"Tom and Jerry"
Trimble County, Kentucky 01-29-80
John Harrod Collection, SAA 89 (JH-CT-050-01-A)
Fayette County, Kentucky, c.1980s.
John Harrod Collection, SAA 89 (JH-CT-049-03-A)
"Bumblebee In A Jug"
Bath County, Kentucky 11-06-77.
John Harrod Collection, SAA 89 (JH-CT-032-02)
Greenup County, Kentucky 11-07-77.
John Harrod Collection, SAA 89 (JH-CT-044-02)
Gallatin County, Kentucky 04-18-78.
John Harrod Collection, SAA 89 (JH-CT-028-01-A)
"Twinkle Little Star"
Carroll County, Kentucky 03-04-80.
John Harrod Collection, SAA 89 (JH-CT-047-02-B)
Wolfe County, Kentucky 05-24-77
John Harrod Collection, SAA 89 (JH-CT-037-01-A)
Wolfe County, Kentucky 05-24-77
John Harrod Collection, SAA 89 (JH-CT-037-01-A)
Wolfe County, Kentucky 05-24-77
John Harrod Collection, SAA 89 (JH-CT-037-01-A)
Lewis County, Kentucky 7-6-84.
John Harrod Collection, SAA 89 (JH-CT-042-06-A)
"St. Anne's Reel"
Lewis County, Kentucky 7-6-84.
John Harrod Collection, SAA 89 (JH-CT-042-06-A)
"Long Fork of Buckhorn"
Knott County, Kentucky 10-25-02.
Appalachian Center Collection, SAA 106 (AC-OR-005-742)
"Hump Backed Mule"
Estill County, Kentucky 01-24-81.
John Harrod Collection, SAA 89 (JH-CT-074-01-B)
Fleming County, Kentucky' n.d.
John Harrod Collection, SAA 89 (JH-CT-039-02-A)
"Old Man Duff"
Bath County, Kentucky' 07-16-86.
John Harrod Collection, SAA 89 (JH-CT-055-06-A)
As told by Cecil Thurman
Mercer County, Kentucky' 04-01-90.
John Harrod Collection, SAA 89 (JH-CT-001-01-A)
Magoffin County, Kentucky' 1940-41.
Appalachian Center Collection, SAA 89 (AC-CT-377-003)
"Sugar In The Gourd"
Letcher County, Kentucky, c.1970s.
John Harrod Collection, SAA 89 (JH-CT-012-01)
Wayne County, Kentucky, 05-03-86.
John Harrod Collection, SAA 89 (JH-CT-017-04-A)
Owsley County, Kentucky, 05-09-79.
John Harrod Collection, SAA 89 (JH-CT-025-01-A)
SP: What kind of performance situations were available for these musicians? Was there a difference between the kind of performance situations back when they were learning - we're talking mostly about folks who were learning pre-radio and records for the most part – versus later when you knew them? Were they getting out and about playing publicly? You mentioned Sam McCord playing in a bar.
JH: Well, it was his nephew's bar. He'd go down there and it was mostly country music and there wasn't anybody who could follow him, of course, but he'd get up and play anyway. They would want him to get up and play a couple of fiddle tunes on Saturday night during the show which is kind of sad, really, because by that time it was ironic that the rural working class people who were playing electric country music were no longer able to play this music from one generation previous to them. They didn't even know how to play it; they'd lost it.
As you might expect there were all kinds of different situations. Back then some people might only play in the home or they might only play for their families. Some people played for dances, some didn't. Some people played in bands, semi-professional bands. I think everybody's situation was probably unique.
When I knew these people, the first thing I would do would be to get them to come to the schools I was working in, if they were willing. And the other thing was that every little town or community had its own yearly festival of some kind, and so I would always try to make sure that as many of these people who were willing and able would get out and play at these local festivals. Those were my first priorities, and occasionally I'd get them to play live music for square dances. We got Johnny Masters to come out to my mother-in-law's farm at Clay's Ferry and play for a big square dance in her barn. This was Doc Roberts country and the neighbors all remembered him and they just loved Johnny playing his music.
