Del Baker and Dean Trammel, twin fiddles; Art Chambers, banjo Peter Feldmann photo
I drove up to Kernville (Lake Isabella CA) in February, 1965 to record a fiddle contest promoted by the local Chamber of Commerce. The event, held as part of Whiskey Flat Days, was held in a large circus tent seating about 300. Following the “official” contest proceedings, I spoke to several contestants and asked them to stick around if they could, and play more tunes for our recorders. Several of them agreed, and were joined by a couple of spectators that had brought instruments. I’d read some books on collecting techniques, but I had folklorist DK Wilgus with me (originally from the University of Westyern KY, now of UCLA, one of the best!), and he demonstrated to me how to remind our “informants” (what people as music sources are called) of songs and tunes they might know with minimal mental nudges. A small crowd had gathered as we began our journey of discovery . . .
We both agreed that Art Chambers, a two-finger stylist on the five string banjo was a special gem among the people there. Art had accompanied Fiddlin’ Van Cunningham in the contest, and he was rarin’ to go to demonstrate some of his banjo showpieces.
BUCK CREEL GALS / 8TH OF JANUARY
Art, originally from Tennessee, had joined the navy as a lad, and wound up stationed in Pearl Harbor in Hawaii for many years. A very musical guy, he’d listened closely to several fine Hawaiian musicians, and had worked up this next tune in their honor.
Art had a pleasant singing voice and put it to good use in this classic, then quickly added the notorious Cacklin’ Hen. Anyone spending any time around chickens will recognize them in this solo banjo showpiece.
BULLY OF THE TOWN / CACKLIN’ HEN
Del Baker, of Bakersfield added his verions of the tune Jack Of Diamonds, AKA Rye Whiskey, a waltz in open A tuning (AEAC#). Dean Trammel accompanied him on guitar.
JACK OF DIAMONDS
Dean Trammel, fiddle Peter Feldmann photo
Maiden’s Prayer, a fiddle showpiece popularized by Western Swing star Bob Wills, here performed by Dean Trammel, fiddle.
Art Chambers sings and plays Greenback Dollar (part of the East Virginina / Silver Dagger song family). He’s accompanied by Del Baker and Dean Trammel on fiddle and guitar. Someone, unfortunately, is stomping his foot here in a time signature known only to himself.
I believe Art called this number Cripple Creek, but it has an unusual front end to it.
CRIPPLE CREEK ?
By this time, it was getting near midnight in the circus tent. The man in charge of the oil heating device had turned it off, and temperatures were dropping rapidly (we were up in the mountains, and it was near the end of February.) The generator operator had graciously provided power for us, but it seemed time to go. DK and I thanked everyone for sticking around. We got phone numbers, and packed up our recorders. I was invited back by both Art Chambers and Van Cunningham for further visiting and recording sessions. As I find them, I’ll try to post highlights.
Please consider a donation to help us keep going with our music writing and projects. Thanks!
I was contacted recently by a publicist for Rodney Dillard, who has released a new digital album on Pinecastle titled Old Road New Again. Rodney’s band for the project includes the current Dillards, plus Don Henley, Bernie Leadon, Herb Pederson, Ricky Scaggs, Sam Bush, and others. She asked if I had time to do an interview via the phone. I hadn’t seen Rodney for about a dozen years, so I replied “Yes . . . as long as he’s wearing a mask!”
I first saw Rodney, along with his brother Doug, at the 1963 Monterey Folk Festival. That was a major event to me, as it was the first folk music festival of its type I attended, and it was filled with many performers from the traditional part of the music, Roscoe Holcomb, Mance Lipscomb, Bill Monroe, Tom Ashley,
Clarence “Tom” Ashley [photo: Peter Feldmann]
and many more. Nowadays, there are bluegrass, rock, blues, Cajun and many specialty festivals, but this one, and others I attended in the early 1960s was very much all-inclusive. That was an important lesson to me in the interdependence and cross pollination of the music. So yesterday, Rodney gave me a call and we discussed the Dillards, various kinds of music, California music, Branson, quantum mechanics, and life in general. Have a listen! 🙂
1. Rodney calls. We get started.
Doug Dillard, 1963 [photo: Peter Feldmann]
2. “Folk Music” and what came after; the L.A. music scene in the 60s.
