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Posted by ColonelJD on Thursday, October 16, 2014

likes this first blahhhg.

I'm JD Wilkes, an old time banjo player who is happy to announce the upcoming release of 84-year old fiddler Charlie Stamper. The CD will be distributed by Appalshop's June Appal records. Here are the liner notes for the CD to help get you up to speed on who Charlie is:

    I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have met and recorded with Mr. Charlie Stamper.  But had I not been on a mission to document the current state of “barn dances and jamborees” in Kentucky, someone else might have gotten there first.  I am incredibly thankful the honor falls to me and all the good friends who helped make this record a reality.  Here’s how it all got started:
    While traveling and collecting information for my book Barn Dances and Jamborees Across Kentucky, I happened into a small opry house one dark Saturday night in Cadiz, KY.  Onstage was a motley crew of entertainers: an emcee (Guitarist Ray Wyatt), a sweet little church-lady on Casio, a 6-string bassist in tight jeans and Nikes, and some drummer.  But over by the keyboardist was a distinguished-looking gentlemen playing the fiddle.  I proceeded to witness him jam everything from bluegrass to 80s-era pop country.  I even got to participate during an open-mic set and play alongside him and the whole Lakeland Jamboree band.  While onstage, I became distracted by the power of his playing.  Such musical “quick thinking” to jump genres this way…and never missing a lick!  Well, come to find out, that’s just Charlie, “the best fiddle player in these parts”.
    Charlie Stamper was born in a log cabin on Jan. 28, 1930, the peak of the Great Depression.  He is the brother of Bluegrass Hall of Famer Art Stamper and the son of Hiram Stamper, both of whom are now deceased.  His childhood home place in Knott County is on the Kentucky registry of historic places, the result of his brother Art’s storied career with both the Osbourne and Stanley Brothers.
    “The first instrument I played was a ‘thrum-bow,’” Charlie remembers.  “My dad would take a hickory stick and whittle it down to make a bow. Then he’d string it up with a broom wire.”  Charlie demonstrates the “jaw harp”-like instrument on this recording too.
    After serving in the military, Charlie started a new life and family outside of Chicago, IL.  He played the occasional big-ticket show around the Chicagoland area, especially when folks like Johnny Cash and Loretta Lynn came a-knockin’.  Thankfully, he, along with his wife Akiko, returned to the Kentucky to retire in the western lake lands.  Today, at 84, he is poised to pick up the mantel and claim his right to the Old Time Music throne.  But, as we know, there is no such throne, and if there were one, Charlie would prefer the primitive, old hand-hewn chair his father Hiram made.  It’s still holding up, parked on Charlie’s back deck and facing Lake Barkley.  Charlie is usually on his feet though.  Seeing him pace around the place, just a-sawing away, is a real treat.  He may be one of the greatest examples of how music keeps you young and sharp-witted. 
    “I think I’ll slow down when I reach 105,” he joked.  “I’m just busy…too busy to go fishing!”
    Once it finally sunk in who this man is and how near he lives to me (my home is in Paducah, KY), I couldn’t help but take it upon myself to chronicle some of his many achievements.  The next step was to enlist my friends Layne Hendrickson, Josh Coffee and Nathan Blake Lynn to help me record his amazing tunes, many of which are as old as the hills he once called home.  My personal favorites are “Cattle in the Cane” and his father’s signature rave-up “Glory in the Meeting House.”
    “My dad played fiddle, banjo and French harp.  I remember when I was five or six, I would sit on the floor between his legs as he played the fiddle—his big foot keeping time as it hit the boards.”
    Stamper is a living treasury of stories from Depression-era Kentucky too.  You can hear the arcane intensity of “The Old Ways” both in his anecdotes and in his attack on the instrument.  He carves a mean fiddle! Despite the personal loss of family members and some recent health issues, Charlie has emerged as an Old-Time music hero waiting to happen. 
    I hope you’ll enjoy these tunes and stories.  They took a lifetime for Stamper to amass and to embody.  It was an honor, a privilege and a blast for me to play banjo alongside such a master.  It’s an even greater thrill to share the results with the world, thanks to Appalshop, June Appal Records, engineer Layne Hendrickson and of course Mr. Charlie Stamper himself.  May his cross-tuned fiddle echo from Lake Barkley to Knott County and wherever worldwide this record so spins.  Enjoy!
--JD Wilkes
(author of Barn Dances and Jamborees Across Kentucky, The History Press)
Quotations taken from Fiddler Magazine, Winter 2011. Vol. 18, No. 4
Barn Dances and Jamborees Across Kentucky by JD Wilkes out now from The History Press!


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