Floyd County master musician and luthier Mac Traynham is best known for his banjo building and playing, as well as his fine fiddling. He has been playing and teaching traditional music in Floyd, Virginia for decades and is a wealth of knowledge about the history of our local music traditions. A few years ago, Mac started sharing tunes and their stories to a group of friends by email. He has diligently shared one tune per week and has created quite a collection so far! The Handmade Music School aims to make these tunes and stories available to a larger audience through our blog. We invite you to give them a listen, learn more about Southwest Virginia music traditions, and follow us as we share more local tunes from Mac’s collection!
This is Floyd County’s own Dent Wimmer. A strong clawhammer banjo player who never dropped thumb. His style is full and rhythmic typical of this area where house parties and frolics with flatfoot dancing were common before WW2. He was recorded for the Old Originals project in 1973 by folklorist Tom Carter.
Here’s one from Carroll County and from the unique repertoire of Sidna (banjo) and Fulton Meyers (fiddle). In this banjo-fiddle duet the fiddle is tune like standard GDAE but lower and played in G fingering. It could be F or E if low enough. Who cares as long as it sounds good, huh? I think it's kinda cool down low like that. No rules have to apply.
Here’s wonderfully simple tune from the Kimble Family who live in the Blue Ridge Plateau area of Carroll County next door to Floyd County. It is just Taylor on fiddle and Stella on banjo as a duet. The tune is from a collection of their music recorded by Mark Sanderford. I’m sending this out since Gail Gillespie and Dwight Rogers mentioned this tune to me after a recent visit to the Kimbles.
Here’s one of my favorite C tunes played by Rafe Brady: Pallet on the Floor. The tune is from his Heritage Album recorded in the late 70’s I think it was. I got asked to play on this album but had a conflict and couldn’t do it. I think Tom Mylet is on banjo, Bobby Patterson on guitar, and Dale Morris on bass. Jenny and I lived in Grayson County from October or 1980 until March of 1984.
Back to Carroll County players Uncle Norm Edmonds and the Old-timers for this week’s tune. The name can’t be hardly any more common for a slew of different tunes that have the same name except for Sally Ann. So IDA RED means lots different tunes with the same name. This version is ‘cool’ for several reasons and I don’t think there’s another name associated with it. Please share if you know this tune and have a different name for it.
Here’s something different. I stumbled onto this today and really listened to it again. I have heard it several times in the past but today I listened with greater attention than ever and thought it would make a good choice for you all to hear as well and hopefully you’ll listen and realize you like it. I’d recommend all these tunes get listened to again and again and you’ll hopefully you’ll want to learn to play (or sing) them.
This version is most unique to the Blue Ridge area of Patrick County as far as I can tell. This beautiful tune is from the Shelor Family’s recordings. 'Callahan’ here is played here by Susan Shelor Deck (piano) and Jesse Shelor (on fiddle). I will send out the Uncle Norm Edmonds version of Callahan in a future post since it is NOT the same tune.
The tune of this week is called Sweet Little Julie. Here’s a really ‘cool’ banjo version played and sung by James Thompson. He was recorded by Peter Hoover in the early 60’s. My notes said he was from Ford County, an obvious typo meaning Floyd County. I don’t know anything else about him. I think James’ rendition show that he was a great player with a mixture of advanced right and left hand techniques. Mystery banjo man.
Our featured tune here is Old Cottoneyed Joe. This a cover of the ‘local’ Norman Edmonds version with improved guitar back-up. Its played on fiddle in cross-tuned G (GDGD). Banjo is in standard gDGBD. Two guitars. No bass. The player is Harold Hausenfluck whose one man band rendition from the 1990’s is pretty killer in my opinion. This a good example of the back-up making or breaking the appeal of a tune.
This week’s tune is from Ivan Weddle of Floyd, Virginia. He was the Old-Time fiddler who played at Mabry Mill along the Blue Ridge Parkway in the 1970's and 1980's. Every Sunday afternoon in season, the flatfoot dancers came mostly from the local area to dance to the music of Ivan’s string band known as the Korn Kutters. I got to play banjo with the band several times.
Here’s a curious tune in G called Western Union from the repertoire of Boone's Mill / Callaway area old-timer Sherman Wimmer. No kin to Dent Wimmer that I know of, but maybe somehow. Sherman was part of the Old Originals project that yielded two LP’s of samples collected from a couple dozen players from the local area who were still able to remember and play tunes in the early 1970’s.
Here’s a tune from our local area that was played in the OT jam led by Jason Phillips at Floyd Country Store on Sunday 2/18/18. It sometimes causes a stir with seasoned jammers since its name is Rachel and it is played in D. However, as many of you know, there’s another tune in D by that same name that is also known as Texas Quickstep. Totally different melody but a great tune in itself.
The tunes I choose are ones found in the repertoire of some old-timers – primarily from Floyd, Franklin, and Carroll Counties. This region is special to me because it is my home and it seems to me that the native old-time music here has been under rated. These tune nuggets are in their natural state; perhaps a bit rough, with some dirt and generally unpolished. Yet, their value is immense to me as I listen to this stuff and more daily, trying to get the details in my head so it affects my sound in a positive way.
I am sharing these recordings weekly in the interest of keeping our ‘local’ music alive here in our local jams, assuming some of you will learn the melodic and rhythmic details of the version. The details can make the difference between a generic version or a ‘cool’ tasteful version. I hope you’ll agree.
~ Mac Traynham