Rufus and Lulu Crisp
This week we focus on the music of Eastern Kentucky banjo player Rufus Crisp. About 10-20 years before the “Folk Arrival” of the early 1960’s when old time musicians such as Roscoe Holcomb, Clarence Ashley or Dock Boggs came to New York City, a few aspiring New York banjo players, including Pete Seeger, went to Allen, Kentucky and found Rufus Crisp. Crisp’s cousin was Margot Mayo, head of the American Square Dance Group (ASDG) in NYC, an important early group in the modern folk revival movement. In 1946 Mayo and fellow ASDGer Stu Jamieson traveled to Allen, KY and made extensive field recordings of Rufus Crisp, his son Palmer and fiddler Farmer M. Howell which were influential in the early Greenwhich Village scene. Today we draw heavily from these unpublished Library of Congress field recordings. We also play tracks by Stu Jamieson, heavily influenced in his own music by his contact with Crisp, and by Woody Wachtel, another New Yorker who studied with Crisp.
This is an interview Eli conducted with Prof. Howard, nephew of Rufus and Lulu Crisp, at his home in Baltimore, MD. He grew up in the same area and provides first hand recollections of the family and regional history, social context, as well as Rufus’ music.