didn’t learn it from him. I learnt it from my brother [Jack].” He plays it as a lively instrumental rather than a sentimental song, illustrating how old-time fiddlers absorbed popular music. This tune was published as sheet music in 1911 (Strawberry was 3 or 4), with melody by Percy Wenrich, lyrics by Edward Madden (“Silver Bell” referred to an “Indian maid”) . Among the many recordings (variously referring to “bell” or “bells”) are: “Silver Bells” by McMichen’s Home Town Band, in C (1925); “Silver Bell” by Jess Young’s Tennessee Band, in G (1929); and “Silver Bells” by Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, in D (1938) Strawberry’s melody takes a few different turns than the above-mentioned, and his version may be the only one with clawhammer banjo. Thanks to Andy Cahan for identifying the tune. Key of C.
  20. Paddy on the Turnpike (2:06) Strawberry McCloud: fiddle; Randy Marmouzé: banjo; Steve Hinnefeld: guitar. Recorded by Randy, 1975, at his or Strawberry’s house. Strawberry is our only source for this hoedown, with soaring high notes in the 18-beat first part (played once), and syncopated low phrases in the 16-beat low part (played twice). He introduced it sometimes as Gid Tanner’s “Paddy on the Turnpike” and others as Tanner’s “[offensive word for Black Person] in the Woodpile” (both common tune names of the 1920s and ‘30s). But it’s not any of the tunes that Tanner (or any other fiddler we could find) recorded under those titles. A couple of old-time tune experts we consulted suggested it is a version of “Old Hen Cackle,” but others did not see that connection. Strawberry played another (three-part) tune he called “Hen Cackle” (see #10 above). Key of G.
  21. Turkey in the Straw (2:30) Strawberry McCloud: fiddle; Randy Marmouzé: banjo; Steve Hinnefeld: guitar. Recorded by Randy, 1975, at his or Strawberry’s house. In Strawberry’s hands, “Turkey in the Straw” is a hoedown rather than a song, propelled by clawhammer banjo and guitar and featuring an extra beat at the end of each part, often syncopated phrasing, and slippery melodic variations. It was first published around 1834 as “Zip Coon” and performed in minstrel shows; several people claimed authorship (Wikipedia). The Skillet Lickers recorded it with vocals in G (1926) and the Doc Roberts Trio as an instrumental in C, with a light-touch uptown swing style incorporating many variations as well as D and A guitar chords in the high part (1932). Key of C.
  22. Waynesboro (1:25) Strawberry McCloud: fiddle; Randy Marmouzé: banjo; Jeff Claus: guitar. Recorded by Jeff, 1977, at Strawberry’s house. This is among the many tunes that Strawberry plays from Doc Roberts’ repertoire, interpreting them in his punchier, less intricately melodic style. He plays it as a hoedown, with even parts. Doc recorded it with John Booker, a Black guitarist, as “Waynesburgh” (key of G; 1927) Edden Hammons, of West Virginia, was recorded playing it in 1947, also in G. There are Waynesboros in Georgia, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Virginia, and an unincorporated Waynesburg in central Kentucky. Key of G.
  23. Sugar-Foot Rag (1:43) Strawberry McCloud: fiddle. Recorded by Gerry Milnes, October 1976, during the Augusta Heritage Workshop, Elkins, West Virginia The session that includes this recording is our only one in which Strawberry plays alone, perhaps supporting the Augusta workshop’s mission of helping young fiddlers learn from old masters. As a solo fiddler, he has to work harder to supply the dynamic rhythm and melodic complexity that comes of having backup instruments, especially (in old-time music) a banjo. It also hints at how some old-style techniques that Strawberry lacked (such as wildcat tunings: AEAE, ADAE, etc.) could help a lone fiddler provide his or her own backup, by facilitating droning and cross-string bow-rocking. “Sugar-Foot Rag” is an example of Strawberry updating his oeuvre, adopting pieces he could adapt to his style as they entered popular culture. It was recorded first by its composer, Hank Garland, as a flatpicking guitar showpiece (August 1949), then by Red Foley with lyrics by George Vaughn Horton (November 1949), and since then by many guitarists and fiddlers. Old-time renditions include George Helton, in A standard (Missouri; 1956); and Tommy Jarrell, in cross A (North Carolina; recorded in 1984, released on the Rainbow Sign cassette in 1986 ). Bluegrass fiddle recordings include Chubby Wise (1970). Online sources provide several meanings of “sugar foot” (or “sugarfoot”), one being a good dancer (“sugar” is the name of a traditional jazz dance step ). Fletcher Henderson and His Orchestra recorded an unrelated tune, “Sugar Foot Stomp,” in 1925. Key of A.
  24. Billy in the Low Ground (2:23) Strawberry McCloud: fiddle; Andy Cahan: banjo; Tim Goodall: guitar. Recorded by Andy, February 1978, in the “Hell Broke Loose in Georgia” workshop at the Kent State Folk Festival, Kent, Ohio. Strawberry introduces it as one of Gid Tanner’s tunes, “This is one of his that he liked awful well. The changes are a little different than most people played, in C.” Many versions of it were recorded in the 1920s and ‘30s, but we have not found a source for Strawberry’s, which has a 20-beat first part with a 9-beat tag, then an 18-beat second part with 9-beat tag (both parts played twice). In an era when he and many other fiddlers learned by ear and lacked regular access to their source (for instance, someone encountered at a fiddle contest), and when many homes lacked electricity (thus, no radio or phonograph), their reliance on memory