Comments? Suggestions? Requests? Use the Paper and Pen Open Page!

Have requests?  Comments?  Suggestions?  Now you can post them here on the new Paper and Pen page.  To comment on the Pen and Paper page, go to that page (click on the Pen and Paper menu heading, below the picture of the studio at top), scroll down to the end of the Comments, and add yours.  Newest comments are always at the bottom.

You can, of course, also post relevant comments under any individual post./CL

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Tex Logan (1927–2015) — Part I

The Confederate Mountaineers

The Confederate Mountaineers (from left: Everett Lilly, B Lilly, Tex Logan, Don Stover). Courtesy of Jim Rooney (from Peggy and Tex Logan).

Listeners to Hillbilly at Harvard over the years will have heard the name Tex Logan from time to time, not only when we played the familiar fiddle tunes “Katy Hill” and “Natchez Under the Hill” from the—what was a word we used before ‘iconic’ became fashionable? ‘landmark’, maybe—Mountain Music Bluegrass Style, the rough-hewn Folkways album that Mike Seeger produced back in 1959, but also when we talked about The Lilly Brothers’ long domicile at the Hillbilly Ranch in Park Square.  Why?  Because Tex talked them into coming to Boston.

Neither Ol’ Sinc or I ever met Tex, nor even heard him play in person.  He was the stuff of local legend or rumor: a fiddler who somehow combined music with a brief sojourn at MIT and then disappeared, like many amateur musicians with ‘real’ careers.  Except he was no amateur.  True, he had no hit records, not even a few singles to titillate collectors, and over the years could well be said to have accomplished more as electrical engineer and mathematician, yet he was a country musician through and through, and a professional to boot.

For the details and the quotes below, I have borrowed from Richard Thompson’s excellent remembrance in Bluegrass Today.

Benjamin Franklin ‘Tex’ Logan came from Coahoma, Texas.  His father played the fiddle; Tex gave up for a while and played the trumpet until high school, but

. . . Then one day he had a dawning realization that the secret to fiddling was having rhythm in the bow. So he retrieved his fiddle and persevered until, “I could kind of play Arkansas Traveller. That’s how I got going pretty good,” Logan once recalled of the event.

Logan then bought some used records from a juke-box supplier in neighboring Big Spring. Among them was the Bill Monroe recording of Katy Hill, featuring the super-charged fiddling of Tommy Magness. Logan’s excited response led to his younger brother Homer playing the record to waken Tex each school-day morning.

From then on there was a constant tug-of-war between his academic pursuits and playing music.  Tex graduated from Texas Tech University, but even before heading east to MIT for a research assistantship, he spent the summer of 1946 playing with Hoyle Nix’s western swing band.  At MIT he played square dances on the side, and with a 12-string guitarist named Dick Best, got on WMEX radio, where local favorites Jerry (Howorth) and Sky (Snow) heard him and invited him to join them.  Jerry and Sky disbanded in 1948; Tex went back to Texas, and then to country-music radio hotspot Wheeling, West Virginia, where he worked with Red Belcher and the Kentucky Ridge Runners, which included Everett and Mitchell B. Lilly,* and with the Coal River Valley Boys, featuring Don Stover.

Here’s a tune called “Dewdrops” [correction: not “Coleman’s March”; commenter Terry McGill points out that the YouTube uploader got the wrong side of the 78; maybe the labels reversed?] from Red Belcher (banjo) with Tex Logan on the fiddle on Page Records (Johnstown, PA; thanks to a discographic blog by Dick Grant: http://countrydiscoghraphy2.blogspot.com/2014/03/red-belcher-by-dick-grant.html; and thanks to an anonymous someone called ‘scootersage’ for uploading this old 78-rpm record to YouTube):

After a brief stint with Hawkshaw Hawkins (and someone called Big Slim, the Lone Cowboy [identified as Harry C. McAuliffe, by commenter Steve Bartlett]) Tex returned to MIT in 1949, and from then on it was fiddling on the side in Boston, with Frank and Pete Lane (The Lane Brothers), on WCOP radio’s fondly-remembered “Hayloft Jamboree.” Much of the ‘country and western’ music in New England at the time was heavily skewed to the ‘western’ side.  When in 1950 The Lane Brothers were asked to headline a new club in Boston, Frank Lane said that they played in “a more hillbilly style.  He proposed the name Hillbilly Ranch as the name of the new club, and it stuck.” (Clifford R. Murphy, Yankee Twang, p. 66).

