Old Time Music is Better than it Sounds . . . . . . (but sometimes it sounds pretty good . . . )
Old-time music was the old-time name for real mountain-type folk music and is the main foundation for bluegrass. It is the kind of music that Bill Monroe, Earl Scruggs, the Stanley Brothers and most rural people prior to the mid nineteen twenties were raised with. It nearly died out in the mid-20th century but has found new life and is being played, mostly informally, by people all over the country.
Before we had radio and phonographs, you had to make your own music or be real near to some one who did. And the fun wasn’t in just listening to the music, but participating in playing and dancing. Music wasn’t a profession, it was what you did when you got home from work sitting on your porch. (For more general information about old time music, click here and here.)
Squirrel Stew – Given that, the whole idea of an old-timey performance “band” may be counter to everything that old-timey stands for – mixed jams of acoustic instruments including players of all levels and backgrounds. Old-time music is fun to play, but to be honest, some jams are hard to listen to . . .
However, as our jam at a local bar got later and some players started to leave, the tempo picked up, the tunes got more complex, we could actually HEAR each other, and then, people started buying us drinks!!! So, we realized, hey, maybe some of this stuff sounds pretty good . . . .
We hope you think so too.
Why Squirrels? Nuts. . . .
A master clawhammer, classical and cluck banjo artiste, Bob is a raconteur in the classic old-timey style with a unique sense of humor. If he had lived in the 20’s he’d be blind and dead. Bob likens playing old-timey music to a flight of starlings. He noted that even though most have no idea where they are headed, they appear to be flying in unison. Bob almost never kicks off a song, unless we push him off a limb. We sometimes lay back in the middle of a tune and let him carry it. But as soon as he realizes that we did that, he starts flying into telephone poles and barns, so we take it back. Bob also channels Charlie Poole and sings vocals that appear to be emanating from a tube radio circa 1922.
Karl played classical violin for many years until one day he happened into an old-timey jam and discovered that he was really a fiddle player!!! It scared him out of his wits.
Karl usually calls the tunes; however, he often cannot recall how to play the one he just called. Sometimes he just plays another and hopes we don’t notice. At other times, you may see him close his eyes prior to kicking it off while scratching out some melody and trying to kick start the random access ipod that he had surgically implanted. This is not to be confused with when he, Charlie, and/or Bob close their eyes in the middle of a tune. This either means that they are: thoroughly engrossed in playing the tune, grimacing in pain, or fantasizing about the girl in the third row. In their spare time, Karl and Charlie hunt squirrels in south jersey. They can get to a pretty good size out there.
Charlie has played guitar for many years in many genres, but had no clue what old-timey music was until he happened into a jam and recognized the source of all the tunes he grew up with watching Saturday morning cartoons, Our Gang comedies, and old hillbilly and western movies. He took to playing old-timey just like a fish out of water. Luckily, the folks at the jam invited him back anyway. He “flat-picks” with a thumb pick and his own home-made fingerpicks. This may be considered unconventional, however, it is a little known fact that several old time guitarists actually played fingerstyle. He has adopted Bob’s starling philosophy, but not always as successfully. He also has a tendency to play tunes a bit faster and leans into them a bit more than many traditionalists might, but that keeps him awake when the fiddle and banjo players insist on playing in D all night. He also plays up the neck past the third fret, which is forbidden in many jams. Some (many) would say that he still has no clue what old-timey music is, but he suspects that neither do most others playing it.
George plays standup bass. He used to play accordion but he found that the bass was a lot easier to hide behind when people start throwing stuff at the band. He also assists Woody the Limberjack when Woody decides to clog a few steps.