"dedicated to the preservation of oldtime string music"

Jackson Area Plectral Society



Below alphabetically are interviews, photos, videos, and other documents of oldtime musicians throughout our area who have helped shape our heritage music. We recognize their stories here and salute their efforts in preserving our traditional music and folk culture. 

Joe Bone

I became aware of Old Time Music in about 1938 when my dad bought a Silvertone battery radio and I first heard the National Barn Dance and later the Grand Ole Opry. It took me a long time to get over wanting to play cornet in a Dixieland Jazz Band, but after I heard Flatt & Scruggs during my service in the U. S. Army in Germany, I began to listen to Bluegrass and go to some festivals.  Finally, in 1982, I bought a dulcimer kit at Mtn. View, put it together and learned to play it, (the old time way, with a noter). 
    Folk music as played in the Ozarks had a special attraction for me.  I like the sounds of acoustic instruments and the vocal harmonies that go with it.  I also like the historical side of the old ballads and fiddle tunes.  My Granddaddy Bone (who died before I was born) used to play fiddle for dances before he joined Mt. Olive church and laid his fiddle down.  My older brother inherited that fiddle, but I managed to try to play it a few times.  My mother and sister both played the piano and I can remember our family singing together at home as well as at church.  Two of my sons have played drums and guitar in rock and blues bands,
      With the following exceptions, I have been a listener, not a picker.  During Christmas 1954, I was on a troop ship headed for Germany.  I played cornet with a small combo for a Christmas dance for the dependents (families) on board.
Later on that spring I played with another group and we won a talent contest. (This got me on the "music detail" instead of K.P.) In recent years, I have played and sung at senior citizens clubs, churches, retirement homes, etc.
      Since retirement from Kellwood Company in 1994, I have been manager of the Davy Crockett Cabin/Museum at Rutherford and have had oldtime music there as part of our annual Davy Crockett Days.  I have helped to edit and write  a couple of local history books.  When we had the Dyer Music Lovers' Club, I was always asked to come up with an annual folk music program.  This gave me the opportunity to get some friends to come in to pick and sing the oldtime tunes.
       Back in the 1990's my wife and I would sometimes go to the Old Country Store on Thursday nights and listen to the oldtime music.  It was not until Coley and Marilyn Graves came by the Cabin and invited us to come down and play with them that we started attending and soon joined the Club.  Sue and I have made a lot of good friends who enjoy the music as much as we do and who share many of  the same values that we hold.  Old Time Music has created many friendships that would never existed without it.


Ryan Beard

Once again you voted and another great choice. A very talented young oldtime banjo picker whom I've had the pleasure of picking a little bit with recently. He plays banjo in the oldtime style - my personal favorite - being an oldtime fiddler.  I think it's wonderful that we have a growing group of young musicians coming on that will pick up and carry the torch on into the future.  Ryan is certainly one of those rare oldtime enthusiasts that will carry on our legacy. It gives me great pleasure to introduce our Picker of the Month - Mr. Ryan Beard. 
When did you first become interested in oldtime music: After "O Brother Where Art Thou" was released. The first time I became interested in the banjo especially was on a mission trip in Romania. An American missionary was playing his banjo at a free clinic in a village there. That was the first time I messed with a banjo.
How long have you been playing old time music: Since I was 14, so for 7 years.
What are your musical influences: Grandpa Jones, Uncle Dave Macon, Stringbean, Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, Don Reno and Red Smiley
Does anyone in your family play music: My brother mainly plays rock music, but we play old time almost every time we get together. He plays the guitar and the mandolin.
What kinds of times and places have you played music in your life: When I was 16, I started playing with the Turkey Creek Bluegrass band from Savannah, TN. I played with them for almost a year. We played in West TN and North MS the most. My favorite show was when we played at the Dixie in Huntington.
What else do you do besides play music: I visit with friends and piddle around the house and in the garden.
What makes this kind of music "good" to you: The variation of instruments and rhythm driven songs are more appealing than a guitar and drum based music. The focus on playing the instrument well instead of loud is good to me too.
Why did you choose to play this kind of music: Because it's fun, but it's also a music best enjoyed live and in the person.


Dennis Baumgarner

  • When and how did you first become interested in oldtime music?
In 1998 after having by pass surgery. I was setting around the house with nothing to do so I picked up my old J45 Gibson. I somehow learned of the picking at the OCS and the rest is history. The more I played the more I wanted to know. 
  • How long have you been playing oldtime music?
Started in 1998. I had played with my dad as a small boy up until 11 or 12. Then started plating Beatle music until about 22 then quit completely until '98. 

  • What are your musical influences?
Don't know if I had any. I liked Kenny Baker and David Killensworth. David was the one to inspire me to try to play the fiddle. I'll never forget his encouragement one night at the store. And I quote "if you really want to play that thing then go home and practice 5 hours a night for 5 yrs and you might make a fiddler". 

