Hello? Anyone there?

Pentangle- Travelling Song

We’re back…

Fly By Night Jass Band sangin’ ‘She done sold it out!’

It’s been a while since we’ve been around.  Different job, longer hours.  That’s no excuse!

We wanted to start with some off the radar material and some downright rare stuff.   Enjoy.  Next week we will begin our probe into the legendary story of Robert Johnson and his supposed deal with the Devil.

Here are some more videos.

Moby Grape- Motorcycle Irene

Fats Waller- Your Feets To Big

Malekula Stringband (Vanuatu Islands)

We leave you this week with a great tune…

Please let me know if these videos posted on your computers, iphones or whatever.  This is finally being done from a real computer.  I’m happy to be back with more oldtime music, some obscure American and ethnic curios and all the likes in between. Until next time.

Crazy People Like You by the Boswell Sisters

Published in: on 10/18/2010 at 11:29 pm  Comments (1)  

Roscoe Holcomb (banjo, guitar, vocals): April 1964 Interview- Part One


Fred Price & Roscoe Holcomb on the beach.

Roscoe Holcomb was born on Sept. 5 1912 – died Feb. 1 1981.  He was raised in Daisy, Kentucky, situated in the foothills of the Appalachias in the southeastern tip of the state.  He played banjo, guitar and sang.

Below is footage of Roscoe Holcomb that is associated with some work Mike Seeger did with him.

  Sorry our video display isn’t working, but the video works if you just click on the youtube link below.


Interview With Roscoe Holcomb By John Cohen

What are old time people?/  Far as I know, they’re just old time people…  they got their own ways;  they’re just a little different from the younger generation.

Are their houses different?/  They live different from what we do now.  There wasn’t any modern living back them days.  Most of the buildings were log buildings, hewn, with a broadax, notched and laid up, and they was chanked with mud, the cracks was, to keep the air out, and then papered inside – made a very warm house; and then covered with boards.  Go to the hill and cut a big oak tree or chestnut, and dry the boards out and nail them on the roof.  Last for years, 25 and 30 years a board roof would last…  I was raised up that same way, but we made our living mostly in farming.  The oldtime songs was all we knew anything about.  We don’t like this new stuff that’s out and that’s the reason we don’t sing it.

How was it when the coal came in?/  Well, farming’s about all there was in this country til the coal mines  come in here.  Man made his living on the farm.  Course there was railroad work – that give a lotta people work and still they farmed, raised their own stuff to eat.  One of the best livings a man ever lived when you raise all your vegetables, have 3 or 4 big hogs to kill, plenty milk and butter and your own eggs, raise your chickens and you don’t have to go to the store for it, you got it.  It’s all pure food buddy, that’s the reason the old generation was stronger and lived longer, and stronger than they are today…  I guess the coal mines have been here before my time, but not but just a few.  After they got started and seen what it was, why they all worked at it then.  The first ones started and they made their own pushcarts and pushed it out of the mines and hauled it in a wagon to the railroad.  Then they got the trucks, it kept building up.  Then they got the coal machines to cut the coal and shoot it, motors to haul it with, but they first had ponies and mules to haul it and still do cause you take a lot of places that you can take the ponies and mining mules – they’ll jerk ’em to the main line before the motors can get ’em and the motors don’t have to do so much switching in each room.  But the big mines they don’t use no stock at all – all machine.  It’s getting to much machinery – taking the work away from the people.  No, I don’t think they’d (the people) ever like it back like it one time was, cause the coal mine has given an awful lot of work in this country.  See, these old mountains is about wore out.  People used to work 10 hours for a dollar and half – 15 cents/hour.  You worked from the time you could see to when you couldn’t hardly see.  I loaded coal, set timber.

Why was it you stopped  playing music for a while?/  They (Baptists) seemed to think it was wrong.  I used to think it was too.  I get disgusted with it yet, cause I try and try and it don’t seem I’m doing good at it, and get disgusted and think sometimes I’ll quit anyway.  I like it and I don’t like it;  I love to hear it and I love to play sometimes, but after so long a time I get burned out with it.  Long as I’m able to work and do, it ain’t so bad – been used to it all my life.  When I can’t do nothing it worries me and you don’t feel like playing anymore.

