Back in September the acclaimed old-time band The Carolina Chocolate Drops made a surprise appearance at The Jalopy Theater in Redhook, Brooklyn. Luckily I had heard earlier that day what was going on and brought my recorder with me that night when I made the familiar trek down to Jalopy’s hallowed hall! They played a great set and I got a good recording right off the board. Here it is!
The Chocolate Drops performed as part of the Roots n Ruckus show, the awesome – free – weekly folk music show that happens every Wednesday night at The Jalopy Theater. Well worth checking out. I’m there almost every week!
On a beautiful day in early June my band The Dust Busters paid a visit to the home of Joe and Polly Thompson. Joe Thompson is 91 and lives outside of Mebane, NC. He has been playing fiddle since he was 5 years old, way back in 1923 and is perhaps the very last traditionally schooled African-American fiddler in the world. Joe is a World War II veteran and is long retired from his job at a furniture factory. He continues to play music at home and at gigs including taking his music to Carnegie Hall in New York City, the National Folk Festival and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and the International Music Festival in Brisbane, Australia. In 2007 Joe Thompson was honored with the National Heritage Fellowship award from the National Endowment for the Arts. The Carolina Chocolate Drops have spent a lot of time with Joe and have learned a lot from him. They continue to present many of his tunes in their performances. We met Joe at the 2nd Black Banjo Gathering, held in Boone, NC in March of this year.
We sat around the Thompson’s picnic table in the field behind their house and played a number of tunes as Joe recalled his musical family and his upbringing. Joe and Polly were tremendously nice and hospitable and we were really touched and honored to spend time with them. Here are some excerpts from the long afternoon that we spent at the Thompson’s home.
Big thanks go to Joe and Polly’s friend Larry Vellani for bringing us to their home that day, and a shout out goes to our friend Steve Kruger who joined us with his banjo and guitar.
Here’s the songs we played that you’ll hear on this recording:
I Shall Not be Moved
Dona Got a Ramblin’ Mind
Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad
Lights in Valley
Molly Put the Kettle On
Ladies on the Steamboat
Molly Put the Kettle On
I’ve Got Oil in my Vessel
Malcolm Ford and Jack Byrne of The Dough Rollers were living out in LA over this past winter and in late January/early February Craig and I from The Dust Busters went and stayed with them out there. We had a great time, living down near Venice Beach, beating the New York cold and playing a bunch of shows around the LA area. We even made it up to San Francisco for a gig! One night we ended up playing a house party at Elvis Perkins’ place and happily our set was recorded. Hope you will enjoy… Also, The Dust Busters are out on tour right now on the West Coast, we’re headed to Portland tomorrow and then Seattle. Check out our website for dates.
[Paxton and Fairfield perform “Poor Little Bennie.”]
Down Home Radio favorites and past guests on the program Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton and Frank Fairfield have recently been featured in the New York Times, following their appearance last Tuesday at the Jalopy Theater. CLICK HERE to read the NY Times piece by Ben Ratliff.
CLICK HERE for the Down Home Radio interview with Frank Fairfield, and HERE for the interview with Blind Boy Paxton.
Here’s some more footage I shot at the Jalopy show:
While out on tour back in March my old-time string band The Dust Busters appeared on the Woodsongs Old-Time Radio Hour. Woodsongs is a radio/TV show filmed weekly at the Kentucky Theater in Lexington (KY). Thanks to Michael Johnathon and all the folks at Woodsongs for having us, it was a fun show! Here is our appearance on that program:
Radio Unnameable Documentary Trailer from Lost Footage Films
Radio Unnamable on WBAI 99.5fm New York is one of my favorite all time radio programs. Its host Bob Fass (probably arguably) invented “free form” radio with the shows inception in 1963, and continues to be its greatest practitioner to this day. Over the years Bob has had an incredible array of guests on his program, everyone from musicians like Bob Dylan, Skip James, Muddy Waters, Rambling Jack Elliot, The Holy Modal Rounders and Sis Cunningham, to Leftist political/cultural figures like Abbie Hoffman, Allen Ginsberg, Ed Sanders, Timothy Leary, Wavy Gravy and so many others. Radio Unnamable was one of the prime focal points in the media for the 1960’s era counter culture both musically and politically. Luckily many episodes of this amazing program were taped and have survived so there is a large archive that is slowly being digitized, a little taste of which is up here on Down Home Radio. This material will only be available for a couple days, I can’t keep it up indefinitely, so check it out now! –> time’s up on the audio, hope you enjoyed it, and keep checking back to DHR since I will be posting up more Radio Unnamable audio in the future.
