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Dwight Diller and Ralph Roberts

Posted by Brooklynbanjoboy on Tuesday, March 17, 2020

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Old time music played at Ralph and Charlie Roberts' house near Frametown, West Virginia. March 2020.

 

From Matt Evans' YOUTUBE channel.[1]

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NXcpZh-Z1fU

 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5FLys15jn0

 

 

What a great gift, having these videos on Youtube. 

 

These are pretty substantial videos with a lot of tunes by Dwight, and Ralph - the last living Hammons family fiddler.

 

Here's the brief Hammons family lineage as I understand it:[2]

 

Paris Hammons was born on the Kentucky side of the border with West Virginia around 1856, one of seven children born to Jesse Hammons and Nancy Broughton Hicks.  He was a child when his family moved to east central West Virginia just before the Civil War.  

 

Paris and his wife Charlotte had ten children, including Sherman, Burl and Maggie whose stories and old tunes captivated Dwight.  Paris himself was a fiddler; his sons Sherman and Burl both had their first crack at the instrument as youngsters by sneaking turns on their father’s fiddle. 

 

Among Paris’ brothers were Edn Hammons and Pete Hammons, both celebrated fiddlers in their time, and Cornelius, the father of Currence and Dona whose banjo playing was recorded by Gerry Milnes.

 

Paris’ daughter Emmy married a John Roberts, the grandfather of Ralph Roberts, a fiddler and banjo player from southeastern West Virginia, a well know fixture at the Appalachian String Band Festival in Clifftop, West Virginia.

 

Ralph, born in 1929, the last fiddler in the Hammons family line, described Dwight’s fiddling as consisting of a good amount of “up bowing,” the style in which the Sherman and Burl Hammons played.

 

Ralph plays an old style of two finger banjo picking, and started learning clawhammer style banjo around 2014 - from Dwight.

 

According to Gerald Milnes, Ralph Roberts was born on Poplar Creek of Birch River.  His Uncle Jesse played fiddle.  Ralph late brothers were musical.  His nephew, Rick Roberts, of Cox's Mills, plays fiddle and mandolin.  Milnes states that Ralph “plays a more laid back, Wilson Douglas style.  I don't know if they knew each other although they lived in the same county.  Ralph knows old tunes, but he is also agreeable to learning tunes he hears that are new to him. His wife, Charlie, is a great fan and encourages Ralph in his music.”    (See 30 December 2014 (10:43 A.M.) email from Gerald Milnes.)

 

 

 

[2] Excerpted from Lew Stern, Dwight Diller: West Virginia Mountain Musician, Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland and Company, Inc., 2016.

 



2 comments on “Dwight Diller and Ralph Roberts”

OldPappy Says:
Tuesday, March 17, 2020 @9:06:13 AM

It was a very enjoyable visit, and I greatly appreciate the videos Matt recorded, which capture both the music and stories of two important figures in WV music.

Matt also recorded a few hours of Dwight playing banjo in the Brown Creek lodge the next evening after we visited the Roberts. Keep an eye out for when Matt gets those loaded. Dwight was in top form, and played some tunes I haven't heard him play in years.

Brooklynbanjoboy Says:
Tuesday, March 17, 2020 @9:14:52 AM

Nice to hear your banjos, too, Andy. Thanks for the heads up on more of Matt's videos. I'll watch for them.

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