McClurg Jam

McClurg Jam

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The State of Old Time Music in the Midwest

This blog is approaching it's one year anniversary and it seems appropriate to address the past year in what I have found out there and what kind of state the music scene is in these days.

I want to provide a kind of a summary of what and who is out there to help you plug into this broad "community" of Old Time music folk.

My goal for this blog was always to be a resource for others in this area of the midwest. That goal remains my primary motivation. I can provide no great expertise in musicianship nor can I claim to be a trained musicologist in this area.
I am a simple man who likes to (try) to play this music, I buy this music and I occasionally attend performances of this music. I listen to this music a great deal but not exclusively.

So my point of view is that of an enthusiastic consumer and participant. An eyewitness to what I find. Nothing more or less. There are others nearby that know a great deal more but they have not stepped forward to provide this service for the midwest.

Most others are more broadly based and not limited to the midwest. Some focus on an instrument. Some on a tradition or geographic area.
I am trying to bring this all together for you so it becomes a handy resource. I am still hoping to reorganize this blog better with more pages available and I need to spend the time to do that.

So having said all that here is my summary of resources and people out there that you should know about. It's not an exhaustive list but certainly a good starting point for you.


If your interested in learning about Fiddling and it's history in Missouri and the Missouri Valley (includes Neb and Mo and Iowa.) then the starting place is Charlie "Possum" Walden and his websites. Charlie has done a wonderful job of preserving the history of the tunes and fiddlers in our area. He deserves high praise and accolades for his efforts. There is no other place with so much information that I know of concerning fiddling in Missouri on the web.
Charlie is himself a particularly fine fiddler and has several recording which are well worth your owning. My own personal goal is to have each and every one of his albums eventually.
Charlie knows what he is talking about because he was born and raised in Missouri and learned his fiddling there. He personally knew and played with many of the fine old fiddlers of the past and competed in many fiddling contests in the past throughout Missouri. Unfortunately for us, he no longer lives in Missouri and seeing him play live is a rare treat for those who can attend certain festivals he attends each year. None of those are in Missouri.
Here are his websites. Do yourself a favor and drink deeply. The first website is called Missouri Fiddling Dot Com.
This should be your starting point for discovery. Recently he has updated the site and it looks even better than before.
An easily found link is found there of his Blog Missouri Fiddling Blog
If your a Facebook person, Charlie can be found on Facebook as well.!/profile.php?id=1129066495
Another easily found link there is to his Missouri Fiddling Traditions pages
If you have not heard "Possum" play, here is a great example. Perhaps my favorite clip of him playing.

Your next stop should be Banjo Billy Matthews. Banjo Billy is from the Northern Arkansas Southern Missouri area and has been at it since the late sixties or early seventies. A transplant from Colorado, he came to Arkansas as a kind of back to the lander and integrated himself into Ozark society and culture. He took up the fiddle and banjo has become one of the more important musicians that are preserving the old fiddle tunes as found in the Ozarks. It is a genuine treat to be able to attend a Banjo Billy concert. Especially if Colin Blair is sitting in like in this clip.

I will never forget that concert with Colin Blair and Banjo Billy at the old Mountain Music Shoppe in Shawnee ks several years ago.
Banjo Billy is an important living link to the living past that you need to check out for yourself. His recordings are like Moonshine right out of the still. It's potent stuff. No filters. It's the hard stuff uncut.

Gordon McCann is the one we all owe the most to when it comes to preservation of the Old Time Music as found in the Ozarks of Missouri. He spent decades recording fiddlers throughout Missouri and Arkansas.
To add to this, he played backup guitar with Art Galbraith for many years and is himself a particularly fine example of a back up.
I have been told by those who know that his style is a bit unusual and maybe so. In any case it is my favorite style. I will also add that he plays a really nice old triple ought Martin.
We get to enjoy the fruits of his labor through several recordings available to us today. The most important is the Rounder three disk series, "Traditional Fiddle Music of the Ozarks". This is a must have for fiddle music aficionados.

Gordon McCann also is responsible for helping preserve the recordings of Lonnie Robertson which are also still available. One at least. Lonnies Breakdown.

A good article from the Musical Traditions magazine website from Great Britain, is found here. This is about three recordings by Lonnie Robertson, Fred Stoneking and Cyril Stinnett. They are helpful reviews well worth reading. There is a link to a nice article by Fred Stoneking himself with his reminiscences of Fiddling.

This is probably as good a place as any to mention the Musical Traditions website of Great Britain which has lots of good old timey info.
Only a small part of the data there is about Missouri or Ozark or Arkansas Old Time but what is there is good stuff. That's why it gets included here.

This will have to be a multi part posting as I am getting this done in slow motion and I feel I should post something soon.

I will expand on this for the next post. Stand by for part two. I expect several parts if I remain true to the inspiration I received.

Part two will focus on certain musicians and their links and info. I have posted about all of these folks previously and most of the info is already here if you dig into it.

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