Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Fiddle makers in Missouri

I had an idea looking for instrument builders in our region would be interesting and it is. Through FB I learned about two builders in SE Missouri. One in Poplar Bluff and the other in nearby Naylor. I once lived in Poplar Bluff in the late 70's and a daughter lived in Naylor for a time. I used to live in nearby Doniphan in the mid 70's and knew folks in Naylor.

Bernard Allen lives in Naylor and builds fiddles. There is a small piece about him on this website page.

There is a little video clip of him for you to watch. Very nice feature.
As far as I am aware, he has no website to visit.
The other fellow in Poplar Bluff is Luther Medley. He builds fiddles and Bass. To simplify the link, just use the one above and you will see the easy link to him.
Here is an additional magazine story on him here...

Mr. Medley is mostly known for building basses it seems and his prices are great. According to this article it was about $700. That is cheap. If you play the bass check him out!
I am thrilled to see builders in SE Mo where I used to live long ago. If you live in the area you may already know about these fellows. I may stop and visit them some day. I will try to find some more builders so tune in often for updates.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

More instrument builders

I know there are more builders out there. I will try to add some more in the future.
I kind of neglect Mandolins here so I am making that gap up. If you know of someone who builds and deserves to be known, send me the info. They must live and work in the Ks,Ar,Mo,area. Or very close.

Moon Beam Mandolins (Near Poplar Bluff Mo)

This builder is more expensive than the preceding builders I wrote about. He is making a living at this and charging more typical custom mandolin prices than the others.
To charge as much as Moon Beam Mandolins do, you have to have tone and serious tone to keep them moving out the door or word about how they fail to have tone will catch up with you and then you don't sell so many.

It seems they are selling very well and have been quite successful. I have never seen or heard one live yet so have to find out for yourself

You can find them here

A nice article about them can be found here

Here is a Youtube about one of his builds with the buyer playing it on a track

Clever merchandising. At his prices, he needs to be. He has a good thing going there and I wish him well. I used to live not so far from him. Long ago.

Chrystal Forest Mandolins (Heber Springs Ark)

Here is yet another Ozarks Mandolin builder who is based in Heber Springs Arkansas.

He specializes in flat top type mandolins and will also sell you plans so you can make your own should you wish to try. His prices are also very very reasonable! Maybe I should take up the Mando?! Not with my fat fingers. I wish I could. I find the guitar hard enough with these hands.


I think these Mandolins are just beautiful! Certainly check this builder out!

Here is an owner of one playing.

Again, in disclosure, I have no interest in this builder, nor do I know them.

Terry Majewski is the person at Chrystal Forest Mandolins.


Geezer alert! Geezers with guitars, mandolins, dulcimers and autoharps. Nice Jam! Done at Mountain View Ark. at the RV camp.

Please don't be offended by the Geezer alert. I am very much a Geezer myself.

John Wynn, Mandolin builder UPDATED

Here is a nice article on John Wynn who passed away last year.

He was a mandolin and banjo builder out of Ozark Mo.
Rest in Peace John.


Custom Instrument makers in our region

I just discovered a Mandolin Luthier in Eminence Mo. that you should know about. He makes Mandolins from scratch and his prices are ridiculously too low! It's not often you can say that! From the pictures on his website he does beautiful work. I can't vouch for the tone and you will have to discover that yourself anyway.

"Shawnee Creek Woodworks" is a one man effort by Mike Holmes, a retired Park Service Ranger.

I have never met Mr. Holmes btw. I have no interest financially in his success as a matter of disclosure. This is not a monetized blog. Yet.

Here are some pictures of his work.

He also works in the beauty of the Shannon County Ozarks. How would you like to go to work where he does?

Mike does demonstrations (and classes? not sure on that) on building Mandolins at various places. Check him out! Remember what I said about prices???!!!
He charges &550 for a "two point" or $650 for an F-5 clone. What!?
He is too cheap! Mike, raise your prices! I know. You mando players out there are mouthing..."shut up Gary!"

Here is his website

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Wild Whites of West Virginia

I am watching this movie about "The Wild Whites of West Virginia". It's about the family of Jesco White who is from a line of well known OT dancers.
Most folks would call them white trash. I sure would. About as trashy as it can get. These are the people that give the Appalachians a bad name.

You can find these kind of people in the Ozarks too. You could see versions of it portrayed in the movie, Winters Bone.

If your ever about and see one of these folks, I hope your carrying a gun. You very well might need it. No kidding.

