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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: death of Gary Harrison

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:

jojo25 - Posted - 09/05/2012:  08:10:13

not directly banjo related...but sure as heck OT related...we lost a great one in Gary...a giant of a fiddler and a great collector of Midwest of the founding members of the Indian Creek Delta condolences to his some of those great Illinois tunes and keep Gary's memory alive...check of Gary's "Dear Old Illinois"....if you can find it...I think it is now out of print...he will be missed for sure

jojo25 - Posted - 09/05/2012:  08:21:38 

Nuts - Posted - 09/05/2012:  08:31:51

We have lost one of Old Time's finest. The untimely loss of Gary Harrison will leave a huge hole in the Old Time community. My thoughts and prayers go out to the Harrison Clan, Gary will be sorely missed.

Gary Harrison and his daughter Genevieve (Harrison) Koester performing at Techline in Champaign, IL in 2008.

Good bye Gary... thanks for all of the tunes...

Don Borchelt - Posted - 09/05/2012:  08:34:14

Harrison was also a prolific and talented composer of new old time tunes.  Two of my favorites are Boys,Them Buzzards Are Flyin', and Red Prairie Dawn.  Sad news, indeed. 

Gary Harrison fiddling Red Prairie Dawn, a sample from the out of print CD of the same title.

Gary Harrison

DWRIGHT - Posted - 09/05/2012:  09:58:12

Wow.  That is a shock.  I went to high school with Garry and his twin brother.   He was a great musician and a very nice fellow.    In college, while the rest of us were going to see Kansas or Peter Frampton , Garry and a few friends formed the Indian Creek Delta Boys and played old time music.  Soon they were traveling the state interviewing old time musicians and collecting local music.   Much later I started to see Garry's book, Dear Old Illinois, at old time music jams and realized he'd never lost his love for the music.

My condolences to his family.  Garry left a great legacy in Dear Old Illinois and his lifelong efforts to preserve old music.




kmwaters - Posted - 09/05/2012:  11:20:00

It appears from the pictures that he was not very old.

ScottK - Posted - 09/05/2012:  11:25:36

Wow, very sad news. Sincere condolences to family and friends. Gary made a huge contribution to the old time community.


mojo_monk - Posted - 09/05/2012:  13:16:52

I first met Garry about 6 months or so after I starting to play the banjo. By that time I had begun learning tunes from Vol 1 & Vol 2 of the "Indian Creek Delta Boys" and was regularly jamming with Garry's twin brother Terry, his older brother Steve, his nephew Cliff, and fiddler/guitarist John Bishop in Charleston, IL. Garry was always a larger than life guy in my eyes because of the POWER of his fiddling. He also had enormous hands. I always wondered how the heck he could what he did with such BIG fingers. Crazy...

From day one Garry did nothing but encourage my playing. Over the years he also indulged me in numerous conversations (through email and in person) about the "old timers" he sought out, the early exploits of the Crick Delters, and he would eagerly responded to questions about the music itself.  Pickin' sessions with Garry were always ferocious and fast. Anything else was just too nice. For me, Garry will always be the master.

For anyone interested in hearing Garry's fiddling, HERE is a link to a set of solo fiddle recordings made back in 1982 by Joe Samojedny while Garry was living in the small town of Bushton, IL. In the background of the first few tracks you can hear his daughter Gena - an incredible fiddler herself - crying. For me these field recordings represent the depth of Garry's connection with the music and his instrument. He was on the top of his game, for sure. I hope you enjoy them as much I have.

I will truly miss Garry, but the tunes live on through his daughter Gena, his nephew Cliff, and anyone else out there who strikes up one of those Dear Old Illinois tunes. I for one feel privileged to have known the man - even if only for a few years. The community won't be the same without him, but we can expect great things from Gena and Cliff as the years tick forward. They're both rooted and dang good.

Thanks for listening to my rant. Time to go play some fiddle.


Edited by - mojo_monk on 09/05/2012 13:22:45

Bill Rogers - Posted - 09/05/2012:  16:12:39

A truly original old-time fiddler, who fit right into the tradition.  A rarity in these days; he'll be sorely missed.

RG - Posted - 09/05/2012:  16:18:11

Sad day...

leemysliwiec - Posted - 09/10/2012:  14:14:54


Originally posted by kmwaters

It appears from the pictures that he was not very old.