Tex was a student, so in the summers he was able to return to Wheeling, where he worked with the wonderful Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper and the Clinch Mountain Clan, already stars on the Wheeling Jamboree (and later on the Grand Old Opry).  He recorded 15 sides with them for Columbia Records, playing fiddle, piano, and harmonica.  Here’s one of those songs. “All on Account of  You”; Tex is playing harmonica—there’s a fiddle break, but I can’t tell if it’s Stoney or Tex playing:

(thanks to YouTube uploader ‘mrblindfreddy’)

The Hillbilly Ranch catered to sailors on shore leave, and offered steady work for musicians.  Tex had been playing with The Lane Brothers, so

When Frank Lane was drafted in military service, [Tex] Logan and Pete Lane went off to Raleigh, North Carolina, in search of Curly Seckler, a former Foggy Mountain Boy. They encountered Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs whose then mandolin player Everett Lilly indicated that he was thinking of re-joining his brother Bea and suggested that Logan might want to play with the Lilly brothers.

Unable to find Seckler and offer him a job with them, Logan and Lane returned to Boston. Shortly afterwards, Everett Lilly did quit playing with Flatt & Scruggs and he returned [sic—had he been up before?] to Massachusetts, whereupon Logan, the Lilly brothers, Pete Lane and Don Stover formed the Confederate Mountaineers, the first bluegrass band in Boston.

The band performed as many as seven nights a week at the Hillbilly Ranch and other clubs in the immediate area, and worked on the “Hayloft Jamboree.”

In the early ’50s, of course, ‘bluegrass’ was still associated mostly with Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys.  I have a vague recollection of B Lilly dissociating The Lilly Brothers from the term (and complaining that Bill stole “Mother’s Not Dead, She’s Only A-Sleepin'” from them), and of course Ralph Stanley has always insisted that he and Carter played ‘mountain music’, not ‘bluegrass’.  Then, too, Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper were a country and western band when Tex worked with them.  Only much later was Wilma Lee inducted into the IBMA’s Bluegrass Hall of Fame (and, regrettably, the Coopers are still not in the Country Music Hall of Fame).  But Everett had worked with Flatt and Scruggs, and Don Stover was becoming one of the leading—if unappreciated—practitioners of ‘Scruggs-style’ bluegrass banjo, so arguably they were “the first bluegrass band in Boston.”

In any case, Tex Logan, with the Lillys and Don Stover imitated The Bluegrass Boys.  They dressed up, says Jim Rooney in his memoir In It for the Long Run, in “riding pants, high boots, and Confederate officers’ hats,” and played the Hillbilly Ranch and on WCOP’s “Hayloft Jamboree.”  They were a huge influence on the young Jim Rooney, and long after Tex Logan left for New Jersey and Bell Labs, they were a magnet for country and bluegrass fans in the region, including of course a typewriter repairman from Waltham, Joseph Valenti, who became known as Joe Val.

Tex Logan died April 24, 2015.  We’ll hear from Rooney in the next installment. /CL

* Note: B Lilly’s  middle name was Burt.  His preferred handle was ‘B’, often spelled ‘Bea’.  But I remember someone asking him how it was spelled, and he said, “Just a big ol’ ‘B’.”  So that’s how I spell it.

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In Which I Get on Cable TV

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Cosmo and I in Studio BC

Cosmo Cavicchio is an engaging fellow who hosts a regular interview program called Cosmo’s Journal, on Billerica Access Television Tuesday evenings (replayed at other times).  He is also a bluegrass bass player, and works with Michelle Canning and her band Rough Edges, when Michelle is in town and performing.  The two of them were in the studio on March 14th, playing live and promoting Michelle’s benefit concert for the Alzheimer’s Foundation.  Afterward, Cosmo invited me up to Billerica for a interview.  I demurred, thinking to myself that driving up to Billerica at the end of the day was not going to be my idea of a fun evening.  So the resourceful Cosmo offered to come down to Cambridge on another Saturday morning, and record an interview in the studio.  How could I refuse?

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At the LP records shelves, talking about Joe Val.

