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Slow Boat to the Beach: Eck Robertson's "Stumptown Stomp"

Maybe it's because I've been thinking of Spencer & Rains since my last post. Maybe it's just because I simply don't know many G tunes. But "Stumptown Stomp" has been on my mind recently.

"Stumptown Stomp" comes from the playing of Eck Robertson, who many consider to be the first commercial country musician. He first recorded for Victor in 1922, with "Sally Gooden" and "Arkansaw Traveler" being the first two sides released.

Between 1922 and 1930, Victor released a total of 16 sides of Robertson's fiddling. He wouldn't be recorded again until 1963, when Mike Seeger, John Cohen and Tracy Schwarz of the New Lost City Ramblers paid him a visit. Those recordings were later released in 1991 on County Records 202, Famous Cowboy Fiddler, which included Robertson's playing of "Stumptown Stomp."

The tune seemed to bubble to the surface in my local old-time circles after it was included on Spencer & Rains' 2…
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Vernon Spencer, Jim Shumate Albums Released by Field Recorders’ Collective

The Field Recorders’ Collective has announced two new releases for 2019. Vernon Spencer and Jim Shumate seem to represent opposite ends of the old-time spectrum. Spencer was a gas station operator from Big Springs, Kansas, who played in a family band. Shumate was a professional fiddler who played with the likes of Bill Monroe and Flatt & Scruggs in the early days of bluegrass.
These fiddlers, disparate though they may be, provide vital a link for today’s old-time enthusiasts. Spencer was the grandfather and main influence to one of today’s fiddling luminaries, Tricia Spencer, of Spencer & Rains. Shumate, on the other hand, exemplifies the blurred lines between old-time and early bluegrass with a fast, smooth style and repertoire filled with traditional fiddle tunes.

Vernon Spencer of Big Springs, Kansas (FRC726) features 39 tracks and includes two excellent album notes from his granddaughter that are available on the FRC website. One features detailed track notes, and the oth…

The Big 100: A New Best

Last week I had to go out of town for work. I couldn't take my banjo and fiddle, which meant I had to interrupt my daily playing streak.

As you may recall, I started tracking consecutive days playing last year as a way to stoke enthusiasm and boost my overall practice time. My longest streak was 86 days on banjo and 89 days on fiddle, and then I finished off 2018 with a 50-day streak.

I've been able to keep that streak going into 2019. It just so happens that my final day of playing before jumping on a jet to Texas was the 50th day of the year. It's nice to have a nice, round number as a new milestone.

I restarted my streak at the fourth annual Lake Erie Folk Festival. While I didn't participate in as much jamming as in past years, the event provided plenty of entertainment.

The Old-Time Banjo Summit delivered many amusing anecdotes from banjo luminaries Richie Stearns, Lukas Pool, Doug Unger and Mark Olitsky. I wish I would have taken my nice camera to document the wo…

Old-Time Banjo Summit at 2019 Lake Erie Folk Festival

The fourth annual Lake Erie Folk Festival is coming up this weekend, and there’s plenty to enjoy for us banjo nerds. 
First and foremost is the Old-Time Banjo Summit at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 23, featuring such five-string luminaries as Mark Olitsky, Doug Unger, Richie Stearns and Lukas Pool. These four banjo masters will compare their banjo playing styles.

Longtime readers of the Glory-Beaming Banjo may already be familiar with Olitsky, who was featured in a two-part feature on this site in 2011. Click the links to check out Part 1 and Part 2.

Unger is known for his brilliant banjo building, but he is also an accomplished player with a sparse style. I once heard him describe his style as a series of runs, and hearing that opened up my thinking on how to play in a jam when I don’t necessarily know the tunes.

Stearns is a virtuoso based in Ithaca, New York, known for his playing in the Horse Flies, the Evil City String Band and many others. Currently, he tours with fiddler Rosie N…

Remembering the Kent State Folk Festival, Part 2: A Highwoods Tale

Welcome back to our monthly series about the now-defunct Kent State Folk Festival. Click here if you missed the first installment. I was originally going to provide an early history of the festival this month, but figured I'd take a different approach and recall one specific year that was ... alarming.

I finally got around to reading Walt Koken's enjoyable memoir, Fire on the Mountain: An American Odyssey, published in 2017. Here's a quick review: It's a fast and interesting read, but he could have used a better editor. There were a number of spelling and grammar mistakes that, as a professional language-type, were hard for me to ignore. I suppose that's the challenge with self-published books. However, the stories about Koken's early days as a musician, the forming of the Highwoods Stringband and their rambling career provided great insights and plenty of entertainment. I have to thank Lynn Frederick for passing along the book to me. But let's get back to …