Think your safe in the Ozarks beautiful countryside? Safer than me in KC? You would be wrong.

Would I recommend this movie to you given it's slight relevance to OT dancing? No. My wife and I enjoy watching things like this on occasion but really, this movie is not for the average person.

Some of the best folk I have ever known lived or live in the Ozarks and it's a shame people like the Whites can ruin an otherwise good place.

As a sociological exploration of poor white folks in the Appalachians, you might find this interesting. If you have never seen this kind of thing before you could find it illuminating.

Monday, January 17, 2011

And now for something a little different!

Here are "The Old 78's" playing. NICE!

Old Time music is fun!

The Old 78's are a northern Arkansas group. Check them out.

New website of note to add to your links

Ozark Traditions is a new website for those interested in Old Time music and Dance in the Ozarks. Stop by and check it out.

I have added it to my links list

Den Levenson Clawcamp Mt. View Ar.

From Dan Levenson's website. Upcoming event at Mountain View Arkansas in March

March 21 - 25, 2011

Clawcamp Ozarks!
This will be the only full blown Clawcamp of 2011. Join us at the Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View, Arkansas for our weeklong Clawhammer Banjo event. All aspects of Clawhammer banjo will be addressed from the basics of technique to the styles of playing to using both ear training and written tools to become a better clawhammer banjo player.

The Ozark Folk Center
Mountain View, Arkansas


August 18 - 20, 2011 (Thursday - Saturday)

Old Time Stringband Camp! SO, you want to be in a Stringband! Here’s your chance. Join The Boiled Buzzards members Fiddler Dan Levenson, Clawhammer Banjoist Miss Jennifer Levenson and Guitar Buzzard Annie Trimble for the special workshop in all things stringband.

In the mornings, we’ll break into instrument groups and work on repertoire - “Lead” instruments including fiddle and mandolins will work with Dan, Banjos with Miss Jennifer and Guitar and Bass players with Annie. In the afternoon we will form bands and work on the morning’s tunes together as well as discussing some of the more “businesslike” issues that come up for professional and amateur bands alike.

All old time stringband instruments are welcome.

The Ozark Folk Center
Mountain View, Arkansas


This is Dock Boggs doing "Oh Death". I chose him because I really don't like Ralph Stanley all that much and Dock is more OT than him anyway. I have been wanting to tell you about how I feel about Ralph for some time but generally I avoid harsh negatives here or elsewhere.

Hitting sixty this year has found me much more mellow than when I was young. Thank God for that.

Death is all around me these days. Death and the impending deaths of folks I know. It just breaks your heart to see it. Last month very good friends or ours lost their sixteen year old grandson to a car accident. This was just horrible to see a life taken much too soon and the lad was truly special.

In my Masonic Lodge a dear Brother has announced that he is giving up the battle against cancer and preparing for the end by signing on to hospice care.

Then today, one of my favorite bloggers who had not posted for a week just announced that he was now in a VA hospital with lung and brain cancer and it is clear he will soon enough rest in the Saviors arms.

So when Dock Boggs sings this plaintiff song about death, you can be sure he knows all about it.

One of my odd hobbies that lots of people share is visiting old Cemeteries. One of the first thing you notice are all the babies and young children. Lots of them. Then you notice the young women of child bearing age.

I well remember my own Fathers death of cancer 40 years ago. It remains with me as if it was yesterday. I can still remember riding in the car through the cemetery and nearing his new resting place.

Death leaves big holes in all of us when it takes away the ones we love and the holes are never filled. Even after many years you will peek over into the hole thinking it might be gone and...damn it, still there.

People come and go in our lives and in doing so they become part of us in some way. Some are good and some not. It's all there and it's all part of us.

Oh Death, come again another day. I know you will.

James Franklin Sloan, fiddler, Ripley Co

Here is another Ripley County Mo. Fiddler I found. James Sloan. Died in 1944.

James was first a musician, He played the fiddle like noone else. He played for the church and you could here his fiddle all over the town. He played weekly for the town Square dances. He built his own fiddle and also had one that he got in Mississippi in 1900.

James Franklin Sloan was a barber He also worked on the railroad.. He was born in Milan, Tennessee where he met and married his bride Bela Garner d/o Wm."Tobe" Garner and Dona Robison Garner.. He married in 1904. In about 1917 or 18 he moved with his family to Oxly, Missouri in Ripley County where he continued being a barber. He passed away after a long illness in which his great-niece Kathryn helped care for him. He is buried at Antioch Cemetery in Ripley Co., Mo.

info courtesy of

Here are two fiddlers born in Tennessee who played in Ripley Co. Mo. Worthy of note as to sources and influences.