Cosmo showed up with videographer (and long-time listener) Gerry Goss, and after the show we chatted ‘on tape’ for a while (it’s not tape any more, of course).  The interview will ‘air’ some Tuesday this month on BATV, available if you are on cable in Billerica.  But it’s also available by streaming over the Internet, whenever you want, wherever you are, via Video on Demand (VOD).

To watch the interview, just click below:

http://vp.telvue.com/player?id=T01248&video=236150&mini=true.

If that doesn’t work, just go HERE.  Wait a couple of minutes, and the video should load.  If it looks scrunched, you can click the ‘resize’ button, and change the screen; you can also make it full-screen.  The VOD page is at http://www.batvinc.org/vod.html

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Back to Maryland, This Time for a Funeral

In January of last year, I wrote about traveling to Maryland to celebrate my mother’s 100th birthday, HERE.

Unhappily, she died peacefully Monday night, not long after passing her 101st year.  She had been declining for the past few months, so it was not unexpected.

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The house on the Ednor Road that my mother and father built over several decades (Copyright © L. E. Joiner)

I will be away this Saturday, 2May, so the show will be pre-recorded.  /CL

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HA’ppenings: Terry Eagan’s 19th Annual Greater Waltham Healing Garden Music Fest

Here’s the flyer for this remarkable annual event, one of several over the years, and the 19th in Waltham, aimed at raising funds for Healing Gardens in hospitals.  It began with Waltham Hospital, where the first Healing Garden was named for Terry Eagan’s late wife Mary, then one at the Ottawa Regional Cancer Center (Ontario), and now for a Healing Garden at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge.

This year’s festival features a host of Canadian artists (The Lucky Sisters, Kelli Trottier, Paul Mills, as well as Rebecca Hosking and Scott Neubert from Nashville, and local artist Angela Simonelli).  It’s at The French Club in Waltham, Saturday the 25th, starting at 7:30.

39Here’s an article from 2009 with a photo of the Healing Garden in Waltham (click on the headline): Music festival helps a new healing garden bloom

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HA’ppenings: Dale Ann Bradley Coming to Town, Saturday the 25th!

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From Dale Ann Bradley’s Facebook page. Used by permission.

From Gerry Katz at the Boston Bluegrass Union:

BBU Presents Dale Ann Bradley in concert, Saturday, April 25th, Lexington, MA

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My Favorite Album of 2014. . . Was Released in 2010!

But I just discovered Richard Brandenburg this past fall.  I was listening to an album I got from a California artist named David Thom at the IBMA World of Bluegrass in Raleigh, a good album, which I enjoyed, but nothing surprising, until I came to a song called “My Way of Saying Goodbye.”  It was, on the face of it, a modest tale about chance encounter at a fireworks display, but it was a song that grabbed you by the collar and made you pay attention as it plumbed the depths of a lost love:

At the end of the summer I saw her
At the midway of the fair;
Stood on the hill for the fireworks;
She didn’t see me there.

For a moment she looked like a stranger,
Strolling so happy and free.
At the edge of her eyes was a remnant of pain
I knew had been caused by me. . .

Well, I was thinking of posting the whole lyric, but it’s not just a poem but a song, and it needs the soft, plaintive melody that harks back to a thousand old songs.  So you have to listen to find out what happens—or doesn’t.

I’ve found very little about Richard Brandenburg.  He lives in California, wears a cowboy hat sometimes, writes songs, and performs, his own and (judging from a couple of YouTube videos) old country songs.  The only recording I’ve found is this album from 2010 called Flickering Dreams.  He’s tied into the bluegrass community in California, and Kathy Kallick (guitar, vocals), Tony Marcus (fiddle), John Reischman (mandolin), and Matt Dudman (bass) join him on some of the songs.  Kathy produced the album.

Flickering Dreams is, to my ear, a country album, though the melodies remind me of old mountain bluegrass.  Richard sounds like a somewhat weary Lefty Frizell, with maybe a hint of Carter Stanley.  But Flickering Dreams is really a songwriter’s album; it’s the words that matter:

. . . if you don’t love me, I can’t change your heart,
And if you don’t want me, not much I can do;
Once together, forever apart,
Now I mean no part of nothin’ to you.
(“No Part of Nothing”)

They’re mostly about lost loves, old memories, and present regrets.  But there are familiar themes from old country songs, as in “Ashes and Dust,” where he returns to the old homestead:

. . . On the far side of this darkening valley,
Where the dogwood flowers cover the ground,
All the laughter and tears of my poor family’s years,
Fall and fade without making a sound.
(“Ashes and Dust”)

