Monday, January 13, 2020

Spencer & Rains in concert

I just received notice that Spencer and Rains will be performing on Wednesday, January 29th at 7 pm at The Carlsen Center on the Johnson County Community College campus in Overland Park Ks.
This is great news and I will be attending myself. Its fantastic that they have gotten this venue. I expect that there will be some folks coming who have never really seen Old Time Music performed live. And others who have maybe never even been exposed. I certainly hope so. I certainly hope you local folks come on out and support them in this performance.
You don't see these kind of venues open up for our music every day.
Here's a photo of the flyer The Carlsen Center sent out with a great photo of them.
The Carlsen Center is a fantastic venue for music. I've seen Doc Watson and Tommy Emmanuel perform there in years past. Great sound quality. Tickets are $15 for adults and $7 for 17 and under.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Spencer Rains announce upcoming instructional videos

Tricia Spencer and Howard Rains announced on Facebook that they are raising money on Patreon for creating instructional videos. Please give this a look and hopefully help then achieve their goal for the money they need to do this.
This is great news for area musicians. These two are a treasure trove of information and kudos to them for deciding to leave a legacy for the future and to help others trying to learn. Good folks!

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Billy Mathews and Colin Blair CD Review and Billy's 500 Fiddle Tune book and CD's

Recently I acquired the CD, "Long Time Comin" with Billy Mathews and Colin Blair. This was a 2015 release. On Billy's site he calls it, "newish".  I'm especially enthusiastic about this CD. I have a couple more CD's by Billy Mathews and they are valued additions to my collection but this one is my favorite.
 I have been trying to remember how many years back that I attended a concert by Billy and Colin at the old Moutain Music Shoppe in Shawnee Kansas. I think its been 12-14 years ago. This was when I first heard of "Banjo Billy Mathews" and  Colin Blair. Jim Curley the Mountain Music Shoppe owner promoted this concert and told me enough to make me want to attend.
 Billy I learned lived in north Arkansas and Colin lived in the St Louis area. Colin had his fretless gourd banjo with him as well as an Old time type simple banjo. He might have had another one but thats not certain. It seems Billy had a couple three fiddles with him as well.
 I had no idea what awaited me. Billy explained that it was his mission to preserve old time fiddle tunes that were a bit more obscure or less well known  After introducing themselves they proceeded to play and I was instantly hooked. Since that evening I have been very interested in his music and was also very  impressed by Colin Blairs playing. I remember my excitement very well as they introduced me to the kind of Old Time music that I was becoming addicted to.
 The music these two made together became one of the fountains of the kind of Old Time music I came to love and focused on. When I began this blog I was thinking of them and a couple other contemporaneous Old Time musicians in the Ozarks as the starting point for my focus. Having lived in the Ozarks this sound resonated with me. The ancient tones summoned me to a different time when my ancestors labored, fought and died in the hills of southern Missouri. I could almost hear them. They lived in simpler times but harder times of struggle and hardship but ready for some toe tapping fiddle music. I know for a fact that they were surrounded by fiddlers and it's I'm certain they heard several of them.
 Since then my interests in heartland fiddling has expanded to other types of fiddling found here.
But, my heart remains in this particular type of fiddling. It's still the core of my interest in Old Time.
 Sure, I love Appalachian Old Time music too. Heartland Old Time music is its own critter with influences that are broader and in my opinion, richer.
 So, as most of you already know and I am pretty sure I already blogged about the release of his book "500 Fiddle Tunes Old time Archive" in 2018.
 In the forward, Colin Blair tells us that Billy traveled all over the North American continent gathering tunes and in the process integrated them into his Ozarkian lenses. I have this book  of his collected tunes which Emily Elam  of Mountain View Arkansas  transcribed for Billy.  It's in standard musical notation with chords given as well. This makes these volume useful for both the fiddler and the accompanists playing back up. I really think this is one of those "Must have" book of tunes for heartland fiddlers and accompanists.  If you appreciate Old Time music you will love this book of transcriptions.
 There are 5 CD's of Billy playing these tunes and you can purchase them for $150 at Billy's website,
  Sadly I don't have these CD's myself. I hope that these CD's and book gain a wide distribution in the heartland. Billy has gone to great lengths to assemble and publish and record these precious tunes. Don't count on finding these things on the internet in the future for free. We all know that in the future maintaining the rich history and traditions of heartland and beyond Old Time tunes will become a serious challenge
 Buy this book and album and support the preservation of the music we love so dearly and don't forget, to support Billy. Thanks to Billy Mathews for this endeavor and Emily Elam for helping in this important way. It's hard to imagine that Billy had all these tunes (500!) in his head! Emily Elam had a monumental task in transcribing 500 tunes for this book. I have not asked her how long it took but I would imagine it was a considerable period of time.