Fiddlers Spring

Did you know there is a "Fiddlers Spring" in the Irish Wilderness" area of the Missouri Ozarks in SE Mo. north west of Doniphan and Sw of Van Buren Mo ?

How did it get named that? Did fiddlers gather there to help partake of the fruits of the moonshiners labors as part of local gatherings or play parties? I don't think anyone has any idea any more.

Maybe a fiddler lived nearby?

photo courtesy of "Showme Hiking"

A real old timey fiddler

On one of my hunts for fiddlers in Missouri and found this little tidbit about a fiddler from Ripley County Mo. where I lived for a time in the seventies and where my ex-wife resides for eternity along with most of her family.

It used to be a kind of second home for me but no more.

This entry was copied off the blog of a descendant of said fiddler.

John Jasper Campbell (1838-1882), in the 1860’s.

John Jasper Campbell was born 28 Dec 1838, probably in Ripley County, Missouri. His parents were Boyd Campbell and Boyd’s first wife (name unknown), who had probably recently moved from Haywood County, Tennessee. “J. J.” left home around 1851, at the age of 13, making his own way in the world from that time on. As the picture indicates, he was a fiddler. In 1862 he joined the Confederate army, serving in Company C of the Missouri 8th Infantry, although some of his brothers served the Union. Little is known of his Confederate service except that he “last appears on a list of men who were with the Cavalry without authority.” In 1867 he married Nancy Marie Smith in Randolph County, Arkansas, and they returned to southern Missouri. Their first son, James Boyd Campbell, was born in September 1871, and Nancy died just a month later. J. J. married a second time to Mary Jane Griffeth (date and place unknown), In 1879, J. J. became the first post master of Mountain View, Missouri. He also ran a general store and operated a grist mill. He died in 1882, after sleeping overnight at the mill, and catching a “chill.” He is buried with his first wife, Nancy, at Chapel Hill Cemetery, in Mountain View, Missouri.

source:Janis Walker Gilmore blog

I found more info online from another website by this author and to distill, this fellow was fond of alcohol and his second wife helped him dry out and adopt a severe form of strict moralistic faith and (dang it) he quit the fiddle as part of reforming. What does that tell you about that devilish fiddling! Huh!!!

This is interesting to me on two levels. He fought with the Confederate forces as part of the guerrilla resistance and he was a fiddler. A major skirmish was fought just a couple three miles from my former in laws farm and I think I baled hay on the site once. When I lived there I had no idea there was so much history concerning the Civil War there as much as there is.

Wouldn't it be interesting to meet this guy? If you could? What stories he could tell.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Pope's Arkansas Mountaineers

Here is an interview with one of the members of Pope's Arkansas Mountaineers. Good reading.

They were a short lived group that did some fine work. All those interested in Ozark Old Timey should know about these folks.

They were more or less from the Searcy Arkansas area. This is on the more eastern side of the state N.E. of Little Rock and on the edge of the Mississippi delta on one side and the ozark foothills on the other. I believe most of them are from the hill side.

Having lived on the border with Arkansas and attending college in Walnut Ridge, I can tell you there is a huge diffence between the two areas. I am not surprised that the musicians come from the hills and only rarely from the flatlands.
Why? I am not sure about that. There were some fiddlers that worked and lived there but left few recordings behind. One of the exceptions to that were The Grinnel Giggers who worked out of the New Madrid County area.

I have read that the Scotch-Irish tended to settle in hill lands like the Ozarks and that this concentrated it's culture there. Maybe so.

I think that the history of the eastern Arkansas flatlands is more interesting than you might imagine. I have read a little bit of it and will be doing more of it soon.

It's good to remember that much of eastern Arkansas was swampy and settled relatively late. As in more towards the turn of the century and later. That probably has as much to do with it as anything. I know this is only marginally related to the music but I want to comment on the sociology of the unique area of the divide between the flat and the hill having lived there.

Anyway, I really like the band. Listen to Jawbone and think of a now current OT band in Arkansas that sounds very similar on occasion. I really like them too. Who do you think I am referring to?

I have become increasingly convinced that Arkansas is a big part of keeping this music alive and well. I think I have said that I intend to spotlight Arkansas more in this blog to show you the life there.

My Mother was conceived in Corning Arkansas which is in NE Arkansas just in the flatlands. Her Mother left there and Mom was born in Northern Illinois.