likely led to the development of personal versions of tunes (especially crooked tunes that were harder to remember), and to development of different names for a given tune. It may also be that fiddlers in this era were expected to freely adapt tunes to their own style and took pride in doing so (see notes for #32 “Martha Campbell”). Early recordings of “Billy in the Lowground,” all in C, include: John Carson (crooked with a B part like “Four-Cent Cotton;” 1923); Doc Roberts with Edgar Boaz (even; 1926); Doc Roberts with John Booker, a Black guitarist (even, with a B part like “Texas Gals;” 1927); Burnett and Rutherford (even; 1928); and Lowe Stokes with Riley Puckett (both parts crooked, 18 beats; 1930). The Skillet Lickers also recorded it (1926), according to–1926-.aspx , but we haven’t found it online. In the Kentucky Mountain region, east of Strawberry’s home territory, John Salyer’s version (home recording, ca. 1942) has hard-to-separate beginnings and endings on the low part; but by my best efforts at counting beats, it is even (two 16-beat parts, both played twice). Key of C.
  25. Sweet Bunch of Daisies (1:57) Strawberry McCloud: fiddle; Andy Cahan: banjo; Tim Goodall: guitar. Recorded by Andy, February 1978, at the Kent State Folk Festival. Strawberry does this waltz-time song as a sentimental instrumental full of sliding chords; it’s a change of pace from his hoedowns, blues, and rags. Introducing it on one recording, Strawberry says, “I’ll play one of Clayton McMichen’s tunes…,” and he says it was one he had played on the radio (presumably as bass player with the Georgia Wildcats [1930-34]) when they did spots for Howell Furniture Co. and Arm and Hammer baking soda on Louisville station WHAS (see his “Folk Festival Autobiography” elsewhere on this website). Composed by Esther Anita Owen, “Sweet Bunch of Daisies” was published as a sheet music song in waltz time (1894). Recordings include McMichen’s Melody Men, in C (1926); Jess Young’s Tennessee Band, in G (1929); and Clayton McMichen (1930, according to this website but we have not found it online). Key of C.
  26. Buck Creek Gal (2:18) Strawberry McCloud: fiddle; Randy Marmouzé: banjo; Steve Hinnefeld: guitar. Recorded by Randy, 1975, at his or Strawberry’s house. The Slippery Hill website (an old-time tunes goldmine) lists many renditions of this tune under the name “Wild Horse” by Kentucky fiddlers of the 1920s-‘30s, and also one by Posey Rorer of Charlie Poole’s North Carolina Ramblers (1926). It’s in G, usually with three or four parts, one of which goes to an E minor chord. Strawberry uses Doc Roberts’ name for it and, like him, plays three parts (but does not match Doc’s wealth of melodic and rhythmic variations Doc recorded it under the alias “Fiddlin’ Frank Nelson” (1927). A Skillet Lickers record calls it “[offensive term for a Black Person] in the Woodpile” (1930). “Wild Horse” renditions include William Stepp (Kentucky, 1937), Ed Haley (West Virginia/eastern Kentucky, probably 1946 or ‘47), and John Salyer (Kentucky, 1941 or ‘42). Bob Walters, of Missouri, recorded it as “Stony Point” (1950). Key of G.
  27. I Don’t Love Nobody (1:47) Strawberry McCloud: fiddle; Wayne Erbsen: guitar. Recorded by Wayne, October 1976, at Augusta Heritage Workshop, Elkins, West Virginia!20525/field/contri!escri/mode/exact!exact/conn/and!and/order/relatid/ad/asc/cosuppress/0. This rag with music and words by Black-face minstrel entertainer Lew Sully came out as sheet music in 1896 and has been recorded multiple times in many genres. Rich in blue notes and slides, Strawberry’s rendition (like Doc Roberts’ recorded in 1932) is a laid-back instrumental. Other old-time versions are: Gid Tanner (1924); Skillet Lickers (1926); Earl Johnson’s Dixie Entertainers (Georgia, 1927); Clayton McMichen (1930, according to this website ). Keys of C and A minor.
  28. Cumberland Gap (1:35) Strawberry McCloud: fiddle; John Willie Myers: guitar. Undocumented recording session, possibly by Ren Oschin (now deceased), mid-1970s, at her and Strawberry’s house. The tune and song likely date to the late 1800s (Wikipedia); they have no known composer. Uncle Am Stuart first recorded it (Tennessee; 1924). Old-time musicians recorded multiple versions after that, mostly in G but also D (notably, Tommy Jarrell, titled “Tumblin’ Gap”) and other keys. Among them are Gid Tanner and Riley Puckett (1924); the Skillet Lickers (1928); Rutherford, Burnett, and Moore (1928); and the Doc Roberts Trio (1933). Like Doc’s, Strawberry’s version alternates playing the second part high and low. After giving up music as a career, in 1934, Strawberry became a heavy equipment operator and helped build the Cumberland Gap tunnel. Key of G.
  29. Casey Jones (1:31) Strawberry McCloud: fiddle; Randy Marmouzé: banjo; Jeff Claus and Steve Hinnefeld: guitar; Mark Feddersen: bass. Recorded by Gary Stanton, 1978, WFIU studios. Strawberry plays “Casey Jones” as a raggy, clawhammer banjo-friendly instrumental, with an extra beat (totaling 17) in the B part. The A part gets slipperier and slipperier as he increasingly runs melody notes together. Recalling an Augusta Heritage Workshop where he taught that tune (October 1976), he comments at the end, “I played that up at Elkins [West Virginia] every day for four days.” Walter McNew (1912-98), of Rockcastle County, Kentucky, just south of Doc Roberts and Strawberry, plays a similar version (Slippery Hill website). Its true composer probably is uncredited, but it was published as a sheet music song in 1909 “with vaudeville performers T. Lawrence Seibert credited with the lyrics and Eddie Newton with the music … By World War I, dozens of versions had been published and millions of copies were sold” Among old-time music recordings are these (all song versions in C by Georgia musicians): John Carson (1923 or ‘24); Riley Puckett (1924); the Skillet Lickers (1927). Key of C.
