6:30 to 8:30 PM
6:30 to 8:30 PM
Fourth Sunday Jam is Scheduled for December
The Old-Time Times is
a publication of the Nashville Old-Time String Band Association
We are not aware of any old-time
music events that will take place during the month of December.
If you know of one, please send us the information so we can spread
Contact Ed Gregory or Phil Sparks. You can reach Ed at firstname.lastname@example.org
or 615-650-2341. Phil’s contact information is listed at the end
of this newsletter.
Hosts Needed for 4th-Sunday Jams
Please E-mail Darlyne Kent to schedule your home for a 2005 4th-Sunday
Jam. We still need homes for the following months:
June, July, August, October, and November
Some of the summer 4th-Sunday jams may be held in area parks.
We tried that last summer, and it was well received.
Darlyne’s E-mail address is email@example.com
Don Masters Update
As many of you know, Don Masters recently spent a few days in
Baptist Hospital, having his plumbing system rejuvenated. I visited
him there and found him sitting up, cheerful, and alert. He went
home on time and even attended this month’s 4th-Sunday Jam. He
looks great and seems to feel just fine.
Don and Mary Ann asked me to extend their sincere appreciation
for your calls, cards, and visits, and especially for the flowers
NOTSBA sent them.
Stamper Tribute Concert
On Saturday, November 20, Ron Ault, Ed Gregory, and Phil Sparks
drove to Morehead, Kentucky, to attend the Art Stamper Tribute
Concert. It was a glorious day.
Most importantly, Art, who is suffering from cancer, was there.
He was obviously a bit weak, and he had trouble speaking clearly,
but he can still play the fiddle, and play the fiddle he did!
He put on a concert that featured about 15 of his favorite tunes.
He was backed up by Don Grigsby on the mandolin, Jessie Wells
on the guitar, and Jimmy McCown on the banjo, all of them excellent
musicians. In addition to performing the concert, Art spent several
hours jamming and signing autographs.
For those of us who know and love Art, the fact that he was obviously
having such a good time was most encouraging.
When we weren’t listening to or picking with Art, we were jamming
with a host of fine musicians who showed up for the event, several
from as far away as Canada.
Three things impressed me about their jamming: First, they tend
to repeat tunes eight to ten times whereas we generally repeat
them three to five times. Second, they play much faster than we
do, averaging 120 to 130 beats per minute. We tend to average
80 to 100 beats per minute. Third, the bluegrass pickers and the
old-time pickers there seem to live in perfect harmony. I will
never understand the enmity that so often exists between bluegrass
and old-time pickers.
Ron, Ed, and I agree that “Art Stamper Day” was one of the finest
old-time music events we have experienced, and we hope to be there
again next year.
Weiler Featured in Banjo Newsletter
In the November edition of Banjo Newsletter, there is a color
picture of Rebekah Weiler and Robert Montgomery.
After Rebekah's name was mentioned in an earlier edition of BNL,
Patsy, her Mom, wrote the publication and thanked them. What some
of you in NOTSBA may not know is that in April 1989, Rebekah was
the “cover girl” for the publication. It was a black and white
photo showing Rebekah playing her first toy banjo. Her banjo strap
was a thick string, and her microphone was a plunger.
magazine ran a copy of that cover along with the current photograph
Music Festival – Berea, Kentucky
The scenic hills of eastern Kentucky were full of music on October
29 through 31 when the 30th annual Celebration of Traditional
Music was held at Berea College in Berea, Kentucky.
evening was kicked off to a great start with a rousing community
jam on campus. Everything from bag pipes to dulcimers was in the
mix, much to the delight of the standing-room-only crowd.
