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 Playing Advice: Clawhammer and Old-Time Styles
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: TOTW 5/4/12 - Ebenezer


Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link: http://www.banjohangout.org/archive/235360

EggerRidgeBoy - Posted - 05/04/2012:  14:40:17



Today's TOTW volunteer was unable to post this week, so I'm posting a 'G' tune that I have been working on recently. That tune is Ebenezer, which comes to us from West Virginia fiddler, banjo player and all-round old-time legend Franklin George, of West Virginia.



I learned Ebenezer from Miles Krassen's classic 1974 book "Clawhammer Banjo". I consulted that book when I first took up clawhammer banjo, but I was probably too inexperienced to fully appreciate it. I recently got myself a copy and, with a bit more skill and knowledge under my belt, have found it to be a wonderful resource, full of relatively straightforward yet interesting arrangements of a wide variety of old time tunes, both popular and obscure. I'm sure that is not news to most of the people reading this thread, since it was one of the first clawhammer instruction and tune books and has had a continual influence on clawhammer playing for almost 40 years. When I sat down to write up this TOTW, I decided to use a tune from the book, and soon found that my first few choices - none a particularly well-known tune - had already been covered, a testament perhaps to the popularity and influence of Krassen's book.



(In later years, Miles turned his focus from music to religion, and eventually became a rabbi. He currently lives in Colorado, and, judging from his YouTube channel - youtube.com/user/FiddlinMiles?...ults_main - he still at least occasionally plays old-time music.)



 


Over a quarter of the tunes in "Clawhammer Banjo" credit Frank George as their source. Frank was born in Bluefield, West Virginia, in 1928, and throughout his life has been a key figure in the state's old-time music community. As it says in the liner notes to the Field Recorders Collective release devoted to his fiddling:


 


Frank George is a West Virginia icon. No fiddler, banjo player, hammered dulcimer player or bagpiper grows up in West Virginia without knowing the name Frank George. Frank and his wife Jane have founded festivals, supported local historical events and been the backbone of West Virginia traditional music for fifty years. Forty years ago, when these recordings were made, Alan Jabbour remarked that Frank had forgotten more tunes than Alan knew, saying further that Frank could play well over 1000 tunes. Frank knew, played with and shared the West Virginia fiddling tradition with French Carpenter, Ira Mullins, Doc White, and Virginia fiddler, John Fitzgerald Hilt, who appears on this recording. Frank George personifies traditional West Virginia Old Time Music.


 


As far as I know, Frank is still actively performing - there are numerous videos of him online at festivals and events from the last two or three years.


 


 


In "Clawhammer Banjo", Miles credits Frank not just as the source of Ebenezer, but as its savior as well. He writes:


 


"This is a great tune that may well have been saved from extinction almost singe handedly by Frank George who used to fiddle it in the contest at Galax during the 1960s. I first heard it played on the banjo by Frank at a party in Romney, West Virginia, back in 1967. It is one of those good bouncy Galax tunes like the ones Charlie Higgins used to play. The banjo player has to be careful not to play too fast. Tunes of this type are usually fiddled with a little extra emphasis on the second and fourth beats of each measure. This creates a rhythmic pattern that is not easy to match on the banjo."


 


Beyond that I know nothing of the tune's origins - it was evidently a traditional tune from Frank's region of West Virginia. Nor do I know the exact significance of the title. The word "Ebenezer" comes from the Old Testament:


 


Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Jeshanah, and named it Ebenezer; for he said, "Thus far the LORD has helped us." So the Philistines were subdued and did not again enter the territory of Israel; the hand of the LORD was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel. The towns that the Philistines had taken from Israel were restored to Israel, from Ekron to Gath; and Israel recovered their territory from the hand of the Philistines. There was peace also between Israel and the Amorites. (1 Samuel 7:12-14 NRSV)


 



It is usually translated as "Stone of Help" or "Helping Stone", and in that sense it has come to mean something that reminds one of God's presence. (Many people may know the term from the hymn Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing, with its verse "Here I Raise Mine Ebenezer/Hither By Thy Help I've Come", a line that has probably confused countless children - and not a few adults - on Sunday mornings throughout the years.)  After the battle described in the above passage, the site became known as "Ebenezer", and, of course, that place name eventually became a personal name as well (e.g. Ebenezer Scrooge). Throughout the country there are numerous churches, cemeteries, chapels, and so forth with the name Ebenezer - including several in West Virginia - and a handful of towns, including one in Tennessee. Whether the author of the fiddle tune intended its title to refer to a place, a person, or a spiritual aid is unknown. There is an Ebenezer Cemetery in Romney, West Virginia, the town mentioned in Miles' introduction to the tune - that would seem to be as good a candidate as any (a photograph of that cemetery can be found here: historichampshire.org/cems/ebencem.htm ).