  30. Carroll County Blues (2:14) Strawberry McCloud: fiddle; Randy Marmouzé: banjo; Steve Hinnefeld: guitar. Recorded by Randy, 1975, at his house or Strawberry’s. Strawberry likely got this meandering country blues from Doc Roberts. Doc recorded it in 1931, two years after Carroll County, Mississippi-based Narmour and Smith first recorded it, listing fiddler William T. Narmour as composer (1929). Narmour likely drew from other area musicians, Black and White (Wikipedia Traditional Tune Archive; see also Gary Stanton’s 1980 article, “All Counties Have Blues: County Blues as an Emergent Genre of Fiddle Tunes in Eastern Mississippi” All three of these renditions are in G, but Strawberry’s has more of a stringband sound, given his banjo backup. His and Doc’s versions are slower than Narmour and Smith’s and have a shorter second part. All three differ in timing, not surprising for a distinctively crooked tune. My best guess is that Narmour’s first part has 21 or 22 beats, played twice; while his second part has 21 or 22 beats played once. In Doc’s first part, I count 21 the first time through, 18 the second; and an 8-beat second part played once. Strawberry plays a 16-or-17 beat first part twice, then an 8-or-10-beat second part once. Key of G.
  31. Soldier’s Joy (1:00) Strawberry McCloud: fiddle; Randy Marmouzé: banjo; Steve Hinnefeld: guitar. Recorded by Randy, 1975, his or Strawberry’s house. The tune and some verses date to 1700s Scotland Recordings include John Carson (1925 or ‘26); and the Skillet Lickers (1929). Relative to these, Strawberry’s version is jauntier, more syncopated, more banjo-driven, and more hoedown than song. On this recording of the tune (though not some others), he goes low on the seventh and eighth beats of the first part. Key of D.
  32. Martha Campbell (1:45) Strawberry McCloud: fiddle; Wayne Erbsen: guitar. Recorded by Wayne, October 1976, at Augusta Heritage Workshop. Introducing this tune at the 1977 Kent State Folk Festival in Kent, Ohio, Strawberry said: “It’s called ‘Martha Campbell.’ It’s the first money I ever won playin’ in a contest [he was about 15]. I met Doc Roberts in ’23. And my dad told me about him and had heard him play a lot of times. So, I met him in 1923 at the courthouse, Winchester, Kentucky. And he told me, he said, ‘Well if you can learn this piece you ought to get the money.’ So I got—I got third prize. He taken first, and I got third, and Edgar Boaz got second” (excerpt from Andy Cahan’s recording). Edgar Boaz played guitar on some Doc Roberts recordings; by this account, he also fiddled (In his book Rural Rhythm, Tony Russell notes a fiddler Gus Boaz in Calhoun, Georgia, in the 1920s [p. 57]). Other recorded versions include: Doc Roberts (1925; likely learned from Owen Walker, a Black fiddler born in 1857 who was Doc’s neighbor and entertained locally; and Darley Fulks (about 1977). Darley (1895-1990), lived in Wolfe County, Kentucky, a couple of counties east of Doc (Madison County) and Strawberry (Clark County). Kentucky old-time tunes scholar John Harrod, who recorded and interviewed Darley over 18 years, quotes him as saying, “There was two colored fellers in Mt. Sterling [county seat of Montgomery County, just east of Clark]. I took a pair of mules down there and give ’em away, swapped them for an old horse. It was a young crazy thing, didn’t have no sense. Now John, that was in 1915 or 16. Well, they played “Martha Campbell,” and I’d never heard it before. That’s a bluegrass tune, no doubt about that. It’s not a mountain tune.” John notes that by “bluegrass,” Darley meant the interior Bluegrass area of the state, as opposed to the more eastern Kentucky Mountain region – and not the bluegrass style of music. He writes that Darley “absorbed the [B]lack fiddle style and repertoire of Kentucky’s inner bluegrass region” Doc’s “Martha Campbell” is even. Strawberry, like Darley, plays it crooked (17 beats per part). Toward the end of the recording, he switches to another tune (that we don’t recognize) for about nine seconds, then returns to “Martha Campbell.” His two “Martha Campbell” recordings with Wayne Erbsen (at the 1976 Augusta Heritage Workshop) are our only example of him tune-switching (my term). But several 1920s-30s fiddlers did it on recordings, perhaps as an entertainment-oriented novelty. See, for instance: the Leake County Revelers, “Wednesday Night Waltz” (1927; 1:28-1:41); “Forked Deer” by Charlie Bowman (1929; 1:13-1:54), and Uncle Am Stuart (1924; 0:45-1:10); and McMichen’s Georgia Wildcats’ “Wild Cat Rag” (1931; 1:29-1:44). Key of D.
    During “The Big Footed [Man] in the Sandy Lot,” the Stripling Brothers switch to “The Sweet Bye and Bye” (1928; 0:42-1:09; thanks to Joyce Cauthen for the reference ). And Charlie Herald and His Roundup Rangers, of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, do it in their recording of “Turkey in the Straw” (probably 1933, switching to “Chicken Reel”; thanks to Ben Thompson for the reference).
