Kerry found old-time 78 rpm records in his parents’ closet in the early 1950s. His uncle Dick played “hillbilly” music and lived next door at the time. What else could Kerry do but take that ball and run with it?
He started writing about traditional music in the 1970s, which led him deeper into the research of old-time music in general and old-time fiddle music in particular. He also learned to play guitar, fiddle, banjo, and mandolin along the way.
Kerry was fortunate to live at a time, and be interested enough, in visiting with and learning from the older generation of traditional old-time musicians as time and distance allowed. He has played in bands in his native Ohio and Washington state and currently holds forth in Florida in the band Streak of Lean with his bandmates Susan Staton and Bob Lanham.
George Gibson was born 05-14-38 at the confluence of Big Doubles, Little Doubles, and Buffalo Creeks in Knott County, Kentucky. The Doubles Creeks and Buffalo flow into Little Carr Creek, known locally as Burgey’s Creek. The log home in which he was born was built ca. 1900 by a friend of his father, James Edward Thomas, often cited as the earliest dulcimer maker in Kentucky.
The Carr Creek area has a rich musical heritage; however, the cultural events that included old-time banjo had disappeared by 1950, when he began learning to play by listening to his father, Mal Gibson (1900-1996), and a few neighbors, most of whom hadn’t played for several years.
James Slone was the person he heard most often; he was a superb old-time banjo player who learned much from brothers Mel and Shade Amburgey. Mel and Shade were from a large family of musicians near his father’s age. Mel said he, George's father and Aunt Flora learned to play banjo together (ca. 1905-10), and that they could sing and play 100 songs in one banjo tuning.
Gran Hudson (1911-2004) sang with every tune he played. When he heard George playing a tune without singing, he said, "Son, if you can’t sing it, don’t play it.” Singing with the banjo was common in Knott County; so was the use of different tunings. He learned several tunings from his father, and he sings with most of the tunes he plays.
Knott County banjoists played in differing styles; however, all styles featured a lot of left hand activity, which gives the banjo a unique sound. George plays banjo using overhand, two-finger, and up-picking styles. The term overhand, in use before the Civil War, was commonly used in Kentucky for the down-stroke style.
His first stage appearance was in 1994 as the guest of honor at the Florida Old Time Music Championships. He has since played at Banjer Days at Appalshop in Whitesburg, Kentucky; Home Craft Days in Big Stone Gap, Virginia; Augusta Heritage in Elkins, West Virginia; Hillbilly Days in Pikeville, Kentucky; Fiddle Tunes in Port Townsend, Washington; and the Cowan Creek Mountain Music School in Letcher County, Kentucky.
He doesn't view himself as a performer; however, he feels being on stage has allowed him to save some of the early music of Knott County. This early music was part of a world and time that no longer exists. Bluegrass is now the traditional music of Knott County.
George has collected banjos, dulcimers and related ephemera for many years, and has been interested in their history since the mid-1900s. He's written articles about banjo history that have been published in the Kentucky Explorer, Banjo Newsletter, ibluegrass.com, the Appalachian Quarterly, and on his website at www.banjohistory.com. He recently completed an article that is to be published in a book of current banjo research by the Illinois Press, and is currently writing an article about the dulcimer in southeast Kentucky.
Recordings of live performances are available from June Appal Recording at Appalshop in Whitesburg, Kentucky, www.appalshop.org. Banjer Days is a compilation recording that features five of his songs; Last Possum up the Tree has some 24 songs and stories. The liner notes of the Last Possum recording contain information that contradicts the popular version of banjo history.
Thomas Carter & Tom Sauber
Thomas Carter is an emeritus professor of architectural history in the University of Utah’s College of Architecture and Planning. He studied history at Brown University and folklore at both the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and Indiana University. Although he is more widely known for his work on the vernacular architecture of the western United States, his first love is old-time music, and particularly the string band music found in the Upland South. While in Chapel Hill he played in the Fuzzy Mountain String Band, appearing on the band’s second record, Summer Oaks and Porch (1973) and wrote his master’s thesis on Joe Caudill, a fiddler from Allegheny County, North Carolina (1973).
Carter’s extensive fieldwork along the Blue Ridge (funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress) resulted in two Rounder LPs, volumes 1 and 2 of The Old Originals: Old-Time Instrumental Music Recently Recorded in North Carolina and Virginia (1976), as well as two LPs he compiled from earlier field and studio recordings, Emmett Lundy: Fiddle Tunes from Grayson County, Virginia (1977) and The Old Virginia Fiddlers: Old-Time Fiddle Music from Patrick County, Virginia (1977). His years in Chapel Hill are chronicled in the essay “Looking for Henry Reed: Confessions of a Revivalist,” in Sounds of the South (1991).