 



 


Below are some of the audio and video versions of the tune that I found:


 


 


FIDDLE





SOLO BANJO


 



 


 


JAM SESSIONS



Arlington, VA:  youtube.com/watch?v=l5mEX0FGmCk 



Clifftop:  youtube.com/watch?v=jmzg7ImWZOY 


 


 


BAND



Whitetop Mountain Band:  youtube.com/watch?v=uZLdKI61Gvk 




 


HANGOUT MUSIC ARCHIVES






(in 2010 and 2011, blanham posted mp3s of all the tunes in Miles' book, which has proven to be a very helpful resource for me as I work my way through the collection.)

 



TAB

 


In addition to the tablature in "Clawhammer Banjo", tab of Ebenezer can be found on Mike Iverson's site: 






Edited by - EggerRidgeBoy on 05/08/2012 15:45:22

vrteach - Posted - 05/04/2012:  15:13:36



Mighty fine tune. Like many of us, I learned it from the Krassen book, and I'm attaching a version that I did in 2006.




Ebenezer

   

JanetB - Posted - 05/04/2012:  21:13:00



Very well written and informative post, EggerRidgeBoy.  Your link provided my first-time view of Frank George fiddling.  Keeping the Miles Krassen repertoire alive is a service to us all.  Thanks!


Julian44_4 - Posted - 05/05/2012:  00:27:37



banjohangout.org/tab/browse.as...p;v=18324



TablEdited by Ken Brooks


majikgator - Posted - 05/05/2012:  10:27:16



NIce job on a good tune. Funny Krassen got religous the Clawhammer book is a sort of "bible" for students of old time banjo having been around so long, one of those books i recommend to everyone. Frank George is unfortunately not available on a whole lot of recordings anymore it seems, maybe i'm wrong about that - i hope i am. Thanks for the Frank George link and of course thanks again to Blanham for all the Krassen recordings.


bd - Posted - 05/05/2012:  10:43:30



Here's another link I'm finding helpful. It's a fiddle lesson for Ebebnezer:



Ebenezer.wmv



He really breaks it down for you.


ZEPP - Posted - 05/05/2012:  12:30:05



For anyone who might care: you may have noticed in the video referenced in the OP's very informative post, that  while I'm playing in G, it's out of aCGCD capoed 2 to become aDADE (double D) tuning.  



If you would like the tab, I do have it available--just send me a PM so's I have your email.  It won't work 100% without tuning/capoing it as above, as I do fret the 5th string to get a B, so if you want to spike/capo the 5th string, tune everything up to D, or simply to play it in uncapoed in F, you'll have to fiddle around with the tab in that one spot.



Cheers,

ZEPP


JanetB - Posted - 05/05/2012:  13:48:20



This post has motivated me to learn Ebenezer from Miles Krassen's book, though I use 3-finger picks.  Here's a photo of Frank George of West Virginia, who I'd like to read more about.




EggerRidgeBoy - Posted - 05/05/2012:  14:26:51



quote:


Originally posted by vrteach




Mighty fine tune. Like many of us, I learned it from the Krassen book, and I'm attaching a version that I did in 2006.






 And that's a might fine version. Thanks for posting it.


EggerRidgeBoy - Posted - 05/05/2012:  14:36:09



quote:


Originally posted by JanetB




Very well written and informative post, EggerRidgeBoy.  Your link provided my first-time view of Frank George fiddling.  Keeping the Miles Krassen repertoire alive is a service to us all.  Thanks!






Thanks - I'm glad you enjoyed it.



Researching the tune was also my introduction to Frank George - in my case not just to video of him fiddling but to his life and music in general. I mean, I had seen his name in Miles' book of course, but I had not followed up by finding examples of his playing or learning more about him.  Now I need to get myself to West Virginia and hear him live.



I'm glad to do my part to keep the Miles Krassen book alive - fortunately there are many doing the same thing.  I should give another nod to Hangout member blanham, whose "Krassen project" got just a parenthetical mention in my original post.  Recording all 56 of the arrangements in MIles' book was a great idea, and a great service to the Hangout (and to banjo players in general). Thanks blanham!.



 


EggerRidgeBoy - Posted - 05/05/2012:  14:38:05



quote:


Originally posted by Julian44_4




banjohangout.org/tab/browse.as...p;v=18324



TablEdited by Ken Brooks






 Thanks for the link - I somehow forgot to even check the Hangout tab archives!


EggerRidgeBoy - Posted - 05/05/2012:  14:50:02



quote:


Originally posted by majikgator




NIce job on a good tune. Funny Krassen got religous the Clawhammer book is a sort of "bible" for students of old time banjo having been around so long, one of those books i recommend to everyone. Frank George is unfortunately not available on a whole lot of recordings anymore it seems, maybe i'm wrong about that - i hope i am. Thanks for the Frank George link and of course thanks again to Blanham for all the Krassen recordings.






