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]
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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 performed 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
Seven songs by Rocky Adamson, Town Constable of Dayton, NV, made at the Sutro Saloon in 1967.
For those of you who’ve enjoyed Rocky’s songs, we have created a single CD recording featuring seven songs, performed by Rocky Adamson, with guitar, live at the Sutro Saloon near Dayton, Nevada in the fall of 1967. The songs include:
Billy Venero When The Bloom Is On The Sage The Strawberry Roan The Zebra DunTyin’ A Knot In The Devil’s Tail Utah Carrol Yavapai Pete
The CD is available (inside the USA only) for a fee of $20., including tax and shipping.
I’ve been corresponding with my music friend Wayne Erbsen, talking about Texan fiddler Alexander Campbell “Eck” Robertson of Amarillo, Texas in the heart of Panhandle Country. I’ve long been intrigued with Eck, and count myself a lifelong fan. Here’s some excerpts of what I wrote to Wayne, plus more comments and a tune:
I first heard Eck’s playing (Brilliancy Medley) on the Harry Smith Anthology, which I bought in early 1962. That six-volume Lp set really changed my life! Later, it became the foundation of my musical world: I wanted to play *everything* on it! When I put together my musical group The Scragg Family [ https://bluegrasswest.com/ideas/scragg.htm ], I added several selections from that set to our repertoire. What struck me about Eck’s playing was first, his extremely precise timing, notation, and bowing. Eck did this without sacrificing the emotion, the “feel” of the tune, along with its drive. Later, when I heard Sallie Gooden, it’s inventiveness, charm, and quality stunned me!
Eck made that record for the Victor Talking Machine Company on the morning of Saturday, July 1, 1922, solo. He’d visited the studio the day before with traveling companion Henry C. Gilliland, but on the second day of his sessions, he left Henry visiting friends and faced the dark maw of the recording horn by himself for Sallie and Ragtime Annie, using Victor studio pianist Nat Shilkret as accompanist for two other selections.
Eck Robertson, publicity photo, 1923.
Sallie (Sally Gooden) is, to me, the finest recorded example of American fiddle playing we have. Period. It is a magic record. Something happened that Saturday morning in the hub of a busy city, and it happened to be captured by the Victor recording technician. In one take. The music is driving and intense. Dropping the needle on that disc is, to the listener, like stepping on one of those moving sidewalks at airports, etc: you begin to move, immediately, with no turning back. Eck’s bowing is fluid, managing to maintain a droning accompaniment, just as a tanboura is used in classical North Indian music still today. But there is something more. The low A drone seems to catch the edge of the recording horn somehow, making it resonate with what Eck is playing, a series of variations on a simple county play party tune that brings the listener into the melody, holding a diamond in the
light and turning it, each facet bringing out more
Henry C. Gilliland, who accompanied Eck on his new York trip.
sparkling beauty. Keeping that powerful drone, Eck launches a series of upward sweeps on the high E string, bursting sky rockets on the fourth of July. Nearing the end of the tune, Eck returns to the original phrases and then, bringing the cascade of notes to a halt without slowing down, drops into an F# minor double stop, resetting the melody into a more subdued, moving, light before returning to the beginning once again to end his offering with a smile and a musical wink.
I met Eck 42 years after that recording session in a covered walkway just outside of UCLA’s Royce Hall. He was appearing at one of their annual folk festivals, traveling with his 50-ish son as companion. He was a small man, thin, frail, and spoke with a very soft voice. And he could talk! Talk about fiddlers and fiddles, fiddle contests and his own prowess as a showman. He was enjoying the sun and the attention he was getting from all the bystanders.
Later, for a workshop, he’d brought out his fiddle. He had a leather strap around his neck attached to the end pin of the instrument. He spoke of fiddling and occasionally, would raise the instrument to playing position and run his bow across the strings to make a point. His frailty vanished as soon as he laid that bow to the strings: there was the Eck I knew from his recordings! Done with making his musical point, still speaking, he let the fiddle drop in front of him. Several of us made a jump to catch the thing but the strap held it and there it was, swinging back and forth in front of him like a clock pendulum while he, oblivious, continued assuring us that yes indeed, he was the World’s Greatest Fiddler!
Later, speaking aside to me about Sallie, he said: Long time ago there was a girl named Sallie, the most beautiful in the land. She had many suitors but couldn’t make up her mind which one to marry. So she held a fiddle contest for her hand. Her beau made the tune and played it for her to win the prize. His name was Gooden, and there have been 13 generations of Goodens since that time. That’s where Sallie Gooden came from and that’s why I composed a variation for each generation in my version of the tune.”
Click (on the far left of the box) to listen to Sallie Gooden:
In 1976, I produced Eck Robertson – Master Fiddler, a reissue of all the 78 RPM discs that Eck had recorded in the golden age of country music, issued on my label Sonyatone Records, STR-201.
Eck Robertson – Master Fiddler
My reissue Lp was accompanied by a 12-page booklet which contained a biography and discography of Eck Robertson. It is available for download here: Eck_Robertson_Booklet
If you’ve enjoyed this article and booklet, please consider making a donation to BlueGrass West! to help us continue our work.