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He Planted Oldtime Music in my Soul

Posted by Debbielee on Sunday, February 3, 2008

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I woke up this morning before the sun came up.  Light is now just peeking over the mountains and casting an amazing color throughout the valley.  I am watching five deer grazing in the pasture.  I am having a "wow" moment.  Life is truly a blessing.   The music that I play is a part of this blessing.  I can thank my grandfather for planting the seed a long time ago.  He was a hard working farmer in rural Michigan.  After a day of hard work he would settle down in his old chair and start to fiddle.  He would play tunes like Ragtime Annie, Golden Slippers and Soldiers Joy.  Did I appreciate his music and sit at his feet taking in the melodies that he would spin?  No.  I was a kid and Grandpa playing the fiddle was just the way life was.  In my teen years while I was listening to the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Eric Clapton, Grandpa was still in that old chair fiddling away.  When I was in my twenties while listening to the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac, Grandpa was still there. 

I grew up,  got married, had children, listened to "Country Music".  I lived in Florida at that time and my grandmother and grandfather bought a winter place near us, a modest mobile home.  My grandmother died, and I know his fiddle comforted him. Later, I remember taking my children up to visit him and while walking to his door, I could hear his fiddle.  A rush of memories would flood my mind.  My kids nicknamed him "Grandpa Jingle Bells", because he would play the tune for them. 

My grandfather died.  My father went to his house and found him sitting in that old chair, and laying beside him was his fiddle.  It was a sad day. That was about twenty years ago.  Life goes on, but it's not until now that I understand what my grandfather gave to me.   I can attribute so many blessings to him because of who he was and his music.  My only regret is that I didn't have a chance to tell him that.  I would give anything to be able to sit with him next to that old chair and play a few tunes.  Maybe one day. 


44 comments on “He Planted Oldtime Music in my Soul”

KevinP Says:
Sunday, February 3, 2008 @10:16:12 AM

Wow, what a nice story to share. It sounds like your grandfather was a great guy.

A Rich Taylor Says:
Sunday, February 3, 2008 @10:31:00 AM

I don't know what to say....but couldn't let this blog shuffle by without telling you that this is such a well written, moving and heartwarming tribute to your Grandfather.. regards, bud

Cottonmouth Says:
Sunday, February 3, 2008 @12:01:19 PM

I really miss not having a living musical influence in my life like your Grandfather. When my father was into his 90s, he revealed to me that he had played violin in high school and had made train trips to Chicago with another student to play in concerts. I later found newspaper articles to that effect. I never heard him play, but I feel that I did inherit a great appreciation for strings, and that music is in my genes. I hope that sharing my gift, will, at least, inspire someone to give strings a try. You are truly blessed. Ken

u k sandra Says:
Sunday, February 3, 2008 @4:19:01 PM

I`m sure somewhere he`s sitting listening to you and smilling.

rendesvous1840 Says:
Thursday, March 13, 2008 @8:55:35 PM

Wow. What a nice tribute to a Grandpa.

chip arnold Says:
Friday, March 14, 2008 @9:55:58 AM

Beautiful story. The music just keeps going on doesn't it! Thanks for sharing this...........and you're sharing with your grandfather every time you play.

Ottawa Says:
Friday, March 14, 2008 @10:49:45 PM

We just had our firstborn March 7/08, and so family has taken on an ever significant meaning in my life.   This has emphasized the importance of continuity and the sharing of music, and thus- heritage and passion,  in my family.  Thanks!  :)

Tamarack Says:
Saturday, March 15, 2008 @8:49:07 AM

A wonderful story!  (and well written) Thanks for sharing it. 

