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FiddlerPaul71 - Posted - 01/30/2022: 06:26:00
Old-Time TOTW #188 is Liquor Seller from the playing of Virginia fiddler Armstred Roscoe Parish (16 May 1897--25 November 1984). He was the son of Johnny Franklin Parish (1874-1963) and Louisa Mattie "Mattie Lou" Matthews (1874-1963). Roscoe married Dora Arizona "Zona" Marrs (1912-1988) in 1928. (source: public documents)
Parish's life has been well outlined by Alice Gerard and Andy Cahan in the comprehensive liner notes of the album The Old Time Way. The information that follows is gleaned from that excellent resource.
As a child, Roscoe's father, Johnny Parish, learned to read shape notes and some standard notation. He also picked up fiddle and banjo from hearing others in the community play. One of those people was Charlie Barnett Lowe (1871-1924), who was Tommy Jarrell's father-in-law.
Johnny felt that education was very important for all his children, and each one of them played at least one instrument. Roscoe began playing fiddle at age ten or twelve. His brother had bought a "scratch and dent" fiddle from the Sears catalog. When he decided to focus on banjo, Roscoe used his fiddle to learn. Roscoe said, "I played as much like my daddy as I could because he was about all I'd ever heard then, you see...Sometimes I just listened at him--if the tunes was played enough and I remembered enough I'd just play 'em; and he was a pretty good fiddler in his day."
Once Johnny Parish's children could play instruments, he stopped playing himself, but he often did flat foot dancing as they played.
Roscoe mentioned the stigma that surrounded the fiddle and banjo in the past: "Back when I was a little younger a lot of people, they just didn't want a banjo and a fiddle around at all. They just didn't believe in it--they thought it was a sin...I've heard people talk about the banjo...gettin' out--and they'd drink and have a big time. Well now, the banjo couldn't help it. I've got a banjo and I don't get drunk."
Roscoe learned to take photgraphs in his teens and became a semi-professional photographer around 1920. He moved to Buchannon County, VA, in 1928 and started an auto mechanic business with his brother. That is where he met Zona, and they were married there. They stayed there until 1930. Their oldest son, Johnny, played guitar, fiddle, and mandolin and often accompanied his father.
Roscoe built his banjo from apple wood. It was reminiscent of mountain banjos made in the mid- to late-19th century. He put the head directly onto the wood with no tone ring. It had simple friction pegs and a bridge that was carved from animal bone. Parish said that gave the instrument a nice tone. He also taught himself to make guitar-banjos and banjo-ukes.
Gerard stated: "The repertoires of Roscoe and Leone (sister) are extraordinary. On the fiddle, Roscoe played several hundred archaic dance tunes, songs, marches, Christmas carols, hornpipes, hymns, children's songs, minstrel and patriotic songs, turn-of-the-century popular and parlor songs, and several jigs. Many of Roscoe's dance tunes were commonly played by the older fiddlers of the region. Many, though, are extremely rare, never or seldom appearing in the repertoires of older musicians, so far as we are aware."
Parish said that he learned some hornpipes from Cole's 1000 Fiddle Tunes. He also played popular tunes of the day picked up from ear from his sister Leone, tunes that he learned from the radio and phonograph records. He didn't play for many dances because his music was slower than what was used for them.
Regarding the tune Liquor Seller, Leone Parish said that she remembered her father playing it. She had words to the tune that she said came from a set of poems by I. Britten, a disapbled veteran of the Civil War. Leone didn't know where the tune came from. Oddly, Traditional Tune Archive and Milliner-Koken list the tune as being in the key of A mixolydian. I don't hear the tune in that key at all. I hear the tune in D major with a sudden shift to the key of G at the beginning of the "B" part. The liner notes to The Old Time Way states the tune is in the key of D major, and Roscoe's playing of the tune was recorded by Whit Sizemore around 1969.
I would like to thank Janet Burton for sharing the liner notes from the album The Old Time Way with me.
Joining me here in this recording from fall 2020 are Stephen Rapp (Kent, OH) on banjo and Sean Fen (Wooster, OH) on guitar.
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groundhogpeggy - Posted - 01/30/2022: 18:44:47
That's really a nice tune! Y'all sound good. The pears look good too...lol. Thanks, Paul.
FiddlerPaul71 - Posted - 01/30/2022: 20:28:58
Thanks, Peggy! I had so many that year (2020). They are really good pears.
groundhogpeggy - Posted - 01/31/2022: 04:15:04
When we lived in SE KY we had pears galore and all kinds of apples from June to October. Makes me hungry to think back on those days...your video made me hungry...lol. The music was very tasty too...I should say.
FiddlerPaul71 - Posted - 01/31/2022: 07:34:34
Thanks! If they were apples, I'd be thinking of apple brandy or cider!
groundhogpeggy - Posted - 01/31/2022: 10:55:35
We usually made pear crisp quite a bit. Then applesauce with the June apples, fried apples and apple pie with the summer apples, apple butter and jelly from the skins in the fall...we never made apple cider, but I have great appreciation. It's good stuff. Do you have apple trees too?
Edited by - groundhogpeggy on 01/31/2022 10:56:33
FiddlerPaul71 - Posted - 01/31/2022: 12:36:36
We do have some apple trees, but they are young and don't bear fruit yet. Can't wait, though :)
groundhogpeggy - Posted - 01/31/2022: 12:59:55
I bought some after we moved up here and about the time they starting bearing good the county came in and bulldozed them out to put sewer lines in the neighborhood...then I bought more that died immediately, and got some more and they've just refused to bear fruit to this date. I did manage to start some from a Jonathan apple I ate, the seed...the trees grew big and beautiful, but after about ten years no blossoms ever...lol. Gettin' tired of waitin' for good apples!