What kind of churches were here?/  It used to, there wasn’t nothin but the old regular Baptists and missionary Baptists.  And then the holiness come in, the Presbyterians and the freewheelin’ Baptists.  It’s different.  Branches of religion started in and there’s quite a few of them around now.

Is it better with more?/  Well, it suits everybody’s notions.  Some people don’t believe in some things, some in the other.  They get started, maybe an argument in the church and they just branch off – leave the church and set up one of their own – call it what they want to.

Which churches have music?/  Ever since I remember the Holiness had guitars – guitars is mostly what they used, now they use anything.  Any kind a man bring in they use it.  Music’s all right in church – I love to hear it.  The old regular Baptists, they don’t believe in stringed instruments in church, no kind of music in a church.  I guess a lot of people doubts the Holiness, but I think Holiness is nothing more than livin a good clean life.  You have to be holy before you can be righteous.  But, they have things in a church that everybody cain’t see, don’t believe in – some don’t believe in talkin in unknown tongue, some don’t believe in this shoutin, jumpin up and down, dancin and so on, but that’s their belief, and I can’t fall out with a man because he believes something.  He’s gotta right to believe his beliefs as well as I’ve mine.  Let him live his life and I’ll live mine.  Well, that’s the way the world oughta stand, I think.

To be continued…

Early Memory of Roscoe Holcomb.

by: Matt Scherger

When I first heard Roscoe Holcomb I was a freshman at Indiana State University in Terre Haute.  College home to the great car salesman Larry Bird.  I used to live on the 12th floor of Rhodes Hall on campus.  Off campus about 3/4 of a mile south was a record shop called Headstones.  I was 18 and from Kokomo, so never had I been to a place like this before. 

I walked in and the first thing I saw was a record of a man standing with a banjo in his hands in front of an old shed.  He was old.  Really old.  I passed by it and went browsing for a while.  Beck’s album Mellow Gold was just being released so I had to pick that up.  That may give you a clue to my age there.  But as I went to pay for my Beck album I grabbed the banjo album too.  I’m pretty sure that I went back to my dorm room and sat and listened to Beck’s Mellow Gold and Roscoe Holcomb’s album Untamed Sense of Control for a few weeks straight.

When you listen to someone like Roscoe Holcomb play and talk about his life it makes you realize that he is a part of a vanishing America.  One that has traded tradition for convenience.  Cut out the face-to-face time, let’s get down to the dollars and sense, blub blub blub… I need a cheeseburger to go no pickle, no ketchup.

It makes me sad sometimes when I get all caught up in someone I’m researching who is dead and gone.  And  I sit and think of what it must have been like being active in a time where self sufficiency was your key to survival in rural America.  A time of desperation to perservere and not complain and just live your life day to day as you do any other.  That’s what’s different.  That type of living is not in the American voice anymore.  At least it’s few and far between.  Only here could we push our own people out of their homes and force them to work low paying hard labor jobs for next to nothing.  

If it weren’t for the struggle in life, we wouldn’t have people like Roscoe Holcomb.  Original in every sense of the word.  And probably one of the last.  Struggle was the voice that came out of his recordings and that’s about as real as it gets.

Until next time, where we will continue with Part Two of John Cohen’s interview with Roscoe. 


Ladies and Gentleman! On Bass…

King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band, Chicago, May 1923

Front Row: Honore Dutrey, Louis Armstrong, Johnny Dodds – Back Row: Baby Dodds, King Oliver, Bill Johnson, Lil Hardin (Armstrong’s Wife)

Taken from: How Low Can You Go?  Anthology of the String Bass, 1925-1941, Dust-to-Digital

The double bass, which stands beside its player at the rear of the band, is larger than the player himself.  Like the cello, it has a spike which rests upon the floor.  Owing to the thickness of the strings and because of the great size of the instrument, exceptional strength is required to press down the heavy strings.  The bow must be very sturdy.  Solo playing on the double bass would seem at first sight to have all the delicacy of an elephant dancing, yet there have been many great solo players.  The very deep tones of the double bass are essential as support for the other instruments.  The tone color of the double bass is heavy, gruff and ponderous.