  33. Virginia Rag (2:07) Strawberry McCloud: fiddle; Randy Marmouzé: banjo; Jeff Claus and Steve Hinnefeld: guitar; Mark Feddersen: bass. Recorded by Gary Stanton, 1978, WFIU studios. Strawberry brought this tune back to Indiana from the 1977 West Virginia Folk Festival. True to form, he wails on the high part (and emphasizes the off-beat at the ends of phrases) and syncopates on the low part, cruising along on his rhythm section. Notice the triplet at the end of the first phrase of the high part starting about 1:15 (see also notes for #35 “Shimmy -She-Wobble”). Introducing “Virginia Rag” at the 1978 Kent State Folk Festival (Andy Cahan recording), he said, “This is one I learnt–, heared a feller playin’ in Glenville, West Virginia. I liked it pretty well, so I tried to learn it. I don’t know if I got it just right, in C, ‘Virginia Rag’.” Gerry Milnes, a West Virginia fiddle tunes expert, says, “The first part sounds like ‘Fun’s All Over,’ but the second varies away from the tune. It’s also called ‘Fiddler’s Drunk and the Fun’s All Over.’” John Harrod and Whitt Mead, who are knowledgeable about Kentucky tunes, agreed. Whitt suggests that Strawberry’s B part sounds like [the low part of] “Little Brown Jug.” I also hear similarities to the low part of “Texas Gal.” Strawberry’s high part is especially close to eastern Kentucky fiddler J.P. Fraley’s (1923-2011) version of “The Fun’s All Over.” Perhaps J.P. was at Glenville when Strawberry was there, or perhaps Strawberry heard the Radio Aces play it there; band member Joe LaRose says they had learned it from Fraley’s album, Wild Rose of the Mountain Key of C.
  34. Run, Boy, Run (2:18) Strawberry McCloud: fiddle; with members of the Radio Aces (probably Kerry Blech: fiddle; Gary Hawk: banjo; Joe LaRose: guitar). Recorded by Kerry, June 1977, at the West Virginia State Folk Festival. This recording session (also the source of “Sally Goodin,’” #3 above) offers a rare occasion of Strawberry double fiddling. Some of his young Bloomington friends had the feeling he preferred being the only fiddler in a session, but in this case he meshed across the generations. Done as a tune and a song, with various words substituting for the offensive “n-word” in the titles of some recordings, this piece was in music collections of the 1800s and had many recorded versions in the early-mid 1900s. Strawberry’s rendition is distinctive, resembling Doc Roberts’ instrumental version in G (“Run, Smoke, Run;” 1929) more than song versions recorded by John Carson in DDAD (1924) and the Skillet Lickers in D (1927). Doc’s version, however, is cleaner and stronger on melodic variations than Strawberry’s, which has fewer notes, blue notes, compelling slides, and more driving rhythm. Key of G.
  35. Shimmy-She-Wobble (2:09) Strawberry McCloud: fiddle; Randy Marmouzé: banjo; Jeff Claus and Steve Hinnefeld: guitar; Mark Feddersen: bass. Recorded by Gary Stanton, 1978, at WFIU studios. Strawberry is the only source we have found for the sinuous lively blues he called “Shimmy-She-Wobble,” although Whitt Mead, an Ohio fiddler with broad knowledge of vintage recordings and regional styles, notes a resemblance to the Stripling Brothers’ “Coal Valley,” also in C (Alabama; ca. 1935). Strawberry’s “Shimmy-She-Wobble” has three parts and a bridge: a 4-beat high part played twice, 3-beat bridge, 4-beat low part played twice, then 8-beat (high) third part played once. It features blue notes, tremolo, slides, and a triplet on the fourth beat of the second time through the first and second parts (see also notes for #33 “Virginia Rag”). Strawberry may have learned this country blues from an as-yet-unknown source or made it up, taking the name from risqué slang and dance styles promoted in sheet music; dance halls; and jazz, ragtime, jugband, and blues recordings of his youth. “Shim-Me-Sha-Wabble” (by Spencer Williams, an African American composer who also wrote “Basin Street Blues” and “Georgia Grind”) appeared in 1916, and the “shimmy” caught on as “a jazz dance characterized by a shaking of the body from the shoulders down” (Merriam-Webster Online). It was “often considered to be obscene and was frequently banned from dance halls during the 1920s” (Wikipedia). “Ev’rybody Shimmies Now” came out in 1918 (lyrics by Eugene West, music by Joe Gold and Edmund J. Poppay), and “I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate” in 1919 (by Clarence Williams and Armand Piron), when Strawberry was about 12 (Wikipedia) . (Mississippi-based “Otha” Turner’s fife-and-drum-band “Shimmy-She-Wobble” recording of 1995 appears unrelated to Strawberry’s and to Spencer Williams’ tunes). “Wobble” is in the title of at least three country rag-style tunes of the Prohibition Era, possibly referring to toxic side effects of bootleg liquor and the alcoholic patent medicine Jamaica ginger (“jake”): “Georgia Wobble Blues” (1930, Carroll County Revelers), “Stone Mountain Wobble” (1927, Scottdale String Band, Georgia), and “Jake Leg Wobble” (1930, Ray Brothers, Mississippi). Key of C.
  36. Black-Eyed Susie (1:59) Strawberry McCloud: fiddle; Randy Marmouzé: banjo; Steve Hinnefeld: guitar. Recorded by Randy, 1975, at his or Strawberry’s house. This three-way collaboration is a match made in heaven. It shows what Randy’s wife, Martha Marmouzé, meant when she said of Strawberry, “He was so much fun to dance to. The music was sassy. We would sway our hips and drag our feet.” Wikipedia’s Traditional Tune Archive reports that this widespread old-time hoedown has origins in the 1500s in England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, including for use as a Morris dance tune. Strawberry’s version has his distinctive soaring high notes and syncopated percussive low part; it may be influenced by recordings of Gid Tanner and Riley Puckett (1924), Doc Roberts (1927), and the Skillet Lickers (with Clayton McMichen; 1928). Key of D.