Saturday, the festival started with several workshops for banjo,
fiddle, square dancing, and shape note singing.
own Rebekah Weiler, 2004 Tennessee old-time banjo champion, taught
the beginner banjo work-shop. Festival organizers first met Rebekah
last year when she did a college visit at Berea. She plays banjo
with Delmer Holland and the Blue Creek Ramblers. The Blue Creek
Ramblers include Delmer on the fiddle, Leland Holland on rhythm
guitar, Dennis Baumgardner on lead guitar, and William Moore on
the upright bass.
lunch, the Blue Creek Ramblers played for the square dance workshop
and had a room full of dancers working up a sweat and enjoying
the lively fiddle tunes
The show held later that evening was a fabulous concert. Departing
from tradition, the concert was moved from the Phelps-Stokes Auditorium
to the Gray Auditorium in the college’s new music building. Each
segment lasted at least forty-five minutes.
included the Berea College String Band, led by Al White. The well-known
young fiddler Jake Krack is a member of that band. Jake is from
West Virginia and studied with the late Melvin Wine. A sophomore
at Berea College, Jake was recently featured on a PBS special
about young musicians.
on the bill and hailing from the coal fields of southwest Virginia
were Ken Childress and Jim Mullins who played guitars and sang.
Fun-loving Earl White danced, played fiddle, and displayed his
wonderful rhythm style. The Blue Creek Ramblers wrapped up the
evening with plenty of hard-hitting, foot-stomping, crowd-pleasing
tunes. They were joined on stage by five-time national buck dancing
champion, Thomas Maupin.
the moment the group opened the show with “John Henry” to the
closing tune of “Lost Indian,” the audience was enthralled. Rebekah
did the emcee duties for the Ramblers, joined the band in harmony
on several songs, and even threw in a few one-liners. She really
charmed the crowd!
band looked like they stepped through time–straight off of a radio
barn dance stage from the 1940s. The men were dressed in their
overalls and matching blue-plaid shirts. Rebekah wore her hat,
printed cotton dress, and lace-up shoes. The group received a
standing ovation and sang the old train song “Greenville Trestle”
as an encore.
was so proud to know that Rebekah started her “career” by playing
with NOTSBA, and that was only three years ago. What a success
Saturday night’s concert was played to a more than capacity crowd,
with chairs brought in and people sitting on the floor. Following
the performance, a lady came up to one of the organizers and said,
“Thank goodness there is still a genuine, old-time string band
that gets up in their overalls to pick a shindig!"
morning was a traditional gospel sing held at the nearby Union
Church. Childress and Mullins sang several gospel songs in the
beautiful old building.
The festival itself was founded by Loyal Jones to “feature strictly
old-time traditional music.” Jones felt “that the old styles traditional
to the mountains are not heard so much any more, so we want to
encourage them.” Through its thirty years, the Celebration has
stuck to Jones’s proclaimed purpose with the result that the old
styles have been preserved and played for new audiences. Now retired,
Jones was in the audience Saturday night and made a point to come
by and congratulate Rebekah on the great job she did on stage.
itself is a quaint little town and offers lots of craft and antique
shops to visit. The historic Boone Tavern and Inn is located across
the street from Berea College. Inside the Inn is an arts and crafts
shop that is small, but full of beautiful works from the area.
The majority of the staff at Boone Tavern is made up of Berea
College students, which allows the guests to visit with young
people from Appalachia and around the world.
in the area, the Weilers also visited Renfro Valley, and Rebekah
was invited to play on the original stage at the Renfro Valley
Fiddlers Festival on Sunday. The stage manager heard Rebekah play
and stopped her afterwards to learn more about her music.
think we will continue to hear great things about Rebekah, and
we can all say, “I knew her when . . . . . .”
Star of Bethlehem”
Few people today realize the popular Christmas song “Beautiful
Star of Bethlehem” was written by the late R. Fisher Boyce in
a Middle Tennessee milk barn in the early part of the 20th century.
It would go on to become a seasonal standard performed by a variety
of artists, and it would eventually be sung in the White House
by The Judds during a nationally televised Bob Hope Christmas
Boyce was born in the tiny community of Link, located in southern
Rutherford County, in November 1887. The third of six children,
Boyce loved music and was singing solo and in quartets by the
early 1900s. In the spring of 1910, he married Cora Carlton from
the Rockvale community. They would become the parents of 11 children,
five of whom lived to be adults. Only one daughter, Willie Ruth
Eads, remains alive. Eads remembers singing as a great source
of entertainment for their family.
neighbors would come in, and we'd all gather around our family
piano," Boyce's daughter said. "My sister Nanny Lou
(Taylor) would play, and we would sing way into the night."