Indiana Weekly Messenger- April 18, 1935.  Excerpts from “Double Bass Is Larger Than the Player Himself”

It seems to me that the bass is an instrument like all the others that has always been defined by its players.  It’s the thunder, the engine room, the rolling highway.  Where would music be without it? It provides us with the atmosphere of a tune at the core.  You listen to a stringband that starts out a tune with the banjo playing the first measure alone, then guitar kicking in on the second and the fiddle on the third measure, just knowing the bass is gonna kick in any second now.  They play one full round and still no bass.  You sit there waiting. Waiting patiently.  Waiting not so patiently.   You’re starting to get real…  Wait! The bass player is moving!  He’s getting his hands into position… and BOOM!  Everybody just left their tables for the dance floor.  Feet are stomping, hands are clapping and the dance is on.  Like the quote says above, the bass plays an essential part in supporting the band.  I wanted to give some due to the masters of the thunder strings with a little history on the early days of the bass.

This was the result of some research that I was doing around Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I was trying to fatten my 78 collection of bass players and did a lot of reading of the old (sadly out of print) 78 Quarterly magazine, Gennett Records Complete Recorded Inventory, Dust-to-Digital’s String Bass Anthology and various extensive notes in oldtime jazz collections I have accumulated over the years .  I was looking for any 78s with Bill Johnson of King Oliver’s band (pictured at top).  I may be hunting for years to come.   Bill played bass for King Oliver when they recorded in Richmond, but for the recordings he played banjo.  I wanted to find out if Gennett Records of Richmond, IN. was perhaps the first company to record the string bass to shellac, since they already have an impressive list of firsts in music.  This would not be the case.  Why does this matter you may ask?  Well, before 1925 all records were made acoustically, meaning that the low end register of a bass could not be picked up through the recording systems that were being used at the time.  Most bands, (stringbands, jazz bands) were using tubas for their recordings. 

The first jazz bass record was made June 22, 1925 by Harry Barth of Natchez, Mississippi.  Harry played bass for Ted Lewis and His Band at the time of the recording.  The tune was “Milenburg Joys”.  An historical achievement that interestingly enough was made by a man that would never play on any of Ted Lewis’ records again after that recording. 

The bass however, would not really catch on for a few more years due to bands being generally used to the volume the tuba offered while perfoming at dances and festivals with a lot of crowd noise.  This would continue on into the 1930s, with popular dance bands of the time switching gradually from tuba to bass.

It wasn’t until guys like Milt Hinton and Wilson Myers mastered there basses and began a revolution equal to the Beatles’ in the Dance Band Era.  The tuba was just getting to be to much.  Just as awkward as the bass the tuba was truly limited as to what it could do with a band.  The bass was a more pleasing instrument to listen to during a solo.Thanks to Dru for the (Judge) reference the other day.  Here’s Milt!

The bass has evolved from the early days into an instrument that is at the front of the stage, side by side with the guitars, sharing solos.  Whether one string or six, the bass is an instrument that music cannot be without.  Just like the human body needing it’s heartbeat, once the bass player is done, it’s time to go.

Well, hopefully you’ve enjoyed this edition of Oldtime Crossroads.  We’ll see you soon.

This one’s for you B.


 How Low Can You Go? Anthology of the String Bass 1925-1941 Dust-to-Digital, Atlanta, Georgia 2006

The Jazz Records, Bookends Press 1976

78 Quarterly (back issues)





Published in: on 03/23/2010 at 7:05 am  Leave a Comment  

The Life and Times of Big Joe Honeywagon. RIP?

A few years ago, here in Lafayette, we had a band in town that was notorious for the parties they threw.  Mind you, these parties were not thrown in their homes for fear of domestic duties kicking in the following morning.  We remember the trombones, trumpets, ukeleles, banjos, steel guitars, kazoos, b-benders, harmonicas, accordians…  Let’s stop there.  These guys didn’t know when to stop adding instrumentation.

