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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Reminder: No Show Saturday, October 3rd

Larry Flint and The Road Scholars at Sallie O’Brien’s, 19Apr15

Hillbilly at Harvard is making room for WHRB’s 75th Anniversary celebrations tomorrow.  See HERE for details.  Get out and hear some live music—as Ol’ Sinc used to say, “You owe it to yourself!” (see the Country Calendar page). Back on the 10th!  /CL

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HAH Featured in Harvard Magazine Article on WHRB

HARVxCV1x0915_1xHarvard Magazine, which is circulated to an astonishing 240,000 alumni, faculty, and staff of Harvard University (Wikipedia), in its Alumni section for September-October 2015 (Vol. 118, No. 1) featured an article by Craig A. Lambert on WHRB (pp. 63-7).  The article, entitled “A Broadcast Cornucopia,” focused on WHRB’s history and principal music departments (Classical, Jazz, Rock—nothing about its once-prominent News and still excellent Sports Departments), but notably for us, gave prominent attention to Hillbilly at Harvard:

In 1948, Dwight Benton Minnich ’51 (“Pappy Ben” on air) launched Barn Howl on WHRV (the AM predecessor of WHRB-FM), feeding the appetite for country music shared by many Southern World War II veterans at Harvard. His early effort evolved into the longest-running, most highly regarded country/bluegrass program on Boston radio, Hillbilly at Harvard, a Saturday morning fixture now hosted by Lynn Joiner ’61 (“Cousin Lynn”).

Joiner arrived at WHRB as folk music was taking off in 1959 and came to host the weekly Balladeers program—one night featuring a local teenager named Joan Baez. “We may have been the first to air her,” he says. Typifying the playlist, he says, are artists like “the Stanley Brothers [a bluegrass group, floruit 1946-66] and George Jones, the greatest singer in the history of country music,” Joiner adds, “with the possible exception of Hank Williams.” Joiner co-hosted with Brian Sinclair ’62 (“Ol’ Sinc”) from 1976 until Sinclair’s death in 2002. Their formula was one bluegrass, old-timey, or Cajun cut for every two country numbers. “Now it’s just me,” Joiner says.

He has carried on with gusto plus input from a loyal, knowledgeable audience. Hillbilly promotes local concerts and often brings in musicians for live interviews and performances. Joiner plays contemporary country artists, but doesn’t do “pop country” with its lush arrangements, sticking to the fiddles rather than the violins. In 2014, the International Bluegrass Music Association gave Hillbilly its Distinguished Achievement Award, its highest honor outside Hall of Fame induction. . .

Considering that HAH occupies a lonely four hours of Saturday-morning air time, and is at this point a historical legacy of WHRB’s past, rather than an integral part of its current programming, it was a distinct honor to get so much ink from Mr. Lambert.  Certainly listeners who continue to enjoy the show will be grateful to WHRB for faithfully providing a home for this fixture (Craig Lambert’s term) of country and bluegrass on Saturday mornings.

The whole article is HERE. /CL

PS Correction: I never hosted Balladeers; I was the Producer.  Hosts included Bill Wood, Alan Katz, and Tom Rush (who of course went on to an illustrious performing career).

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Howdy Old Soldiers!

Soldiers Home

The Soldiers Home in Chelsea (photo from, HERE. © infoUSA.)

A week ago Saturday I received this delightful e-pistle:

From: Debbie [email deleted]


Sent: Saturday, September 5, 2015 12:18 PM

Subject: Thank you

I am a second generation fan of your Saturday broadcasts. My father, a devoted and looong time listener, is 97 years old and is a patient at the Chelsea Soldiers Home 2 Center. One of my dad’s nurses, Jeff , often plays your station for my Dad. You wouldn’t believe how many of the “guys,” all Veterans, will gather at his bed and listen. Many seem disconnected and unaware of much UNTIL Hillbilly at Harvard broadcasts!! I feel I’m with my Dad in our kitchen listening with him when I listen in as well.
I have been concerned for the health of Cousin Lynn over the last couple of months and so happy that you are playing prerecorded shows. I hope this stalwart effluvianado of Bluegrass is well and that you keep the beat going. We love you all and your show lights up the day of the staff and Veterans at Chelsea Soldiers Home 2 Center! Thank you for everything.
Sincerely, Debbie O’Connor, daughter of Walter Edmonds.

