Monday, November 14, 2022

Oldtime & folk music on Mastodon?

I've just joined that new social networking federation of servers called Mastodon, mostly because of my old friends who are journalists deserting Twitter. But I am curious whether the Mastodon network will also develop a music presence so I'm linking my Mastodon ID here... trying to do this at first with my blogger app on android, but I may have to come back with a web browser to actually edit the code of the page and make this link work to confirm that this site and my Mastodon ID are the same person.

Meanwhile, I've found a list of Mastodon servers that identify with specific topics. Granted most were about technical topics this early in the Mastodon game, but I was still sad that out of 59 on that list only two gave music as a main interest... One for metalheads, and one for rave/electronic fans.

But it's early yet... "Regional" was another option, but only nine of 59 chose that designation, and none was about Virginia or Appalachia. Instead, we have San Francisco Bay, Ireland, Canada, Wales, Australia, New Zealand, two for Scotland, and one for the U.K. in general.

Friday, October 07, 2022

1960s Folk: Greenwich Village, Harry Smith, Oscar Brand, and Joe Rubin

Compulsively wrote this on Facebook around 4 a.m. this morning, but thought I'd share it here too so that I can point non-Facebook friends to it.

Woke up in the middle of the night remembering the name of a song that eluded me at the jam session 10 hours earlier, so went looking for the song on YouTube -- and found this documentary about 20 years of a music-and-progressive-politics culture that was transmitted to me through the early-1960s record bins labelled "folk" and "blues" at the record shop a few blocks from my house... Joe Rubin, a white-haired gentleman I assumed was more into classical music and maybe jazz, ran the place and let me hang out in the back and play LPs that I couldn't afford. (While wondering if I ever thanked Mr. Rubin enough for putting so much music in my life, it just dawned on me that I may have first gone into his store to thank him -- for sponsoring a high school duckpin bowling team I was on!)

I read about the folks and songs on their LP liner notes, and in books by Alan Lomax, Carl Sandburg & Oscar Brand from the library, as well as the great booklet inside the Harry Smith Anthology of American Folk Music record set, mentioned in the documentary as source material for many of the Greenwich Village folkies I admired... And I picked up an Oscar Brand folksong-guitar instruction book, a guitar, and a harmonica or two from an instrument store I'd walk by on my way home from school. (Nice clip of Oscar and the Simon Sisters in the film, along with so many others whose records were in those bins at Joe Rubin's record store.)

Before I went back to sleep I also found the song that I'd originally gone looking for, sometimes titled "Coffee Grows on Wild Oak Trees," and sometimes "Hello Susan Brown," including this recording, which was the first place I heard it about sixty years ago.

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Fox Hollow memories

 I've just discovered this University of Albany archive of music recordings thanks to a friend or stranger on Facebook... 

I was lucky enough to attend two or three of the Fox Hollow festivals in the 1970s, possibly including the last or next-to-last one.  Located on the Beers Family property near the New York, Vermont and Massachusetts state lines, they were very special. 

The donated tapes and archival notes on the website don't always match, but I'm having fun recognizing voices I haven't heard in years, sometimes piecing together the who-was-who from mentions of single names .... The fragmentary concert and workshop tapes don't always include emcees clearly announcing performers' names, so they're a bit like a blindfolded "seventies folk scene" trivia contest. Fun!

Archive page at

Meanwhile, browsing through the recordings brought me enough flashbacks to Michael Cooney concerts around the same time that I went off on a "What ever happened to...?" search and found his website up in the great state of Maine: 

He opens with an observation that is true here, too...

<<I’m TRYING to re-learn how to do this website stuff.>>

Wishing him all the best! And thanking him for inspiring me to put these links out here on the old music blog that I neglect most of the year because all the bells and whistles usually have moved around since the last time I used it.

I also discovered that Michael is a presence in some YouTube archives too... Including this VERY early episode of Sesame Street, around the same time as some of those Fox Hollow performances! I'm going to share it with a family across the way that I'd like to get strumming ukuleles and singing along... 

Saturday, January 15, 2022

When the blues hit the mountains...

 Oldtime music crossover...

While looking for the words to a less-often-heard "shindig in the barn" verse to "Blue Ridge Mountain Blues," I found several "discography" lists, including the two recordings as "Blue Ridge Blues" below... George Reneau's was apparently the first recording of the song. And Lulu Jackson's version gets left out of some of the "country music" or "oldtime music" lists, maybe because it crossed boundaries, but I'd love to read a history about how she wound up recording the song! Her "recitation" of the "There'll be a shindig in the barn" verse is, well, very special. 🙂
The song (credited to Cliff Hess under the alias Roy B. Carson at certainly was popular. Other 1920s recordings were by Riley Puckett, Ernest V. Stoneman, The Blue Ridge Duo (Gene Austin and George Reneau), Vernon Dalhart and more. (Hess was a prolific songwriter and pianist who had played on Mississippi riverboats, wrote songs with "blues" in the title as early as 1916, and eventually collaborated with Irving Berlin.) The song also mentions an even older "oldie," "Where is My (Wandering) Boy Tonight," published in 1877 and recorded by many artists from the dawn of cylinder and disc recordings.
"Blue Ridge Blues"
George Reneau , guitar and harmonica, from April '24 and again with Reneau and Gene Austin:
Al Hopkins' Bucklebusters / The Hill Billies, 1926 or '28 (including fiddle, guitar, banjo & banjo-ukulele!, and 3-or-4-part harmony singing!)
Also as "Blue Ridge Blues"
Lulu Jackson (vcl/gtr) and piano.
December 21, 1928, rec. in Chicago, Vocalion 1242
Enough computer for today... but tomorrow (or someday soon) I'm going looking for more about Lulu! ❤
I'm afraid she gets left out on both sides of the recording-industry color line, even by scholars. I just found a blues discography note from a major reference book: "This artist was of African-American ancestry, but her recordings are essentially in the hillbilly idiom and of little blues interest." (Blues and gospel records 1890-1943 (1997), p. 430) Her versions of "Little Rosewood Casket" and "Careless Love Blues" are very nice too, and available on YouTube. Apparently enough of her 78s have been collected to be reissued in compilations like this one found at the discography website, discogs:
Screen image of discogs song list for Lulu