  • Does anyone in your family play music?
There are musians on both sides of the family. 

  • What kinds of times and places have you played music in your life?
Started following William Moore around to bluegrass festivals. I think the first group was the Blue Creek Ramblers. William was the bass player for that group and from him I have learned many valuable lessons about music as well many other topics. 

  • What else do you do besides play music?
I have way to many hobbies: 
I have been a photographer, raced boats, built airplanes (the ones you ride in), built dune buggies, built a hammer dulcimer, a lap dulcimer and Celtic harps. William has also taught me to repair fiddles. 

  • What makes this kind of music "good" to you?
Easy to play. But mostly the folks you meet. 

  • Why did you choose to play this kind of music?

I didn't it just happen to be there. It's the music of good common people and you just can't beat that.


Benny Coley

Picker of the Month:

Mr. Benny Coley

P'- Picker of the Month

Benny's been around the Plectral Society
since the onset. He's been pickin' mandolin and
singin' those old Louvin Brother tunes for years. I
thought it would be interesting to hear his story on
oldtime music, so here it is - Mr. Benny Coley -
P'Picker of the Month:

When and how did you first become
interested in Oldtime Music? Someone in the family
acquired an old guitar. I played approximately a
year-and-a-half. I heard The Louvin Brothers and got very interested in the mandolin.
Bought my first one from a man's attic and gave $2.50 for it.

How long have you been playing Oldtime Music? I started around 1946. Their
was very little music, books, etc. available to me at that time. I've been playing now 62

What were your musical influences?

I like Country, Gospel, etc. - the Louvin Brothers more than any of the others.

Does anyone in your family play music?

My mother played the piano.

What kinds of times and places have you played music in your life? Early on, we
played school houses, some radio. Later, moving to Madison County - we played the
old Hayloft Frolic, Farm and Home Hour. We played as the "Pierce Family" - Country
Gospel from 1972 - 1983.

What else do you do besides play music?

I like fishing, sports, baseball, and softball.

What makes this kind of music "good" to you?

The real reason for my music - I love harmony, and that seems to fit the mandolin
I love so much.

Why did you choose to play this kind of music?

I think the acoustic music brings out all the qualities in most any instrument.
Some of the greatest pickers are in this type music.

- Benny Coley


Truman Dishman

1. When and how did you first become interested in oldtime music?  I recall at about age 5or6 my dad his brother and uncle mac playing music. Dad played claw hammer banjo and  picked guitar
his brother played guitar and uncle mac fiddle. I  remember Dad picking wildwood flower in a C chord I didnt know that then.

2. How long have you been playing oldtime music?
About 40-42 years my wife Faye bought my first guitar ordered it from sears not long after we were married so I could learn to play when we would go visit her family on weekends. Her sisters husband had a guitar from sears and his sisters husband played mandlin also from sears and a cousin had a k bass. I was on my way learning 3 chords a short time later I bought a used mandlin and started learning 3 chords adding notes that was the sound i was looking for.
When we would take the kids camping & vacation Faye would say are you taking that ol mandlin again.Now she says dont forget the mandlin you might need it.

3. What are your musical influences? Listening to WSM grand ol opry saturday nights on a battry radio and a wire di pole antenna when i was small. I was raised in the cumberland mountains overton county livingston TN. About 110 miles NE of nashville.I was influenced by lots of people. to name a few Flatt & Scrugs 15 minute martha white on radio at 600 am and 30 minute TV show on channel 4 on saturday 600pm.
Around 1960or so I saw flatt & Scrugs, Bill Monroe on stage it cost 50 cents. Carter & ralph Stanley, Ricky Skaggs, Keith Whitley, Paul Williams playing mandlin Jimmy martin. Roy Accuf & smokey mtn boys, Merl Haggard, Carl Story, Last but least Doyl the man Lawson. 
4. Does anyone in your family play music? Our oldest son Allen plays dobro. Our youngest son plays guitar and accomplished vocilist and song leader in his seinor year of high school he was # 11 in NW, TN. coral music competion.

5. What kinds of times and places have you played music in your life? To name a few the the gibson masterpiece theatre opry mills in Donelson. TN. ozark folk lor society Mountain View, AR, Jimmy Driftwood theater Mountain View, AR. Mountain View gospel opry.  1984 or 85 the Dan Rudy benifit an arts and craft show first time on stage. Music valley bluegrass, fiddle banjo two guitars bass , mandlin and 4 vocals we played together about 6 years when we lived in Hermitage,TN. Moved to Dyersburg .  Played with cane ridge for about 5 years, possom river 10 years,  West TN bluegrass gospel 8 years and shade tree pickers about 3 years.

