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
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.
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