My children live not far away. I always wondered if my ancestors pulled us back there somehow. I don't live there myself having left long ago. Frankly, I dislike the flatlands of Arkansas. I would never live there. Sorry if you live there and like it.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Blogging update

The more I reflect, the more I realize how much of what I just posted was said pretty much previously. In much the same way. To my regular readers, I apologize for being in a rut that way. I really do mean for this to be a relevant place for real information. I hope to begin posting more upcoming events as the new year begins and new things are coming this spring.

These remain troubled times for our nation with the murder of a Congresswoman in Arizona today by a disturbed person. Given the upheaval of the economy, my own long term unemployment and shadows of more approaching turmoil and trouble, there are days when it does not seem as important as it once did to discuss Old Time Music. And it really isn't in the scheme of things. And yet at the same time it is.

I am by no means ready to give this up. I know that there is more to do that is within my ability to perform. I still think I have something to say worth reading. I remain humble in my self appraisal but not so much that I think I should be expected to hang my head!

I remain pleased at how many folks I "meet" through this blog. The vast majority of folks are really really nice people. There are a couple snobs out there but what can you expect? Ha Ha! Life is like that.

Bridges to the past

While I am sure others have done this, two modern performers bridged the chasm of time in Old Time music successfully. Jimmy Driftwood 1907-1998 and John Hartford 1937-2001 Both were immersed in OT and had successful careers in Pop music. Both wrote songs that were Old and New at the same time. As if these songs were written back in time yet they were written recently.

When you hear these songs you think, "this must be an old one..." and they are not.

Jimmy used a lot of old fiddle tunes with his lyrics to create many of his hits. Other times he wrote both music and lyrics with an OT feel. Now, you expert ears out there can pretty much tell which of these songs are real OT and modern. No fooling you!

As I have maintained here more than once, both performers are great examples of what can be done to keep OT alive as a living genre of music and not a museum piece of curiosity preserved by quirky nerds. Hmmmmmm? did I say nerds. Naw! We are really not nerds are we? Well, that's the topic for another post.
(No were not nerds)

Both men had real roots in OT. They themselves were "apostolic" in the succession of the tradition in their hands. By this I mean, the "fire" was literally passed down to them from others who were the real deal connected to the foggy past. Hartford and Driftwood were not made up self created performers on the style of Ramblin Jack Eliot or Bob Dylan. (not to diminish the real cred of these guys but they will never be thought of as roots performers grown from the soil)

So, here are songs by these guys to illustrate.

Jimmy's lyrics are the big difference here, in Soldiers Joy. I like his version best.

Along the way in learning to play OT I try to keep in mind that music is locked down in tradition like a bug trapped in Amber. Jimmy and John would tell you this is not the way to keep OT alive. Jimmy was my first OT influence. He planted the seed in me. It's later on when I encountered the straight up no mixer stuff that I responded with my heart and soul because the ground had been prepared well.

It's why I like Alferd Packer Memorial Stringband so much. Creativity within OT in the western context. Just brilliant.

They are excellent examples of what I am talking about here in the greater KC metro region. (in my opinion includes Lawrence)

I have said all this before. I will say it again. It just has to come out.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Wrights

I ran into this interesting old article in Bittersweet magazine. (similar to Foxfire Magazine but for the Ozarks) It featured some brothers up in years. Some interesting music found there. I think these old boys lived somewhere within range of Columbia Mo but I don't know. Maybe Possum knows? I will ask him and get back here with it.

You can read this article here

McClurg Missouri Jam

Here is a clip provided by Jeremy Myers of the most recent jam at McClurg Mo. McClurg is a famous jam in southern Missouri where Bob Holt played and many wonderful musicians joined in to play Old Time Music. You will see Jeremy Myers on the fiddle.
Be sure to visit his youtube site for more wonderful clips.

Jeremy does a particularly fine job on Stoney Point.

Jeremy does real well on this one too. Makes me smile real big!

One of these days I will make the pilgrimage down to McClurg and join in the fun. I posted a clip of a CBS news clip a few months ago of their visit to McClurg which they did some years ago when Bob Holt was still around. I believe Alvie Dooms is playing guitar in these jams. He backed up Bob Holt for many years.

You can hear Alvie playing on several of the Traditional Fiddle music of the Ozarks recordings. In the photo at the top, it's Bob Holt and Alvie Dooms.

Hey Jeremy! Your getting pretty good on that fiddle!