Thanks.  You're right, his book has pretty much entered "the canon" of clawhammer literature.  At this point any student of clawhammer banjo should be familiar with it not just because of its intrinsic quality and value, but because so many  players from the past couple of generations have used it as a source.  



I haven't get tried to track down available Frank George recordings, besides putting the Field Recorders Collective disc on my "to buy" list.  That one focuses on his fiddling - I'm hoping to find some good examples of his banjo playing.


EggerRidgeBoy - Posted - 05/05/2012:  14:52:25



quote:


Originally posted by bd




Here's another link I'm finding helpful. It's a fiddle lesson for Ebebnezer:



Ebenezer.wmv



He really breaks it down for you.






 Thanks for the link.  Even though I have already learned Miles' version from his tab, I might try to use that video to come up with my own version by ear.


EggerRidgeBoy - Posted - 05/05/2012:  14:53:19



quote:


Originally posted by ZEPP




For anyone who might care: you may have noticed in the video referenced in the OP's very informative post, that  while I'm playing in G, it's out of aCGCD capoed 2 to become aDADE (double D) tuning.  



If you would like the tab, I do have it available--just send me a PM so's I have your email.  It won't work 100% without tuning/capoing it as above, as I do fret the 5th string to get a B, so if you want to spike/capo the 5th string, tune everything up to D, or simply to play it in uncapoed in F, you'll have to fiddle around with the tab in that one spot.



Cheers,

ZEPP






 Thanks for the info, and the tab offer.  PM sent.


EggerRidgeBoy - Posted - 05/05/2012:  14:57:37



quote:


Originally posted by JanetB




This post has motivated me to learn Ebenezer from Miles Krassen's book, though I use 3-finger picks.  Here's a photo of Frank George of West Virginia, who I'd like to read more about.








 Nice photo - thanks.



Here is a bit more information on Frank: wvencyclopedia.org/articles/2099


trapdoor2 - Posted - 05/05/2012:  19:12:16



And those of us lucky enough to have attended "Breaking Up Winter" both times when Mr. George came down to visit...what a wonderful player and resource. Last time (2010?), we sat outside in a circle for his teaching/jam session and he went thru tune after tune after tune, all of the ones from the Krassen book (including Ebenezer), etc. That's a memory that will stick with me till the end of my days!


JanetB - Posted - 05/05/2012:  20:07:17



Here's my attempt at Ebenezer, 3-finger picking style.  I had to re-record it when I realized I was playing a harmony note as a melody note!  I also added an up-the-neck and a down-the-neck part to vary the pitch.  It's interesting to be able to read the clawhammer tab and then change it to suit the 3-finger picking.  Thanks for the link to learn more about Frank George's life.



 




Ebenezer

   

Tamarack - Posted - 05/06/2012:  08:54:45


A fine old tune, one of the first to enter my consciousness when introduced to clawhammer banjo during grad school (at least I learned something in grad school)

EggerRidgeBoy - Posted - 05/07/2012:  16:56:20



quote:


Originally posted by trapdoor2




And those of us lucky enough to have attended "Breaking Up Winter" both times when Mr. George came down to visit...what a wonderful player and resource. Last time (2010?), we sat outside in a circle for his teaching/jam session and he went thru tune after tune after tune, all of the ones from the Krassen book (including Ebenezer), etc. That's a memory that will stick with me till the end of my days!






Wish I could have been there.  It's rather difficult to find any info on upcoming public performances by Frank - I don't know if he really has officially scheduled dates anymore. If anybody hears anything, it would be great if you could post the information.


EggerRidgeBoy - Posted - 05/07/2012:  16:58:23



quote:


Originally posted by JanetB




Here's my attempt at Ebenezer, 3-finger picking style.  I had to re-record it when I realized I was playing a harmony note as a melody note!  I also added an up-the-neck and a down-the-neck part to vary the pitch.  It's interesting to be able to read the clawhammer tab and then change it to suit the 3-finger picking.  Thanks for the link to learn more about Frank George's life.



 






 Thanks for posting that - I enjoyed hearing a three-finger version of the tune.


EggerRidgeBoy - Posted - 05/07/2012:  17:13:11



Frank George's 1967 album "Traditional Music for Banjo, Fiddle and Bagpipes" is available on Amazon:



amazon.com/Traditional-Music-B...mp;sr=8-2



It contains many of the Frank George tunes that Miles' included in his book (although not Ebenezer).


Kitt - Posted - 05/08/2012:  06:01:13



The 'Frank George Plays Ebeneezer' link posted doesn't work for me. So, in case it doesn't work for others either, I'm re-posting it. Hope this works.