Formed in the back alley of an abandoned bar on the southern tip of the county, this band of miscreants were all meant to meet on this fateful evening.  Having been failed door-to-door salesmen, the group decided to try their hand in the age old tradition of music making.  Before they had even had one band practice, they were already scheduled to play three shows.  The first official show for the Honeywagon was at Downtown Records in Lafayette, IN.  The second show was a benefit for small furry creatures and the third at a bar called the “Clubhouse” w/ the *Half Rats. Not bad for a band that didn’t have any songs ready for the stage. 

The group regularly met for the first 2 weeks of its existence, often trading stories of good times and days of yore over BBQ and Beer and Cigarettes.    Big Joe, who was the best storyteller of the group never once showed his face on stage in the just-0ver-a-year career of his band.  To get you more familiar with the concept Big Joe had in preparing his band for live performances we will have to take you on a brief trip into the history of the man, the legend, that is Big Joe Honeywagon.

Big Joe was born around LaFollette, Tenn. where at a young age he was introduced to music by his mother Big Mama Honeywagon.  She played the piano in their church and would often entertain her friends at home with tea and gospel hymns.  After Big Joe learned on his mother’s piano for a few years, he saved up enough money to buy a guitar from the local hardware store.  He began practicing immediately in hopes that one day he could be a famous performer.  When he turned 18 he moved north to go to school at the prestigous Purdue University.  After 2 months of that he realized he wanted to pursue music full time and not a 9-5 desk job that over time would eat his very soul alive.

So, in order to keep a roof over his head at the time he took a job as a door-to-door salesman with the famous Wallace Beaver Cap Co. 

 This is where he would meet his fearless soldiers and form his band.   Let’s go ahead and meet the members of note.

left to right: James Morrow-steel guitar, Greggie Depew- skins, Ryan Smith- thunder strings, Billy Bob Brand III- fiddle, trombone, sax, Dru Alkire- B-Bender, banjo, tenor guitar, and Matt Scherger- Guitar, ukelele, kazoo.  Big Joe not available at time of photo.

In just close to one year Big Joe Honeywagon created a monster that was one hell of a time to witness.  The shows were always unpredictable since the guys would have to wing it due to Big Joe never showing up and being able to perform the songs they would work on in practice.  Covering songs by Bob Wills, the Flying Burrito Brothers, the Byrds, Blind Willie Johnson, Lightnin’ Hopkins and countless others, the Honeywagon always gave us a show that would leave everyone wanting more.

Lately, in our community there has been a buzz that the Honeywagon has been in the talks of recreating those days gone by.  We certainly would like to see this happen.  So, for the next couple of months, if you happen to see one of the fellas walking around downtown or drinking in a bar, make sure you ask them about Big Joe and if they have seen him or heard that he is spreading rumors of reuniting his fearless troops.  And, if we hear anything here at Oldtime Crossroads we will be sure to keep you informed.  So for now, let’s take a look at some of the forgotten footage of this legendary band and hope that one day we may see their return. 

Here is the band performing a few songs from their past.  Thanks to Col. Ted Stevenson for the archival footage and thank you to the members of Big Joe for allowing us to publish a brief snippet of their history.

To find old music by Big Joe Honeywagon look for them on Google Search by typing in (RIP) Joseph’s Wagon of Honey.

Until next time…

Oldtime Crossroads Music Channel: Episode Two

left to right:  Creed, Joe, Bill and Janice Birchfield-  The Roan Mt. Hilltoppers.

Hey everybody,  we’re back with another episode on Oldtime Crossroads Music Channel.  Had a few days go by with some technical difficulties.  But we’re back and going strong. 

Latest news, the Oldtime Crossroads Blog was chosen as blog of the week by the Journal and Courier.  I wanted to give a big thank you to Tim Brouk for thinking of us for the article. 

For this weeks program we thought we would start you off on the right foot, since it’s the weekend! 