6. What else do you do besides play music?

   Amature radio operator have a general class licens. I have talked to stations around the world also made voice contact with space shuttle.  and also sending and receiving code on a streight telegraph code key and a inverted V, copper wire di pole for a antenna . Like to work in the yard.

7. What makes this kind of music "good" to you?  Being able to share it with others and pass it on . The interesting thing about this music to some it talks about life from beginning to end and beond.

8. Why did you choose to play this kind of music?
 I think this kind of music just grows on you.
Thanks Jeff . Hope this will do i"m not the best at E mail.


John Few

With this month’s issue, we bring back our Picker of the Month article.  I’m trying to revive this particular section after a long quietus.  It’s a good way to get to know our fellow members, along with being a good way of keeping up with our historical archives.  
  In looking back through my files, I somehow noticed I omitted one very familiar member who’s been an integral part of the Plectral Society for quite some time.  Upon the departure of many of the original founders, he stepped into the leadership role to revive the Plectral Society to it’s present state.  Under his leadership we owe many of the priviledges we have today as a Plectral Society member.  This month we pay tribute to Mr. John Few - our Picker of the Month:
When and how did you first become interested in oldtime music?
I became interested in this music in my pre-teen years when musicians would gather at my grand-parents home when they were having fish fries, bar-b-ques and other cook outs.
How long have you been playing oldtime music?
15 years.  My wife Patsy gave me an acoustic guitar for Christmas 1998.
What are your musical influences?
I like most kinds of music as long as it has good lyrics and relates to the triumphs and trials of life.
Does anyone in your family play music?
I have several members of my family that play and sing mostly gospel music.
What kinds of times and places have you played music in your life?
Jr. High School band,  High School band,  Beatles era dance band performing at venues in Memphis,  Bluegrass / Bluegrass Gospel bands in the West TN area,  church gospel music group.
What else do you do besides play music?
Manage a Bluegrass music show in Jackson,  Provide sound re-inforcement at music festivals and shows,  fishing, spending time with my wife and family.
What makes this kind of music "good" to you?
This form of music identifies with my heritage.
Why did you choose to play this kind of music?
Most of the people that play this music are good genuine down to earth people.

Marilyn Graves

Your choice for Picker of the Month - a true southern lady, one of the most congenial, kind-hearted, delightful members of the Plectral Society, and a repository of oldtime music. 

Ms. Marilyn Graves:

When and how did you first become interested in music?

I really don’t remember a time when I wasn’t interested in music.  We always had a piano at home, and every time our extended family would visit, we would gather around the piano and sing the old time gospels and hymns.  In my family, taking piano lessons was just something taken for granted that all the kids did when they started school.  I still have the piano that has been in our family for over 100 years.

How long have you been playing music?

I started playing piano in second grade, but it was not until Coley and I  married that I got involved with other instruments.  His family always had music in their home, but they had guitars, fiddles, and mandolins.  There was always a crowd at their home on Saturday nights, playing the old time music. It was at one of these jams that Coley found out that one of the pickers had an accordion for sale.  He went that night and bought the accordion for me. I can’t tell you how I learned to play the accordion, it just seemed to come natural. 

What are your musical influences?

For many years we had a gospel band, playing primarily at churches, and then a country band, which played for line dances at community centers.  In our gospel group we had a guitar, mandolin, bass, fiddle, and accordion.  Like the hammered dulcimer I play now, it was unusual back then to have an accordion in a group.  In the country band we had a keyboard (which I played), bass, fiddle, electric guitar, and drums.  The person who influenced me most was Coley’s uncle, Tim Walsh.  He was one of the best old time fiddlers in the mid-south area, and he played with us for many years until his death in 1995.  I learned to play a lot of the old time fiddle hoedowns from him.  He played by ear, and had learned these tunes from his mother’s family.  In the early 1990’s, we had a monthly Friday and Saturday night  show in Mt. View, AR.  Being in Mt. View often gave us the opportunity to attend shows at the Ozark Folk Center.  On one such occasion, I heard Grandpa Jones’ daughter, Alicia, play the hammered dulcimer.  I was intrigued by the sound , and told Coley I had to get one.  The rest is history, and I was playing on stage within three weeks after getting the hammered dulcimer.  Here again, I can’t tell you how I learned to play this instrument.  I play strictly by ear, and have never  been to a workshop.

Does anyone in your family play music?

My mother played piano, and my dad ‘led the singing at church’.  An aunt was a music major in college and taught music in the school systems in Kentucky, Illinois, and Tennessee for many years.  Our son plays drums, our daughter and granddaughters sing, and have been featured with us many times in the past. 

What kinds of times and places have you played music in your life?

For the more than 50 years that Coley and I have been playing together, it would be hard to remember all the times and places we have played.  Some of the most enjoyable places would be the show we had in Mt. View, AR, conventions at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis, our association with the Jackson Area Plectral Society, the many times we have played at the Old Country Store, and all our travels throughout Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee, which we continue to do.  These travels include playing for churches, schools, civic organizations, festivals, wedding receptions/rehearsals, funerals, TV appearances, and ‘just jamming’, with our band "Wildwood Express".