My grandfather wasn't musical, but I did have the privilege of knowing him as an adult, and sitting on the front porch of the summer cottage listening to stories he wouldn't have told me when I was a kid.

bluerabbit10 Says:
Saturday, March 15, 2008 @11:26:59 AM

Great story, Debbie.  I am on the "other end" of it; being 75 and just starting banjo five years ago.  I play a little two finger and clawhammer and have put on cd's some songs I have written about the old days in the 30's, 40's and 50's...growing up on a farm during the depression years.  I am really ruff yet, but getting better.  I just wanted to get these stories down for my grandchildren, so they could see how things were and maybe hear what old grandpa sounded like...I am still trying and getting much satisfaction from the project.  I only wish  I would have started playing years ago; but feel fortunate to have each day as it comes to do this.
Thanks for telling about your family.  It is so nice to remember.

backtothefuture Says:
Saturday, March 15, 2008 @4:55:21 PM

Your Grandpa planted that seed, his music, many years ago.  The seed finally grew.  It won't ever die.

A beautiful story, Debbielee.

Thank you,


wbalsam1 Says:
Sunday, March 16, 2008 @11:26:41 AM

Very touching. Thanks

Tom Hanway Says:
Sunday, March 23, 2008 @1:37:52 AM

You have him in your heart darling.  He's with you.

wkb28791 Says:
Sunday, March 23, 2008 @9:38:12 AM

You'll get your chance to tell him......but I suspect that he already knows.

I hope that I'm fortunate enough that my grandchildren will look back and smile when they remember Papa playin his banjo.

What a gift.

Bird Dog Says:
Sunday, March 30, 2008 @12:19:31 AM

If only we knew when we were young...all the stories my grandparents and great-aunts and -uncles could have told me if I'd known what questions to ask. Later in high school, when they were mostly gone, I had a teacher who interested us in our ancestry via a research paper on an ancestor.

I also wish I'd played more of my music for my own kids. Other stuff always got in the way - often good stuff, but still...lost time. We take for granted what is nearest.

Thank you for your story. It already has a happy ending: He passed it on! You're playing!

banjodad Says:
Sunday, March 30, 2008 @11:16:33 AM

My Grandpa had a 1911 A-4 mandolin. I never heard him play. He passed away when I was very young. The only thing I can remember sharing with him was a walk to a Cardinals baseball game. I sure wish I could have shared some music. What a lucky lady you are.

Cottonmouth Says:
Thursday, April 10, 2008 @11:31:57 AM

Debbielee, Thank you for sharing with us! Can you imagine the music we'll hear from the Angel Band?! Ken

Wednesday, April 16, 2008 @7:16:37 PM

Yes you can say that you found the BANJO

Kole Says:
Wednesday, April 23, 2008 @3:38:56 PM

Beautiful story and well written. God Bless.

blamethebanjo Says:
Friday, April 25, 2008 @5:48:51 PM

I agree, the writing is wonderful the story is moving.You have a great gift.

Rick Woods Says:
Monday, April 28, 2008 @4:39:25 AM

There is no doubt in my mind that your Grandfather is listening and couldn't be prouder. His influence on you shows in your music.

Don Borchelt Says:
Thursday, May 1, 2008 @5:51:46 PM

"I would give anything to be able to sit with him next to that old chair and play a few tunes."

Well said.  That yearning I know too well.  In our lives we finally come to understand so many things of precious value too late to make the best use of them.  As human beings, our overall cosmic timing stinks.   All I can say is, you'll just have to make do with that cantankerous guitar player you got now.

Shorty Says:
Thursday, June 5, 2008 @10:04:46 AM

What a Blog,   A very touching Story !  that reminds me of My Old Grandad ,he loved the Fiddle but all he ever did was Saw on it,  never learned a full Song,        GOOD PICKIN !      I'm Sure he's looking down on you !