One of my main influences in oldtime guitar is the gentleman featured on fiddle in this first clip.  He is not the guitarist in the video.  Bill Birchfield, often referred to as “Backwards Bill” was the guitarist with this band for years.  His father Joe was the original fiddler in the band.  His brother Creed was the banjo player, Bill’s wife Janice was on washtub and Bill played guitar.  Bill was a lefty so he learned to play his guitar upside down.  The driving rhythm that he produced in his guitar days still resonates in my bones.  There is not to this date an old time guitarist that gets into my blood instantly like Bill Birchfield.

Here is 8 fine minutes of the rawest hillbilly stringband still playing today.  In this video the band is competing as well a Bill on fiddle for individual class competition.  Ladies and Gentleman!  The Roan Mountain Hilltoppers!

Here’s Bukka White talkin about keeping the women happy at home while he’s out doin his thing and singin the “Early Mornin’ Blues”.  At one time in my life I could relate to this song.

The Black Ace.  ” I’m the boss card in your hand.”  Texas slide blues player Black Ace plays- “I’m am the Black Ace”

Whistler’s Jug Band.  There is not much history known about these guys.  They were a blink on the map of Jug Band History, but one that left an incredible mark.  Here is the only footage known to exist of them.  It’s a shame that alot of our best music was overlooked in the first half of the century.  Maybe we would’ve had more footage of Whistler’s Jug Band than that of say…  Oh, I don’t know, most of the modern pop medium today?  Maybe that’s a little to harsh.  Anyway,  here is Whistler’s Jug Band with “Tear it Down, Bed Slats and All”.

The Mound City Blue Blowers knew how to cheese it up the right way.  I would love to play on a stage like this!  This video features Red Nichols as well.

Para mis amigos de Mexico.  Pedro Infante!

Thanks for checking us out this week.  Hopefully these videos will be a good start to yer weekend.  Pay attention in the future when I will be introducing our Field Recording page.  We are pretty excited to get on the road this summer and record some regional oldtime musicians and post videos and interviews as we go, so stay with us and let us know what you think.  We’ll keep you posted.  We’ll be back next week with some gospel, and country soul videos!  Until next time…

You just a trifling woman, don’t mean me no good no how – Banjo Joe (Gus Cannon)


Gus Cannon of Cannon’s Jug Stompers

Most of the old tunes that I listen to create an image in my mind of an America that is long gone.  Blazin down a dirt road, the dust is kicking up rocket trails behind the truck.  The sycamore and elms are nodding gently back and forth in the breeze, and the wind is beating you in the face, since you’ve got a 255 air conditioner (2 windows down at 55mph).   The sounds of a jug band goin to town on your tape deck is just about to flip sides for the next 15 minutes of the trip.  The tune starting up is “Viola Lee Blues” by Cannon’s Jug Stompers from Memphis, Tennessee.  A legendary jug band led by a man named Gus Cannon.

 For me, their really isn’t a better singer than Gus Cannon.  He had one of the most commanding and soulful voices of the jugband era.  A top notch banjo player, vocalist and songwriter, Gus Cannon was and still is a major influence on the oldtime scene.  With his band’s tight musicianship and witty sense of humor, it’s the kind of music that just calls for one hell of a party.  But, it’s always been Gus’s banjo playing that has been the major attraction for me in his legacy.  Often serving as the lead instrument in his recordings with his jug band Cannon’s Jug Stompers, it was a very direct style of playing.  Nothing fancy, but  the most sturdy, steady playing i’ve ever heard on  banjo blues.

Gus “Banjo Joe” Cannon was born in Red Banks, Mississippi in the fall of 1883 on Sept. 12.  One of the earliest and oldest recording artists of the golden age, he supposedly started his career in the streets as early as the 1890s, although no evidence exists. Cannon eventually moved slightly north around the turn of the century, landing in Ripley, Tennessee.  He performed well into his twenties as a medicine show musician along side Noah Lewis* while mounting his skills as a banjo man.  He formed Cannon’s Jug Stompers in the 1920s.  The original members were:  Gus Cannon-banjo, jug, vocals, Noah Lewis-harmonica, vocals, Ashley Thompson-guitar, Elijah Avery-unknown, and Hosea Woods-guitar, vocals.