What else do you do besides play music?

We enjoy camping in our RV (but music is usually involved in our camping)!  We are active in our church, and enjoy spending time with our family and friends.

What makes this kind of music “good” to you?

It is the music passed along by our forefathers, with a simple beat. 

Why do you choose to play this kind of music?

We have played different styles of music through the years, but the old time music has won us over.  It is good to play music you like without all the amplification.  Russell Cook, who owns the company that made my hammered dulcimer, once told me to play music “as you hear and feel it – not like how someone says you should play”.  The old time music is easy to play that way.  I like the hammered dulcimer because we never play a show that someone doesn’t ask – “What is that instrument called?” This has given me a chance to  meet and talk with the people from all walks of life and from all around the world.


Coley Graves

When and how did you first become interested in oldtime music?
When I first became interested in music back home in Medina in the 40's and 50's, the only thing you had to do on Saturday nights was to provide your own entertainment. So my family always had several musicians who came to our house every weekend to play with my brother and uncle.  They both played the oldtime gospel, country, and oldtime fiddle tunes.
How long have you been playing the oldtime music?
I started playing guitar when I was 12 or 13 years old, and when Marilyn and I married, and although we both worked fulltime, we continued to make time on weekends to jam and get together with friends who had the same interest in music as we did.
What are your musical influences?
My influences were being around several family members who all played the oldtime music.  The music was handed down from generation to generation without anything written down - we all played by ear and how we heard and felt the beat.
Does anyone in your family play music?
My brother, Skip Graves; my uncle, Tim Walsh; my aunt, Louise Knolton; and other great uncles were all excellent oldtime musicians.  All of them could play various instruments, including guitar, fiddle, and banjo.
What kinds of times and places have you played music in your life?
It would be impossible for me to list all the times and places we have played, so I will just hit some of the high spots.  Marilyn and I have had two different gospel groups, where we played for churches, schools, and many private events.  We also had a country band and we played for line dances in community centers across three states.  At one time we had a band with a comedian, and played for conventions at the Peabody Hotel and Cook Convention Center in Memphis, as well as company-wide picnics.  During the 1980's and 1990's,  we had a monthly show in Mountain View, AR.  This was a lot of fun as we would invite the entertainers who performed at the Ozark Folk Center to join us as guests when they finished their set at the Center. We have made some lifetime friends from this experience.  For the past several years, we have enjoyed being a part of the Jackson Area Plectral Society, and continue to play and sing throughout West TN, north MS, and eastern AR with our Wildwood Express Band. This band has played for churches, schools, civic organizations, festivals, wedding receptions, 50th wedding anniversaries, funerals, and whatever. 
What else do you do besides play music?
We are active in our church, enjoy camping with our children and grandchildren, and I like to shop in different malls. (Marilyn usually finds a bench or rocking chair and waits until I get tired).  We enjoy eating out with friends at different types of restaurants, and I enjoy 'piddling' with the computer.
What makes this kind of music
 "good" to you?
This music was passed along by our forefathers, and it has a simple beat that I like.
(3 chord stuff!!)
Why did you choose to play this kind of music?
I have tried it all, and I like the acoustic sound because as I get older I'm not able to drag around all the amplifiers!!!  It's easy to play and usually has a good rhythm.  We have really enjoyed our years of playing with the hammered dulcimer in our band, and even though some people may think it is a strange instrument to have in a band, it has worked well for us.

Don Horne

When and how did you first become interested in oldtime music?

In 1995 I visited the Old Country Store & heard them playing the old time & blue grass music.

How long have you been playing oldtime music?
About 17 years

What are your musical influences?
Grand Old Opry & listening to the Plectral members play.

Does anyone in your family play music?
My mother played the piano.

What kinds of times and places have you played music in your life?
Bluegrass Festivals, Nursing & Retirement Homes, churches, colleges, television programs, Conventions etc.

What else do you do besides play music?
Fish, hunt, play golf, travel

What makes this kind of music "good" to you?
It is good therapy, it is uplifting, makes you feel good.

Why did you choose to play this kind of music?
I like acoustical music.

Paul Jackson

  • When and how did you first become interested in oldtime music?
In the late 90s I owned a video production studio and was contracted by the State of Tennessee Tourism folks to video a concert of Yank Rachell playing blues mandolin . I was intrigued by the mandolin. My friend, Jimmy Tankersley, told me about the plectral society and how a mandolin was an element of that type music.  It wasn't blues but I was immediately hooked.  My first meeting was with Jeff, Sarge and an oriental guy who could play the fire out of a fiddle.
  • How long have you been playing oldtime music?
Bought my first mandolin in 2000 and started picking. 

