Amoeblog

Black Hillbilly - or - What you really know about the Upper South?

Posted by Eric Brightwell, February 9, 2015 09:08am | Post a Comment
The first non-Native American settlers of Appalachia and later, the Ozarks, were of primarily of three ethnicities: Scots-Irish, English, and German. These hard-working farmers and craftsmen created a distinct culture which in the 19th Century came to be named “hillbilly.” Although the Northern European roots of hillbilly are routinely acknowledged, even scholars on the culture are far less likely to recognize hillbilly’s other significant place of ancestral origin, West Africa.

19th century black music ensemble

Hillbilly music’s biracial parentage should be immediately evident to anyone with any knowledge of the music’s primary instruments, the fiddle and the banjo. The modern fiddle (or violin) may have originated in 16th Century Italy but similar bowed instruments preceded its development by several centuries and the violin made its way to the Americas thanks to English colonists. The banjo, descended from the numerous plucked instruments of West Africa such as the akonting, ngoni, and xalam, was introduced to the Americas by African slaves.

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Southpaw Grammar - Happy International Lefthanders Day

Posted by Eric Brightwell, August 13, 2010 08:58am | Post a Comment
Happy International Lefthanders Day!

International Left-Handers Day

As a child growing up in Bluegrass Country, Kentucky, left-handedness was viewed with suspicion at best, and associated with Natural Evil at worst. Course, they call fiddles "devil's boxes" too. To paraphrase Bobby Boucher, they think everything is the devil!




Ned Flanders Left-Handed

However, hillbillies aren't alone in their distrust of the left hand. The word "sinister" comes from the Latin word sinestra, or "left." And yet, Chris McManus of University College London argues in his book, Right-Hand, Left-Hand, that the proportion of left-handers is increasing and left-handed people as a group have historically produced an above-average quota of high achievers. In other words, they're taking over...

Left Handed kid doing the splits

Consider our leftie (not necessarily in the normal political sense) presidents. OK, maybe Gerald Ford did little to dispel the connotations of clumsy that give us the expression "two left feet." The '90s were totally cack-handed; both Bush and Clinton were goofy. In times of economic turmoil, we turn to lefties like Hoover and Obama, and then blame them for the conditions they inherited.

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Show me the Mo Movies!!! - Missouri in Film and TV

Posted by Eric Brightwell, June 30, 2010 10:00pm | Post a Comment
Some folk that know me know I have to see dang near err movie that's filmed in, set in or tied to Missouri (whurr I grew up). With the Bourne Trilogy, those ties were somewhat tenuous... Badass Jason Bourne is merely informed that his real name is David Webb and he's from Nixa. No wonder he joined the military. Needless to say, people are sick of hearing me talk about my home state, but most of yins are strangers so it will hopefully be only a fraction as annoying as what they put up wither pritnear err time I sip on somethin'.

I just sawl Winter's Bone the other day. What can I say? The boyz (and gulz) in the woodz is always hard! Wisely, they actually filmed in the Ozarks rather than in Canada or some other pale stand-in. Not much in the way of distracting celebrities either. Perfect music by Tindersticks' Dickon Hinchliffe. Real recognize real, ya heard? Anywho, hurr's my pretty complete timeline of Mo Films.


MO MOVIES IN THE SILENT ERA

Shepherd of the Hills (1919) Jesse James movie poster 

Silent Movies were ideal for the people who made "Show Me" thurr motto. With outlaws from Missouri including Tom Horn, and badass cowgirls Belle Star and Calamity Jane, it's kind of surprising how many Missouri-set Westerns overwhelmingly favor popular Missourian Jesse James. Apparently, the most Missouri silent movie would have Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer joining the James Gang. Just consider the following silent films set in the state:

The James Boys in Missouri (1908), Coals of Fire (1911), In Mizzoura (1914), Tom Sawyer (1917), In Mizzoura and Shepherd of the Hills (both 1919), Huckleberry Finn (1920), Jesse James as the Outlaw (1921) and Jesse James (1927).

