Wade Mainer

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

(?) 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.

-Peter

About Peter Feldmann

Peter Feldmann has long been a musical mainstay in Santa Barbara and Southern California. Besides actively performing bluegrass and old time music with a variety of groups, Peter is also known as a bluegrass historian, collector, music consultant, teacher, and producer, both of live concerts and radio/tv programs throughout the area. His music has been heard in clubs, concerts, saloons, universities, pre-schools, at weddings, wakes, parties, barn-raisings, calf-ropings, rodeos, auctions, fund raisers, wine tastings and chili cook offs. Peter founded Santa Barbara's Old Time Fiddler's Convention (1972), UCSB's Old Time Music Front (1964), and The Bluebird Cafe (1971). Through these and other outlets, he was the first to bring many prominent folk, blues, and bluegrass artists, including Bill Monroe, Mance Lipscomb, The Stanley Brothers, The New Lost City Ramblers, Fred McDowell, Furry Lewis, Rose Maddox, the Balfa Brothers, and many others to the Santa Barbara area. Peter also helped others access the music by teaching privately, and in group classes for Santa Barbara Continuing Education, UCSB Extension, and McCabes Guitars. He was the first on the West Coast to produce and market instruction Lps - three on How To Play Country Fiddle, and one each on Clawhammer Banjo, and Maybelle Carter Style Guitar. He still presents lectures on country music history at UCSB, Santa Barbara area libraries, and for various interest groups, festival workshops, etc. In 2006, he presented his monograph titled "The Big bang Of Bluegrass Music" (describing the origins of bluegrass 1938 - 1946) to the worlds first International Music Symposium at the University of Kentucky at Bowling Green. He has also been very active in radio, television, and film work, producing weekly shows on country and bluegrass music over a 21 year period on various commercial and public stations. Peter currently maintains three music-related websites, a music blog, and an entertainment service company, "BlueGrass West!", based in the Santa Ynez Valley in Southern California. Peter performs tunes and songs from the heart of America's musical treasure chest. His shows can include fiddle, guitar, banjo, and mandolin. Well-known as a historian and teacher, Peter is first and foremost an entertainer, sharing his respect, energy and love for the music with his fellow musicians, friends, and audiences.
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One Response to Wade Mainer

  1. Tom Ewing has contacted me to state that, in a recent interview with Wade by Richard Spotswood, Wdae stated that it was not himself that was approached by Monroe to be a Blue Grass Boy, but Snuffy Jenkins.

    The version that I recall is as already stated. If someone reading this happens to see Wade, it would be interesting to revist the question and contact me. In the meantime, there was one other person present at that interview of mine and I am going to contact him to see if he recalls any details.

Your comments are always welcome!