  • What are your musical influences?
Church music which led to gospel music were my initial influences in performance music. 

  • Does anyone in your family play music
My dad whistled all the time and that is the extent of family musical influence. :)

  • What kinds of times and places have you played music in your life?
In the early fifties, in Memphis, I sang in a group called "Teenagers for Christ".....name drop.... Elvis was a member of the group. :)
In the 60s traveled with a gospel group from Charleston, SC....The Oakland Quartet.  We won a national contest in Bryson City, NC which got us a spot on The Mull singing convention show (WWL clear channel 870 , New Orleans) That sold quite a few albums.       We had a 30 minute weekly TV show in Charleston for a number of years.         We once opened for the Oak Ridge Boys at the Ryman.  The marque read "The Oak Ridge Boys and others". That got a few laughs.  
70-72 learned to play bass while in the Air Force in Southeast Asia and played a bit of country in the clubs on base.
I played bass and sang with The Layman Quartet from Brownsville a number of years (late 70s and 80s) and played bass for the Jones Family for a short stent.
  • What else do you do besides play music?
I still work at my profession/hobby.....photography.

  • What makes this kind of music "good" to you?
I call it "real" music as opposed to "artificial" music. There is a place for both but to be able to get some friends and sit under a shade tree and play and sing raw music is a joy and it's real.

  • Why did you choose to play this kind of music
It's an anytime, anyplace music. 

David Killingsworth

P'-Picker of the Month
Mr. David Killingsworth
Fiddler Extraordinaire
I wanted to rekindle a column that Marilyn started and
hopefully try to continue this each month. I really like the
concept of highlighting one of our Plectral Pickers, hearing
their stories, their background in oldtime music. We have a
lot of very talented oldtime musicians within the Plectral
Society with some very interesting stories to tell, and the
one I'd like to start with is mine and everybody's favorite
fiddler - Mr. David Killingsworth. David's been fiddlin' for
a long, long time. He's one of the most sought after fiddlers
in our area, but did you ever wonder how does someone get
that good? Well, here's David's story - one I know you will
My early musical influences were my mother, Louise Killingsworth,
and my aunt, Shelby Jean Fisher, who played gospel and old-time
music on the piano. I also had a great-uncle, Miley Higgins, who
played the fiddle at our annual family Christmas gatherings when I
was a small child. I only heard him at Christmas because he lived
so far away, in Fayetteville, Tennessee. One of my great
grandfathers, Calvin Higgins, was a fiddle player as well but I have
no memory of hearing him play.
Each Saturday night I would listen to the Grand Ole Opry on
WSM until falling asleep. I can remember hearing Flatt and
Scruggs, the Louvin Brothers, The Crook Brothers, and the Fruit
Jar Drinkers. After we got a television, I got to see what Flatt and
Scruggs really looked like!
I also loved the Lawrence Welk Show, which came on Channel 7
each Saturday night. I was fascinated by the accordion and horn
playing, especially. At that time, I made no differentiation between
types of music. If music was tasteful and well played, then it was
all just good music, as far as I was concerned.
In 1965, I decided I wanted to get my own instrument, so I told my
parents I wanted......a bugle. This met with a less-than-enthusiastic
reception, so I said "OK, I'd like a set of bagpipes instead." (I loved
the sounds of the bagpipes and drums on the old Shirley Temple
and Laurel and Hardy movies.) Mama said, "First, I am going to
order you a guitar, and you can see how you do with that, Then,
we will see about the bagpipes or something else." So my first
musical instrument was a $24.95 guitar.
A man named Ocie Humphrey lived near us. He had been the
champion fiddle player in my area in the 1920s and 30s, and I
figured he could show me how to tune the guitar. So I took it to him
and he sat in his wheelchair and tuned it for me. I noticed this little
guitar-looking thing sitting on the bed, with a round, yellow-and-
brown striped back on it. He said, "That's my mandolin," and he
picked it up and started strumming it, and that was the most
beautiful musical sound I had ever heard. I can still remember the
rippling, chiming tone and how it stirred me, to this day.
I took the guitar back home and started practicing it, but I was
ruined. The mandolin was in my head and heart, and I got myself
one as soon as I could.
I went frequently to Mr. Humphrey's home to pick with him and
began learning the old tunes. He usually played the fiddle and I
would accompany him on the mandolin or guitar. He was in failing
health and passed away in 1967, and I acquired his fiddle soon
afterward and started playing it. I still have it.
My mother and aunt started playing the mandolin and guitar at
this time, so we had our own little family string band. I usually
played fiddle by this time.
Other musicians I played with as I progressed were Con Crotts
(Father of Mississippi TV personality Kay Bain,) Dixie Donnell from
Shiloh Park, and George E. Knight, a fiddler and also one of the
first 3-finger banjo players in out area. George E. gave banjo
lessons to Tom Murray, who gave banjo lessons to Billy Joe Autry,
who gave banjo lessons to Kurt Stephenson. I learned many old
tumes from these men, some of which dated back to the Civil War
and before. Wayne Jerrolds also became a musical and personal
friend at this time.
Most of my "pocket" money in my teenage years was made from
playing at square dances with Earnest Whitten. My Dad drove me
to my first square dance in 1967, and neither of us really knew
what to expect. Dances of any kind conjured up evil images in the
minds of most of the churchgoing Christian womenfolk in my area,
but my mother was willing to look the other way while I gave it a
try. I remember Daddy saying, "Now son, tonight you're going to
see what the other side of life looks like." Then when we got there,
all we found were people of all ages, from babies to old folks, just

