Wade Mainer turned 100 last Saturday, and 500 friends attended a party near his home in Flint, Michigan.
For those who may not know, Wade is a wonderful singer and banjo player from the Carolinas, who, along with his fiddle playing brother J.E. had a string band active in radio and recordings in the 1930s, “The Crazy Mountaineers”. In a way, they could be considered the New Lost City Ramblers of the 1930s, since they recreated some of the great string band songs from the previous two decades. It would be well worth your while to look up some of their recordings. My favorite is “Ridin’ On That Train 45”, with guitarist Daddy John Love and Fiddlin’ Steve Ledford on the Victor lable.
(?) spoons, Zeke Morris (?) guitar, JE Mainer fiddle, Wade Mainer banjo, John Love (?) guitar
I first met Wade while he was performing at one of the old UCLA Folk Festivals – I believe in 1965 – and was very impressed at how well he played and at the amazing continuity of his sound from the 1930s to the 60s. Twenty years later, I was staying with a friend in Tucson when Wade and his wife Julia drove up in their pickup camper and camped out with us for the next three days. I tried my best to play some Ledford long-bow fiddle for him and watched his banjo pickin’ closely. He plays a two-finger lead style using his thumb and index finger. Among other things, Wade told me he had been approached by Bill Monroe when he was first forming his Blue Grass Boys. Bill was looking for a banjo player and asked Wade to play. Wade (who was the older man) told Bill he alrerady had his own band and wasn’t interested in becoming a sideman! Bill wound up hiring David Akeman (AKA “String Bean”), but that’s another story.
Wade is still performing, by the way, along with his wife Julia who really doesn’t need a mic in most concert halls – she’s a powerful singer and guitar player. Any help in positively identifying the (?) players appreciated.