Transience becomes a repeated theme, as in “Mayflies”: “All that seems real, fast fades away.”  Even the rare upbeat “The Wave of the Past” is full of regret for home in Texas, as the singer haunts honky-tonks that play the “San Antonio Rose.”  A traditional-sounding bluegrass number that could have come right from the Stanleys in the ’60s, still bears an unmistakable Brandenburg melancholy:

I pretend to myself that your memory don’t haunt me,
I pretend to the world that I’m not constantly blue;
The best hours of my life were believing you want me,
I can’t bear to know it’ll never be true.
(“This Letter I Write”)

Indeed, a reflective sadness is the dominant mood of Richard Brandenburg’s writing.  Even the ostensibly comical “That Ain’t Gonna Happen Anymore” is tinged with regret:

Well I’m pretty sure I heard the stuff you had to say to me;
I oughta know, I used to hear you with great frequency.
But babe, we can’t make nothin’ better in the used-to-be
By shouting through the door—
That ain’t gonna happen anymore.

And it all comes back to another lost love.  In “If You Speak of Me” the singer imagines. . .

Some night, half-lit in the neon of some little bar,
You might hear some old song that reminds you of me.
Someone might think you look lonely, and ask if you are,
And you might turn and start talking, about what used to be. . .

He sings of riding “the trail” together, then “you rode off alone.”  So eventually, the song comes back to the bar,

And I wonder if you’ll speak of me well,
When the world you’re describing has faded away,
And become just some story you tell
In a dim little room to a stranger at the end of the day.

There’s more.  There’s a genuine train song, with yodeling (“Loving the Train”), but it too begins “We parted that night at the depot. . .”  It’s a sad song about “The train and that lonesome old whistle,” and the memories they bring.  But I guess it ends on a happy note, at least for train fans:

I get weary of the lonesome old whistle,
But I’ll never stop lovin’ the train.

I started this post a few months ago, and then put it aside.  I’ve been playing songs from Flickering Dreams on HAH for a while, but I knew that to write more I’d have to sit down and listen to the album all the way through.  You really have to pay attention to get the flavor of the writing, but the the way these songs draw you in can be emotionally draining; one at a time is enough.  That’s awfully high praise from a jaded old country DJ, who runs through new albums scrawling an X or a check by each song before moving on.

Addendum:

I was curious about the melodies, which seem so hauntingly familiar, yet somehow original.  In an interview with Rick Jamison, who hosts a blog called On Songwriting, Richard Brandenburg describes how the melody works itself into the song:

Rick:
When you write an original song, which tends to come first: the lyrics or the music?
Richard:
Well, they arrive at around the same time, though the words are usually first through the door.

Some evocative combination of words will resonate in my thoughts or feelings, and the potential song will have presented itself. I acknowledge it, I write something down, and from that point on it will clamor for my attention, waking or sleeping.

I have a couple of notebooks books full of such clamoring, unfinished songs with a few lines, or verses, or a chorus. And all with melodies; I can hardly write down words without hearing some sort of tune. I have no pages of lyrics waiting for a melody. It’s not mysterious at all. A melody will just emerge from how a spoken phrase sounds. It will change as the words do, and evolve through repetition, as the song develops. . .

As for the traditional feel of the songs, here’s a little more:

Rick:
Your songwriting is evocative of an earlier, simpler time rooted in early country, folk and honky-tonk styles. Tell me more about that.
Richard:
What I write evokes earlier styles because it’s not fundamentally different from them. I do listen primarily to “traditional” stuff, and respond in pretty much the same language, which has gone in and out of style commercially, but apart from a few idioms, not really changed. . .

Finally, for you songwriters out there:

Rick:
What are the top three songwriting tips you would offer to aspiring songwriters?
Richard:
1. Don’t pay too much attention to tips offered by people who write songs.

2. No, you won’t remember it: write it down.

3. Harlan Howard already wrote it.

The whole interview is HERE.  You can get a copy of  Flickering Dreams from CDBaby, HERE.