 Now, to return the Mathews/Blair CD. This by far my favorite CD by Billy and the fact that's he's playing with Colin Blair makes it special to me. My career did not allow me to get out and about much and I really missed seeing them play. I wondered if I ever would hear them again.
 A word about Colin Blair. Watching him play you can see that he has a passion and love for this music. I remember watching him play the fretless gourd banjo and feeling like I was somewhere else in time. He's an amazingly skilled musician and I want to make sure its understood that he's a vital part of this CD. He's not just accompanying. I would like to see him put some CD's out if he has not already done so but I'm not aware if he has.
This CD is wonderful. It's so good that my wife mentioned to me that she enjoyed it as well. That shocked me because she's not a fan of Old Time music at all but when she likes something like this I took notice!  This is a lively CD! These two musicians make something special happen. I have enjoyed this so much that I have to say it's one of my top three or four OT CD's.  I keep reminding the reader that I'm a failed guitar player with attention deficit who never got good enough to suit myself. I don't consider myself a musician but I'm an aficionado, one of those people who love Old Time but don't play but I'm in the audience.  Old time is different than Bluegrass where lots of people listen but don't play. In Old time I believe its much less true. Well, here I am one of the audience,  and I really enjoy this CD.
Here are a couple examples of them playing but I could not find any tunes from the CD on Youtube so these will give you some idea of what to expect. However, there are some really good tunes that I wish I could show you from that CD.
I got the videos off Christine Fellicia Breen's YouTube site. Thanks to her for creating them which made it possible to share with you.

Monday, October 7, 2019

New Old Time music Jamb in Lawrence Ks

I just now became aware of a longstanding Old Time music jamb in Lawrence Ks at the Beautiful Music Violin Shop . This is where Tricia Spencer works and she is leading the jamb sessions. They have a Facebook group for this you can check out.
The Shop's address is 925 Iowa Suite 1
Lawrence, Kansas 6604. It's very easy to find.
Here are the dates for the old-time jam at Beautiful Music Violin Shop from 1pm-3pm.
October 19, 2019
November 23, 2019
December 21, 2019
 (785) 856-8755 Shop phone number. Call for info.

Tricia Spencer is a fantastic fiddler I love to listen to. I would suspect other instruments would be welcome besides fiddles.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

An interesting story about a Fiddle that is a family heirloom with a history.

Rod Durst is a Kansan who lives in N.E. Kansas. He recently shared the history and photographs of the family heirloom fiddle. It's a great story and with Rod's permission I am sharing this with you now.
 Here's an old German Guaneri fiddle that belonged to my great grandad,pictured on the left in the last photo. As you can see its had a rough life.Its story has passed through the family thusly.
My great grandad Edward Charles McKenzie played for dances in his younger days and he traded a watch for this fiddle. While he was dating my great grandma they were on the way to or from somewhere and he laid the fiddle on the wagon seat beside them as the drove a team and wagon.
I don't know if it was in a case or not,but it jiggled off the seat and the wagon wheel crushed it causing the damage you see pictured here.
When they arrived back at her house they put the remains in a closet and forgot about it. One winter my great great grandad was laid up with a broken leg so he got the old fiddle out and pieced it back together as best he could. If that's true he sure did a better job than I could have. Grandad came over to the house and great grandad asked him to play a tune on the fiddle. Grandad said "You know I don't have a fiddle any more?" Great great grandad then handed him his resurrected wreck and he played it the rest of his life. I never knew him but played with two of his sons,my grandad and great uncle who both played fiddle.
Cousin Joel Garrett is the caretaker now. He and his 3 sons will ensure that it keeps making music for years to come.

