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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Researching Ohioan old time musicians

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Rizo - Posted - 11/13/2009:  09:34:23

I'm trying to do some research on old time musicians, both fiddle and banjo, both living and dead from Ohio. The trail has turned pretty cold so can anyone help me out with some names?

So far I've got our own Hilarie Burhans, the occational Ohioan Dan Levensen and Dan Gellert. As for deceased players, I've come up with Ward Jarvis who moved to Athens Co. from WV and Jimmy Sutton.


"We put a lot of effort into being like the old-timers, but they were just being themselves." - R.D. Lunceford

mralston - Posted - 11/13/2009:  09:51:19

Chris Wig...... don't know him, but he seems to be pretty traditional, may be a good source.

2004 -- Top-notch tunifying from east-central Ohio! 22 sets of tunes -- many from West Virginia and the late Melvin Wine's repertoire -- with Mark Olitsky on banjo and David Rice on harmonica .." from Elderly Instruments

Mark Ralston

"Now, people…. when it comes to the scientifical parts of music I know nothing about it, but I can play. Listen…. A man comes to this world naked and bare; He goes through life with troubles and care; He departs this life and goes we don’t know where; But he’ll be all right there if he lives all right here" ......... Uncle Dave Macon

Brian Welch - Posted - 11/13/2009:  09:53:22

You should read Way up North in Dixie about the Snowden family, an African-American family in Ohio who are known as the family that taught the song Dixie to Dan Emmett.

Old Tools and Old Time Music

fretlessinfortwayne - Posted - 11/13/2009:  09:55:02

Christian Wig and Whitt Mead have put out several excellent old-time CDs and both live in Ohio. The CDs are "Lost Indian: Fiddling on the Frontier" and "Chadwell's Station: Fiddling on the Frontier." I met both recently at a music party in Columbus. I believe Christian lives in or near Youngstown. Whitt might live in the southwestern part. Both are excellent fiddle players. Whitt is also a very good banjo player.

Mark Ward is an excellent banjo and fiddle player and luthier. He lives in Cincinatti.


"Each one's got to have his own style. It's all creamed potatoes, just fixed a little different." -- Benton Flippen

mralston - Posted - 11/13/2009:  09:56:27

Sam Bayard's "Hill Country Tunes" was mostly on SW Pennsylvania, but I think that there is some coverage of eastern OH music & players.

Keith E - Posted - 11/13/2009:  09:56:52

There used to be a lot of southern OH, northern KY fiddlers. Check out some of Jeff Goehring's recordings (available from the Field Recorders Collective) of Jimmy Wheeler and Lonnie Seymour. There's a lot of good info on the liner notes to "Along Ohio's Shores", you can download the notes here:

A lot of Jimmy Wheeler's recordings are available here:

As far as people still alive, Whitt Mead & Chris Wig are both in OH.

banjot - Posted - 11/13/2009:  10:15:21

One living banjo player, and in my humble opinion, great banjo maker, is Doug Unger of Peninsula, Ohio.

Tom Mylet

dbrooks - Posted - 11/13/2009:  10:20:05

Either Dan Levenson or Christian Wig wrote an article for Banjo Newsletter about Ohio musicians about 3 years ago. I still have the issue at home, I believe. That article would add to your list of names.


mojo_monk - Posted - 11/13/2009:  10:23:59

Kerry Blech used to live in and fiddle around Ohio. He's a heckuva fiddler and now lives out in Seattle.

The late, great, Indiana fiddler John W. Summers used to go back and forth between Indiana and western Ohio and gave credit to learning more than a few tunes from Ohio fiddlers.

Gotta echo Jeff Goehring, Lonnie Seymour, and Jimmy Wheeler.


Adventures in Haitian banjo building:

Edited by - mojo_monk on 11/13/2009 10:24:22

Viper - Posted - 11/13/2009:  13:53:38

Rizo, thanks for starting this thread. I too am interested in Ohio's old-timers.

Right way or wrong way, I just want to play the banjo SOME way.

jasper - Posted - 11/13/2009:  15:25:55

As am I. How ya doin Riz. Makin any good beer lately.
Are you talking about Pro type players or average guys like the rest of us .Yep ,there's alot of those.

Hey Dean ,make it back OK last Sat.?

Relax,grab your Banjo, have a Homebrew.

rendesvous1840 - Posted - 11/13/2009:  20:11:01

"with Mark Olitsky on banjo and David Rice on harmonica .." from mralston's post, above.
Both Mark and Dave are living in Ohio, though I think Dave hails from out west. Dave is a member of The Hoover Uprights. Mark has played Old Time, Zydeco, and Hawaiian music.

"A master banjo player isn't the one who can play the most notes. It's the one who can touch the most hearts." Patrick Costello IBARD topic

mojo_monk - Posted - 11/16/2009:  19:38:07

Got lost in the Digital Library of Appalachia today and came out with a few goodies:

Here's a link to a few tracks from a fella named Glen Fannin - formerly of Magoffin County, KY (same county as John M. Salyer) - but was recorded while living in North Fairfield, OH:

Here's a link to the previously mentioned tracks from Jimmy Wheeler of Scioto County, (Portsmouth) OH:

Nothing like good ol' field recordings if you ask me...enjoy.


Adventures in Haitian banjo building:

Rizo - Posted - 11/18/2009:  15:30:06

Hey Jasper, I've got a Christmas Ale in the secondary, (but I think I put in too much spice) and a BUNCH of cider brewing.

Back on topic, thanks all for the help, some interesting stuff here!