/CL

PS Here’s “Mayflies,” on KPFA:

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HA’ppenings: Wisewater Live on HAH, April 18th

I had never heard of Wisewater until I received an email from Kate Lee about promoting their upcoming area gigs on WHRB.  Kate described Wisewater as a “Nashville, TN-based contemporary folk trio”, at which point I was ready to turn the page (if there were pages in emails).  But then she went on,

The band consists of myself on vocals and fiddle, Harvard alum, Forrest O’Connor, on vocals and mandolin, and also Harvard alum, Jim Shirey, on guitar.  Wisewater has appeared several times this year on the Grand Ole Opry, and we’ve performed with artists like Emmylou Harris, Mary Gauthier, and Ricky Skaggs.  Forrest, son of legendary fiddler Mark O’Connor, is the Tennessee State mandolin champion.  I have performed on the CMA Shows for several years, and I’ve backed up artists such as Rod Stewart, Lady Antebellum, and Sara Evans on violin.

So I responded with a positive maybe—

Hillbilly at Harvard is not a folk show, but I hear some country in a couple of songs on your website (and in your resumes, of course!).  Let’s see how country you can get!

—to which Kate said,

How would Saturday April 18th in the morning sound? We could be in Cambridge then. And yes, country is definitely part of our sound.  A lot of the songs we do are ones I’ve cowritten with Pat Alger, a writer who has written country hits for Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Kathy Mattea, etc.

Which was good enough for me.  I don’t know Pat Alger personally, but he’s a colleague of our friend Jim Rooney, wrote “Small Town Saturday Night” for Hal Ketchum, and many other country songs.  From what I’ve heard, Wisewater is certainly straddling a wide divide between the folkie/Americana and the country/bluegrass worlds (see the videos on their website, here).  They’ll be visiting this Saturday between 10 AM and noon, so let’s see how far we can push them over to the country side. /CL

Wisewater has three local appearances; check ’em out!

• Thursday, April 16, 8 PM: At The Center for the Arts in Natick (14 Summer St.), opening for Suzy Bogguss (!)

• Sunday, April 19, 5 PM: At Club Passim in Cambridge (47 Palmer St.).

• Friday, April 25, 8:30 PM: At the Paradise Cafe in Dedham (565 High St.).

You can get tickets and more information from their website.

Here’s a live-performance sample, “Black Creek” (complete with a lot of audience noise):


UPDATE: Had a lot of fun chatting with the three members of Wisewater (not ‘Stillwater’, as I found myself calling them), and enjoyed their music.  Jim, as I hope you heard, arrived sans guitar (inadvertently), but made his presence invaluable by finding the Wisewater CD that I had misplaced in another jewel box.

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Flash! HAH Listeners Drive Stanley Book Sales!

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HA’pennings: Another BBU Jam’n Weekend April 10-12 at The Colonial Inn

From the BBU website:

Jam’n Coming Your Way!
The Boston Bluegrass Union is pleased to present
Spring Jam’n Weekend 2015
April 10-12, 2015
at the historic Colonial Inn in Concord,MA.
Jam all weekend long or attend instructor-led jams and free workshops (with your paid registration).

The Spring Jam’n Weekend will be dedicated to bluegrass!

All jammers welcome at any level, from beginner to advanced. You can pick around the clock within the beautiful historic spaces of the Colonial Inn. The Spring Jam’n Weekend will begin Friday at 5 pm with 24-hour jamming through Sunday at 1 pm.

There will also be workshops in banjo, fiddle, mandolin, singing, etc. for different levels and instructor-led Directed Slow Jams for beginners.

Click here to purchase a ticket and reserve your spot.

More on the Boston Bluegrass Union website.

PS HAH favorite Dale Ann Bradley coming April 25th.  More soon!  /CL

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Under the Weather. . .

Weather 2015-04-03 at 9.24.57 PM

From Intellicast

Alas, I am sidelined with yet another bout of what I suppose is ‘the common cold’, except it seems remarkably uncommon to me.  I am a terrible patient.  They say, treat a cold and you’ll get better in a week; don’t treat it, and you’ll get better in seven days.  Well, as I write, it’s Day Five, and I’m giving in and staying home.  Last October, I was struck with one of these malaises, but came in anyway, because I had been out for two weeks traveling to Raleigh and Virginia.  That was the most unpleasant show I can remember.  Not this time!

So no Country Calendar, but I’ll put a few more events on the blog: tell your friends and neighbors to join me here.

And yes, the radar map is right: it’s going to rain tomorrow.  The weather always comes from the West—except when it doesn’t.  That’s all the forecast you need. /CL

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