The folks over at Lost Footage Films are in the middle of making a documentary about this historic radio show, and they need your help. So check out their fund raising website and help them out if you can so they can finish the film.
On today’s show we hear a few selections from the Radio Unnamable archives, courtesy of Lost Footage Films. The first is Jack Elliott and Arlo Guthrie live on the show. This is a pretty stoned out episode from 1967. Jack sings his talking song about truck driving and then Arlo sings a very different version of his hot off the press Alice’s Restaurant song with a totally different “story.” They’re obviously having a very good time! In the 2nd selection from Radio Unnamable on the show today we hear a remarkable recording that Bob Fass made as reporter. In 1968 he traveled to Chicago to cover the protest of the Democratic National Convention which ended in a major over reaction by the first Mayor Daley’s police department. Bob interviews protesters, gets tear gassed and reports on this now historic day. In the 3rd piece of audio we hear Abbie Hoffman calling in to Radio Unnamable to report on his own trial as a defendant in the Chicago 7 case. This was a landmark case were a number of leaders of the ’68 protest were charged with conspiracy to incite riot. The trial became a circus, a piece of political theater where counter cultural figures of every stripe paraded through the court room as witnesses and brought the 60’s counterculture more out in to the open, mass media, etc… on and on. Good stuff. This is a departure for Down Home Radio which usually sticks to folk music, but I just couldn’t sit on this stuff. Hope you enjoy.
As a side note- I will be on Radio Unnamable tonight! with Peter Stampfel and The Dust Busters. Bob Fass is still on the air and Radio Unnamable airs every Thursday night from midnight till 3am or so on WBAI 99.5fm and is is archived on the WBAI website.
Here’s the 2nd installment of our new venture into Down Home TV. That same night after speaking with Mamie Minch, Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton stopped by and I was able to film a segment with him. If you’ve heard the interview from a year and a half ago that I did with him (when he was only 19) then you know that he is a truly amazing guitarist, banjoist and stride-piano player as well as an excellent singer. On today’s show Blind Boy plays a few guitar and banjo pieces for us on camera and talks a little bit about his background. For more information, be sure to check out the extended audio interview with him from back in the DHR Archives.
Thanks go once again to filmmaker Chris Low and his crew for shooting and editing this footage.
Down Home Radio has stormed the citadel of visual representation, thanks to the great work of filmmaker Chris Low. On this first installment I talk with the wonderful blues guitarist, singer and songwriter Mamie Minch. We sat down in the room above the Jalopy Theater just before she took the stage at the Brooklyn Folk Festival Preview and Benefit show a couple of weeks ago. Mamie speaks about some of her influences and plays some tunes, live on Down Home Radio (TV)! Many thanks go to Chris for making this possible.
Treasures of the Archive of Folk Song at the Library of Congress – a lecture by Joe Hickerson at the Jalopy Theater, Brooklyn, NY 1/16/10
Greetings from California. I’m out on the West Coast playing some shows with my band The Dust Busters and our friends the The Dough Rollers. But I’m still on the job, bringing out Down Home Radio shows! Here’s a recording I made at the Jalopy Theater just before I left town.
Joe Hickerson was the librarian and head of the Archive of Folk Song at the Library of Congress from the 1960’s-90’s. This is a very cool “lecture-demonstration,” where Joe talks about the Archive of Folk Song/Culture, plays great examples from its collection and also plays and sings some of his favorite tunes from the Archive.
Got more stuff in the can waiting to come out, plus I’ve been making some great recordings as I’m traveling around, so look out for more great stuff here on Down Home Radio!
Joe Hickerson’s appearance at Jalopy was sponsored by:
Joe Hickerson records Mississippi John Hurt for the Library of Congress, 1960’s.
Robert Winslow Gordon, first head of the Archive, with wax cylinder recordings and recording equipment, about 1930. Library of Congress Photo.
While on tour in early August, my old-time string band The Dust Busters made our first radio appearance. Here we are on Mike Kelsey’s program on WFHB 98.1FM, community radio in Bloomington, IN. We play live, talk with Mike and promote the show we played in Bloomington that night. It was a great tour! Met a lot of really great people (many thanks to all those that put us up, fed us and helped us out along the way), played a lot of music and got quality time in the car!