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Am I in the cool yet? After 20 years of blogging!?

Oh my! The second pandemic year of 2021 is almost over and I haven't added a new page here since December 2019! Here's a lot of catching up in a short space... and a plug for one of my most recent musical discoveries -- not an old video clip like previous entries here, but a podcast that has accumulated something like 300 hours of music and musician interviews, "Get Up In the Cool." Its name, by the way, is from a tune recorded in 1929 by Eck Robertson that makes me think about climbing up to Rocky Knob in Floyd, Va., on a hot summer day. But the podcast is cool in another way. More about that in a minute. First, a couple of my own short smartphone video clips...

I have been playing and listening to music at home and at outdoor jam sessions like that one on the street in Floyd and others in Blacksburg and Radford, Va., after social-distancing rules and vaccination made sharing music possible again. And I have been writing about those things -- but on Facebook and YouTube, not here. 

The Floyd Country Store Sunday afternoon jams eventually moved back indoors, as shown above, but as winter approaches, most of the others still have not found homes. Online through 2020 and 2021, I have attended Floyd Country Store, Floyd Handmade Music School and Augusta Heritage Workshop friends' "Zoom" and YouTube events, and finally -- "armed" with two vaccinations, a booster and flu shot, went to the October Augusta Heritage Center Old-Time Retreat for music classes, jams, and even some singing and dancing.

Alas, the week I returned was the start of a month-long cold that made sleeping through the night difficult, but even that was an excuse for musical discovery: I'd heard of, but had not explored, an oldtime fiddle-and-banjo oriented podcast called "Get Up In the Cool," which turned out to be a wonderful way to spend those sleepless nights. 

Before I started listening, banjo virtuoso and interviewer Cameron DeWhitt had already accumulated 270 interview-jams with fiddlers and banjo players across the U.S. and Canada, including current friends and teachers of mine from Ithaca to Dittyville -- and even Hank Bradley, an inspiring guitar, banjo and fiddle player I studied with back around 1978 and have not seen since!

I hope all of these links aren't overwhelming... but at least I feel I'm getting caught up on the latest incarnation of Blogger, including the ability to easily post my YouTube clips and switch between a modern "Compose view" and vintage 20th century "HTML view" of the page I'm writing.

Blog history... 
In addition to noticing that I have been neglecting this blog for almost two years, I noticed today that this blog is now 20 years old! Hosted-for-free blogs are like that... people lose interest, regain interest... sometimes they even die. I knew a "serial blogger" called Jimbo -- interested in music and old-time radio -- who died a few years ago, leaving behind probably thousands of pages of his writing on linked-together podcasts and blogs about various 1930s to 1960s radio shows, none of them signed with his real name.

My "Blogger" site started in a classroom at Emerson College, where I taught a freshmen seminar called "Digital Culture: Mediamorphosis," in which students explored media history while learning to use Web tools and Photoshop. The second time I taught the course, one of the students asked why I was having the class write raw HTML code on a campus server to create what I called "weblogs" when there was a new tool called Blogger designed to do the same thing with less work. 
The point was that I wanted the class to learn about the page-markup language that was "behind the curtain" at all websites. But I was embarrassed. I had used a couple of other "edit this page" online publishing sites, but at that point Blogger (or "Blogspot") was off my radar, so of course I gave it a try. And this site is the result. Over the years I would create other blogs and websites with Radio Userland, Manila, WordPress, Django, Drupal and more. 
But this one -- thanks to Google's ownership -- is the oldest of my "free hosting" sites. This "Boblog" has evolved over the years from classroom-discussion demo to regular postings, either personal or journalism-class-related (especially 2008-2009 at Radford U, after my Radio Userland host went out of business and while I was in transition to WordPress), and finally reborn as an occasional space for writing about music, while my other sites, and fill other needs.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Another vintage mountain ukulele player

Iver Edwards on ukulele with G Stoneman, banjo, and E Dunford, fiddle.
Just discovered both "The Syncopated Times" and -- in passing -- Iver Edwards, ukulele and harmonica player from Galax, Va., in the 1920s, pictured holding what looks like a soprano Martin ukulele in a band photo accompanying this article about vintage recordings:

Discogs says of Edwards, "(1906 - 1960) American old-time musician (harmonica - ukulele). Recorded with Ernest Stoneman on the Victor label c.1927-28."

Now I'm going through Ernest Stoneman records on YouTube listening for telltale ukulele plinking in the background. Easy to loose it in the similar-octave strumming of the autoharp and mandolin, such as that heard on Stoneman's famous Titanic recording... 

Hop Light Ladies may have been one where Iver put down the uke and played the harmonica...

New River Train might have a ukulele in there, mostly smothered by the banjo...

I'll keep listening.