Rodney & Doug Dillard band, Goleta CA 2007 [photo: Peter Feldmann]
3. Rodney tells of his arranging skills, keeping the band going with an array of personnel , work in Branson, his reunion with Doug, and digital recording problems.
4. The Television experience: Andy Griffith Show, Judy Garland (!), Johnny Cash show appearances and show biz experiences.
The Dillards, Monterey 1963 L-R: Rodney, Doug, Mitch Jayne, Dean Webb, plus Roscoe Holcomb & Roger Bush. [photo: Peter Feldmann]
Thanks, everyone, for listening! Please consider making a donation to help us in producing more pages like this.
By early 1965 I was finishing up my degree in Biological Sciences at UCSB as well as totally immersing myself in the California folk music scene, performing, collecting, teaching. A friend in Los Angeles told me about a fiddle contest being staged near the end of February in the mountain region known as Kernville, up highway 178 from Bakersfield CA. Always seeking the music, I decided to drive up there to record the event on tape if I could get permission. I called professor DK Wilgus at the English Department of UCLA and invited him to join me. I’d first met DK at the Monterey Folk Festival of May, 1963 and been impressed with his more academic approach to the music. Later, when I founded my own fiddle contest, the Santa Barbara Old Time Fiddlers’ Convention, DK, one of the first academics to realize the importance of commercial 78 RPM discs of country music as documentation, was invaluable as a source of help and acted as our MC for the first 10 years or so.
Evvy and DK Wilgus, UCLA Michael Mendelson photo
We arrived about half an hour before the contest began, and took the opportunity to set up our recorders and microphones. No one had any objections to us making recordings, and I had access to an electric outlet for my Roberts 190-HT mono tape machine. The event was sponsored by the local chamber of commerce and took place in a large canvas tent which held about 300 people. A stage, some rudimentary lights, wooden folding chairs, sawdust on the floor, and a very basic PA system: one mic and two speakers, completed the scene.
Introduction: Contestant #1 Del Baker
The MC was a local businessman, and three judges had been invited (not their first time there.) There were nine contestants in all, a very mixed lot! There were a couple of Old Pros, Buddy McDowell of Reseda, CA and “Cherokee Edna” from Paramount, CA. Besides their fiddling styles, you could tell they were “in the biz” by their costumes, a country-cut suit with boots for Buddy and a turquoise blue outfit for Edna, studded with rhinestones and felt applique cactii and fiddles, outlined in silver thread. A couple of retired men who lived in the area, three ranchers / farmers from the Central Valley, and a traveling folk singer, originally from Oklahoma (Mike McClellan.)
Buddy McDowell – Walkin’ The Floor – electric fiddle
Dean Trammel – Old Joe Clark, acc. Del Baker, guitar
Dean was a Cherokee Indian man, ca 40 years old, who lived in Earlimont, up Hwy 99 from Bakersfield CA. More of his fiddling may be heard on the Kernville Jam page in this blog.
Dean Trammel at fiddle contest, Kernville, Calif. ca. 1965
L.D.Moshier – Black Mountain Rag
This tune was the tune of choice for three fiddlers in this first round of fiddling (see contestants Del Baker and Van Cunningham, who called it “Sooky Pied”).
Louis E Paul – fiddle scratch
There’s always a comedian in the bunch. Here’s ours, a “professional character” from around town. “Wormy Annie’s Place” was a junk store in nearby Bodfish.
Cherokee Edna – Arkansas Traveler, electric violin
Accompanied on electric guitar by Buddy McDowell.
Fiddling Van Cunningham – Sooky Pied
I subsequently made trips to Lake Isabella to visit with and record both Van and Art Chambers. Van told me he was originally from Oklahoma, where he and three brothers performed on early radio as “The Cunningham Brothers”. Van had injured his left arm as a carpenter. The injury to his tendons prevented him for closing his fingers(!) He was not discouraged, and had worked up a contraption to wear which used elastic straps to close his hand, so that he was still able to play. Accompanying Van was two-finger banjo player extraordinaire Art Chambers. We’ll have lots more to say about him in a succeeding page here at Pete’s Place.
