The pandemic has gotten me exploring more ‘hardcore’ banjo based old-time music. Maybe its a yearn to show how alike our mountain music heritage is with that of the oldest black traditions when it comes to the banjo’s transition into rural white culture.  It’s a process that took at least 200 years I guess. 

I am glad now to have gotten access to the recordings that folklorist Tom Carter of Old Originals fame (to a few of us mountain music addicts) made of Calvin and Delmar Pendleton in the early 1970s. They were brothers probably in their 70’s from nearby Woolwine area of Patrick County whose relative Buddy got to highly respected in the Bluegrass music world as an outstanding, creative fiddler. 

Back when I first heard Calvin and Delmar’s one cut from the Old Original series I liked their homegrown style as a duet. Thanks to Andy Buckman, who contacted Kilby Spencer who generously shared the enormous file that was recorded originally by Tom Carter.  Kilby may have gotten it from the tremendous Southern Folklife Collection at UNC where most of Tom’s field recordings ended up as I understand it.  

 Their music is homegrown and not played in a style that would be at all commercial. Unlike Buddy Pendleton,  who was a performer, they were simple farmers living in rural mountain communities whose music was a big part of their world like it was for so many families in the Blue Ridge area.  I hope to share this with interested members of the Pendleton Family that have not had access to their relative’s music since it was recorded in the early ’70s. Before the pandemic hit, Grandson  Mike Pendleton would occasionally play fiddle and sing in the tradition of his grandfather Calvin for Floyd Country Store’s Sunday afternoon jams.  Ronald Pendleton is an incredible left-handed musician who plays tasteful lead breaks on right-handed strung instruments (mandolin and guitar). Calvin was Ronald’s uncle. 

So I found a cut in this new collection to me of Calvin playing clawhammer banjo on a tune that many folks play and sing in the region, Train on The Island. There are many recordings of different players doing this tune.

I get conflicted about whose version to share as the second source version because I like all of them for various reasons. There’s even a version that sounds like the tune June Apple played by Wade Ward and sung by his nephew Fields. I didn’t include that here as it is a different tune with similar song lyrics.

So here’s Calvin Pendleton’s version of Train on the Island that has not been heard for almost 50 years.

Train on the Island by Calvin Pendleton

Here’s a rare banjo fiddle version that is one of my favorites from Carroll County’s Glen Smith on fretless banjo and William Marshall on fiddle.

Train on the Island by Glen Smith and William Marshall

Comment from Clay Shelor

Thank you for sharing this music!

For the historic record, Delmar Pendleton is Ron’s father. Calvin and Delmar (who Tom Carter recorded) were 3rd cousins but both lived in Lone Ivy (tucked up under Lover’s Leap), were friends and jam buddies (all this from my Pendleton genealogy expert, Ron P himself).