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 Playing Advice: Clawhammer and Old-Time Styles
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: TOTW 07/15/2016 Old Virge


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/320608

mojo_monk - Posted - 07/15/2016:  08:52:33


This week’s tune is Old Virge from Owen County, KY fiddler Bill Livers (1911-1988). I first heard this tune from the late, great Garry Harrison at a jam somewhere back around 2008. According to a field recording of Bill made by Steve Harrison at the Indiana Fiddler’s Gathering (aka Battleground) back in the late ‘70s or early ‘80s, this is a tune written by Bill’s grandfather. It’s a real doozie!



There isn’t much written online about Bill, but the book Hidden in the Midst: African American Presence in Country Music has a chapter by Jeffrey A. Keith devoted to Fiddlin’ Bill in which a fascinating discussion takes place about the challenges and freedoms Bill experienced as a black fiddler in the South during the 1970s. Most notable (to me) is that while in his 60s Bill became a huge hit with the Hippies and played in a band which included John Harrod originally called the “Progress Red Hot String Band,” but later became known as the “Bill Livers String Ensemble.” In addition to his fiddling, Bill was well known for his fish fries where neither class nor skin color made a difference. He was also feisty as all get out. I came across a touching letter to the editor in the Owen County News Herald posted on August 3rd, 2011 titled: “A special 100th birthday message to Bill Livers” written by Jim Ware, Bill’s nephew. It reads:



Howdy Livers:

I want you to know that I did not forget your cool 100th birthday.

As long as I can remember, you were going to live to be “a cool 100.”

Livers, you’ve been gone 23 years and the ones who knew and loved you still misses you. Every so often someone will say, “Big Jim, tell me a Bill Livers story.”

Now Livers, if you can remember, there were quite a few of them we could not tell in mixed company ... or should not tell, I must say. But sometimes, you would just say, “Let it fly, Jimmy Ware. Hee Hee.”

Those were the ones most people wanted to hear and remember Bill Livers telling.

Livers, things have really changed here in Owen County since you’ve been gone.

We have a winery here now, but it’s a lot bigger than the one you had in that stripping room of Miss (You Know Who). I can still hear her say, “Bill, what’s that odor?”

They grow very little tobacco in the county compared to what they grew when you were raising tobacco. There is one big change that would affect you the most. They have four different flavors of Pall Mall. When I see a red pack of Pall Mall, I think of Uncle Bill.

You were a big part of my life. Had it not been for you, my life would have been a lot different because you taught me to laugh at myself as well as at others in fun, and be ready to lend a helping hand.

So I will say, “Thanks, Livers.”

As we said when batching, “Good night, old boy.”



Recordings:



I have found no recorded versions of this tune other than those played by Bill Livers and Garry Harrison. Hopefully this post gets it into the fingers of at least a couple more folks.



I don’t know how to embed this Video of Fiddlin’ Bill playing Old Virge at the Berea College’s Celebration of Traditional Music in 1975 with the Progress Red Hot String Band. Follow the link and have a ball.



More recordings of Bill Livers at the Berea College Sound Archives



Here’s Garry Harrison playing the tune back in 2009 courtesy of Steve Harrison. I vividly remember when this was being played and I’m definitely playing on the track somewhere. The banjo coming through loud and clear is Steve Harrison. Brad Leftwich was also there on fiddle, as was John “Bish” Bishop on guitar. It was one of the first tunes we played before the other dozen or so people showed up. Boy was that a great night…





Here’s a video of Bill and band recorded back in 1982 for Frankfurt, KY cable TV public access. John Harrod is in the red cap on mandolin:





And then there’s me: 



Old Virge Mp3 



Old Virge TAB



 



Have fun!



 



-Sean



 



Edited by - mojo_monk on 07/15/2016 08:58:33

LyleK - Posted - 07/15/2016:  09:38:16


quote:


Originally posted by mojo_monk

.



.



.




Recordings:




I have found no recorded versions of this tune other than those played by Bill Livers and Garry Harrison. Hopefully this post gets it into the fingers of at least a couple more folks.




.



.



.




-Sean




 







There's a Kelly Gilbert *.mp3 at Berea: digital.berea.edu/cdm/singleit...012/rec/2



But it's in C and to my unskilled ear sounds rather different.


mojo_monk - Posted - 07/15/2016:  18:53:10


@ Lyle: I came across that as well. Thanks for the link. Kind of reminds me of "Old Mose" from Howard Sims - another C tune. Old Mose or Old Virge? Will the real old person please stand up?!
@ hendrid: thanks for those links. I think my post covered the audio on those sites but it's worthwhile to have them just in case. Plus the photo of Bill on the "jonboat" site is great!

-Sean

RG - Posted - 07/15/2016:  21:30:10


Heck yeah!!!!!!


JanetB - Posted - 07/16/2016:  12:45:38


As always, I had fun with this TOTW.  Old Virge and the story of Bill Livers certainly makes for an interesting post this week, Sean.  I used your tab and the Steve Harrison link to arrange the tune and was amused when I read that Virge was a dog, probably Bill's grandfather, and that you hear him in the tune.   I -- like you and RG -- also liked that photo of Bill Liver telling his story to kids, so I made a screenshot for posting here.




Old Virge (TOTW)


Bill Livers, Kentucky fiddler

mojo_monk - Posted - 07/17/2016:  12:47:27


quote:

Originally posted by JanetB

 

As always, I had fun with this TOTW.  Old Virge and the story of Bill Livers certainly makes for an interesting post this week, Sean.  I used your tab and the Steve Harrison link to arrange the tune and was amused when I read that Virge was a dog, probably Bill's grandfather, and that you hear him in the tune.   I -- like you and RG -- also liked that photo of Bill Liver telling his story to kids, so I made a screenshot for posting here.







This is really great, Janet! Thanks for taking a stab at the tune. It made my day to hear someone else playing it big



 



-Sean


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