This, from an exchange with Wayne Erbsen and Jim Nelson on Facebook this morning (20 January, 2016), regarding the great singer, banjo player and band leader Wade Mainer:
Jim referenced Wade’s recording of “Down In The Willow Garden”
Wayne Erbsen Thanks, Jim! I think Wade told me he learned it from his sister but I might remembering wrong. I’m thinking that Zeke Morris told me he learned it from Wade Mainer and that Charlie Monroe learned it from him, but again, my memory may be playing tricks on me.
Peter Feldmann Wade Mainer and his “Sons Of The Mountaineers” was one of the first string band records I ever heard (in 1961). It was part of a reissue album titled “Smokey Mountain Ballads”, produced for Victor by Alan Lomax on a 78 RPM album — 78s (Bluebird) reissued on other 78s (Victor). Little did I know then that I’d have the pleasure of meeting Wade and Julia, and hanging out with them for a few days, playing the music. BTW – I LOVE the E major chord!
Wayne Erbsen I’m still trying to wrap my head around that E major chord. If charlie learned it from Zeke who learned it from Wade, maybe it was Charlie who added the E minor chord. You think?
Jim Nelson Most likely.
Peter Feldmann Charlie was always the more modern type of musician :-), while his brother preferred the “ancient tones”.
Wade told me once, BTW, that Bill asked him to play banjo for the Blue Grass Boys . . . this was before Stringbean. Wade turned him down; didn’t want to become a sideman.
Wayne Erbsen That’s really interesting! I’ve never heard that. That would have been in the early ’40s. Along with Snuffy, I’m pretty sure Bill would have run across Wade when Bill first moved to Asheville in 1938, or probably even earlier when Bill and Charlie and and Wade and JE all played on the Crazy Water Barn Dance in Charlotte. I bet Snuffy and Wade made Bill realize that he wanted a banjo in his next band. A lot of people don’t realize that Wade’s banjo playing could really be on fire, and even sounded more or less like Earl or Snuffy. His banjo was down in the “mix” on many of his records, but have you heard the transcription LP that was issued of Wade’s audition for WWNC radio? He picked the fire out of the banjo and you can really hear how powerful a player he could be. If Wade had swallowed his pride and joined Bill, bluegrass as we know it would be propelled by two finger picking. Without Bill hiring Earl, there would not have been no Flatt and Scruggs. Earl was planning on going back to the mill and would have done it if wasn’t for Jim Shumate convincing him he should try out for Monroe. Getting back to Wade, he was the biggest star western North Carolina had to offer. Zeke told me they would play in school houses, and play two shows in one night. After the first show they would usher everybody out, and most of the same people would pay their 25 or 50 cents to come back for the second show. I’ve always said that the real father or grandfather of bluegrass is Wade. If the father or grandfather (Wade) would have gotten into bed (so to speak) with Bill (the father), I wonder who their love child would have been? But I digress.
Peter Feldmann Yes sir! This is one of the topics I still wake up at 4 in the AM to think about! smile emoticon Though I don’t think I have heard the record you mention, I can testify that Wade picked one hell of a banjer. Thanks for your thoughts. If we set Wade as the Grandfather of Bluegrass, and Bill as the father, we then come to the role that Crazy Water Crystals – a laxative! – played in the scene as a sponsor. Charlie even stared his own laxative company (Man-O-Ree) a few years later. I suppose this makes him the Uncle of bluegrass.
Wayne Erbsen I’d like to open this discussion of Mainer/Monroe/Scruggs up to other Facebook friends, but I’m not sure how to get it out there to them. Do you? Then a bunch of us can all wake up at 4 AM.
We would all welcome your comments!