From the collection of John Cohen – From Judge Dan White’s “O’Leary” Recordings
John Summers (1887-1976) was a farmer and master fiddler from Indiana. His music was respected in his local area and among friends. He played in scores of “Old Fiddling Contests” at fairs and events all over the Midwest, winning first places at almost every single event. You can hear the excellence of 19th Century music carried into his present. It still speaks to our ears today. Here’s how his music got out to the rest of us: in the early 1960s The New Lost City Ramblers were performing at the Ash Grove in Los Angeles, and Mr. and Mrs. O’Leary heard us and later, at a dude ranch in Colorado, told their friend Judge Dan White about it. So when he returned to his home in Indiana he made these recordings of his friend John Summers for them, and they gave the tape to me in California the following year. I brought it to my home in New York City, and gave a copy to our neighbor Art Rosenbaum (originally from Indianapolis). On his next trip to Indiana he located and recorded John Summers. He issued some of these on Folkways’ “Fine Times at Our House”, and Mr. Summers’ fame spread to a new, dispersed audience. What you are listening to is the tape Judge White gave the O’Learys, clearly a communication of shared pleasures, friendship and excellent music. – John Cohen
Additional Notes: John Wesley Summers: A Historical Sketch of My Father and John Summers.