In as many ways as I could, I'd get them back in the mix. By that time I was on the Berea Festival committee through Loyal Jones. A lot of those people I helped get invited to Berea and anywhere else there was something going on. Then later the state folklife festival came along. If they were willing and wanting to go out and play I would connect them up with people who could put them on various festivals. That Morehead festival in 1980 was probably the best example of that as far as getting a lot of great performers together in one place for one magic day.
SP: How many years did that go?
JH: Not many. That happened because this English lady who was a dance instructor was there for a year or maybe two years and she was really good at getting out into the community and meeting people like the Kinneys. She was also at Berea for a couple of years. Her name was Sybil Clark.
SP: [At the Bath County Fair], you said they went out and jammed; were they playing together or taking turns?
JH: They were taking turns.
JH: Yeah, they'd stand around in a group and Bob Prater would play a few, then George Hawkins played a few.
SP: Somebody would back them all up?
SP: So a similar kind of aesthetic as far as groups of fiddlers getting together?
JH: Yeah, I never saw Bob or George or any of those guys try to play together, which makes sense because they were similar but different. If I play with other people in a jam, I can adjust what I'm doing to try to get a little closer to the way somebody else is playing a tune. But those guys wouldn't or couldn't do that. Bob Prater was always going to play everything like Bob Prater played it. George was going to play everything just like he played it. If you listened to them separately you could see that you couldn't put them together. They may be part of the same tradition but they don't adjust to each other. They wanted to back each other up and listen to each other.
SP: There's just that one example on the Morehead film with George Hawkins and John …
JH: … Lozier [harmonica player from Portsmouth, OH] who kind of invited himself up there and you can tell George doesn't really like it too much, that he felt he'd get in his way.
SP: They're playing the tune close enough.
JH: Oh, I thought it was great but yeah, they do get off a little bit. George gives him a look.
JH: You see what John Lozier could do in that situation, that's what he always did. He prided himself on being able to play along with these fiddlers, including Ed Haley.
SP: You collected from several people in Glencoe.
JH: There were three fiddlers there and another old guy that I knew about who died. People told me there might be some recordings of him but I've never been able to track them down. The three fiddlers living there were Clarence Skirvin, Jarvie Hall, and Pretzel Broyles - the third one of those fiddlers, he was good, too. He'd grown up down around Camp Nelson and played Jim Booker's Grey Eagle pretty close to the way Booker did. He knew the Bookers and that black fiddle scene down there but he had moved up to Glencoe.
Clarence Skirvin I'd met in J.B. Miller's fiddle shop in Lexington. I was living in Owen County and he was living up there outside of Glencoe, so I got to know him and I thought, “Man, this guy's really good.” He played real fast and notey. He was really the first fiddler that played in that style that I ever heard; he was really good.
Gus and I went to visit him again when we were doing our researches for the Morningstar reissues because it turned out that he had a 78rpm record of Old Flannigan, and so that was the great day when he sent us to Jarvie Hall. Clarence played that tune and Jarvie played it, so that's when we found out who the Blue Ridge Mountaineers really were. We got the whole history of them and then on the same trip – I'd known L.C. Martin for a long time because he played with Clarence Skirvin – we also found out that his daddy, Basil Martin, who also played the fiddle, was the guitar player on the Jimmy Johnson String Band records. In two back-to-back days, we made two great discoveries about two unknown bands – where they were from – from that connection with Clarence Skirvin, Jarvie Hall, L.C. Martin, and Basil Martin.
SP: That's information you could have only found on the ground in Kentucky by talking to people. You couldn't research that anywhere else.
JH: No, because everybody had researched it. Jimmy Johnson's name was on one of those records that Gus had already; somehow he'd made a connection with the Shelbyville / Louisville area for Jimmy Johnson and figured he was probably from Kentucky. For the Blue Ridge Mountaineers they had no clue because of the name “Blue Ridge Mountaineers” plus the fiddling which sounded French Canadian … which might have been one of my first hints that this Ohio River style was close to French Canadian fiddling. The best guess was they were from somewhere in the Blue Ridge Mountains or maybe they were further north, but by gosh they turned out to be from Grant County, Kentucky. That was probably a bigger surprise than the Jimmy Johnson String Band.
