The Indian Creek Delta Boys

See The Indian Creek Delta Boys (FRC607)

Known for the many fine and obscure fiddle tunes learned from senior players in their own geographical area, the Indian Creek Delta Boys of Charleston, Illinois were an influential string band from the 1970s through the 1990s.

Garry Harrison began playing the fiddle at age 16. His older brother Steve already played the banjo by this time but was away with the service and had left his banjo at home, so Garry’s twin brother, Terry, began playing it. A close friend, John Bishop, joined the brothers, playing the guitar. This group eventually became known locally as the Indian Creek Delta Boys, in recognition of their long-time river camp at the confluence of Indian Creek and the Embarras (“am-braw”) river south of Charleston, a place where they were often to be found. By 1976, the group had evolved to consist of Garry Harrison, Lynn “Chirps” Smith, Dave Miller, and Dan Baird.

Garry’s first fiddle instruction was from his father, Cliff Harrison, who taught him some of the old-time hoedowns. Soon after, Cliff passed away, and Garry and a group of friends began visiting other senior fiddlers in the area, recording their music on tape in order to learn it. Among the band members who participated in making these recordings were John Bishop, Dave Miller, Lynn Smith, Steve, Terry, and Gaye Harrison, John Holliday, and Dan Baird.

A year or two after the group began recording the senior players of the area, they were approached by Eastern Illinois University in Charleston to take along a second tape recorder for the benefit of the university while continuing to document the traditional music of the area. This arrangement began in mid-1976, and after it ended in late 1977, the group continued to independently document the traditional music of downstate Illinois into the late 1980s. Beginning in 1977, EIU began hosting an annual arts festival called “Celebration,” and for a number of years the group was responsible for lining up traditional music performers for the event.

In 1975, they competed in the string band contest at Clarksville, Tennessee and placed among the finalists. A year or two later, they were hired to play the first of several appearances at the Indiana Fiddlers’ Gathering in Battleground, Indiana. Throughout the following decade or so, the group played for a few major festivals (Frontier Folklife Festival in St. Louis, University of Chicago Folk Festival, Clearwater Festival in New York), several smaller, closer-to-home festivals, and numerous small town fairs, old settlers gatherings, and other events of the sort.

In 1981, “in recognition of its singular contribution to establishing for Illinois its own place in American musical history,” the Indian Creek Delta Boys were “designated and proclaimed the ‘Official State of Illinois – Traditional Illinois Old-Time String Band'” by act of the State of Illinois 82nd General Assembly.

The FRC recording was made in 1984 at Bushton, Illinois by Ray Alden, during one of the epic cross-country trips he made recording performers at their homes. The personnel of the band included Garry Harrison (fiddle and vocals), Steve Harrison (banjo), Dave Danner (banjo and vocals), Gaye Harrison (mandolin), John Bishop (guitar and vocals) and John Holliday (guitar).