To which I responded,

Howdy Debby–
Many thanks for your heart-warming note.  I am glad to report that I am well, but had to spend some time away from the show to help clean out my parents’ house so that it can be sold (my mother passed away this spring at the age of 101).  I’ll be back next Saturday.
I can’t tell you how gratified I am that many of our veterans are gathering in your father’s room at the Old Soldiers’ Home to listen to Hillbilly at Harvard.  I know we have had listeners there for many years (a gentleman named Bill Hughes used to write often with requests), but it is wonderful to have your first-hand account.  Let me know of some of your father’s favorite songs, and I’ll try to work them into the show in weeks to come.
With all best wishes for you, your family, your father, and the guys in Chelsea,
/Lynn Joiner

And I asked her for permission to reprint her letter here.  It was gratifying to get her assent:

I am thrilled to receive your wonderful reply to my email! I would be honored for you to publish my letter.
Your show this morning is exceptional and I called the Chelsea Soldiers Home  2 Center, to tune in for Dad, staff and guys! Just returned from errands so looking forward to rest of show, hopefully.
My Dad’s favorites include anything Hank Williams (especially Honky Tonk Blues, Jambalaya, Cheating Heart.  Lonesome Whistle?  He loved also Lefty Frizzell, Hank Snow, Tex Ritter.  The songs “Found Her Little Footprints in the Snow,” Little Jimmy Brown?  Something about a chapel ????
You’d be heartbroken to know how many precious 78 records my dad tossed years ago!!! A treasure trove I would’ve been happy to give you. :(
All the best in this time of loss and transition.
Thank you again!
Debbie O’Connor

I can’t tell you how rewarding it is to hear from listeners who enjoy the show, and it is especially gratifying to know that many of our elder veterans like to listen.  I’ll make an effort to feature more of the older country classics for them.  Of course there are others who like more bluegrass, and still others who need a does of Sturgill Simpson; the watchword is always a mix of old and new, familiar and unfamiliar—but always leaves on the tree nourished by country roots.

As for the 78s, Debbie: At WHRB we have not had turntables that play 78s for some years now.  I don’t even have one here at home, and I fact I left my father’s in Maryland last week, after finding that the 78 cartridge was missing.  We donated a heavy pile of 78-rpm classical albums to the Friends of the Montgomery County Library Store (they actually take them!).  The 78-rpm singles that WHRB had many decades ago, when I was an undergraduate, have disappeared. Some, I regret to say, were used as Frisbees; some ended up in Ol’ Sinc’s mother’s house; others with Pappy Ben in California.  Fortunately, most of them were popular recordings, so most of the songs have been reissued on LP and CD over the years.

Note: I touched up a few of Debbie’s hasty Internet typos, like lower-case ‘i’.  I am a little puzzled by what seems to be a new word: ‘effluvianado’.  ‘Effluvium’ generally refers to an unpleasant emission of some sort, but since we know Debbie meant it only positively, I will take it to mean ‘scintillating purveyor’.  Perhaps I should add it to my business card: ‘Bluegrass Effluvianado Par Excellence’.

Thanks, Debbie, for the terrific feedback.  /CL

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The Fall Football Chopping Block—and Pre-emption for the 75th Birthday of WHRB

Harvard AthleticsEvery fall Hillbilly at Harvard suffers some curtailment because of Harvard football.  This year there are three night games (two on Fridays), and two mid-afternoon games (including The Game at Yale!) so only five shows will be affected: see below.  For late risers and those of you in earlier time zones, remember that you can record HAH and listen whenever you like.  That goes for all of you, of course; see HERE.