listening to the music, visiting, dancing and having a good time.
(Not even a faint odor of brimstone.) At the square dances, I
usually played either guitar or banjo, while Earnest played the
fiddle. As the money came in, I started buying records and became
familiar with the music of Bill Monroe, who started having an
influence on my mandolin playing.
I never tried or wanted to play professionally, but did play banjo
one time on the WSM Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree in 1973,
and have played mandolin a couple of times at the Station Inn in
Nashville with the Wayne Lewis band. I have also played fiddle in a
few shows with Ramona Jones, and bass fiddle with Kenny Baker
and Josh Graves.
I did play on the same stage with Bill Monroe one time, in 1990 in
Savannah, Tennessee. I had played fiddle with another band that
night and, as was Monroe's custom, he had all the musicians to
appear together on stage with him to play the final "number," as he
called it. We played the "Soldier's Joy" and after the show was
over, he walked up and stuck his hand out without saying a word,
and I shook it. Of course, that was a memorable moment.
So, old-time music has been a part of my life almost from the
beginning. It was actually something I grew up with, rather than
something I made a conscious choice to get into. I never wanted to
get really serious with it, but it has been a rewarding pastime. Life
is not easy for anyone, especially in these times, but if my music
has made the load seem a little lighter and the way seem a little
better for someone, then it has all been worthwhile.