The Jug Stompers made 28 recordings between 1928 and 1930 and during this period each of the members made their own solo recordings as well.  The most important recordings were probably the collaboration between Gus Cannon and Blind Blake**.  Today there are a slew of bands that still play the Jug Stompers tunes.  In the ’60s there were bands like the Jim Kweskin Jug Band, Hot Tuna, the Grateful Dead, the New Lost City Ramblers, the HOLY MODAL ROUNDERS! and countless more who all covered one or more of the Jug Stompers tunes.  The Jug Stompers documented their history through music and by doing so left us a priceless gift.  If we can’t live in an America like this  anymore, we can at least escape to it for a while with recordings like that of the Jug Stompers.

Gus Cannon performed up until the 1970s when he just couldn’t play anymore.  He died in 1979, but it is clear that his legacy in American Music is still holding strong.  Modern performers like Pokey LaFarge, Woody Pines and Frank Fairfield are performing Jug Stomper tunes.  That’s almost a 100 year legacy.  As long as I can play music, I will always play Gus Cannon’s tunes and continue to spread his musical history.

  Here are some recordings and paintings of Gus and his Jug Stompers.

*Noah Lewis-  a member of the Jug Stompers and one of the finest early blues harmonica players.  He was rumored to play two harmonicas at once, one in his mouth the other, his nose.  He contributed original tunes and vocals for Cannon’s Jug Stompers.  We will have an entire entry on Noah Lewis in the summer.

**Blind Blake-  Arthur “Blind” Blake was born around 1893 in Florida or possibly the Georgia Sea Islands.  His real name may have been Arthur Phelps.  Blake was accompanied by Gus Cannon in the early ’20s before Gus started the Jug Stompers.  Blind Blake went on to be one of the most influential guitarists in the first half of the 20th century.  Performing with the likes of Papa Charlie Jackson, Ma Rainey, Johnny Dodds and Kid Wesley Wilson.

We are currently working on a resource page for this blog.  We will attempt to give you as much info about record companies, their websites and how to obtain music from these blog entries.

Until next time…

We’ll see you back home in Indiana

Oldtime Crossroads Music Channel: Episode One

Here at Oldtime Crossroads we would like to provide you with as much of a look into your musical past as possible.  Having access to old video footage is essential in putting a face with the recordings.  Although some of the music we will share thru video will just be still footage with music in the background, it still gives me a chance to display the recordings that I love with my own music channel.  We will keep the channel fresh weekly with hopes of soon starting a podcast as well.  Enjoy these videos.  We will come up with new categories of music films as we go.

Enjoy the films…







List of artists:

Jazz:  video 1: Louie Armstrong and Billie Holiday/video 2: Django Reinhardt and the Hot Club of France

Blues:  video 1: Rev. Gary Davis/ video 2: Sonny Terry and Brownie Mcgee

Country:  video 1: Cousin Emmy and her Kinfolk/ video 2: Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys

Ethnic: video 1: Lord Kitchener (Trinidad)/ video 2: Taraf de Haidouks (Romania)

Cajun: video 1: Eddie LeJeune/ video 2: DL Menard

Oh yeah, one more thing…

Check out this painting.

Until next time…

Son House:  Oil painting by Gregory Stone


Nuclear Blast! Gospel Favorites and Weekend Finds.

that_old_time_religion.jpg image by turtleone2007

Gospel Music.  Brothers and Sisters our topic toodaayy!!!  is on the music of…  the loorrddd!!!  Let me hear an amen!!!   I said yeaahh!!! 

Everyone is different. Really.  Some get religion on TV, some on Wednesdays and some on Sundays.  Some, just on holidays.  Some when their visiting the folks. However you get it, just know you may need it in some form or another  in your life.  For me, I find it in the music of the congregation, the people of the church,  a voice greater than that of one person.

