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!
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.
I saw Clay Shelor at the ASU fiddlers convention in Boone on Saturday. He was a part of the Crooked Road Fiddle Army that marched in the inaugural parade in Richmond back in mid January. So for this week I thought of the Shelor-Blackard Family’s distinctive mountain music.
This week’s tune is Shootin Creek. I have a version of this Franklin/Floyd County tune that is played by Peg Hatcher of Franklin County. His great-grandson is Chris Prillaman of Dry Hill Dragger fame who played at the Floyd Country Store last Friday Nite (2/2/18) in a different group, the Still Hollow Ramblers. Chris and his wife traveled to Floyd by way of Shooting Creek road. He was actually playing the same fiddle for the flat footers as heard in this clip.
OK, it’s time to really open your mind and forgive the first 10 seconds of this clip from Sidna and Fulton Meyers of the Five Forks area north of Hillsville in Carroll County. The banjo-fiddle duet is such a strong tradition in this area. Sidna’s banjo tuning is one based on A or G modal with 5th string tuned down. It’s found in the playing of certain banjo players from this area sometimes with the 4th string tuned up for that lowest melody note.
This week I want to showcase a tune usually in G from the eastern part of my ‘local’ area. NH “Nick” Mills was from the Boones Mill area of Franklin County and was recorded playing this tune solo on fiddle along with several others. I chose it for its uniqueness. I know several on this list are already familiar with this recording.
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