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 Blanton Owen. We met Luther Davis (1887-1986) in the spring of 1973. He was 86 and living with his wife, Alverda (Verd), in the Delhart/Baywood section of Grayson County, Virginia, just west of Galax. Joe Caudill, an equally ancient fiddler from just over the North Carolina line in Alleghany County, had told us that we had to hear Luther Davis play, that Luther knew all the old tunes. And he certainly did. During the next year, Blanton and I visited Luther often, each time finding him remembering more and more of the tunes he knew as a young man growing up in the music. Luther and the Caudill boys, Joe and his older brother Hus, spent long hours listening to, learning from, and playing with older local fiddlers like Emmett Lundy (1864-1953), Sidney Caudill (1852-1936), and Isom Rector (1858-1926) and his brother Fielden (1857-1929). The cuts on this CD catch Luther just starting to play again after years working and raising a family. But the magic was still there, and what you hear here is the old style Galax fiddling at its very best. Thank you again, Luther Davis.
I must say that fieldwork is always a hit or miss proposition. You never know what’s on the other side of the door. A welcoming smile, a gruff refusal, good music, bad music. Every now and then you’re lucky and meet a Luther Davis. As those who knew him can attest, Luther was indeed one of a kind. A character, a wit, a performer, a charmer, a musician’s musician. But always unforgettable.
For my friend Blanton Owen
Recorded by Tom Carter and Blanton Owen. The Old Originals project was funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Special thanks to Ann Carter, Dan Patterson, Alan Jabbour, Andy Cahan, Alice Gerrard, John Schwab, Wes Freeman, and all the folks at the Field Recorders Collective.