1911, the young couple celebrated their first wedding anniversary
and saw Boyce's song "Safe in His Love" published by
the A.J. Showalter Company, one of the early publishers of shape
note hymnals. As did many others from across the Southeast, Boyce
later traveled to Lawrence burg, Tennessee, to attend one of the
annual music normal schools conducted by the James D. Vaughan
Publishing Company, which was founded around 1900. Vaughan was
another major publisher of shape note hymnals.
completing his studies, Boyce went on to teach shape note "singing
schools" through-out the area. Rather than using standard
music notation, this system assigned a tone on the musical scale
to each of the distinctive geometrically shaped note heads. (See
Darlyne Kent’s article “Old-Time Music–Square Music” in November’s
1940, the Vaughan Company published Boyce's song "Beautiful
Star of Bethlehem." The song was printed in the company's
song-book, Beautiful Praise. Later, the song would be republished
in Vaughan's Favorite Radio Songs.
Dr. Charles Wolfe, a Middle Tennessee State University English
professor and nationally recognized authority on the origins of
traditional country and gospel music, said, “Vaughan’s Favorite
Radio Songs would be like a collection of greatest hits today.
By the 1940s, radio was an important part of the American landscape
and reached a vast audience. Vaughan salesmen would pitch the
songs in this book to radio stations and quartets who performed
on the stations in an effort to broaden their exposure.”
wrote “Beautiful Star of Bethlehem” while the family was living
on a dairy farm in the Plainview community, about two or three
miles from what is now the Interstate 24 Buchanan Road Exit. The
songwriter’s son, the late Franklin Boyce, recalled in a 1996
interview that his dad said he couldn't concentrate in the house
because of noise made by the children. He walked across the road
to the barn to find the solitude he needed to write.
father said the song was inspired by the Lord. Otherwise, how
could he, a simple country man, ever write a song about such a
glorious event in world history?” Franklin Boyce asked.
searching through some old papers, the family found a yellowed
article clipped from The Daily News Journal, a newspaper in Murfreesboro.
It had been written in the early 1960s. A story by Marie Chapman
recounts the elder Boyce's recollection of how the song came to
got up one Sunday morning to write it down,” Boyce recalled. When
his train of thought was interrupted by a member of the family
who entered the room singing, he moved his pencil and pad to the
barn, and there "Beautiful Star of Bethlehem" was put
words and melody got on my mind," Boyce told Chapman, "till
I could hardly sleep at night." The humble farmer said he
looked upon both the words and tune as gifts from God.
Dean Boyce, Franklin's wife, remembers how her late sister-in-law,
Nanny Lou, talked about helping her father put down the music
for the song. "I believe,” she said, “they worked all morning
on the music at the piano, and it rained hard all the time they
were working on it.”
Nell McKee, a retired educator who lives in the Buchanan area,
attended Mt. Carmel Baptist Church where Boyce was a deacon and
song leader when the song was written. Now in her 90s, McKee still
attends the same church and recalls that Boyce would sing the
lead part and his wife would sing the harmony in her clear alto
"Fisher and Cora would sometimes sing the song at church,"
McKee remembers. "Cora would weep every time they sang together.
She was very proud of her husband for writing that song."
the family has never received royalties from the song. As was
commonplace during that time in history, the legal copyright became
the property of the company that published the material. As a
rule, the song-writers were paid a one-time fee. To make a living,
Boyce taught private voice lessons and worked at a variety of
jobs including dairy farming and insurance and nursery sales
his later years, Boyce and his wife moved into town where he and
a nephew, M. B. Carlton, were partners in the Ideal Fruit Market
on West College Street. There, Boyce sold single copies of the
song for a small amount of money.
Although he is often overlooked, Boyce is an important part of
Tennessee’s musical history. Wolfe said, “With the exception of
Uncle Dave Macon’s music, Boyce's song is the most important musical
composition to come out of Rutherford County.”
added that he thinks the earliest professional recording of the
piece was per-formed by the John Daniel Quartet on their private
Daniel label. Initially, this group had been one of the Vaughan
Company's traveling quartets. The job of these traveling musical
groups was to perform, for free, the Vaughan songbook compositions
in churches through-out the Southeast and beyond so that congregations,
once given a sampling of the music, would want to order songbooks.