My earliest memory of Gospel music dates back to when I was a kid of probably 10 or 11  years old.  We were on family vacation in North Carolina and my folks wanted to find a place for us to go to Sunday service.  My dad found this little church in Shilote, NC that was a good ways inland from where we were staying.  I remember that the only thing on my mind was getting back to the beach to go boogie boarding.  Before that could happen we needed to get the week started fresh with an hour spent praying to the Saviour in Shilote. We went to church every weekend when I was growing up.  From 1st – 8th grade we went every morning in school before class, but the music they played in the church I grew up in didn’t sound like the music I heard that day.  It is a memory that remains very clear in my mind.  Something got a hold of me on that morning and I’ve been chasing it ever since.  It was the best thing I had heard musically up to that point in my life, simply because that was the first real memory of music that I have.  But what stood out more than anything was that it was the first time I had seen a  church service as a celebration and not totally serious.  A completely different world from where I grew up.  The band caused all of this to happen.    The music they were putting out that day still resonates in my mind as the best Gospel group that I’ve ever heard.    The truth is,  the memory of the music is probably the true jewel here.  I believe that may have been what set the wheels in motion for me musically.  At this point  I’ve collected a lot of music in the last 20 years and I still feel like I’m just warming up. 

Over the weekend I found some great ’78s and one really good LP: NUCLEAR BLAST!  The Reverend Douglas Bell and his Stage Cruisers.  Originally on Designer Records, this is a reissue on Big Legal Mess Records now.  It is excellent from start to finish.  The recording is very primitive with crunchy drums and a somewhat funky out of sync chorus.   The keyboard player at times uses an effect that gives him some cosmic output that sends the Reverend on an entertaining improv spree.  With a title like Nuclear Blast! I had to have it.   All of the songs were written by the Reverend Bell and his entire family pitches in on vocals on these recordings.  If you are a fan of amateur recording you will love this record.  There is no mixing, mastering or editing.  Just a kickin’ good time in the name of the Lord.  I will post this recording at a later date for lack of technology at the moment.

For now, in keeping with the topic , let’s take a break and watch this short film of Sister Rosetta Tharpe doing “Didn’t it Rain”

 So, if you watch a video like that, and you don’t feel something then I’m probably just wasting your time.  Singers and musicians like Sister Rosetta Tharpe are the key for me in understanding what religion is, and for me it’s in that purest form of music we call Gospel.  It’s an expression all on its own.  Each individual has it inside of them.  Whether it be Buddhism, Judaism, the Scientology, Unitary Universalism or so on…  If you can see it working in someone else’s life other than yours,then what’s to say it’s  wrong.  It’s just their interpretation and mine happens to be in the way my feet move when I hear a Gospel band kick up a number or the way the oldtime preachers would start off a number  with “Brothers and Sisters, the subject of todays scripture is…”  It works for me in what I need and that’s all that really matters.  I’ll take the oldtime religion anyday, ’cause I sure can’t afford the new one.

In the following weeks I will start posting playlists for the various bands and musicians that we will discuss in hopes to keeping it fresh daily.  We’ll see you soon.

Until next time, enjoy these videos.

Paul Miles and his Red Fox Chasers

Gennett Records- Richmond, Indiana


 Early country music in America was like an atomic bomb…

Uncle Dave Macon and his Fruit Jar Drinkers, The Carolina Tar Heels, Gid Tanner and his Skillet Lickers, Red Patterson’s Piedmont Log Rollers, Dr. Humphrey Bate and his Possum Hunters, and so on and so on and…

It seems to me that there may never be enough time to find every musician that recorded in the first forty some odd years of the 20th century.  That’s a good thing, sort of.  That’s a life long education that I need, but financially, have to budget for.  There is no possible end.  That’s what I’m assuming .  Whether it be jazz, blues, or early country music, there simply is not enough time to find them all.  But, I will try as long as I live. 

This time heading back to Indiana we’ve found a stringband that came from Surry County, North Carolina to record  for Gennett Records in Richmond, 1928.  The story goes, the Red Fox Chasers were a band that formed when two child hood buddies, A.P. Thompson and Bob Cranford and two other childhood buddies, Paul Miles and Guy Brooks met at a fiddlers convention in Union Grove N.C. in the summer of 1927.  The group’s line up was: Paul Miles- Banjo  A.P. Thompson- Guitar/Vocals  Bob Cranford- Mouth Harp/Vocals  Guy Brooks- Fiddle. 