Total Time 73:35

Strawberry’s Folk Festival Autobiography

Robert Lee “Strawberry” McCloud – Bloomington Breakdown – FRC749

Provided by Gary Stanton, 2021

When Strawberry McCloud was hired to perform at the 1978 Kent State Folk Festival, he was asked to provide his “bio” for festival publicity and programming. In response, he wrote this autobiographical letter to Kerry Blech, one of that year’s festival organizers. The letter was probably typed by his partner, Ren Oschin. We’ve left the text as it was written, including typos, misspellings, and Strawberry’s references to Gid Tanner as “Gib.” Also, it’s likely that his account of encountering the Skillet Lickers on the streets of Nashville in 1925 and then playing with them for a couple of years is a case of “resumé enhancement;” two younger-generation musicians recall that a few years before this was written (about 1974), he told them he had played bass fiddle with the Georgia Wildcats but, asked if he had played with the Skillet Lickers, responded that he had not.”

Dear Kerry

I was born 1907 the 11th day of November in Bourbon County, Kentucky. I had 2 older brothers, 2 older sisters and one younger sister. I started learning how to play the fiddle when I was 8 years old. I used to sneak under the bed and steal my brother’s fiddle out. My dad got tired of whipping me for it so he made me a fiddle out of a cigar box. The first tune I ever learnt was Liza Jane. And my dad liked it so well he didn’t care if I played on the old fiddle then.

The fiddle I have now my mother’s grandfather found it hanging on the wall during the civil war. It’s an old German Hopf. I promised my poor old mother on her death bed I’d never sell it.

I used to play for square dances with my brothers when I was 12 years old. I played the little fiddle and the bass fiddle.

In 1923 I met the famous Doc Roberts at a fiddler’s contest. I got 3rd prize–it was the first prize I ever got–and we got to be real friends. He sure learnt me a lot about playing the fiddle.

I met Gib Tanner in 1925. I met him coming down the street at Nashville, Tennessee. He seen me carryin my fiddle and he stopped me and introduced hiself and asked me how long I’d been playin. And I told him I started learning when I was 8 years old. He said well you ought to be pretty good by now, let’s go up to the Grand Old Opry and we’ll play a little in the practise room. He liked the way I played and asked me would I be willing to travel around with him and play for dances and shows. Well I was wanting to play music so I told him yes. I played with Gib Tanner and The Skillett Lickers till 1929.

