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Nov 22, 2020 - 6:39:30 AM
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389 posts since 7/31/2018

This week's tune is Little Bobby, from the playing of John Morgan Salyer (20 January 1882--18 November 1952) from Magoffin Co., KY. His ancestor, Benjamin K. Salyer (b. 1670 in France), supposedly a Huguenot with the name "DeSalier" or "Desalier," was listed as a "land owner" in Charleston, SC, 1690-1700. (source: Jana Buck Hanks and George Stokes)

John Salyer was heavily influenced by his close neighbor, and later musical partner, Willie Fletcher (b. 1871). He learned many of his tunes from Fletcher and said him to be "the sweetest and smoothest fiddler I ever heard." His son Grover recalled "He [John Salyer] played for a lot of dances...I've seen him...playing for a hoedown dance and he'd jump up and dance and play the fiddle at the same time." Another fiddler friend of John's was William Hamilton Stepp (1875-1957). Several tunes that Stepp and Salyer played in common are remarkably similar, and it's very possible that they learned some tunes from each other. Salyer's son Glen said of Stepp, "I liked to hear him play. He was considered a good fiddler, and he was. He loved to entertain people...more than Dad did." There were fiddle contests now and then in the Magoffin area, but Salyer rarely participated in them. (source: routyrock,, posted 6 October, 2009)

Salyer never recorded on any record labels, as he felt they did not share enough of the profits with the fiddlers. Glen and Grover convinced him to record many of his tunes at home in 1941-42. He was reluctant, but his sons convinced him to do it. At one point, in frustration over not recalling part of a tune, he threw his fiddle down on the bed and refused to record any more, but Glen and Grover convinced him to continue (source: reminisces of Glen and Grover Salyer)

Though Salyer's tunes are popular and played by many fiddlers, this doesn't seem to be the case with Little Bobby. Traditional Tune Archive states Little Bobby is a member of the "Boatsman family" of tunes and notates the tune in the key of G, but it is actually in D. There is a version of Ida Red that I've heard Rayna Gellert play, and the A part of that is pretty much the B part of Little Bobby.

Joining me are friends Stephen Rapp on banjo (Kent, OH) and Sean Fen on guitar (Wooster, OH) .

Next Sunday, 11/29, I will post a free lesson video to accompany next week's Old-Time TOTW. This will be in conjunction with an article about me and Old-Time TOTW for iFiddle Magazine that will be published on December 5, 2020.

I want to thank my latest Patreon members for their dedication to Old-Time TOTW:
Wayne Grabowski, Mike Donnelly, Brenden McLane, Myfanwy Godfrey, and James Wardle.

You can join my Patreon at: Your membership and support helps me continue to bring you Old-Time TOTW.

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Nov 23, 2020 - 7:41:26 PM
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12016 posts since 9/23/2009

Another good one, Paul. Y'all sound great. Thanks.

Nov 24, 2020 - 5:21:14 AM
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389 posts since 7/31/2018

Thank you, Peggy. Probably one of Salyer's lesser known tunes.

Hope you and yours have a good Thanksgiving!

Nov 24, 2020 - 5:27:32 AM
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12016 posts since 9/23/2009

Thanks, Paul. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours as well.

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