Luther Davis (1887-1986) and Huston “Hus” Caudill (1884-1986) grew up playing music together. This would have been in the first two decades of the 20th century. Luther lived in the Meadow Creek Section of Grayson County, Virginia, and Hus over in the Vox community of Alleghany County, North Carolina. Though in different states, they grew up within walking distance of each other, and both recalled meeting up at the homes of older musicians like Isom Rector (1858-1926), his brother Fielden (1857-1929), and Emmett Lundy (1864-1953), often in all-night sessions. Blanton Owen and I recorded them in 1973 and 1974 as part of a year-long study of traditional music on the central Blue Ridge. We visited them many times, but always separately, one time Luther, and another time Hus.
Then one day it dawned on us that they each had stories of playing with and learning from one another as young men, and visiting the brothers Isom and Fielden Rector, who played double fiddles, often with Fielden playing a low melody while Isom stayed high. We wondered what that sounded like, informal jamming in the old days, and how much of the Rectors’ style had rubbed off on Luther and Hus. There was only one way to find out. We drove Hus up to Luther’s and turned on the tape recorder. They hadn’t played together in decades, and really hadn’t even played much alone either, quitting music as family and work responsibilities took hold. The result, though, was one of our most memorable sessions, with the two men, tentative at first, slowly falling back into their roles from 50 or 60 years earlier. They are mostly in unison, but occasionally one, usually Hus, will play a low melody. What is most remarkable is hearing old friends coming together and feeling some of that early youthful energy. We hope you like it as much as we do.
For my friend Blanton Owen
The Old Originals project was made possible by a generous grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Special thanks to Ann Carter, Dan Patterson, Alan Jabbour, Wes Freeman, John Schwab, Kilby Spencer, Lucas Pasley, and young musicians everywhere.