These recordings were made in 1973 and 1974 as part of a year-long study of traditional music along the central Blue Ridge. I worked with my close friend and banjo idol, Blanton Owen. We met Huston “Hus” Caudill (1884-1986) through his younger brother, Joe (1888-1980), who was a good fiddler and someone we knew from earlier fieldwork in the area. The Caudills, nearly all of whom were musicians, lived along the North Carolina/Virginia border just south and west of Galax. Their father, Sidney Caudill (1852-1936), was a fiddler of local renown, often compared to his contemporary Emmett Lundy (1864-1953), who lived not far away, in Delhart, Virginia.
Hus grew up playing the fiddle, and of all the Caudill children probably learned the most from Sid. This is significant because in many ways Hus’s playing bridges the gap between the older, more individualistic style of his father’s generation and the newer, more formulaic, banjo-fiddle ensemble music that was gaining popularity in and around Galax during the first years of the 20th century. Hus played both the old and new, and both are evident on this recording. He also clawhammered and two-finger picked the banjo, but an injury to his right hand shortly before we started visiting made it hard for him to play more than a few tunes. So it is the old melodies, the Sid Caudill-Emmett Lundy fiddle tunes, that form the bulk of the music on this album. A gentle man, we always looked forward to our time with him. Thank you again, Hus Caudill.
For my friend Blanton Owen
The Old Originals project was funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Thanks to Dan Patterson, Alan Jabbour, Ann Carter, Wes Freeman, John Schwab, Kilby Spencer, Lucas Pasley, and young musicians everywhere.