First and second place winners ($150 / $75 respectively) were Buddy McDowell and Cherokee Edna. We’ll add a closing solo violin piece by Cherokee Edna. This is just a sampling of the pieces performed. Space precludes inserting all of the pieces played that evening.
For a CD, high fidelity copy of all the performances, contact:
[ Peter@BlueGrassWest.com ].
Cherokee Edna – Fiddle Boogie, electric violin solo
By the end of 1962, I was resuming studies in biology at UCSB and hard at work programming a weekly radio show on a new station in Santa Barbara, KGUD-FM (99.9 on the dial.) They were attempting an ill-advised venture to bring a country music station to Santa Barbara, CA, a town often described as the “Home of the Newly-Wed or Nearly-Dead.” Marketing-wise, it was not a great fit with a community of giant estates, Rolls-Royce’s, and golf links in Montecito, along with Mexican style Cantinas and primordial surfboard shops on the Lower East side. KGUD ran ads in the News-Press with the copy:
“Welcome to KGUD Kountry! — We’ve eliminated all the raucous banjos and squawky fiddles, and play only REAL country music!”
Taking this as a challenge, I talked their program director into a regular show of folk, old time, and bluegrass music. My partner in this show was Don Robertson, who could be described nowadays as a singer-songwriter. In those days, he called himself a folk singer. After a month or two, I got word that someone was presenting a folk festival in Monterey, featuring a wide range of performers, to be held in the third week of May. The station manager wanted me to get an interview with a new young star, Bob Dylan. I talked him into sending the two of us up north for five days, with press passes and motel rooms, to cover the proceedings. I packed a couple of Leicas, and borrowed a small tape recorder, along with a match box to hold my clothes. Don and I drove up together in his Dodge Dart. There’s much to speak about during that extended weekend, but this page is devoted to a panel discussion, held Saturday morning, May 18th. I’ll get to other things later.
The Panel begins . . .
After a full night’s music the night before, I managed to get into a large meeting hall early that morning to set up. The small Sony recorder I’d brought had an add-in microphone, but with only a seven foot cord! I had to sit immediately in front of the stage, shifting the mic from one participant to the next (hence the occasional scraping) as the event took place. It was a 7-inch reel-to-reel, half track machine, but I had only one reel of 0.50 mil tape left!
The Folk Revival Panel; author in front of stage w/ recorder.
 The introduction was given by professor D.K. Wilgus, who had recently joined the English/Folklore Department faculty at UCLA. By the time the talk began, there were about 150 persons in the audience and the electricity and excitement of the moment was palpable. DK sets the context and does great Master of Ceremonies work, managing the flow of talk and music amid this array of folk artists.
Professor D.K. Wilgus
 John Cohen, a founding member of the New Lost City Ramblers, who was just beginning his career as folklorist and ethnographer, presents his views on what is now happening in the folk music world. His brand new film at that time The High Lonesome Sound, was shown immediately after the panel finished. John poses the question: What am I, a city person, doing performing and studying rural music?
John Cohen with Penny Seeger, Monterey 1963.
 Roscoe Holcomb, from Daisy, KY tells his story about learning the music, first on mouth harp, then banjo.
 Ralph Rinzler. later to become director of the Smithsonian’s folk festivals, talks about his life and interviews Bill Monroe. “It turned out to be bluegrass music.”
Ralph Rinzler, Bill Monroe
[5-A] Bill Monroe talks about playing mandolin (like baseball!) & introduces Doc.
Bill & Doc, photo by Peter Feldmann, 1963.
[5-B] Bill Monroe and Doc Watson play Bill’s tune Get Up John.
 DK Wilgus introduces Clarence “Tom” Ashley, Columbia recording artist from 1927, from Shouns, TN.
Clarence “Tom” Ashley
 Tom Ashley describes his relationship with Frank Walker, A&R man for Columbia Records, and how he introduced Walker to Lassie-Makin’ Tunes.
 How lasses are made in the hills of Tennessee
 East Virginia Blues – Tom Ashley’s version
 Doc Watson, on his first ever visit to California, sings Dream Of The Miner’s Child.