SP: So tell me about Bob Kash.
JH: Bob Kash was one of my sentimental favorites. Of all the people I met, he was in the top ranks of fiddlers that really excited me. I was really drawn to him and, looking back on it, I think it had something to do with the fact that he was kind of a pariah in Wolfe County. Everybody talked bad about him except his close circle of friends, the guys he played with. Just a few people appreciated him. It was because he drank. Of course, everybody drank, but, with that double standard, he wasn't a town person or a high class person, so the people in town looked down on Bob Kash.
This was in Campton in Wolfe County. Bob lived out on Gilmore Creek. He was kind of a lonesome fellow on his second marriage and he had a nice little farm. You had to ford a creek to get to it; he had a nice little bottom over there. An old frame house, clapboard on it, a neat little place. He had learned a lot of his music from Amyx Stamper and he had also gone around and recorded some stuff with a reel to reel tape recorder including Amyx Stamper and some church music. He had a lot of old reel-to-reels that I was interested in, but I never could find what happened to them after he died.
He was a very sweet person, but when he was fiddling he'd drink and he was about six-foot-five and held his fiddle low on his arm and he'd lean over and close his eyes and sway and I just thought, “Man, this is so classic.” I just thought he was an awesome player and maybe I felt like I needed to defend him because he was looked down on in the county. The guys that played with him all appreciated him but it was just a small group of people. He was lonesome. There's a lot of great fiddling that comes out of that lonesomeness.
He's one of those people who sometimes comes to me when I'm fiddling, and I can close my eyes and I'm there fiddling with Bob Prater or Bob Kash, and I can catch a little bit of their lick. Sometimes the process works like this: I think, “This tune is wanting a certain thing or a certain groove,” and I'll see Bob Kash and I'll think, “Now how would Bob Kash play that right there? Or how would Bob Prater have played that?” And it'll just come to me because I can see them.
I don't know if we talked about this or not: how important it was to actually see these people and watch them as opposed to just listening to them on a recording. I feel very lucky to have known and seen as many as I did.
SP: In person.
JH: Yeah, and just be able to watch them. We get these tunes in our head, we get a memory of the tunes in our head but if you can see them then you have a memory of everything: their posture, the way they moved, and especially their bowing, which was all part of the total music that was going on.
He has a nephew living up in Ohio I've communicated with a few times that I think recorded him some. And Scotty Holbrook over in Salyersville recorded him.
SP: When did Bob Kash pass?
JH: I couldn't tell you the year. I'd say the latter half of the 1980s.
SP: He wasn't too old, was he?
JH: No, he wasn't too old. In 1976, I'd say, he was in his 60s. He spelled his name with a 'K.' He had a reputation, but it was always qualified: “But he drinks.”
SP: Did you ever see him that way?
JH: Oh yeah, plenty of times. He wasn't obnoxious or violent; he'd just kind of go into his little zone; he'd keep right on playing and play good.
SP: In those band recordings I heard it's got a bluegrass banjo on it and that kind of drive.
SP: But his solo recordings are a little different.
JH: There are some where I'm playing guitar with him. He had a drive. That guitar player on those other recordings is still living, Roland Dunn. Jesse Wells has been going up and playing with him some; he's a real good guitar player and a great singer. He was the sheriff of Wolfe County at one point; he was one of the few sheriffs that I ever knew of in that county that didn't get killed or shot.
SP: It seems like Bob Kash and Bob Prater were in similar places - they could play with bluegrass groups backing or they could play old style. They had their foot in both. They were definitely in transition; they weren't entirely one thing or the other but at the same time were fully both things.
JH: Yeah, all the so called early bluegrass fiddlers didn't all of a sudden start out sounding like Chubby Wise. A lot of them took that old-time bowing and maybe left out some of the weirdness and the nuances and just channeled it into hard sawing.
SP: I think Arthur Smith was in a lot of their ears, those folks.