Football Airtimes 2015

* Sat 19Sep:  at Rhode Island— Pre-game 12:30 pm, game 1:00 pm
(HAH ends at 12:30)

* Sat 26Sep:  vs. Brown—Night game; Pre-game 6:30 pm, game 7:00 pm
(No effect on HAH)

* Fri 2Oct:  vs. Georgetown— Night game; Pre-game 6:30 pm, game 7:00 pm
(No effect on HAH—but we’re pre-empted on the 3rd; see below)

* Sat 10Oct:  at Cornell —Pre-game at 11:00 am, game at 11:30 pm
(HAH ends at 11:00 am)

* Sat 17Oct:  at Lafayette—Pre-game at 3:00 pm, game at 3:30 pm
(No effect on HAH)

* Sat 24Oct:  vs. Princeton—Pre-game at 11:30 pm, game at 12 noon
(HAH ends at 11:30 am)

* Fri 30Nov:  vs. Dartmouth—Night game; Pre-game at 7:00 pm, game at 7:30 pm
(No effect on HAH)

* Sat 7Nov:  at Columbia—Pre-game at 12:30 pm, game at 1:00 pm
(HAH ends at 12:30 pm)

* Sat 14Nov:  vs. Penn—Pre-game at 11:30 pm, game at 12 noon
(HAH ends at 11:30 pm)

* Sat 21Nov:  at Yale—(132nd playing of The Game)
Pre-game (1 hour long) starts at 1:30 pm, game at 2:30 pm
(No effect on HAH)

whrb_logoFootball aside, on Saturday October 3rd, WHRB will be in the throes of celebrating its 75th Anniversary, and as part of those celebrations WHRB alumni will gather to spend the morning  reminiscing on-air about their experiences at the station as undergraduates.  Hillbilly at Harvard will be pre-empted, and country music will be in short supply, but some long-time listeners to HAH and other WHRB programming may enjoy listening in to conversation about WHRB, stemming from the days when it was a closed-circuit campus AM station, then a metro-Boston FM outlet, to its presence today on the World Wide Web.

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Off 29Aug and 5Sep, but We Have a Surprise—Ol’ Sinc!

Dr Janie and I have to go down to Maryland to help clear everything out of my parents’ home, now that both my father and mother are gone.  My mother survived only three months past her 101st birthday (see HERE for the 100th), and none of her three sons can take over the house and property (10 acres in Montgomery County), so they must be sold (see HERE for a photo of the house).

We’ll be airing what I call Generic Hours on Saturday August 29th, and again on Saturday September 5th—but, for the first time, we’re going to air two GHs that I recorded with my friend and colleague, Ol’ Sinc (Brian Sinclair).  I’m not sure of the dates; it was probably in 2000.  Sinc had (and has) a lot of fans in the Hillbilly listening audience, and even if you’re a newbie (by HAH standards), you’ll enjoy hearing some of Sinc’s razor-sharp wit and memorable quips.

Ol' Sinc and Danni Leigh at some local club (date and photographer unknown).

Ol’ Sinc and Danni Leigh at some local club (date and photographer unknown).

We’ll probably have one hour in the 11:00 AM slot on each Saturday.  Circle those two dates on your calendar, and if you’re not going to be near your radio (or computer, or iPhone), see HERE for instructions how to record HAH on your Mac or PC.

In honor of the photo of Sinc and Danni Leigh (who was clearly too country for ‘country’ radio), here’s one of the tracks we liked to play—should pull it out again!  /CL

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HA’pennings: Bruce Millard and Wayworn Travelers Coming By

Wayworn TravelersOld friend Bruce Millard (Hokum’s Heroes) has put together a new band focusing on music of The Carter Family.  They’re playing at Club Passim Thursday, 6Aug15.  Bruce will be bringing some members of the band to HAH this Saturday (1Aug15), about noon.  I’m looking forward to hearing them.  Bruce is long an exponent of old-time country, blues, and the roots we love, so I expect good things.