Doc Watson’s set list in Braille
 Mance Lipscomb, sharecropper from Navasota, TX. (Photo from a three-day visit with the author.)
Mance Lipscomb, from Navasota Texas, 1964.
 Roscoe Holcomb, and his version of East Virginia. Compare and contrast with Tom Ashley’s piece, above.
 Billy Ray Lathum and Clarence White, of the Kentucky Colonels talk about bluegrass.
Closing remarks by D.K. Wilgus. Thank you all!
Billy Ray Lathum, w/ KY Colonels
This panel, and later interactions with many of the participants that weekend and in years to come, made a tremendous impact on me and my love for and views of the music. It truly was a life-changing time for me and I’m happy to share these moments with you.
PLEASE NOTE! All material, photographs, and recordings are copyright by Peter Feldmann 2020. If you’ve enjoyed this page, please consider becoming a sponsor to help us continue to bring the best in folk, old time, and bluegrass to the web.
Rocky Adamson, The Singing Constable of Dayton, NV
Rocky with his 1918-style campaign tent he used as his constable’s office in Dayton, NV Courtesy Laura Tennant collection.
In September of 1967, my band, The Scragg Family had been the house band at the Red Dog Saloon in Virginia City, Nevada, for three months and we’d continue through October. It’s about 3+ hours’ drive from the haps at San Francisco’s Haight/Ashbury, where they were busy with their Summer Of Love. We perform shows at the Dog six days a week; afternoons for the tourists and evenings for the locals.
Nevada Political Ad, ca 1940.
Rocky Adamson came up from Dayton to see us, in living color, though seemingly right out of a black and white John Ford film: Stetson hat, blue denim shirt, blue jeans, tall cowboy boots that have seen some wear, and a bright red bandanna. He orders a whiskey, watches our show, and introduces himself: “I’m Rocky Adamson, out of Dayton, down Six Mile Canyon. I like your music and I was wondering if you’d like to hear some cowboys songs.” I told Rocky that, seeing as how I’d been raised since a 7 year old kid on Tex Ritter songs, I’d like nothing better! I also told him we have cowboys in Switzerland, but they work on foot, as there’s not much room for horses! He laughs. I ask him about his life and music. I ask him if I could record a few of his songs and he agrees, providing I help him do some cowboy work, doctoring a sick steer.
An ad for Rocky, running for re-election as town constable. Courtesy Laura Tennant Collection
We agree to meet one Monday evening at Sutro Saloon, a bar made from an old machinery warehouse at the site of the famous Sutro Tunnel, east of Dayton. (You can see the exterior in the photo used for our front page logo.)
I set up a microphone and stool for him and get my tape machine ready. Rocky asks that I play some mandolin with him, but I keep it low key, since it is his music I want to record. A few friends stopped by and we had a fine song session. Here are a couple of songs recorded that evening.
Sutro Saloon, site of the recordings. Peter Feldmann photo.
Songs by Rocky, ca. October, 1967. Roberts 1/2 track mono recorder, Sony F-97 microphone.
Tying Knots In The Devil’s Tail was composed by Gail I. Gardner of Prescott, AZ in 1917, and has now entered into the oral tradition. It’s a song about a couple of cowpokes who go on a spree on Whiskey Row, a string of saloons in old Prescott, well known to Wyatt Earp, Doc Holiday and their compadres. And who do they run into but the Devil himself!
Yavapai Pete was composed by another Arizonan, Curley Fletcher, most famous for his song The Strawberry Roan. It’s the story of a cowboy n’ere do well superhero, who — down on his luck — encounters a “she grizzly bear”. Our hero isn’t a bit fazed and turns his bad luck to good in the encounter. The song has become known throughout the West, but to northern cowboys not familiar with Arizopna’s Yavapai County, the name has been changed, eg. in Montana, it’s known as Iron Pants Pete.
Rocky Adamson with Laura and Stony Tennant
For those of you who’ve enjoyed Rocky’s songs, we hope to shortly release a CD with several more songs, along with other music recorded up in the Sierras and California’s Central Valley. Contact us if you’d like to be informed when the CD project is finished. Thanks for reading!