Rod Durst is a great banjo picker and as the post implies, he comes from a very musical family. If you have a story about a family heirloom instrument and would like to share it I would like to share it here. Thanks to Rod for permission to post his story and photos.
Since my return to the blog, blogger has not been all that friendly the way it used to be. I have no idea why part of this is highlighted in white. Or that the text font changed. I also have trouble getting paragraphs set properly. One person complained and I have tried to fix this.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Another OT event here in Kansas City Mo. "Betse and Clark Old Time Party" at "The Ship"

I'm sure I've said this before but maybe not. When I first saw Betse Ellis perform as a member of "The Wilders" a well known Country band here in Kansas City, it was love at first sight. I was absolutely stunned! by her fearless performance. She was totally out there and into it in her cotton country style dress and sweater. She is the quintessential fierce fiddler. I was totally charmed by her. I spent the whole time trying to figure out, "Is this how she really is with the dowdy dress and sweater and the whole schtick or was this totally an act?" One way or the other I decided it just did not matter. She was awesome. So were the Wilders who I really really miss.  Betse Ellis Married Clark Wyatt some years back and have formed a group called, Betse and Clarke. Betse is one of the areas foremost fiddlers and does her share of keeping the music alive and vital for which she deserves much credit. She was one of the Judges for the Missouri Fiddle Contest at the State Fair this year.
I can't find very much about Clarke Wyatt. They don't say much about his on their facebook page or their Webpage. He's a banjo player mostly it seems and has been a partner with Betse since 2014 traveling the nation and parts of Europe performing.  I wish I knew more.

Up coming events of note

I'm remodeling my kitchen (still) and have not had to the time to post. But! There are interesting events coming up worthy of note for folks here in the Missouri Ozarks and Kansas City.
The first one to mention is the Laura Ingalls Wilder Fiddle Off in Sept 21st at the Laura Ingalls Wilder Home museum near Mansfield Mo. There is a 9 am registration for those who wish to compete. I would hope and expect that Junior Marriot will be there to help things happen. If you live near there and have the time I would hope you'd check this out. The museum is wonderful. I'm a big fan of Laura Wilders books. I read every one as a child. They are timeless.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

The "Old Country Fair" returns to Branson.
There is a Jam held at this newish event the you might be interested in. I would anticipate it will be a mix of Bluegrass and Old Time traditional tunes. Check out the posted link. Photo credit: Branson Tri Lakes News Online site. 

The passing of Bluegrass DJ Harry Moore Moore was a well known Bluegrass aficionado and host of a Bluegrass program on the Public Radio station in Springfield Mo. He recently passed away. I knew Harry on Facebook and he was a good man who loved music and people. I don't normally post anything Bluegrass but Harry knew lots of Old Time musicians or people connected to it. He did a wonderful thing keeping the Bluegrass torch alive in SW. Mo.
Please click the link above for more info.

Edit note. I'm mortified to see that I said "Smith" instead of Moore. My apologies for my senior moment. I have too many of those. Harry was a great guy. He will be missed.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Tricia Spencer and Howard Rains at Clifftop

Tricia remains my favorite living fiddler and I'm especially happy that she lives in nearby Lawrence Kansas. She just posted this video of her playing in the very recent Clifftop event. This is a simple tune but I like it as much as she does. It's her personal favorite at the time. Every time I hear her play it recharges my love for OT in the heartland. I have not listened or watched anything but heartland OT for years now. I hope you all enjoy this. I just had to share this as soon as I saw it.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

The Missouri State Fiddling Championships August 18th Sedalia Mo.

Finally this year I'm attending the Missouri State Fiddling Championships at the State Fair. I plan on meeting a number of folks I only know in the digital world. If you see me in my cowboy hat please introduce yourself to me. I hope I get to meet new faces. I'm really excited about going. I've retired this summer and now I can do things like this. It's part of my plan to do more original posting from jams and events. I wish I could do more of this than I have so far.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Jeremy Myers new release and video

This coming Saturday, Jeremy Myers will release his latest recording, "My Little One is Waiting for me". Jeremy is a fine songwriter and he's creatively working within the Old Time music to create new songs. This is what's needed along with the music conservation that has been done so well for so long now.

This kind of effort keeps the juices flowing in the music in the same way that John Hartford and Norman Blake did. I've known Jeremy for many years now. It's been wonderful to see his progression in music and life to come to this point where he can create music and share it with us.

Check out one of his songs in this YouTube video. It's called "Brandon Myers" I enjoyed it a lot. Nice Job Jeremy!