The impressionistic photo of the band (above) is neat; details in the picture below (is that Lowell House?)/CL

Wayworn Travelers showUPDATE: That was a fun, impromptu session, with Bruce sitting next to me, Elijah perched on the countertop behind with an autoharp (the first on WHRB?), and Anita somehow squeezed between Bruce and the counter.  Despite the small space and the overly-warm studio, they sounded great, and I heard compliments about Anita’s clear, delightful vocals.  Hope they keep gigging, and hope they come back to HAH soon. /CL

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In Maryland This Week: Pre-recorded Show

FYI, I took Amtrak Northeast Regional No. 93 to DC on Wednesday, in order to help with the melancholy task of inventorying the decades of stuff in my parents’ home.  Won’t be back in time for the show Saturday, so enjoy some pre-recorded Generic Hours.  You may not have heard them all before.  I’ll be back next week.

In the meantime, here’s a bonus photo, from an earlier trip:


On the Northeast Corridor, looking south toward the Hell Gate Bridge, and New York City, 20Jan14 (Photo copyright © L. E. Joiner).

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HA’pennings: “The Kelley Gibson Story” (Kickstarter Project)

Received this note from Ken Irwin (co-founder of Rounder Records) Thursday to WZBC’s Cousin Kate and me with news about a film documentary on Eric Gibson‘s son Kelley (Eric is of course half of The Gibson Brothers):

Dear Friends,

My apologies if you’ve already seen this inspiring clip about Kelley Gibson, Eric Gibson’s (of the Gibson Brothers) son, who is autistic and is also a very talented musician.

Anyway, the clip tells the tale, and a director has stepped up, who would like to do a documentary about Kelley.

Click HERE to get to the website and play the video clip.

Click HERE to get to the website and play the video clip.

The link to the Kickstarter campaign is below, in case you’d like to contribute and spread the word.  There are only 10 days remaining [ends Sunday, July 5th, at 5 PM EDT].  I don’t know if it’s possible to spread the word on the air but thought it was worth sending along as I know you both run into a lot of people who would have an interest.

I think it’s a really worthwhile cause and the end result, the documentary, should be really interesting and inspiring.

Having met Kelley at a festival last summer, and watching him interact with others and jam with other musicians, I was very impressed and very moved.

Again, sorry if you are already aware of this campaign, and if I’m just being redundant.  Wouldn’t be the first time!



Click HERE for the short video and information about the Kickstarter project.  Ken says to add Marian Leighton Levy‘s name (also Rounder co-founder) as well.  I’ll mention it on the air. Remember, the deadline is July 5th. /CL

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Tex Logan (1927–2015) — Part II

Part I is HERE.

Levels: 28, 1.25, 255; output 245 Unsharp mask: 135, 1.5, 15 Brt -8 (or more); Con +3 Full frame

Tex Logan and Everett Lilly at the Newport Folk Festival, 1965. Copyright © John Byrne Cooke, used by permission.

It was Tex Logan‘s association with Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper that led him to Bill Monroe in 1951, and the recording of his song, now a bluegrass and country standard, “Christmas Time’s A-Comin’.”  Richard Thompson, in his Bluegrass Today remembrance, describes it:

. . . That summer, his draft into military service imminent, [Tex] Logan spent the summer working with Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper once more.  His last show with the Coopers was in October 1951 at a coliseum in Baltimore. Also on the bill were Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys, Flatt & Scruggs, Cowboy Copas and Wayne Raney.

An admirer of Bill Monroe’s, Logan now had an opportunity to meet and talk with Monroe. While working with the Lilly Brothers, Logan had written a Christmas song, his signature song Christmas Time’s A-Comin’, with Monroe in mind. With the help of Buck Graves, Logan played and sang the song for Monroe, who agreed to record it.

Later Logan taught Monroe the song and arrangements were made for Logan to play the fiddle on the cut. Unfortunately, due to automobile trouble, Logan was unable to get to Nashville in time for the recording session. Later Monroe played the recording during a telephone call to Logan, who approved the performance.