Jim Yarboro

jbrosser Says:
Wednesday, June 18, 2008 @2:01:04 PM

Thanks for sharing the story.  It gives us old guys hope that perhaps our own grandchildren will someday remember and just maybe carry on the legacy.


ragitty Says:
Saturday, July 19, 2008 @5:57:43 AM

Wow...what a great story, unlike you I cannot remember my grandparents, but I am certain that they had some influence on me.  thanks for sharing your lovely story...lee

TexomaBanjo Says:
Sunday, July 20, 2008 @7:51:19 AM

I agree, great story. I remember my grandmother telling us kids about her life and we were too young to appreciate it. With the recent passing of my mom, I've got no one left to learn about our family's history. I wish I'd have paid more attention.

vortex Says:
Tuesday, July 22, 2008 @6:28:24 AM

Great story Debbielee, it changed the start of my day to a good one.The above comments say it all.Thank you for sharing it. I hope you have some pictures of  your grandfather and his fiddle.

snapjackson Says:
Monday, August 18, 2008 @11:31:02 AM

Thank you for sharing that beautiful story.

David M Says:
Tuesday, October 21, 2008 @9:12:19 PM

A touching story Debbielee, great memories.

I was fortunate to play with an old great uncle for his last few years and now have a lot of his bands pre war banjos in my attic. I've found myself being a lone player this past 20 years and also have no children to show an interest in my music and pass anything on to. I did have some video taken one afternoon of us playing together though and his old 5 string seemed part of him. He had no children to pass on his music to either and after my uncles death, my Dad told me he had said once my interest in playing with him brought back the years spent with his brother's and to hear the mandolin banjo playing along side his 5 string always touched him deeply. My brother has a young boy....maybe one day eh..?

zeeway Says:
Wednesday, November 26, 2008 @4:46:37 PM


One day in the distant future, you will play with your grandfather, but I am sure he is smiling down on you even now.  God bless you.


stumpkicker Says:
Wednesday, December 3, 2008 @7:05:54 AM

Besides the banjo, I play the fiddle my  great grandfather brought with him from Ireland in 1890's. My Italian grandfather played the mandolin, though both passed on when I was quite young and I don't remember hearing them play; but I'm looking forward to a really interesting cross cultural jam in a few decades.

strumn1 Says:
Sunday, January 25, 2009 @8:54:45 PM


I am new to the banjo and to this wonderful web site. It took me a long time to figure out exactly what I wanted to do with the banjo, starting with all the three finger rolls associated with bluegrass. I soon tired of that and realized that bluegrass was not even the type of music that I wanted to play. The banjo sat silent for many years, taking a back seat to life and family. I have recently developed an interest in learning the banjo again, only this time in clawhammer style. BH provides a wealth of knowledge on every aspect of banjos and banjo playing. It is through this site that I came to know the style of clawhammer I wanted to play. Your style. I find myself returning to your homepage almost daily to listen to (and hopefully ingrain) this wonderful music you have posted.

You and I have never met, but I must tell you. What your grandfather gave to you is the very thing that you are now giving to me, a total stranger. The difference is, I do have the chance to thank you for this gift. Please keep posting. You are such an inspiration! Thank you..Phil

Dwalker1926 Says:
Wednesday, June 3, 2009 @4:54:35 AM

I watched the sun come up this morning as I picked my open back.......I thought of my great grand father who played the fiddle. When I was about 8 or 9 I would sneak in the room where he kept the fiddle in a ceadr chest and get it out and play with it. He was bed ridden at the time but my great grandmother was not. She would let me play with it.....that is funny to me now because I couldn't imagine letting a little child play with a fiddle that was made in the mid 1800', Anyway she told my mother she could have the fiddle when he passed away and to give it to me if I would learn to play it.....I've been learning ever since......pass it on.

I enjoyed this mornings picking and reading your story,


jahenbo Says:
Thursday, September 17, 2009 @5:38:08 AM

Hey Debbie, I got up this morning, grabbed my 5 string practiced a little and then got online. I was looking at different people's pages on BHO and found yours. It's raining here in the mountains of NC but your story made the sun come out in my heart. My Grandpa didn't play, my Dad played very little but he loved the old songs and sang them all the time. Thanks for reminding me of that because like you at that time I didn't realize what that would mean to me, now I do. Once again Thanks for your memories. Who knows maybe your Grandpa and my Dad are jamming in heaven. I wouldn't doubt it.

jojo25 Says:
Tuesday, October 20, 2009 @2:40:55 PM

fine story Debbielee...well wrote and moving. I have my great grandfather's fiddle. I have no memory of him playing, though I did meet him. I only know this from a photo of him holding me in his arms when I was a wee babe. the way...your playing and singing are mighty fine too...wish I was in Georgia now as winter is coming on and I find myself more and more intolerant of the cold.