I met Clayt McMichem, he was in the band. He was from Georgia. One afternoon after we performed he asked me would I like to join him with his band–he was going to name it The Georgia Wildcats. I told him I hated to leave Gib but he offered to pay $65 a week and that was good money in them days. Gib said he couldn’t pay me that much so I went with Clayt. Gib said he was glad to see me do better.

With Gib I played with John Carson, Bert Layne and Clayt was the fiddlers; Riley Pucket and Sturtz was guitar pickers.

So in 1930 I went with Clayt. We played for dances and a lot of big celebrations at the parks and we played for commercials over the radio. Arm and Hammer and Harold Furniture Company in Louisville Kentucky every morning at 7. I met Paul Sap and Slim Bryant, both of them guitar pickers. Riley played some with Clayt too. We played in a lot of contests in those days and I met Natchi the Indian in Cincinati Ohio. He was awful good.

I stayed with Clayt til 1934 and it seemed like the old fashioned music was changing into more modern with Clayt bringing in saxaphones and drums which I didn’t like. It was too classy a music for me. Also we went as high as 5 days and nights and never see a bed, just sleep in the car a traveling.

I had a chance to go to operating heavy equipment with my brother. It was a lot better money and I could stay at home more. I was married then and had a little girl and I liked to be at home a lot. So I quit music, only just playing on weekends in a jam session.

I got my hand smashed flat in 1936 running a crane working on the United States gold vault in Fort Knox, Kty. And they wanted to take my left hand off and I wouldn’t let them. I’m thankful to god I didn’t let them take it off. I carried it in a cast for 16 months.

My friend Doc Roberts heard about me gettin hurt and he came to see me. I told him I lost the use of my little finger. It was hurtin my music awful bad. He told me not to let that worry me. He said he’d show me how to slide my music and he’d show me a good bow action. And I’ve got that today. He said that’s half of the battle was a good bow action. He said the 2 most important things in music is bow action and good timing. I thank him very much, bless his old heart, to this day.

I went and visited him twice last year and we was crying like babies about old times. He never was beat in a contest and now he can’t play a lick. He’s paralyzed in his bow arm–he had a stroke.

I never went back to music but I never gived it up either. I always played it a couple times a week.

I never could play no note music, just all by ear.

When I retired in 1972 we got a little band and we play as past time. The name of the band is Strawberry McCloud and the Bloomington Ramblers. Strawberry is my nickname I got operating heavy equipment. Otherwise I was knowed by Bob McCloud.

I can’t use my hand like I used to cause it gives me a little trouble by going to sleep. I have an artificial tube in my arm.

This summer a friend gave a fish fry and a friend and me played for 11 hours one day and 6 hours the next day and never played the same tune twice except one by request.

I’d rather play music than anything else in my life–almost. I really like music–old fashioned music.

I have 7 kids and none of them are interested in the fiddle but I have 2 grandchildren that really like music. I think one will really make a fiddler, he’s only 11 now but he’s got all the signs of making a good fiddler. He’s got the right time and the right bow action. He don’t know how to play yet but he’s got it in him. I got a great-grandson who is only one year old and he likes to pat his hands and tries to dance when he hears music.

This is about all I can think of now Kerry. I guess I’ll sign off.

Kent State Folk Festival Poster, 1978

Kent State Folk Festival Poster, 1978. Courtesy Sue Goehring

Track Notes for FRC742 – Yvon Mimeault, Y’était temps !

Yvon Mimeault – Y’était temps ! | It’s About Time – FRC742

Notes by Yvon & Guy Bouchard; Yvon’s comments are in italic.

1 Hommage à Adrien Alain / Réjean Ferguson

Yvon a recuelli ses airs un peu partout en Gaspésie et il avait beaucoup d’admiration pour plusieurs violoneux dont Adrien Alain de Gascon qui “…jouait dans deux salles de danse le même soir…”. Réjean Ferguson, un autre fameux violoneux gaspésien, a été président de l’Association québécoise du loisir folklorique.

Yvon learned his tunes from all over the Gaspésie. He greatly admired a number of fiddlers including Andrien Alain de Gascon who “…played in two dance halls on the same night…”. Réjean Ferguson, another well known fiddler from Gaspésie, was president of the Association québécoise du loisir folklorique.

2 Véronique va voir à ta soupe / Reel de mes p’tites vaches

Certaines mélodies de chansons servaient vouvent d’air aux violoneux. Let mots de celle-ci étaient: “Véronique, voir à ta soupe car elle est cuite et prête à manger.” “… On jouait cette mélodie pour fiare danser une première partie de quadrille.” Yvon est un artisan de grand talent, et il a entre autres sculpté des vaches magnifiaques.

C’est pour elles qu’il a composé la deuxième partie de ce pot-pourri.
Fiddlers often borrowed song melodies to use as dance music. The words of this song are: “Véronique, go check your soup, because it’s ready, because it’s ready; ready to be eaten.” “… We played this melody for the first part of a quadrille.” Yvon is also a great craftsman and he has sculpted many magnificent wooden cows. He composed the second tune for them.