Clawdan - Posted - 11/18/2009:  15:56:55

Well, you gonna have a pretty big list. Fiddle builder Clifford Hardesty, Banjo builder Pete Smakula (both now deceased), Bob Smakula now in wv, David Bass (freighthoppers), Kevin Enoch, Dirk Powell, Andy Cohen, Andi Ardito, John Sherman, Jim Thomas, Judy Thomas, Wes Linenkugel, Whit Mead, David Rice (former fellow Buzzard), Kevin Richards, Cathy Anderson (caller), Lynn Fredric, Rick Goehring, I'm sure I am forgetting a lot, shall we go on? Amazing the number there and from there.

RatLer - Posted - 11/20/2009:  22:01:57

You can add Carl Ross of "Tymes Past" Mt Gilead. Phil Case, Dayton. John Noftsger of Ohio River Minstrels, Spring Valley.

Hilarie Burhans - Posted - 12/08/2009:  18:46:01

Scott, I know you might already know all these folks, but can't resist the urge to brag about our state's contributions to OT banjo, so...
More Ohio players: along with those mentioned above, some youngish living players include Matthew McElroy & Tim Peacock in the Athens OH area, and Greta VanDoren (who is currently mostly living in WV now, I think.) More like my age or so, you've got Lucy Long in northern OH, Whitt Mead, Kathy Anderson in the Dayton area, Linda Scutt and Barb Holmes of the Corn Drinkers in or near Yellow Springs.

As for deceased players, the late great fiddler Ward Jarvis was also a banjo player and taught me a tune or two on the banjo.

A great resource for Ohio tunes is musician/historian Nikos Pappas who is currently living in Lexington KY.

bvh - Posted - 12/09/2009:  04:01:22

One of the best oldtime banjo players, anywhere, is Mark Olitsky, in Cleveland.


Matt Buckley - Posted - 12/09/2009:  05:06:51

I remember Rick Good and the Hot Mud Family, from Spring Valley, back in the early 70s.

uncledaveh - Posted - 12/09/2009:  07:32:37

What about David "Uncle Dave" Holbrook from Southern Ohio who played banjo with the Kentucky Foothill Ramblers in the late 1960's and the 1970's (that sounds so long ago)? Wait a minute, that's me.

Hot dog!!

Uncle Dave
The Rockdale Ridgerunners

Edited by - uncledaveh on 12/09/2009 07:39:41

rendesvous1840 - Posted - 12/11/2009:  22:00:58

There's an article in Banjo Newsletter,October 2006, called The Ohio Banjo Scene, by Christian Wig. Not a lot of historical players, it mostly deals with those who were a part of the scene in 2006. Most are probably still in the same general areas, it's only 3 years later.

dannnjo - Posted - 01/02/2010:  08:05:25

Delmar Porter (his sister Janice and her husband Marvin Clark) operate the twin city opera house in McConnellsvile) is a great Banjo player, a true Nataural. he lives in Waterford, ohio
Charle Clark was a great fiddle player.
The Porters and Clarks used to play at a one room school house (called Tiltonville)
This is where I fell in love with old time muscin and learned to square dance there)
All descendants still play lovely ol time music


whyteman - Posted - 01/02/2010:  08:20:13

I'm a big fan of Wig & Mead. Their rep. is mostly Appalachian. I agree with Mojo Monk that John W. Summers of North Indiana was probably akin to many Ohio fiddlers with his complex arrangements af familiar tunes.


ScottP - Posted - 01/02/2010:  08:54:03

One of my favorite banjo players, Joel Specht, is in Conneaut, OH. Aside from playing banjo he was also apprenticed for awhile with banjo builder Bob Anderson, also from N.E. Ohio.


rinemb - Posted - 01/07/2010:  17:56:36

Just a lead....There is an administrator at the JC Cambell Folk School (in NC) that has roots in Ohio and is a Folk Historian and banjo player. I bet he has info and resources. Mary Cox or Dan Levenson would know who he is. I forgot his name but he is very entertaining.


Clawdan - Posted - 01/08/2010:  07:47:53

David Brose is who you are thinking of Brad. And, yep, he's still there - actually the Historian. David is a great fellow and banjo player. AND yes, VERY entertaining!

wrangler - Posted - 01/11/2010:  09:55:08

In the late 60's, there was a very good clawhammer player from around the Cleveland area named Pete Hoover. I listened to him a few times while at Kent State and that's all I know about him.

mojo_monk - Posted - 01/11/2010:  11:02:24

Originally posted by wrangler

In the late 60's, there was a very good clawhammer player from around the Cleveland area named Pete Hoover. I listened to him a few times while at Kent State and that's all I know about him.

Due to his tireless work as a "field recorder" beginning in late1959, Peter Hoover is, without a doubt, one of the most important figures in the recent history of OT music. The list of folks he collected is too long to list here, but to name a few: Manco Sneed, Santford Kelly, Sidna and Fulton Myers, Marcus Martin, Dan Tate, James Crase, Norm Edmonds, Glen Smith, Wade Ward, Charlie Higgins, Bayard Ray, Heywood Blevins...

Here's a thick, but interesting, article about Mr. Hoover from the Field Recorder's Collective website:

wrangler - Posted - 01/12/2010:  08:57:48

Sean, now that you mention it, I do remember hearing about Pete's collecting. My wife says I have "sometimer's." I don't forget everything, just some things.

mojo_monk - Posted - 01/13/2010:  04:03:20

Originally posted by wrangler

Sean, now that you mention it, I do remember hearing about Pete's collecting. My wife says I have "sometimer's." I don't forget everything, just some things.

Ha! You and me both

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