JH: Especially Bob Prater, especially the left hand: you could hear a lot of Arthur Smith in his left hand. But the bowing: they didn't bow like Arthur Smith.
SP: No. Was Bob Kash a push-bower too?
JH: I don't think so.
SP: Those fellows like Kash and Prater, they were probably a bit younger than someone like Alfred Bailey.
SP: Or Hawkins, who definitely had that older, almost genteel type approach with their bow.
JH: Well, they could not ignore the changes that were happening when bluegrass came along, and I think they didn't regard it as all that revolutionary. It was the next evolutionary step of what they already knew.
SP: That's just what was going on in their formative years.
JH: Yeah, Snake Chapman was that way – he kind of had one foot in both worlds, too.
SP: The older home recordings of Snake from 1958 were a bit different.
JH: He sounded more like Arthur Smith back then– almost every tune in that collection is an Arthur Smith tune. But his bowing was Snake Chapman bowing and not Arthur Smith bowing.
SP: Do you think he became more himself later? Came more into his own on the fiddle in some ways?
JH: I don't know what the process was by which he went back to playing those older tunes. Bob Butler visited him before we did and made a cassette recording of him which he sold. Of course, Bob Butler would have been asking for the old tunes; that could have been what got him started back on the old tunes. In that 1986 video with Paul David Smith, he was playing mostly bluegrass and modern tunes. Left to himself, that's what he was playing in 1986.
Then when they started recording him, people were asking for the old tunes and he kept up with them. If he didn't have one he made one up. He wouldn't claim it was old, he'd admit that he made it up. It seemed that with a lot of the things he was making up, it was almost as if he was writing for Kenny Baker. He wanted to be the source of these new tunes that they were all looking to record.
JH: Art Stamper did get a couple tunes off of Snake Chapman; he renamed them and recorded them.
SP: The Long Fork of Buckhorn.
SP: Art's dad played Brushy Fork of John's Creek.
JH: Right, and Art knew that. I don't know why he called it The Long Fork of Buckhorn.
SP: Do you think he modeled his playing more on Snake with that or his dad or both?
JH: I realized something about Art in his later years, which was that I used to see Art and Hiram as being on two sides of a divide. If just to listen to them, that's what you'd hear first and foremost. But then, watching Art and watching that video of Hiram I realized how much their bowing was just alike. The bowing was almost exactly the same, but it was everything else that was different: the phrasing, the faster timing, the notey-ness. But you look at Hiram's bowing and you look at Art's bowing.
SP: By bowing do you mean direction or attack or ?
JH: Just the patterns. I don't know how to describe it. The little figure-eights: it's that old-time bowing, the string crossings go both ways whereas I just usually go one way. They're crossing going both directions which makes it a wave-like thing instead of a circle-like thing.
 This tune was probably derived from Bob Wills' Go Home With the Girls in the Morning and is sometimes called Snake Chapman's Tune. Bob Butler purportedly persuaded Snake to record it in ADAD tuning on the previously mentioned cassette; it was later recorded as he usually played it, in standard tuning, on the Rounder CD, Walnut Gap.
JH: You know, Art was another one of those fiddlers that evolved backwards. Billy Don Stamper evolved backwards; he was a bluegrass fiddler when I met him. He had hung out with and appreciated the old guys like John Bailey and Lewis Richardson who lived up on Barnes Mountain. Billy Don was just like Buddy Thomas hanging out with all those old guys; Billy Don had hung out with those guys and learned tunes from them. He was an old-time fiddler growing up, but the opportunities were all in bluegrass and so he became a great bluegrass fiddler. He played with several local bluegrass bands, but after he got tired of that, he just played old-time music when he got with Earl Thomas, Jr.
SP: Paul David Smith also played a bit of both.
JH: Well, he continued to play both throughout his life. He kept up with all different kinds of music.
SP: The last several years of his life he was playing more fiddle; do you have any idea what the balance was between how much he played banjo and how much he played fiddle?
JH: Back when he was playing with Snake he played almost all banjo.
SP: With Snake, but was he playing fiddle with other folks?