3 Pot pourri de Mont-Joli à la Calafornie

“Mon père jouait cette mélodie et elle m’est ravenue en mémoire lors d’une semaine à Port Townsend au Festival of American Fiddle Tunes, en juin 1997. J’ai appris la deuxième en écoutant la radio en Gaspésie et je crois qu’elle provient du répertoire d’Elmo Leblanc. J’ai intitulé le pot-pourri en l’honneur de mes amis de Californie Laurie, Barbara et Kevin que vous entendez tous rire à la fin…”

“My father played this tune and it came back to me during the week I spent in Port Townsend at the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes, in June 1997. I learned the second one off the radio in Gaspésie and I think that it comes from the repertoire of Elmo Leblanc. I named it the pot-pourri in honour of my California friends, Laurie, Barbara and Kevin, whom we hear laughing at the end…”

4 Quadrilles de l’oncle Ti-Bé

“L’oncle Antoine Mimeault (Ti-Bé) habitait Ruisseaux-des-Olives et, dans les annés 40, il jouait régulièrement pour les danses. Il jouait ces deux airs que je j’ai plus jamais entendus par la suite.”

“My uncle Antoine Mimeault (Ti-Bé) lived in Ruisseaux-des-Olives and in the 1940s he played regularly for dances. He played these two tunes which I have never heard since then.”

5 Hermas Réhel / Histoire de mon vieux coq

Hermas Réhel est un ami d’Yvon et un autre excellent violoneux originaire de la réegion de Gaspé. Il vit aujourd’hui à Brossard en banlieue de Montréal. “J’ai composé le deuxième air en souvenir d’un vilain coq que nous avions quand j’était petit.”

Hermas Réhel, one of Yvon’s friends, is an excellent fiddler originally from the Gaspé region. Today, he lives in Brossard, a suburb of Montréal. “I composed the second tune which reminds me of the crowing of the rooster we had when I was a kid.”

6 Le Forgeron

“C’est un reel que j’ai arrangé à ma manière aprés l’avoir entendu de Jean Carignan. Je joue cet air sur le violon que j’ai fabriqué en 1949 et je l’accorde La-Mi-La-Mi.”

“This is a reel that I arranged in my own way after hearing Jean Carignan play it. I’m playing this tune on the fiddle that I made in 1949; it’s tuned A-E-A-E.”

7 Chaîn de quadrille de l’oncle Adelme / Ti-Blanc Davis

André accompagne ici Yvon car nous éditions tous ‘calés’ dans la ‘bouette’ sur le chemin menant au studio. “J’ai appris la première mélodie de mon père. La deuxième m’a été jouée par un accordéoniste aveugle de Rivière Madeleine qu’on surnommait Ti-Blanc Davis .”

André backed up Yvon on this one because the rest of us were stuck in the mud on the road to the studio. “I learned the first tune from my father. The second one was played for me by a blind accordion player from Rivière Madeleine whose nickname was Ti-Blanc Davis.”

8 Fort Worden / A.A. Deschênes

“Mon père jouait cette mélodie. Il a certainement appris de nombreux airs des passants qu’on appelait des quêteux et qui logeaient chez nous pour une nuit. C’était la mélodie préféré de mon groupe d’étudiants à Fort Worden au Festival of American Fiddle Tunes… “
“André Albert Deschênes, un ‘faiseux de violon’ comme il disait, originaire de Les Hauteurs près de Rimouski m’a rappelé cette autre mélodie du répertoire de mon père.”

“My father played this tune. He sure learned lots of tunes from the itinerant fiddlers whom we called beggars and whom we often put up for the night. At the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes at Fort Worden, this was my group of students’ favourite tune…”
“André Albert Deschênes, a fiddle maker as he called himself, originally from Les Hauteurs near Rimouski, helped me remember another tune from my father’s repertoire.”

9 La femme qui crie encore / L’accroche-pied

“Deux autres pièces du répertoire de mon père… Le premier titre a été trouvé par mon garçon Francis qui a réalisé la pochette. C’est l’un de mes accompagnateurs, le pianiste Jean Bellevance, qui a baptisé le deuxième. C’est vrai que mes airs sont souvent ‘accrochants’ à accompagner…”

“Two other tunes from my father’s repertoire … My son Francis, who designed the CD cover, came up with the first title. Jean Bellevance, one of my back-up piano players, came up with the second. It’s true that some of my tunes are hard to back up…”

10 Moineau Lamoureux / La gigue du père Doiron

“La première mélodie était jouée dans notre famille. Elle rapelle ‘la chicaneuse’ mais ches nous, c’était l’air du bûcheron qui veillait au village en courtisant la fille du voisin. J’ai appris la seconde de mon ami violoneux de Kamouraska, Ferdinand Dionne.”

“The first tune was played in our family. It’s similar to ‘la Chicaneuse’. But where I’m from, it was the tune of the lumberjack who used to spend his evenings in the village courting the neighbour’s daughter. I learned the second one from a fiddler friend, Ferdinand Dionne, from Kamouraska.”