Monday, July 22, 2019

Missouri State
Fair Fiddling Championship 2019
1:30 PM Sunday,
August 18, 2019
Touchstone Energy Stage
Missouri State Fair
Sedalia, MO

NOTE: Open only to
Missouri residents.
Proof of residency
may be required!
$2,000 in total prizes!!
plus trophies or ribbons for all winners

This year's contest will feature three divisions:
Open – Any Age
Senior – 60 & Over
Junior – 16 & Under
plus a prize for the Best Accompanist

¨ Contestants must first go to the Hospitality Booth located on Hwy 65, identify themselves as a fiddling contestant, and pick up a green hang tag (Gate 11) for parking. The approximate address of the Hospitality Booth is 2088 South Limit St. (a.k.a. Hwy 65 South). It is across the street from Dollar General. Below is a picture of the booth.

¨ Contestant registration begins at 12:30 p.m.
¨ Fiddlers and accompanists reimbursed for gate admission at contest tent.
¨ Up to 3 accompanists permitted on stage.
¨ Open to Missouri residents only.
¨ Contest information and entry blank available at
¨ Please note that exhibitor paperwork must be completed fully before premiums will be paid.
Bill Shull | 660.429.2260

Monday, June 17, 2019

Youtube video tribute to Cathy Barton.

Ozark Folk Singing and Folk Songs

My apologies for the too long hiatus but I get busy and I determined some years ago to stop providing content for content's sake. I want the blog to offer something meaningful and worth reading. Back in the 70's I lived in the Ozarks for a few years. In Ripley Co Mo. I never happened to stumble onto anyone that played the old time Ozark music or folk songs. There was a couple of Bluegrass bands that came and went. It was not until my sojourn at Norwood Mo. in south central Mo. that I ran across a local group that gathered for shape singing down in Douglas Co. Mo at an old White Church building. My friend Elmer Shudy took me down and I was able to enjoy something I had never heard before. At that time in my life, I was not into things like that but I did enjoy it but not enough to return. (Mistake) Back then Southern Gospel groups were the things with guitars and drums or acapella for many. There is lots of dramatic carrying on and honestly I still don't care for it to this day. Oddly, I did not really enjoy a lot of Christian songs then other than traditional hymnal songs, which I still enjoy. What impressed me was singing shape note hymns or similar singing that is very distinctive acapella singing the Church of Christ in small rural congregations or particularly, what was sung in Primitive Baptist Churches. In recent years Ozark Folk singing and songs have receded into obscurity while the Appalachian/Ozark string band music predominates. They have had folk singers perform at the Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View AR. to be sure. Maybe they still do more often than I think? But elsewhere, I have not seen it done. Then again, I have not gotten out there as much as I want to either. I think its a shame that the tradition of Folk songs being sung acapella by common people in rural areas has largely disappeared. This music is different than String band music. Folk songs and music comes from a bit of a different chain of tradition and heritage. In the fifties CBS came to Arkansas to research the song, "The Two Sisters". The following is the description of the video I am including below.
" The 1954 CBS / University of Arkansas produced documentary “The Search for Yokum Creek,” depicted the search for the origins of an Elizabethan ballad, “The Two Sisters.” The film begins with an exterior shot of the University of Arkansas Fine Arts Center building where the presenter/narrator, Charles Romine begins by providing a few details about the upcoming investigation they are about to set out on (:42). Mary Celestia Parler, the founder of the Arkansas Folklore Society, an English professor at University of Arkansas and the wife of distinguished Ozark folklore collector Vance Randolph is seen listening to a hauntingly beautiful song on an old (1:00)." The video is pretty interesting.
Vance Randolph, her husband is widely recognized for his work in Ozarks folklore and culture but his wife deserves recognition for her important contributions in Arkansas folklore research. I am including an article about her so more people learn about her contributions. She deserves to be remembered. Rachel Reynolds Luster wrote an article for the CALS Encyclopedia Of Arkansas and the link is here. I can't get my link feature to work here for some reason so please copy and paste to see it. I considered quoting the entire article but thought it best to provide the link. I have found it very difficult to come up with video for examples but I did find this. I am aware that there were more recent traditional Ozark folk singers out there but I can't find them right now. I set out to feature them but I cannot discover the material online right now. If you dear reader, know of anyone that does this, please let me know.