It's hard to believe I've been at my Old-Time TOTW series for a half-year now, 27 weeks. Even harder to believe that this year is coming to a close and we will soon be beginning a new one. 2018 was a great year for music-making and making friends along the way at Old-Time music festivals all over the country.
Part of my mission with the Old-Time TOTW series is not only to expose people to some great Old-Time tunes (especially ones that are obscure and not so well known), but also to give a bit of history about the fiddlers who have passed these tunes down to us in the form of source recordings and, to a lesser extent, in printed form (the "dots", if you will). Most of this is pretty old music, and names on paper do very little to connect us with these folks. Photos help a lot, but they are still images of the past that can be difficult to connect with.
In searching for information about the fiddlers, I've had the extreme pleasure of connecting with some of their family members and descendants. One was a relative of John Salyer who was entrusted with his old fiddles. She had them thoughtfully restored and sent me photos, as well as recordings of the newly-restored fiddles being played (more about that in another blog at another time).
Connecting the fiddlers of bygone days to the present day really brings them to life, which, in turn, brings their music even more alive. Their music is our music; it always has been, but that tradition continues to flourish with all the people who continue to play it to this day. It's a worldwide thing, too. It's wonderful to see how many Old-Time musicians there are all across North America, Europe, Australia, and the Far East, many of whom I am connected with. I think the old fiddlers would be amazed and delighted that the tradition has spread so far and wide.
While working on Old Aunt Jenny With Her Nightcap On, I became acquainted with two relatives of Etstill Bingham: Annie Bassham and Vicki Allen. They were quick to share lots of stories, photos, and information about Estill Bingham and his son Odell. Odell died just this past November, and Vicki asked me if I could dedicate a tune from his pap to him. Little did she know that I was working on an Old-Time TOTW video for an Estill Bingham tune, and once I found out about Odell's death, I had it in my head to dedicate this video to him. I've been very lucky, perhaps blessed, to be at the center of many serendipitous moments over the course of my life. This was definitely one of them. I am honored that I could be a part of sharing their own music with Mr. Bingham's family and descendants.
Annie even told me a charming story about going to a sawmill as a child, with her sister, that her Uncle Estill either owned or ran. Someone (it *must* have been her sister!) leaned against a lever or something that started up some machinery. Uncle Estill quickly took charge of the situation and remained calm, but his face said otherwise. It's interesting how certain childhood memories stick in our minds.
Also included in the memorabilia was a newspaper article/interview with Estill from 1986. There were many direct quotes fom him, and he told his story of when and how he learned to play the fiddle. I don't think that information has been shared anywhere on any of the fiddler's/Old-Time music forums prior to Annie and Vicki sharing it with me, and, in turn, me sharing it on Old-Time TOTW #27.
It's things like this that keep the memories of the fiddlers alive. Their music serves to do that, but seeing old family photos of them with their loved ones and hearing stories passed down from their relatives really puts things into context. These weren't famous people.They may have been known and esteemed in their communities, but they were everyday people who had lives just like anybody else. They held the distinction of being the music makers, the ones who provided music and the foundation for good times at frolics, barn dances, and picnics. They shared their music with their communities and brought joy to those folks just as they continue to bring joy to people today on a broader scope all around the world.
For this, I thank all the fiddlers of past and present, and all the Old-Time musicians.
Sunday, December 30, 2018 @9:34:05 AM
Does anybody know how to add images?
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'RIP Pete Sutherland' 1 day
'wanting a mellower sound' 2 days