11 De passage à Brossard / Yvon-t-y finir…

“Le violoneux de Gaspé Hermas Réhel m’a souvent joué ce reel lors de mes passages chez lui à Brossard. J’ai composé le deuxième lorsque je jouais pour les longues danses comme le Brandy. Quand je n’avais plus d’air en mémoire, j’improvisais en peu en pensant quelquefois ‘y-vont-y finir…’”

“Hermas Réhel, a fiddler from Gaspé, often played this reel when I visited him in Brossard. I composed the second tune when I played for long dances like the Brandy. When I ran out of tunes in my head, I improvised a little sometimes asking myself, are they ever going to finish?”

12 Y’était temps

“Je détiens le premier reel de mon père et j’ai composé le deuxième l’hiver dernier. Éric Favreau avec qui je joue ici est l’un de ceux qui peuvent le mieux suivre ma façon de jouer. Mes amis pensent que c’est l’effet ‘El Mimeault’ qui donne tant d’élans à nos violons…”

“I got the first tune from my father and I composed the second one last winter. Éric Favreau, with whom I’m playing here, is someone who can really follow my way of playing. My friends think that it’s the ‘El-Mimeault’ effect that gives so much swing to our fiddles.”

13 La gigue du bonhomme / Soirée à Lamecque

“C’était le 6/8 préféré de mon père Odilon et c’est pour cela que je l’ai surnommé la gigue du bonhomme. C’est lors d’une soirée à Lamecque au Nouveau-Brunswick que la deuxième mélodie m’est revenue en mémoire.”

“This was my father, Odilon’s, favourite jig. This is why I nicknamed it ‘La gigue du bonhomme’. It was during a party in Lamecque, New Brunswick, that I remembered the second melody.”

14 Pot-pouri des quatre violons

“Avec Éric, Guy et laurie, c’est tout un orchestre de violons pour interpréter cet air de mon père que nous enchaînons avec une mélodie que j’ai entendue à la radio acadienne du Nouveau-Brunswick. Le tout est soutenu par Kevin sur son alambic que certains nomment à tort cornemuse.”

“With Éric, Guy and Laurie, it’s quite the fiddle orchestra for playing this tune from my father followed by a tune that I heard on an Acadian radio station from New Brunswick. Kevin supports the orchestra on his whiskey still, which some people incorrectly call a uilleann pipe.”

15 L’oncle Petit / Le reel à tout le monde

“L’oncle Petit était en réalité un gros et grand bonhomme, un oncle de mon père et un excellent gigueur. C’était sur ce reel qu’il aimait danser. Le reel à tout le monde est joué à peu près par tous les vieux violoneux et j’ai emprunté un peu à chacune des versions qui j’ai entendues.”

“My uncle ‘Petit’ (tiny) was in fact big and tall. He was one of my father’s uncles and an excellent step dancer. He loved to dance to this reel. ‘Le reel à tout le monde’ (Everybody’s Reel) is played by just about all the older fiddlers and I borrowed a little bit from each of the versions I heard.”

16 Souvenirs de Cascon / Reel de Drummondville

“C’est suite à une autre visite chez le violoneux Adrien Alain de Gascon que j’ai entendu la première partie de ce pot-pourri et c’est Ti-Noir Joyal de Drummondville qui m’a joué la deuxième lors d’un spectacle dans sa région.”

“I heard the first part of this medley while visiting the fiddler Adrien Alain of Gascon. Ti-Noir Joyal of Drummondville played the second one for me at a concert in his area.”

17 Pot-pourri des Maritimes

“Lorsque nous étions jeunes à la maison, moi et mes frères écoutions sur une vielle radio les airs de violon que nous tentions de turluter pour les garder en mémoire. J’ai appris de nombreux airs de cette façon et plus tard, quand j’ai travaillé à Gaspé, nous écoutions régulièrement les émissions en provanance des Maritimes.”

“When I was growing up, my brothers and I listened to fiddle tunes on an old radio. In order to remember them, we’d sing them using ‘mouth music’. I learned numerous tunes this way. Later on while working in Gaspé, I listened regularly to radio shows from the Maritimes.”

18 Le reel du batelier / Le reel de St-Augustin

“Mon bon ami de St-Augustin-de-Desmaurer, Henry Grimard, a composé ces deux airs sur son accordéon-piano.”

“My good friend Henry Grimard from St-Augustin-de-Desmaurer composed these two tunes on his piano accordion.”

19 Reel de pendu

Vous connaissez tous l’histoire de ce condamné qui, pour prouver son innocence, s’est improvisé joueur de violon. De la façon dont Yvon débute son air, il prouve bien que l’accusé n’avait jamais touché à un violon! Disons qu’il a par contre très vite appris … Le violon est accordé La-Mi-La-Do#.

Everyone knows the story of the condemned man who, in order to prove his innocence, improvised this tune (The Hangman’s Reel) on the fiddle. The way that Yvon starts the tune shows that the accused had never touched a fiddle. Let’s just say that he was a fast learner… The fiddle is tuned A-E-A-C#.

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