Paul R Says:
Wednesday, February 10, 2010 @9:33:53 PM

This is a moving, touching recalling of the how intertwining of family and music helped to shape you, Debbielee. It brought back personal memories, to me, too.

It seems that some traits seem to skip a generation. My father's father died when he was about thirteen and my dad then had to find work to help support the family. He had mentioned that his father had been a musician, and had even made a banjo. "Turned the rim himself", was the way my dad put it.

My dad once told me about the time the family was moving. When he left the house in the morning to go to work, he saw his father's banjos in the garbage. He stopped briefly, thought, "I'll never play them," and headed off to work. It really upset me to hear that.

My father wasn't musically talented, but appreciated music. I can't help but feel that somehow the "music gene" was passed on through him. (When I bought my first electric guitar, my parents weren't too pleased, but Dad bought me the amplifier.)

A few years ago, at my brother's house, I saw, for the first time ever, a photo of my grandfather. In it, he's holding a violin. That hit me hard in a couple of ways. The disappointment of never knowing the man or his music (whether it was to my taste or not), coupled with the realization that there's some connection to a past that was before my time.

I'm a little more lucky in that our daughter took up flute in grade school, then learned a bit of saxophone and trumpet, and also took violin lessons, so the music gene didn't have to skip a generation this time.

This isn't nearly as direct or moving as your experience, and I have to thank you bringing out the personal memories and reflections in so many who have chanced upon your writing.

robinr_99 Says:
Friday, March 5, 2010 @9:43:18 AM

............that's a wonderful & moving story....and i'm glad that i was lucky enough to read it......thank you for sharing.................peace, love, and banjos... robin

ScottAnderson Says:
Thursday, May 6, 2010 @11:01:01 AM

This is a beautiful story. I have 2 daughters that don't really like my fiddle & banjo playing. I hope one day they change there mind like you did.

BrannonCPA Says:
Sunday, December 5, 2010 @1:57:05 PM

Great tribute to your Grandpa. And I love Greensleeves. What a wonderful person Debbielee! Music is life. Merry Christmas.

Tuneager Says:
Tuesday, January 18, 2011 @12:03:07 PM

I empathize with your reflections of your Grandfather and days gone by. Reminds me of the lyrics to John Prine's "Souvenirs":
"Memories that can't be boughten, can't be won at carnivals for free, it took me years to get those souvenirs and I don't how they slipped away from me."

RWJonesy Says:
Wednesday, May 11, 2011 @11:57:14 AM

Beautiful story. I wasn't as blessed as you to have an old time musician in my family. I came across learning the banjo just a few years ago. Your story made me think of my grandparents and some precious moments I shared with them. Didn't appreciate them as much then as I do now.....and I dearly long to see them and thank them for all they were and did for me as a youngster. Strange how we can take so much for granted and we don't realize the blessing most times until it has passed us by.

SidBarone Says:
Saturday, September 17, 2011 @9:54:34 PM

as i was listening to your cherokee shuffle & reading your story, the tears just started flowing.. thanks for touching us!..

medenholm Says:
Sunday, May 6, 2012 @1:01:44 AM

What a great story. Your Grandfather was very blessed having a Granddaughter like you that carries on his musical tradition. You play very well. I know he's very proud. GOD bless

Keith Madison Says:
Sunday, June 10, 2012 @8:45:15 AM

Grandparents can be such a good influence, even more than our own parents sometimes, I sure miss both :) thx

wissel Says:
Tuesday, July 19, 2016 @11:45:02 AM

He can hear you play now and he, I'm sure, is well pleased.

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