Daniel's case, the group became so popular that they soon struck
out on their own and, in the 1940s, became one of the hit acts
of the Grand Ole Opry. Interestingly, one of the early members
of this foursome was West Tennessee native Gordon Stoker, who
would go on to become a member of the Jordanaires, made famous
for their work with Elvis.
The exposure the tune received from appearing in songbooks, combined
with its performance on the Opry, propelled Boyce's song to new
heights. Bluegrass great Ralph Stanley recorded the song. Later,
Emmylou Harris, Ricky Skaggs, the Judds, The Bishops, and others
also cut it.
In 1993, the song was sung by Ben Speer and family on the Bill
Gaither "Christmas Homecoming Video,” and it continues to
be performed in Gaither holiday concerts.
More recently, “Beautiful Star of Bethlehem” has been released
by bluegrass entertainer Rhonda Vincent and country music’s Patty
to family members, music was a part of Boyce’s life until his
last breath. Shortly before his passing in October 1968, as his
family gathered around his bed, Boyce “raised his arm and started
beating out time, like he was leading a song. Daddy was singing
‘Meet Me There’ just before he died,” Eads remembers.
During this holiday season, the saga of a simple man and his music
will shine on wherever “Beautiful Star of Bethlehem” is sung.
Christmas Carol and a Fiddle Tune
If you have seen a reasonably accurate dramatization of Charles
Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, you may recall that when the ghost
of Christmas past conducts Ebenezer back to Fezziwig’s Christmas
ball, the scene includes a dance, and the music is provided by
The fiddle tune, which is specifically named by Dickens, is “Sir
Roger de Coverly.” The sheet music for this tune, along with a
more complete history of it, was published in the winter 02-03
edition of Fiddler Magazine.
is in 9-8 time–like Foster’s “Beautiful Dreamer,” just 3-4 time
with one extra “um pa pa” per measure. It has three parts, and
If you would like to try it out, go to Fiddler Magazine, or let
me know and I will help you get a copy of the article.
Passing of Birch Bryant
Tall and lanky, usually adorned with a scruffy beard, a ball cap,
and a fetching smile that he freely shared with everyone, Birch
Bryant was a well-known fixture around the public square in Murfreesboro.
Not many days went by that Birch didn’t walk the sidewalks that
border the county’s historic court-house, visiting and waving
to anyone who had a few minutes to share. It didn’t matter if
you washed windows or were the county executive, Birch counted
you as his friend.
Those of us fortunate enough to be touched by his life were shocked
and saddened when he died suddenly at home in early November,
following heart surgery.
It is probably safe to say that many people who love old-time
music and have attended Uncle Dave Macon Days have little idea
about the important role that Birch played in the continued success
of this event. For almost half of his 57 years, he was a faithful
and effervescent member of the volunteer committee that runs the
In earlier times, when Uncle Dave Days was a one-afternoon banjo
contest on the court-house lawn, Birch was recruited into service
by the founder of the festival, the late Jessie Messick, a pharmacist
on the square. With a grin as wide as Texas, Birch could be seen
picking up trash after the event. That was long before the festival
had a big enough budget to hire people for that task.
As the event grew into a nationally recognized three-day old-time
music festival, the organizing committee took on the task of selling
program ads to raise more operating funds. Different groups would
take on the project for a percentage of the sales, but one individual
was willing to take it on simply because he wanted to. That person
Gloria Wilson, the current festival chairman, remembers that some
committee members resisted the idea of giving Birch this task.
You see, Birch didn’t drive, and he was a mentally challenged
adult. Many of us would have considered either of those obstacles
a good reason not to give him the job, but Birch became the best
public relations representative any festival could have. He told
everyone he met about Uncle Dave Macon Days and who the grand
marshal would be. More times than not, he ended up with another
Birch became concerned when the county cut some of their financial
support for last summer’s festival. He decided to sell enough
advertising to make up the difference. With the determination
of a mule and the energy of a box full of new puppies, he faithfully
pounded the payment and single handedly sold more than $3000 worth
of advertising for the 2004 program.
Birch also loved to play Santa, was a huge Titans fan, and dearly
loved his gentle wife, Pat. As hard as you might try, you could
never get him to speak a critical word about anyone.