The session at the Castle Studio, 28Oct51, in the Tulane Hotel in Nashvile featured Bill (lead and mandolin), Edd Mayfield on guitar and harmony, James Bowers on banjo, Shorty Sheenan on bass, Owen Bradley on vibes, and Gordon Terry playing the fiddle.  Here’s the Decca record:

Frank Lane later recounted that he and Pete first played the song with Tex when “woodsheddin'” at home, before Bill Monroe; much later, in the 1980s, they recorded it privately with Tex at Frank Lane’s studio in Florida.

Tex got his MSc from MIT in 1956, and then went to work for Bell Labs in New Jersey.  He worked toward a PhD at Columbia at night, and received it in 1965.  At Bell Labs he was ‘Ben’, where (to quote the obituary by Daniel E. Slotnik in The New York Times)

As an engineer and mathematician, Dr. Logan patented a device that reduced echoes over telephone lines with his Bell Labs colleague John Kelly and, with the mathematician Lawrence Shepp, devised mathematical methods to interpret CT scan data into accurate images. His studies helped make it possible for chemists and astronomers to draw accurate interpretations from incomplete data.

Dr. David Donoho, a professor of statistics at Stanford University, said that Dr. Logan’s two careers were not as incongruous as they seemed. In an interview on Friday he described Dr. Logan’s scientific studies as attempts to break signals into their simplest parts and his music as creating complex sounds out of simple notes.

“His day job was analysis,” Dr. Donoho said. “His night job was synthesis.”

Tex-Bell nwsltr

Bell Labs Newsletter, 1966; from left: Bill Monroe, Tex Logan, Mike Seeger, Winnie Winston (?). From the Jim Moss Official Bluegrass and Swing Music Magazine, for April 2008.  — Caption reads: “This was provided by Tex Logan’s daughter, Laura (Bitsy) Logan.  She says that Tex does not play much fiddle these days, but that he was playing with Peter Rowan in the 80’s.”

Tex’s musical sideline even made the Bell Labs Newsletter in 1966 (see right), which concludes with Ben saying, “Music leaves a door open for you into another world—to escape from math and engineering once in a while.”

He never stopped playing.  In 1959 he sat in with Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper at Sunset Park in West Grove, PA, where he met Mike Seeger, and later that year recorded “Katy Hill” and “Natchez Under the Hill” for Mountain Music Bluegrass Style on Folkways.  The connection with Mike and The New Lost City Ramblers led to the Newport Folk Festival in 1963, and again with The Lilly Brothers and Don Stover in 1965.  Record producer Paul Rothchild recruited Tex to record with The Charles River Valley Boys for their second Prestige LP.

Fred Bartenstein, who later came to Cambridge, worked with Nancy Talbott and the Boston Area Friends of Bluegrass and Old-Time Country Music, and as ‘Hillbilly Fred’ co-hosted Hillbilly at Harvard for a time, grew up near Tex Logan and in his teens got to know him well; in a remembrance in Bluegrass Today, Fred recounts:

As I was then too young to drive, Tex took me along on a number of his bluegrass road trips, including Carter Stanley’s Memorial Concert in early 1967 at the University of Maryland, and Bill Monroe’s first Bean Blossom festival later that year. On those trips, I revelled in Tex’s stories of the early days of country music and the people he knew or had played with (those mentioned above plus Hawkshaw Hawkins, the Lane Brothers, Pete Cassell, and Bill Monroe). I think Tex Logan was Bill Monroe’s closest friend, and the only person I ever saw who could push Bill into a different (usually quicker) tempo. . .

Besides Fred’s memories, the Bluegrass Today article “Tex Logan Remembered” also features remembrances from Everett Lilly, Jr., who recounts some of his encounters with Tex, including a Lilly Brothers trip to Japan in 1978; from Peter Rowan, with whom Tex played occasionally after Pete’s stint with Bill Monroe; and from Bluegrass Boy Doug Hutchens.