Garry was 58.  Here is a link to his obituary.;theater

Edited by - Bill Rogers on 09/17/2012 04:27:33

JTRoberts - Posted - 09/10/2012:  20:03:18

Gone but not forgotten.

rudy - Posted - 09/17/2012:  18:12:01

A fond goodbye to a friend I never knew, but his music struck a chord in my heart.

Garry had posted a free link to the "Red Prairie Dawn" album on the Dear Old Illinois site several years ago, and I was quite taken with his original tunes on that album.

I  played a contradance with Cliff and he definitely has the Harrison feel for newly-penned tunes.  Cliff must have surely taken some of his abilities by way of osmosis from Garry.

As a mild aside to the topic, I recently purchased Jim Childress's Turkey Sag CD.  I felt like Jim's tunes are very much in the vein of Garry's, being instantly delicious in their complexity as only a great fiddler can pull off.  Turkey Sag has infiltrated my brain in the same manner that Red Prairie Dawn did, and that's a good thing.  Seek them both out, you'll be glad you did.

It's a great loss to the world when a candle that burns so brightly is gone so soon.

Edited by - rudy on 09/17/2012 18:13:03

whyteman - Posted - 09/18/2012:  11:43:23

Garry was three years older than myself. His passing truly brings into focus what many of us wrestle with in our minds on a daily basis. It centers around the mixed message of our society.

On one hand we are told to defer gratification for a future date that we may not live to see. On the other hand there is the spirit of "carpe diem", to live in the moment.

I've been thinking as well about the awful predicament of another brilliant fiddler of my generation, the great Kerry Blech. Kerry Blech, while dealing with a life-threatening disease, also has a family facing the dread of losing a beloved father and husband while incurring the financial devastation of being uninsured. Garry Harrison leaves an unfinished legacy of tunes that will never be played(or recorded) and fiddles that will never be restored or built.

And each night as I trudge off to a thankless, and at times meaningless job I consider the possible reality that I could be gone in three years or even three days. And I think of all of the tunes I've failed to learn, and the realization that I may not ever achieve my dream of becoming at least a mediocre fiddler as well a better than "purty good" banjo player.

The temptation is so strong to throw caution to the wind and rationalize that I've met most of life's obligations and take to the road in search of the music my wife and I love. Or, as of late, we are seriously contemplating "downshifting" into an Intentional Community where life would be in the moment in every way imaginable, but with ample time(finally) for homemade music as part of the lifestyle. And yet, I lack the courage for fear of winding up in a situation like Kerry's where my family could be in real distress with my demise should I choose uninsured and unencumbered freedom.

Life is not always short as with Garry Harrison, but it is always tragic as it ends badly. Like a lot of fiddle tunes, the ending is always the same, only the notes of the melody after the "taters" are different.

I've been listening to the New Mules and Hart and Blech today hoping to find an answer embedded in this fine musical expression of art.


banjoy - Posted - 09/18/2012:  12:03:29

I have never heard of this person until I came upon this thread. After reading it I feel a sense of loss, and a sense of deep respect for a person who I've never met and never known. Thanks for posting this news. He has gained a new fan in me today.

jgarber - Posted - 12/28/2012:  08:21:41

To honor Garry’s memory, the Field Recorders’ Collective will contribute all proceeds from the sale of FRC607 “Indian Creek Delta Boys (from the recordings of Ray Alden)” to the scholarship fund that has been established through Garry’s publishing company, Pick Away Press. This offer is good for orders received through March 31, 2013.

FRC607– Indian Creek Delta Boys(From the collection of Ray Alden)   $15 per disc

Proclaimed the "Official Traditional Illinois Old-Time String Band" by the state's 82nd General Assembly, the Indian Creek Delta Boys of Charleston, Illinois were active from the 1970s through the 1990s. The band's backbone was formed by brothers Garry and Steve Harrison. Garry began fiddle at age 16 with instruction from his father Cliff while Terry, Garry's twin, started using brother Steve's banjo. Along with band mates Chirps Smith (FRC608) and John Bishop, they researched many obscure Illinois fiddle tunes from the senior players detailed below. Many of the original Illinois source tunes can be heard on Garry's 3-CD collection, and even more are annotated and available in his comprehensive book of the same name, Dear Old Illinois. - Ray Alden

jojo25 - Posted - 01/05/2013:  13:28:42

Don wrote..."Life is not always short as with Garry Harrison, but it is always tragic as it ends badly.  "

Chin up my man.  Somebody loves you somewhere!  Every tune you play is a deep expression of your life...enjoy!

Not all ends tragically...some, but not all.

Edited by - jojo25 on 01/05/2013 13:31:18

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