JH: Not so much; he said he didn't really start playing the fiddle much until after Snake died. He played with local bluegrass bands or whoever wanted him. He didn't have to go too far to catch the bluegrass; he had that just like the banjo playing. He must have had it all along; I don't see how he could have gotten as good as he was just all of a sudden.
SP: On the fiddle?
JH: Yeah, bluegrass fiddling. He was already doing it, he just wasn't doing it with Snake. I've got a recording of him where he sat in with Bill Monroe one time at a concert up in eastern Kentucky when Kenny Baker was indisposed, as we might say. He just stepped right in with Monroe.
SP: Did you ever meet Santford Kelly?
JH: Never did.
SP: You have a few recordings but you didn't make them?
JH: Santford Kelly had died just before I got to Wolfe County, but Richard Jett knew him and had some recordings of him which I think might have been the Peter Hoover recordings. I believe Santford gave Richard Jett a copy of it and Richard gave it to me. A number of people had recorded him; he was quite a character. He had a son named James, and after Santford died, Richard Jett used James for square dances, but James couldn't play the banjo, he just did it with his mouth. He made music with his mouth that sounded like the banjo. He'd tune it and everything! Every string was different and every note was different – he'd do this banjo thing with his mouth and you could dance to it.
SP: Sounds like a mouth music kind of deal. So he had music in him, he just didn't play the instrument.
JH: Yeah. And then Clarence Kelly is a bluegrasser up in Ohio – that's another son. Jesse Wells keeps up with Clarence.
SP: I noticed there were some other Rawlings names in the collection. Were they Carlton's sons?
JH: There was a big family, all brothers, and most of them played the guitar or the piano. There weren't any other fiddlers. There was another fiddler in Fleming County right next door named Kelly Rawlings who claimed to be no kin, or at least close kin. Oren Rawlings was the oldest brother and he was a songster.
SP: He was Carlton's brother?
JH: He was Carlton's oldest brother. There were some sessions where they all got together and I interviewed them
SP: Harold Zimmerman called Old Flannagin a “Canadian” tune. He said there were old fiddlers around there where he grew up in Ohio who strictly played “Canadian.”
JH: He was originally from up in northwestern Ohio, so he grew up there and heard that tune up there. You hear variants of it from the Ohio River on up north.
SP: Do you think he was referring to that style more than an actual Canadian style when he said that they played “Canadian?”
JH: I'm not sure what he meant by that. You could say that everybody from the Ohio River northwards played something that you could call a “Canadian” style. That doesn't tell you very much. The story of the tune, at least as far as Grant County was concerned, was that there was someone who came from Texas – and it also sounds like a tune you might hear in Texas although not played as fast – there was a Brack Flannigan who moved to Grant County from Texas who brought that tune in. So who knows?
SP: You mentioned people that are all-consumed by music, like Edden Hammons. Was Andy Palmer like that? I was listening to one of your interviews and someone said that he didn't do much but play music.
JH: He was kind of a ne'er-do-well and he seemed to be somewhat itinerant. Although he was married, he was one of those fiddlers who would go stay at somebody's farm for a while and probably not do very much work, but fiddle for them when the crops were being laid by. I think he was one of those people. It was a socially accepted role that was probably derived from the old Celtic wandering minstrels. That's what they were, just in a different time. Sometimes they were not accorded the respect that the Celtic minstrels were, but in other places and times they were respected more depending on the morays of the community
JH: Salyer did it. I think maybe it's time to step back and recognize that there was plenty of precedent there for traditional fiddlers, whose standards we want to understand, to suggest that cutting up tunes was something that was frowned on - that's not the way you want to do it. Now that was their standard.
SP: Such as dropping these beats.
JH: Dropping beats, yeah. There are ways it can work. For example, there's that little third part in Hickory Jack – it's square but it's not a complete part. It adds two beats to a four beat measure but it doesn't stumble.
SP: It's a tag.
