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The Year of Ward Jarvis

Ward Jarvis at his home in Athens County,
Ohio, c. 1977. (Source: Slippery-Hill)
As mentioned last time around, my new focus for old-time music is the Ohio River Valley, primarily Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia. Musicians such as Ed Haley, John Salyer, Burl Hammons and many others. As an Ohio boy, born and raised, my natural inclination is to start with some Ohio fiddlers, like Lonnie Seymour, Arnold Sharp, Jimmy Wheeler and Jeff Goehring. But first up is Ward Jarvis.

Jarvis was born in West Virginia in 1894 and is said to have been influenced by Ed Haley. Jarvis then moved to Ohio for work in the 1940s, settling in Athens County. He was recorded by a few different people, including Jeff Goehring, Davis Brose and Ray Alden. His music appears on a release of Goehring's tapes by Field Recorders' Collective (FRC402), two LPs produced by Brose, "Traditional Music From Central Ohio" and "Rats Won't Stay Where There's Music," and one produced by Alden, "Visits."

My goal for the next year is to track down copies of those last three albums and other available recordings.

Jarvis died in 1982 and served as a mentor to more than a few old-time musicians still active today. He is the main source for tunes such as "Icy Mountain" and "Banjo Tramp." He provided an old-time rendition of Tommy Jackson's "Tomahawk."

For my purposes, I've decided to focus on six tunes to learn this year, as I try to pick up a little of the magic in Jarvis's fiddling. They are:

  1. Head of the Creek
  2. Three Forks of Reedy
  3. Pretty Little Indian
  4. Cattle in the Cane
  5. Icy Mountain
  6. Tomahawk
I'll be using the FRC album as my main source, working with slowdown software for all of the tunes and getting help from the Milliner-Koken book where possible. Anyone with additional resources, please chime in down below in the comments. I'd love to hear from fellow Jarvis fans.

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