“There were only four kinds of country music. One is your gospel songs, your religious songs. The others were your jigs and reels, like we spoke of a while ago at fiddler’s conventions. Your third were your heart songs, sentimental songs that came from the heart, and the fourth, which has passed out to a […]comments
Tag Archives: appalachian music
The banjo is frequently associated with Appalachia, appropriately in some regards, but many people still believe, wrongly, that the banjo originated there. Thomas Jefferson, in Notes on the State of Virginia (1781), correctly pointed out that the banjo had its roots in Africa: “The instrument proper to them [enslaved African Americans] is the Banjar, which they brought hither from Africa.”comments
But Johnny did not limit his playing to Clay County and dances on Tusquittee. No Sir! When he was in his early twenties he took off to Canton, OH, and got a good paying job at Timken Roller Bearing Company. That was exactly what his older brother, Joseph David (1900-1992), had done when he was 22 years old. I always thought if my daddy, (Joseph) had not gone up to Canton to find work, Johnny might never have left the mountains. But you never know what life will hand out to you!comments
They decided one night to test out his belief in ghosts. One of them took a white sheet to the barn, hid at a corner and put the sheet over his head in the manner of the most approved ghost.
As Urbin sang the saddest climax of the tragic ballad, the youth stepped out of hiding into his view.
Urbin got one glance, sprang up and ran headlong for the house, reaching the outlying cookhouse as the nearest haven of refuge.
There sat Grandma, beside the warm kitchen stove, calmly smoking her clay pipe.comments
It was a homecoming in many ways. I was back in the Smoky Mountains, where I had found my birth family and discovered why old-time country music had resonated in me so deeply since I first heard it. I was recording the songs that came to me through knowing my grandfather in a place and in a way that made perfect sense to the tradition and the sound. The only thing missing was his physical presence, otherwise I knew he was there in spirit, tapping his knee and singing along.comments