JH: It's a tag, yeah. It goes six beats but it doesn't go eight beats. But dropping beats and going from part A into part B after three beats, skipping the fourth beat - I'm not the only one who is annoyed by that. In Bayard's books he talks about the phrasing of tunes as being a standard of the fiddlers that he knew. But they called it “cutting it up” or “chopping it up” when they skipped beats, and I've heard that, too, from other fiddlers. Salyer, I think, does that more than any other Kentucky fiddler I've ever heard. Now everybody who plays those tunes plays them exactly the way Salyer played them and they drop all the same beats in all the same places. But I'm thinking that would have been regarded by most traditional fiddlers as bad practice. “That guy, he might be good, but he's cutting them tunes up.” I’ve heard that over and over about certain fiddlers whom I won’t mention. But everybody slavishly copies it. I think it's worth a discussion. That's not to say all crooked tunes are bad; sometimes they work.
SP: They can be crooked in different ways. I was looking at something Ray Hilt says in Along the Ohio's Shores about how they didn't have guitars in his dad's generation and if the music was off a beat one way or another it didn't matter very much.
JH: Well, it depends on how and what he means by that. I'd have to define this. There's a type of crookedness where the music stumbles and I stumble; it's like you trip over something. And then there are other kinds of crooked tunes; Clyde Davenport can almost pull it off; he doesn't bother me as much as John Salyer. His crookedness keeps flowing along; it can get pretty crooked, but it doesn't stumble. Adding beats doesn't bother me for some reason. I don't think those people Bayard was referring to, if I'm correct in what I remember: they weren't objecting to the extra beats, they were objecting to leaving beats out. There's way more precedent for extra beats than there is for leaving beats out. In West Virginia, East Kentucky, in French-Canadian music for God's sake – it's part of the music.
SP: In other traditions; Scandinavian music is one.
JH: Yeah. I think that would be an interesting discussion to have. I think people ought to think about that a little more than they do.
 Harrod is referring to the version of Hickory Jack as played by Luther Strong (AFC 1937 / 001 and AFS 01534 / B02) for Alan Lomax of the Library of Congress in 1937.
 Bayard, Samuel P.. Hill Country Tunes: Instrumental Folk Music of Southwestern Pennsylvania. Philadelphia: American Folklore Society, 1944 AND Bayard, Samuel P., ed. Dance to the Fiddle, March to the Fife: Instrumental Folk Tunes in Pennsylvania. University Park and London: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1982
SP: With most of the fiddlers you were hanging out with, most of the time there was accompaniment. When you were talking to Manon Campbell I heard you ask him how the guitar had changed the music and he said it made it better. Did that surprise you?
JH: Yeah. But I understand what he meant. We would say that we like that old unaccompanied style with all of its irregularities.
SP: That's what made him unique.
JH: Yeah, yeah.
SP: But generally a lot of the musicians you knew further to the West; did it strike you that they liked or preferred accompaniment?
JH: Yeah, definitely. The solo styles were more of a mountain thing. Sometimes I would record fiddlers solo either because either I didn't have a guitar with me or I didn't know the tune well enough to play with them. I didn't want to mess them up. I always thought they sounded fine with solo fiddle even if they weren't used to playing that way. Often they would want me to play with them. I always would, but there were situations where I didn't really want to.
SP: What about banjo? There is some solo banjo playing in the collection but I don't think as much as there is fiddling. Was that just a function of banjo players not being around or were you not looking for them as hard?
JH: I never avoided banjo players.
JH: I probably spent as much time with them, actively seeking them out, as I did fiddle players. I never overlooked an opportunity to record a traditional banjo player.
SP: Was it just that the fiddle tradition was so rich?
JH: It was probably just my looking for fiddlers, specifically. There were areas where there were more banjo players than other places. But I didn't select against the banjo; I was just looking more for fiddlers. There didn't seem to be much in the way of the old overhand style of banjo playing in central and northern Kentucky. You'd run into banjo players, but they would usually be fingerstyle or something derived from the classical banjo tradition. Boss Sewell down in Frankfort was a good two- finger player. He had a great two-finger lick, but his family had come from the mountains. The banjo was definitely stronger in the eastern part of the state as far as surviving down to the time I was doing this, with all those different styles of banjo playing still being strong there.