During the visitation at the funeral, plenty of people swapped
‘Birch Stories.’ One story that made the rounds went back to the
days when the late entertainer Carl Tipton was actively performing
on Nashville television and hosting live shows in Murfreesboro.
On the day that Flatt and Scruggs drove to Rutherford County to
be on stage, unknown to Tipton, Birch met the duo at their bus
door and told them he was Carl’s manager.
A framed letter from the Tennessee Titans, recognizing Birch at
his death, was displayed near his casket. Flowers from a Tennessee
senator in Washington, DC, and many local businesses stood nearby.
The county executive, a state senator, a city councilman, and
a county judge joined with the room full of everyday folks to
tell their friend goodbye.
And, somewhere in the mix of memories and mourning, there seemed
to be a lesson to us all. Birch, in his simple manner, naturally
brought out the best in all of us. He taught us that everyone,
when given the opportunity, has something to bring to the table
and that we should never stop believing that we can touch the
Haley, Volume One, Forked Deer and Volume Two, Grey Eagle
Produced by John Hartford and Bob Carlin
I’m fairly new to the world of old-time music. Perhaps you are
too. Recently, I discovered Ed Haley, quite by accident, and I
want to make certain that you know about him.
Mr. Haley was a blind fiddler who lived from 1883 to 1954. He
was born in West Virginia, where he learned to play the fiddle,
and lived out most of his adult life in eastern Kentucky. He traveled
widely, learning several thousand tunes and absorbing the styles
of fiddlers from many regions.
Unfortunately, Mr. Haley refused to make records because he was
afraid the studios would take advantage of his disability. Still,
he made about 100 amateur recordings for his son. Most of these
recordings, though preserved, are of extremely poor quality. Of
the 100, 64 of the “best” are on this set of 4 CDs, which came
out in 1997. They have been cleaned up as well as modern technology
allows, but many of them are still difficult to follow.
They may not qualify as toe-tapping entertainment, but they a
goldmine of original melodies to classic old-time fiddle tunes.
I would love to list all 64 tunes, but that would be impractical.
The CDs are distributed by Rounder (1131, -32, -33, -34), so you
can learn more about them by going to www.rounder.com.
Is the World’s Oldest Old-Time Tune and Song?
Do you have any nominations? If so, send your ideas to Phil Sparks,
According to the Violin Owner’s Manual, the only effective cleaner
for removing rosin buildup from fiddle fingerboards is alcohol.
DANGER: Most violin varnishes are alcohol based,
so alcohol may severely damage your finish. DO NOT use alcohol
to remove the rosin buildup on the top of your fiddle.
When I clean my fingerboard, I cover the top of the fiddle with
aluminum foil. One piece goes in front of the bridge and under
the finger-board and another goes behind the bridge and under
the tail piece. I crimp the two pieces together on either side
of the bridge, and I scrunch them up against the feet of the bridge.
I crimp the foil over the sides of the fiddle so only the back
remains in view.
I dip a cotton ball in a saucer of rubbing alcohol, squeeze it,
and shake it so no drops will fall from it or my fingers. Then,
holding the fiddle upside down, I rub the cotton ball up and down
the fingerboard, between and under the strings. I also follow
this procedure to clean the strings. It takes 8 or 10 cotton balls
to complete the job.
Contribute to Your Newsletter!
If you have information you want to submit, or if you have ideas
for improving the news-letter, contact Phil Sparks.
If you are willing to review a CD, contact Phil Sparks. If you
don’t contact him, he will contact you!
If you have a tidbit on picking, learning tunes, caring for instruments,
etc, please submit it for the “A Penny Learned” article.
HELP!!!! If you know about an upcoming old-time music event, don’t
assume that we already know about it. If it’s not posted on our
Web site, we need the information desperately. Please help us
keep our old-time community informed.
can reach Phil at:
2020 Claylick Road
White Bluff, TN 37187
The submission deadline for January’s newsletter is Saturday,
NEED YOUR E-MAIL ADDRESS
Ed Gregory keeps tabs on our directory of e-mail addresses.
If you are not already on our email list, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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for exciting news about NOTSBA.