The vocals of Thompson and Cranford are right on.  Brooks and Miles occasionally picking up as the backing harmonies makes for some of the most powerful harmonies in country music at the time.   Brooks and Cranford double up like nothing i’ve ever heard on harmonica and fiddle before.  

The band recorded 48 sides for Gennett in 1928. The record company also gave the band pseudonyms like the Black Mountain Gang and the Virginia Possum Tamers for purposes of boosting mail order sales. The recordings are excellent.  During their career they mostly performed semi-professionally while maintaining weekly labor jobs.  The band had success with a handful of their records including Did You Ever See a Devil Uncle Joe?/Stolen Love/Sweet Fern and Wreck on the Mountain Road.  Although they disbanded, the members remained somewhat active as musicians.  Thompson and Cranford went on to record some gospel ’78s for Gennett as well, eventually falling off into obscurity.

  The Red Fox Chasers complete recorded sides have just been reissued in ’09 by Thompkins Square Records.  It is an excellent collection  of music.  Would it have gotten better if they kept going?  I don’t know.  But I would have to say that these recordings are going to be with me out at the camp site this summer.  Thank God for that little furniture store in Richmond that decided to start making records.  They give us so much to talk about.  The Red Fox Chasers may have been from North Carolina, but their music echoed from Richmond.

We’ll leave you with some music by Paul Miles and his Red Fox Chasers.  Until next time…


Snooks Eaglin: New Orleans Street Musician


Pack your bags, it’s time to head to New Orleans.  When I was down in the Big Easy a few years ago, one of the best parts of my trip was catching as many musical acts on the street as I could.  B, myself, Scags and Crampton saw a slew of street performers while we were down there.  Sure, we saw a lot of music in the clubs, but it just wasn’t the same as the bands playing in the street.  A long time tradition of New Orleans,  street musicians make up the soul of that town. 

Snooks Eaglin is one of the best examples of this tradition.  A blind street performer from Nola, he is one of the most organic blues musicians I’ve listened to.  Fird “Snooks” Eaglin  was born  January 21, 1936.  By the time his first birthday came he had already lost his vision to glaucoma.  A self taught guitarist and songwriter, he would often times claim that he learned by sitting around and playing  while listening to the radio.  He gained a reputation as an unpredictable performer, often making up songs on the spot and rarely ever using a set list. 

In 1952 Eaglin joined a band called the Flamingos, started by Allen Toussaint.  He played both the bass lines and guitar runs on his guitar.  He played with Toussaint and the Flamingos for several years.  His first solo record was produced by a folklore student from LSU, Henry Oster.  At the time he was found for these recordings he was back entertaining as a street musician.

The record that I wanted to talk about is called “Snooks Eaglin:  Country Boy in New Orleans”.  A great album that Eaglin recorded with Percy Randolph and Luscious Bridges in 1956.  Strip it down to just washboard, harmonica, guitar and vocals, you don’t get much more street than that.  The album starts off with the title tune, “(I’m a) Country Boy Down in New Orleans”, a solo tune that borders on a rock and roll rhythm.  2 excellent versions of the Blues classic “Bottle Up and Go”, and 2 great train songs,  “Model T and the Train” and “Locomotive Train”.  These are my two favorites on the album.  “Mardi Gras Mambo” is a great example of the diversity in his repertoire as well as “Jack O’ Diamonds” which is just harmonica, vocal and Bass drum.  Snooks Eaglin died in February of 2009 and a parade was organized in his memory on the streets of New Orleans.  He had the most success toward the end of his career which is sadly always the case with these American legends.  Either way his music is well worth checking out if you are into gut bucket blues.


Until next time…


I’ve added “Looking For A Woman” and “St. James Infirmary Blues” as the musical companion for this edition.  I hope you enjoyed this edition of Across the U.S.

Funeral Parade For Snooks Eaglin- New Orleans, Feb. 2009

Published in: on 03/03/2010 at 5:35 am  Comments (1)  
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