Stanton Littlejohn

Stanton Littlejohn
Musician, Music Preservationist & Amateur Sound Engineer

As read by Shawn Pitts, Arts in McNairy Founder
June 8, 2013​

Born and raised in Eastview Tennessee, Stanton Littlejohn probably didn’t show much early promise as a music industry professional or future Hall of Famer. It is true that he came from a musical family. Sister Eunice Littlejohn-Smith was a talented pianist and accordion player. Cousin Arlis Littlejohn was known as one of the area’s best banjo players in the claw-hammer style. Uncle Lee Littlejohn—actually another cousin—was born before the civil war and preserved in his memory a few antebellum fiddle tunes which certainly would have influenced the young Stanton’s musical tastes.
When it came to the fiddle, Stanton was no slouch, himself. He mastered the instrument early and a family group, the Littlejohn String Band, was known to play a few events around south McNairy County in the 1930s and 40s—Stanton’s young bride, Minnie Bell, throwing in on the mandolin. The truth is, Mr. Littlejohn could play just about anything with a string on it and his door was always open to likeminded individuals. Making music with others was both pastime and passion for the Littlejohn family. Their home was the site of countless musical jams and informal picking sessions over the years. The musical gene was fortunately passed along to Stanton and Minnie Bell Littlejohn’s only daughter, Marjorie, who is herself a talented multi-instrumentalist and a lover of traditional music styles.
This abiding interest and lifelong involvement in local music might be enough to honor Stanton Littlejohn with this induction but it is only the foundation for Littlejohn’s most significant contribution to McNairy County’s musical heritage. Sometime around 1947, Littlejohn acquired a device which allowed him to make single source recordings from his Eastview home. Always something of a technophile and tinkerer by nature, the acetate disc recorder piqued his interest on two levels. First, it was a new gadget which appealed to his sense of curiosity and gave him something to play with, as boys will do. Second, and more importantly, it allowed him to record the music he so loved. And record it he did.
He certainly had a rich resource from which to draw. Beginning with the family and close friends from the area, Littlejohn recorded everything from vocal performances, to instrumentalists, to neighborhood kids doing recitations and telling what they wanted for Christmas. Word soon got out and the floodgates opened. The recording technology he provided was uncommon in rural communities, and certainly new to this area. It didn’t take long for strings bands, gospel groups, individual musicians and vocalists to find their way to Stanton Littlejohn’s door. In fact, they virtually beat a path to Eastview Tennessee for many years just to see what they sounded like on a real record.
Always a gracious host, Mrs. Minne Bell would have something cold to drink and perhaps a few sweets for the artists while Stanton made sure everyone was comfortable and ready to play. Some of the recording sessions were intentional and sometimes he just flipped the microphone on when a good jam was already underway. There are even a few interviews conducted by Littlejohn with the recordings artists which are a dream come true for those of us who have worked on documenting these recordings. His engineering skills also improved the more he fiddled with the recorder, and it is a testament to his ear and his ingenuity that he got such a decent sound out of such crude recording technology. He didn’t have much to work with, but boy did he make the most of it.
Littlejohn reportedly charged nothing for his services but he had one rule: you had to make at least two recordings. The artists were free to keep the recording of their choice but Mr. Littlejohn kept the second disc for his own archive. We are exceedingly fortunate that the bulk of that collection remained in the capable hands, first of Minnie Bell Littlejohn and after her passing, Marjorie and Don Rayburn Richard, who have preserved them to the best of their abilities. Similarly, several of the artists and their families held on to their Littlejohn recordings over the years providing yet another resource for recovering this material. We are truly indebted to men like David Killingsworth and Billy Wagoner who were among the first, outside of the Littlejohn-Richard family, to recognize the significance of Stanton Littlejohn’s work. Their passion for the preservation of local music is infections and, apparently, I did not receive the appropriate vaccinations to prevent catching a pretty bad case of it myself. That said, it has been the privilege of a lifetime to have the opportunity to work on the preservation of this incredible material.
Littlejohn continued recording on the acetate discs through the mid to late 1950s until magnetic tape became more convenient and affordable. He made reel to reel and later cassette recordings for many more years but it is the older acetates that provide a snap shot of a unique moment in time when music of the postwar era, was beginning to experience the effects of a seismic cultural shift. Consider this: The terms Bluegrass and Rockabilly didn’t exist when Stanton Littlejohn first started recording. Country was still called Hillbilly Music by most people and nobody had yet heard of Rock and Roll. Yet the roots of all these later forms of music are clearly in evidence on the recordings Littlejohn made. I suspect if you had asked him, “Stanton, what kind of music are you recording down there at Eastview?” his reply might have been something like, “Well…good music mostly.”
And it was good—very good. Some of the area’s finest musicians and vocalists are captured on the Littlejohn sessions. Influential fiddlers such as Waldo Davis, Elvis Black, Ernest Whitten, Con Crotts, Arnold English and many others are all there. Other names familiar to local music enthusiasts are instantly recognizable: George E. Knight, Rob Richard, Tom McCormick, Paul Taylor, Charlie Cox, Peck and Troy Boggs, Virgil Murray and the boys, Milton Banks, Ray Presley, Everett Walker, Clyde Sargent and Ocie Humphries, among others. Gospel groups like, The Doc Whittaker Quarter, The Hometown Quartet, The Harmony Four and The Eastview Quartet are also represented. Of course, Stanton, Minnie Bell, Marjorie, Eunice, Arlis and Uncle Lee Littlejohn also make frequent appearances.
A couple of particularly poignant tracks from 1948 involve Uncle Lee Littlejohn. On the one he discusses his fiddle playing and laments how it has declined from neglect and lack of use over the years. On the other, he plays a rousing version of “Wolves a Howlin.” You can clearly hear him stomping out the rhythm with his right foot as if he can just see the dancers in his minds eye. He is 88 years old at the time of the recording. Maybe he was right in saying that his musical skills had declined with age, but you can’t prove it by that track. It makes you wonder how good he really was in his prime.
It was long rumored that even the legendary Carl Perkins recorded with Mr. Littlejohn. I can confirm for you that the first group of recordings we were able to transfer to digital media contain three tracks dating back as early as 1951 which have been authenticated as the young Carl Perkins. A fourth song—an instrumental—very likely has Perkins sitting in on guitar. He would have been just 19 years old at the time. Let me remind you that this would have been three full years before he recorded at Sun Studios in Memphis. Almost certainly, Stanton Littlejohn was the first to capture the future King of Rockabilly on record just as he was finding his own authentic musical voice. Indeed, two of Littlejohn tracks could easily be mistaken for something Perkins recorded at the height of his musical powers. They lend indisputable credibility to Perkins claim that his sound was developed on the music circuit of southwest Tennessee long before he ever went to Sun Records in search of a contract.
From the standpoint of documenting local culture these recordings are precious beyond description. The presence of an international figure such as Carl Perkins lends them yet another dimension of cultural significance. They are a gift to our generation, given to us by Stanton Littlejohn, his family, and the talented men and women participating in those impromptu recording sessions. To date almost two hundred tracks of music have been recovered with more on the way—a gift that keeps on giving. Contained herein are the voices and songs of a bygone but—thanks to Littlejohn—not forgotten, era. This little archive has become the envy of other communities who value their local culture. Many of them would give anything to have such a rare opportunity to preserve their musical heritage. We can only humbly say thank you to Mr. Littlejohn.
Just how important are these recordings? They are important enough that the Arts in McNairy has spent almost four years compiling, preserving and researching the remaining materials. They are important enough to have attracted the attention of the Tennessee Arts Commission who was willing to invest heavily in their preservation. They are important enough that an overworked and backlogged, Center for Popular Music at Middle Tennessee State University was willing to lend technical assistance just be involved in the project. They are important enough that the Library of Congress jumped on the opportunity to add the entire archive to their collection on the strength of just a few samples.
And so, I am proud to report that later this year copies of the entire Stanton Littlejohn collection will become part of the Folklife Collection at the Library of Congress where they will be preserved in perpetuity for future generations of Americans to study and enjoy. They are just that important.
Earlier I speculated what Mr. Littlejohn might say if you asked him what kind of music he was recording. In fact, we know what he thought about a few of the tracks because he sometimes made editorial notes on the labels. Usually they had the simple notation, “good” or “no good” as the case might be. He had a great ear and I suspect he knew he was engaged in something important but I also believe he was too humble to ever dream just how important his work really was. I often wonder what he would think if he knew we were here tonight still talking about something he started in 1947 and preparing to place it all in the Library of Congress. I like to think he would be thrilled, proud, maybe a little anxious or even a bit shocked. One thing I know for sure, we owe Stanton Littlejohn a debt of gratitude that can never be fully repaid.
It is with grateful acknowledgment of that debt that I induct Stanton Littlejohn, in the inaugural class of 2013, to the McNairy County Music Hall of Fame.


