Big Nights (and things) That Stay With You From a Long Time Ago
Thursday, July 22, 2010 @5:52:41 AM
It was September 1973. There was an article about a concert at a local satellite campus of the big state university. They were having a concert with three acts; The Highwoods String Band, Ola Belle Reed and Family and JP and Annadeene Fraley. A like minded friend and I went. I had met and played with Kenny Hall a few times and had played an old time band with some folks out in California while in the USAF. The main old time band back then was the New Lost City Ramblers. Old time was truly and underground music.
Think about it. It was not show music per se. It was music made to entertain your family and friends. It was not and is not part of the mainstream. It was antiquated then. But just as young people today find it liberating and meaningful, it was also for us. It had a meaning an depth not found anywhere else. There was also a strong correlation between folks who were involved in the back to the land movement and old time music. Even if their involvement with the back to the land was more spiritual than actual. The tie between things agricultural and old time music is fundamental. As agriculture became more an exercise in industrialization, the less old time music made sense in that context. Since human life is part art, part science, and mostly hard work, those who did not buy into the mainstream paradigm for modern agriculture, still had time and room in their lives for old time music.
Well, the down home philosophies of Ola Belle and JP dovetailed with the wit and music of the Highwoods. That evening was one of those transformative events when I realized that not matter if I worked in a factory pushing piles of paper around and farmed in my nights and weekends and played bluegrass because no one else in that rural county played old time, it was old time music that spoke to me and carried me through life like so many hymns.
So when young people come to me to learn, it is not just music, but a history of living that is intertwined in that music that they tap into. These are not just songs and tunes, but they are also the people I learned them from and with. Just as I have lived among people, I have lived among this music. I have a favorite old tape of Ray Alden that always makes me smile. I had a little friend once who always asked me to play the Taylor-Kimble family LP I have. There was an old woman, the widow of the fiddler who shared so much with me who would always ask me to play "Wildwood Flower" and "Freight Train" on her old Martin guitar for her. Then there was that sad day I played those songs at her funeral.
There are all the old band mates with whom I shared so much of my life time. There were always solid friends who would show up to hear us play. There are lots folks who also love this music and think it is bluegrass. There are my students who come out to support our current band.
A lot of water has flowed under the bridge. A lot of folks have staked a lot of their life in this music. Someone once said I learned a song from his recording when I played in a show where we were double billed. I actually learned it from a recording by Ralph Stanley, but his version did temper mine.
All this music wraps around and grows over the older stuff in our lives like kudzu. It keeps living and growing. We get older and slow down. We don't remember everything as well and lots and lots of older folks will never be known by those younger folks coming along. Somewhere we leave a trail behind us. In recorded acts and deeds, but perhaps more importantly, in the memory of others. Most of our history is lost but something of us remains. Even if only in a memory or a song. We can't be afraid to move ahead for the uncertainty of the act. To fail to move on, one thing is then certain. We stop being. There is a bittersweet to life. Autumn embodies it best. For all who remember the old time music of 1973 and all the thousands who have gone on since then, we are in the autumn of our lives.
on “Big Nights (and things) That Stay With You From a Long Time Ago”
Thursday, July 22, 2010 @8:44:51 AM
Nice post, Rob! -ScottK
Thursday, July 22, 2010 @9:25:14 AM
"So when young people come to me to learn, it is not just music, but a history of living that is intertwined in that music that they tap into. These are not just songs and tunes, but they are also the people I learned them from and with. Just as I have lived among people, I have lived among this music."
Exactly. Nice post, Rob.
Thursday, July 22, 2010 @10:14:15 AM
"... it is not just music, but a history of living that is intertwined in that music ... " Yes, I think I caught a glimpse of that last week when I watched and heard Jim Lansford play and I've been thinking about it ever since. " ... but they are also the people I learned them ... " And I think this is one of the reasons that I'm drawn to the music. As others have said--nice post!
Thursday, July 22, 2010 @10:53:43 AM
Now Jim Lansford, there is one mighty fine musicianer!
Friday, July 23, 2010 @3:25:53 PM
Very moving writing, RobBob. Thanks. By the way, I'll remember your blues on banjo workshop at Mars Hill last year with some of that vividness you recall from the 1973 concert. So the show does go on....
Friday, July 23, 2010 @7:48:31 PM
Monday, July 26, 2010 @7:29:30 AM
Well written RobBob. We are products of all we have learned from whomever or whatever source. May our legacy to others reflect your sentiment.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010 @9:18:27 AM
I really enjoyed this RobBob, very thought provoking and well written !!
|Diane G Says:|
Thursday, July 21, 2011 @10:13:06 PM
Wow, thanks Rob.... this was so nice and a lesson in history just by itself. For some reason I clicked on your homepage and saw this long blog and told myself this is too long and so read bits and pieces...then started to reread the whole dang thing! I especially liked the phrase: "Since human life is part art, part science and mostly hard work""" I think learning the fiddle is a little like this too...: >). Stay tuned. Diane
Tuesday, January 17, 2012 @5:16:11 PM
Honored to be among you! Thank you kindly, sir!
Tuesday, January 24, 2012 @12:29:15 PM
A wonderful read and very poignant reflection Bob. Thank you.
Thursday, February 23, 2012 @6:46:22 AM
I really enjoyed this, too! Beautiful writing, deep understanding of the event. Wow.
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