Tex also played in 1969 at the Camp Springs Festival in Reidsville, NC, where Carlton Haney presented a marathon History of Bluegrass, focusing on Bill Monroe; Carlton brought one famous picker after another on stage to play with Bill, including Tex Logan.  Looking for live cuts featuring Tex, I came across a series of recordings from that festival, hosted by Fred Robbins on his website, HERE.  The audio of the first tape is poor, but 2 and 3 are eminently listenable, and an extraordinary record:

Story of BG, Camp Springs,  part 2
Story of BG, Camp Springs, part 3

Each page displays the list of songs and performers, so go there and be prepared to spend some time.

Tex and Bill Monroe had a long association, focusing on Tex’s famous barbecue parties at his home in Madison, New Jersey, and at Bill’s Bean Blossom Festival, as Richard Thompson describes:

Logan was renowned for his wonderful parties, although lesser known was the fact that he was a great cook. His barbecue parties at his rather grand Madison, New Jersey, home were in honor of Bill Monroe and were attended by many other professional bluegrass musicians as well as some fans.

Julian ‘Winnie’ Winston described them thus ….

“When the food was well on its way to being digested, and night began to fall, everyone went inside to his spacious den, where they were treated to an hour-long show by Bill Monroe and his whole band. As the hour drew to a close, Bill often called others up to play, and the playing continued until daybreak.”

Logan developed a friendship with Bill Monroe and the Father of Bluegrass Music invited him to bring his barbecue to cook at Monroe’s June Bean Blossom festival. For nine years starting in 1969 Logan oversaw the Barbecue Bean Day, when he dished up a free meal of beans, onions and bread for the patrons.

He played the fiddle at the festival with any band that was happy to have him on board and, often he had his own show backed by the Blue Grass Boys.

Here are Tex and Bill playing “Katy Hill” together at Bean Blossom:

Finally, Jim Rooney has graciously given me permission to reprint a remembrance of Tex that he posted in one of his Facebook pages:

I first laid eyes on Tex in 1953. It was in the studios of WCOP in Boson. My buddy Dick Curley and I had found our way in to the radio station after hearing The Confederate Mountaineers (Everett & Bea Lilly, Don Stover & Tex) on their daily radio broadcasts and deciding that we wanted to see them in person. Tex cut quite a figure, tall and handsome in a Clark Gable sort of way, and very physical as he moved in on the mike with his fiddle. When he played, he put everything he had into it. I’d never heard anything like it before—or since. I wouldn’t have known it then, but I was witnessing a totally original musician. The one and only Tex Logan.

In the weeks following I saw Tex several times on the Hayloft Jamboree shows at Symphony Hall or, most memorably, on the night of my brother John’s graduation from Harvard, at a joint called the Mohawk Ranch on the corner of Dartmouth Street and Columbus Avenue in Boston. Even in a place like this, Tex would give you something to remember him by. It was a sound that would get in your head and stay there.

In subsequent years I saw Tex when he sat in with Bill Monroe in New York in late 1962 and later in 1964 in Boston. At a party after Monroe’s concert in Boston Tex jammed all night with Joe Val, Peter Rowan and myself. Tex wouldn’t stop. He kept going. He wouldn’t let his fiddle go. It possessed him.

Over the years we became friends. Tex and his daughter Jody came to Bill Monroe’s festival at Beanblossom, Indiana, every year. Whenever Bill Monroe was in the New York area, Tex would have a big party for Bill at his house in Madison, NJ. Tex would take a couple of days off from work (from the Bell Labs where he was dreaming up communications gadgets which would change our lives). He would put on a white lab coat and spend two days cooking up Texas barbecue. A couple of hundred people would come—musicians from all over the Northeast, co-workers at Bell—and after we all ate, the music would start. Tex had a big Tudor-style house with a big room in the middle just right for music. He’d have a sound system set up, and off we’d go. The whole point of the night was to stay up until dawn with Tex and Bill Monroe. It was a “take no prisoners” situation. I think that those times were what Tex lived for. He had to go to the limit.

