Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Blacksburg Farmers Market Oldtime Jams

"What tunes do you play at those 'old time music' jam sessions?"

I can generally rattle off a dozen tune names, not that I really play all of the tunes that well... but there are dozens.


Woody McKenzie, fiddler-host of this week's Wednesday night old-time string band jam session at the Blacksburg Farmers Market had a request for a more complete tune list.... someone running an old-time jam up in New England wanted to be able to link their Facebook page to an authentic tune list from down here and Southwest Virginia.

So I made this blog page to hold whatever lists I can come up with, then he or anyone else can point newcomers, students, or prospective Jam leaders to this page... without necessarily belonging to any of the proliferating Facebook old time music discussion groups.

There is an annual list compiled by one of the local musicians, tracking the popularity of tunes played at the Blacksburg Farmers Market through the year, under a variety of host fiddlers and bands. I hope the gentleman who compiles it can provide it in a format suitable for posting here. An older version from a few years ago was posted to the Crooked Road website, and I'm going to link to that one, if it is still available.

Meanwhile, one of the several bands that lead the Wednesday jam, Happy Hollow String Band, has a website with an impressive playlist of its own, sometimes with  chord charts or music for the tunes:

A few counties south of us, the Independence Courthouse Jam ( also has an interesting one, sorted by key:

These are all primarily fiddle-centric old-time stringband dance music jams, where everyone plays together, rather than bluegrass jams where participants take turns showing their stuff on lead breaks.

The Independence web page describes its round-robin jam format, where participants take turns either leading or requesting a tune, or sometimes the song.  In Floyd and Blacksburg, old-time jams are a little different, in that the lead fiddler or host band choose all or most of the tunes, maybe with a little group discussion or a newcomer's occasional suggestion.

No matter who leads, I tend to have fun anywhere that I can find a few of the tunes on my mandolin, or strum some rhythm chords on it or a banjo ukulele -- when that seems acceptable to the leaders of the group... especially if I'm pretty sure I'm going to be drowned out by other banjos and fiddles.