 



youtube.com/watch?v=xB3kNMaQFr...e=related


EggerRidgeBoy - Posted - 05/08/2012:  15:43:19



quote:


Originally posted by Kitt




The 'Frank George Plays Ebeneezer' link posted doesn't work for me. So, in case it doesn't work for others either, I'm re-posting it. Hope this works.



 



youtube.com/watch?v=xB3kNMaQFr...e=related






 Thanks.  Here's the clickable YouTube link:  youtube.com/watch?v=xB3kNMaQFr...e=related



(It's the same video as in the write-up; I had just somehow found it on a different site - not sure why that link stopped working. I've changed in original post.)



Edited by - EggerRidgeBoy on 05/08/2012 15:48:20

mikey5string - Posted - 05/08/2012:  17:32:42


thanks! got to learn this one.

Zepp. That Lee Whyte Lady sounds and looks AWESOME! I looked on your website, didnt see it. Sold?

ZEPP - Posted - 05/09/2012:  05:36:39



quote:


Originally posted by mikey5string




thanks! got to learn this one.



Zepp. That Lee Whyte Lady sounds and looks AWESOME! I looked on your website, didnt see it. Sold?






Yep.  Sold it.  About five years ago, of course... smiley



Cheers,

ZEPP


mmcgeary - Posted - 06/20/2012:  04:49:32



Alan Jabbour collected a nice version of Ebenezer from Henry Reed of Glen Lyn, Virginia, and says he also heard Kahle Brewer play it at Galax in the 1960s (Brewer had recorded it on an early record as West Virginia Highway). Alan has recorded it, with Bertram Levy on banjo, on the CD "A Henry Reed Reunion" and transcribed it for fiddle in his book "Fiddle Tunes Illuminated." You can also hear Alan and Bertram playing Reed's Ebenezer at dla.acaweb.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/warren/id/1888/rec/13 (the banjo was nearer to the microphone on this recording so you can hear the notes quite clearly).


carlb - Posted - 06/20/2012:  06:45:35



quote:


Originally posted by mmcgeary

(Brewer had recorded it on an early record as West Virginia Highway).




 unc.edu/~pmitchel/oldindex2.html


EggerRidgeBoy - Posted - 06/20/2012:  16:38:43



quote:


Originally posted by mmcgeary




Alan Jabbour collected a nice version of Ebenezer from Henry Reed of Glen Lyn, Virginia, and says he also heard Kahle Brewer play it at Galax in the 1960s (Brewer had recorded it on an early record as West Virginia Highway). Alan has recorded it, with Bertram Levy on banjo, on the CD "A Henry Reed Reunion" and transcribed it for fiddle in his book "Fiddle Tunes Illuminated." You can also hear Alan and Bertram playing Reed's Ebenezer at dla.acaweb.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/warren/id/1888/rec/13 (the banjo was nearer to the microphone on this recording so you can hear the notes quite clearly).






Thanks for the great info and links.



Just today I got Miles Krassen's "Appalachian Fiddle" from the library - a companion volume to his "Clawhammer Banjo", with which it shares most of its tunes.  In addition to mentioning, as you say, that Kahle Brewer played it as West Virginia Highway, he notes that Charlie Higgins called the tune West Virginia Farewell.


Don Borchelt - Posted - 06/23/2012:  10:53:30



I love this tune, I'm sorry I missed this thread when it first arrived.  Some nice picking from Erich and Janet!  As someone said, Franklin George owns this tune.  Sorry, Henry!



Back around 1970, my parents took me to a festival in West Virginia, where Franklin George was one of the leading performers.  I has been playing banjo for about three years, and had hit one of those times when I was pretty discouraged.   Among other things, I had fallen in love with fiddle tunes, but was struggling to figure out how to play them on banjo, in three finger style.  I decided to  attend a festival workshop that George gave on old time fiddle.  When the workshop was over, and everyone esle was filing out for the next scheduled event,  I went up to him  to tell him how much I enjoyed it, and to ask a few questions about fiddle tunes.  He saw my banjo, and asked me if I wanted to play a few tunes.  We were just starting Arkansas Traveler, when another young man walked in with a tape recorder, and asked if he could tape.  After a few measures, the fellow asked me to stop playing, saying I was ruining the recording.  I didn't see how I could argue with him, I would have been the first to admit that my picking didn't sound like much.  But just as I was about to put down my banjo, George spoke up.  "This young man and I are playing some tunes together," he said, "and we are going to keep going, and if you don't want to tape us, you can catch me later, and I'll be glad to record anything you want then."  It is impossible to express how important that gesture was to me, it gave me a lot of encouragement just when I needed it most.   God bless Frankling George.  I have tried best I could to follow his example, ever since.



- Don Borchelt

 







 




VIDEO: Ebenezer
(click to view)

   

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