MO MOVIES IN THE EARLY SOUND ERA

Samantha Bumgarner -- fiddling ballad woman of mountains

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 12, 2009 06:49pm | Post a Comment
Aunt Samantha Bumgarner c. 1937

Aunt Samantha Bumgarner (née Biddix) was a fiddle and banjo player from North Carolina who, in 1924, became the first woman to record hillbilly music. In doing so, she opened the doors for all the great female hillbilly and country musicians who followed. Imagine for a second a world without Brenda Lee, Iris Dement, Jean Shepard, Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, Norma Jean, Skeeter Davis, Sue Thompson and Tammy Wynette, to name a few. Not a pretty place.

Dillsboro, North Carolina c. 1904
 

Samantha Biddix was born in Dillsboro, North Carolina on Halloween, 1878, the same year Black Bart held up his last stagecoach and, more relevantly, Thomas Edison patented the phonograph. Her parents were Has Biddix, himself a fiddler, and Sara MaLynda Brown Biddix. Though Biddix showed an early interest in music, her father wouldn’t allow her to touch the fiddle, an instrument occasionally referred to by hillbillies as a “devil’s box.” Nonetheless, when he wasn’t around, she played it and displayed a natural talent. The banjo, then viewed as a slightly more acceptable instrument for women, was not forbidden and Biddix’s first, constructed from gourd and cat hide, was presented to her at fifteen. Later, having demonstrated her skills for her father, he bought her a ten cent model and allowed her to perform with him in the area. Ultimately, he consented to her entering a banjo competition in Canton and she won. Gaining confidence, she began entering and winning competitions routinely.

English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians

When she married Carse Bumgarner in 1902, he gave her her first fiddle but she remained most acclaimed for her banjo playing. A few years later she acquired the nickname "Aunt Samantha." Although through the lens of modern ignorance, a hillbilly woman gaining fame with the banjo may seem completely out of the ordinary, it was actually fairly common for women to play the instrument, especially amongst hillbillies. In 1916, when Cecil Sharp and Maud Karpeles began field recording in the upper south, nearly three quarters of the hundreds of tunes they compiled as English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians were performed by women. In addition, many famous male hillbillies learned to play from the women in their lives. Ralph Stanley was taught to play by his mother, Lucy Smith Stanley. Cynthia "Cousin Emmy" May Carver taught "Grandpa" Louis Jones. Clarence "Tom" Ashley learned to play from his aunts, Ary and Daisy. Morgan Sexton was schooled by his sister, Hettie. Earl Scruggs was beaten to the banjo by his older sisters, Eula Mae and Ruby.

Country from other countries

Posted by Eric Brightwell, October 23, 2008 06:57pm | Post a Comment
Country Music

In the American South, traditions from Celtic music, folk, blues, gospel and mountain music melded together into what was originally known as Hillbilly music. Hillbilly produced some incredibly popular artists like Jimmie Rodgers, who sold over a million records in the '20s, back when there were probably like 2 million people in the country.

In 1949, Billboard started referring to it as Country, since many Hillbillies began to feel like they were performing some kind of minstrelsy for urban, northern audiences who'd stick some straw baies on the stage to make these noble savages feel at home.

Anyway, it wasn't just popular at home. There are seemingly more fans of country outside of the U.S. than in it. Before long, other countries were producing their own Country, influenced by the original but occasionally tailored to their own traditions.

Canadian Country

Canadian Cornfield

It shouldn't really come as a surprise that Canada, our kid sibling to the north, would have their fair share of Country musicians. in fact, outside of the U.S., Canada is the Countryest country. Originally it developed out of their heavily Celtic Maritime Provinces. Most Country, however, mirrors the U.S.'s and many Canadian Country artists have infiltrated Nashville unsuspected and undetected, capable of producing Pop Country as bland as our indigenous experts. Most Canadian Country musicians sing about Tennessee this and Kentucky that, happy to not reflect their own backgrounds. Those that do have a more distinctly Canadian tone often have an elevated Folk aspect to their music.

Canadian Country artists include Shania Twain, Adam Gregory, Hank Snow, Paul Brandy, Wilf Carter, Tommy Hunter, Stompin' Tom Connors, Corb Lund, George Canyon, Don Messer, Anne Murray, Lucille Starr, Marg Osburne, Ian Tyson, Mercey Brothers, Maurice Boyler, Gordie Tapp, Carroll Baker, Bob Nolan, Stu Davis, Gene MacLellan, Myrna Lorrie, Ray Griff, Ronnie Prophet, Colleen Peterson, The Good Brothers, Terry Carisse and Prairie Oyster.

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