For about 10 years I had my 50th birthday party at the Station Inn. One year Tex and Jody were in town and I invited them to come on. To my great surprise they did come down, bringing Bill Monroe with them. Needless to say, that might have been my best birthday present ever! But Tex did something I’ll never forget. He asked if he could use the telephone and called his wife Peggy up and held the telephone up the entire time so she could hear our set with Bill Monroe! Only Tex Logan would have done that.

In the early ’80s Bill Keith, Peter Rowan and I did some tours in Italy. We especially loved playing in Naples where the people are very warm and demonstrative. One night we were talking and it occurred to us that the Neapolitans would really take to Tex and his playing. The more we thought about it, the more we liked it, so we called Tex up and invited him to come with us for our next visit to Naples. We played in a big tent which held about 1500 people. From the moment Tex started to play they were on their feet, whistling, yelling. Tex’s music was their music—from the heart, from deep down inside.

Tex Logan, Peter rowan, Bill Keith in Naples

From left: Tex Logan, Peter Rowan, Bill Keith in Naples, c. 1981. Photo by Dino Luglio. From Jim Rooney; used by permission.

The last time that I saw Tex was at his 85th birthday party organized by Jody. It was a wonderful night of music, but the highlight for me was when Tex got up and played “Sally Goodin” for about twenty minutes. He took his time getting up. As always, he was dressed impeccably—hat on at just the right angle, pants with a crease you could cut butter with, boots shined. He fussed with his fiddle, fussed with his amp, started playing, making faces because it didn’t sound right, then he leaned into it, he bore down, and never let it go. There it was. That sound. That Tex Logan sound. Cross tunings like nobody else had. He pushed it. He pulled it. He finally let it go. That was it for me. Nearly 60 years earlier I had first heard that sound. It pulled me into the path I have followed ever since. Thanks, Tex.

P.S. I’m supposed to say, “Rest in Peace.” but that wasn’t Tex’s style. He was full of energy and restlessness. Always reaching. But he’s got lots of time and space to move around in now–to keep reaching for that sound he always heard in his head.

Much love to Jody—a better daughter no father ever had.

—Jim Rooney

On April 24th, this note from Jody Logan was posted on a Folk, Bluegrass & Traditional Music page:

RIP Dad passed away peacefully just 30 minutes ago in my arms. I was singing “Wayfaring Stranger” and told him to let himself go and cross over … I am at hospital hugging him one last time … I will make funeral arrangements later I was blessed for 58 years I will always be your little girl.

On June 20th, 1966, at Tex Logan’s home in Madison, NJ, Bill Monroe along with Peter Rowan sang the “Wayfaring Stranger,” a memorable performance which fortunately has been preserved.  The whole concert is on YouTube, HERE.  It’s about an hour and a quarter; click ‘More’ and you’ll see a list of songs; “Wayfaring Stranger” is number 13, about 46:50 into the recording.  It has also been released on a Smithsonian Folkways CD, Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys: Live Recordings 1956–1969; Off the Record Volume 1 (SF CD 40063).  The recording features Peter Rowan on guitar, Don Lineburger on banjo, James Monroe on bass, Gene Lowinger, Tex Logan, and Richard Greene on fiddles.  /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:; 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 [see correction below] (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.


UPDATE 2: Fred Bartenstein writes to say that Wilma Lee Cooper is not in the IBMA Bluegrass Hall of Fame.  My mistake; her obituary in The New York Times says, “In 1994 the International Bluegrass Music Association presented Ms. Cooper with its Award of Merit.”  Says Fred, “I should know.  I co-wrote the book.”  The book is: Fred Bartenstein, Gary Reid, and others: The Bluegrass Hall of Fame: Inductee Biographies 1991–2014.  You can buy it from Fred’s website, HERE.

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