At Indiana, his professional path shifted toward studying folk architecture, but a long-time friendship with Tom Sauber, a folklorist and old-time musician from Los Angeles, culminated in the two collaborating on “I Never Could Play Alone: The Emergence of the New River Valley String Band, 1875-1915,” published in the compilation, Arts in Ernest: North Carolina Folklife (1990). The essay is still regarded as a seminal contribution to the history of southern folk fiddling.
Sauber’s influence continued. Back in his native Utah, Carter joined the Deseret String Band, a Salt Lake City-based string band that played music of the West (See The Round Up, Okehdokee Records). From Sauber he learned a number of Oklahoma fiddler Earl Collins’s tunes that ultimately became the basis for much of the DSB’s sound. In the early 1980s the two Toms put together a demo tape of Oklahoma fiddle music taken from Marion Thede’s The Fiddle Book, but were turned down by the editors of the University of Oklahoma Press (just before their time!). One project that did work out was the release of a County LP featuring Mike Seeger’s 1963 field recordings of Eck Robertson (1991). Carter helped write the liner notes and Sauber provided the musical analysis. Seeger later noted that because the LP was the last one issued by County, Eck probably made the first AND last vinyl recordings of southern country music.
In recent years Carter has turned again to playing and studying old-time music, where his interest remains primarily on the history of the string band. In the late 1990s, the he and Sauber teamed with Fuzzy Mountain String Band banjoist Blanton Owen and Leonard Coulson from the Deseret String Band, to form the Old Bunch of Guys band, where they experimented with different approaches to ensemble playing. Blanton’s untimely death in 1998 ended the project, but Carter and Sauber continued their long musical relationship as much as possible, given the distance from Salt Lake to LA. They share an interest in the music’s history and stylistic variation, topics that they will address in their BUW lecture and musical presentations.
Curly Miller & Carole Anne Rose (the Old 78s)
Curly and Carole Anne are included in the artist faculty of Centrum’s Festival of American Fiddle Tunes in 2013, and they have been featured performers and the dance band at major festivals across the country including Wheatland, Merlefest, Winfield, The Old Time Banjo Festival, The Ozarks Celebration Festival, and for numerous festivals and dance weekends at The Ozark Folk Center since the early 1990’s.
They have also taught and performed at some of the most highly regarded Fiddle and Banjo teaching camps such as Swannanoa, Ashokan, and Mars Hill. They were selected for a Folk Alliance Showcase for three years in a row and were featured in Cathy Fink’s Banjo Festival in Washington, DC in 2009 and 2012. The duo plays for contra and square dances around the country including The Farmer’s Ball and The John C. Campbell Folk School in addition to their local Fayetteville, AR monthly contradance and for Irish Step Dancing troupes.
Curly and Carole Anne were featured in an article and on the cover of The Old Time Herald and helped to inspire the new Gold Tone 5-string cello banjo. In collaboration with several fine musicians, they have issued two new ground-breaking CDs as “The Old 78’s” in addition to their three previous Old Time Fiddle/Banjo releases as a duo. Their Old Time Fiddle Rags, Charleston, Early Jazz and Jug Band repertoire aptly demonstrates Curly’s ability to capture the essence of the early 1900s Ragtime Fiddle styles in tone, technique and bowing.
Carole Anne’s custom 6-string banjo and the unique way she plays it, puts a relentless pulsating beat on every up-tempo tune they play. The duo is also nationally known for their Classic Banjo repertoire arranged in traditional Banjo Orchestra settings.
The Gallinippers present old-time string band, jug band, and blues roots music. They dress in period clothing and play a wide variety of tunes from old 78 recordings.
Their main interests are their local Middle Tennessee history and its musical styles and artists, and they are active in presenting the music all over this area.
William is from Lebanon, Tennessee, has played OT since his childhood. He is an enthusiastic collector of tunes and currently fiddles with the Gallinippers.
Flying Jenny (named after an old-fashioned mule-powered carnival ride) plays breakdowns on fiddle, guitar, banjo and bass, and sings old songs, often comical, in three-part harmony.
In addition to the music, a performance by Birmingham, Ala.-based Flying Jenny includes stories about the tunes and the fiddlers who first played them.
They have done a number of thematic performances on such topics as Alabama history, folk art, early radio music, Christmas folk music, romance in old-time music, etc., and have collaborated with storyteller Dolores Hydock in "Footprint on the Sky: Memories of a Chandler Mountain Spring," a piece in which tales, tunes and songs interact with each other to create a sense of life in an Alabama farming community.
They have also provided background music for weddings, picnics, art openings and other social events.
Martin comes to every Breakin' Up Winter (and other NOTSBA events) to share his passion and expertise in old-time recording techniques. His wax-cylinder recordings are as authentic as it can get, and he'll show you how it's done and record you in true old-time style.
|* Changes in the list might be possible
because of presenter illness or other unforeseen event.