Don Penix

Don Penix

Fiddle Luthier

Wildersville, Tn.

Don was the premier fiddle maker in West Tn.  He made the best fiddles around and anyone who was any kind of fiddler knew Don Penix.

Seen here L-R are Aubrey Taylor, Don Penix, and Sammy McCadams . . . The Master and his Apprentices . . . each holding two fiddles that Don made. Don charged $300 for each constructed fiddle.

         - photo by  Ellis Truett

Dennis Pollock

Mr. Dennis Pollock

When & How did you get started in oldtime music?
All my life ever since I've heard the first  Grand Ole Opry -  I liked it. Anytime I heard about anyone playing music nearby, I wanted to be around it.
Ever since I can remember I've always wanted to be around the music. Our family would be in the field and someone would start a song and the rest of us would join in.

That sounds a lot like the old "field-holler" from back in the plantation days?
Yea, I thought of that  when I was writing down some notes, and that was about like us.  We would sing every day just like on the old plantations.  Someone would start a song and depending on the mood some were in - some would join in and sing along - others might not.  You know how kids are. 

I remember way back a man by the name of  Vestal.  He was from the  music-playing Vestal family.  He had an old Gibson guitar. He would play with us part of the time and another family part of the time. He helped my Dad work in timber.  Every night he would play that guitar. Picked with his thumb. We would all join in, and before I ever got a mandolin we all knew how to carry a tune.  

Would you call his style of picking Bluegrass? Well he just played all the old tunes like "Rubber Dolly" and "Blue Moon Turns To Gold" - all those old tunes. Just all kinds of songs like that that I've already forgotten.  

You mentioned he picked with his thumb - did he pick with his thumb and index finger? He would just use his thumb sort of like Lester Flatt did, but he didn't actually use a pick.  His old hands were callaused and rough and he didn't really need a pick.  He worked hard all his life.  He could really play that guitar.  He just drove me crazy wanting to play like that.

Do you remember how old you were at that time? Aw lord, from as way back as I can remember. I was probably around 8 years old then.  I was 7 or 8 years old and he was playing and we were singing with him.  He would come and  see us real often.  He was one of the Vestal pickin' bunch.  You know that whole bunch could play.
One of the family actually came to IHOP one night.  I can't recall his name, but he could still play - a little shaky with age, but could still play.  

I guess what really set me on fire - we moved to the Lizard Lick area not far from where Mr. Ellis Truett lives.  Boss Wadley (some of you may remember), his daddy owned some land in the Lizard Lick area.  We were less than a 1/2 mile from where Ellis lives now.  We lived over in an old L-shaped house - I won't never forget it - Daddy made the boards to cover it with.  That was quite an art back then. Anyway that's how I got  started - Boss had an old mandolin that Mr. Franke got for him from Sears and he'd learned to make some chords on it, and every time we'd go over there I'd grab it up and I'd pick on it and knock around on it. He finally showed me G,C, and D chords. Then he showed me kinda' how to pick out "Rubber Dolly". Anyway, that's how I started in with the mandolin. I like to wore it out playin' "Rubber Dolly".

Mr. Frank brought a couple loads of pine seedlings over there and put them back in the shed.  One day he asked me, "would you like to have that mandolin of Boss's"? I said, "Yeahhhhhh"! He said, "if you'll set them pines out over there in the barn, I'll give you that mandolin." I said, "will you"? Not knowing back then - work didn't mean nothing - everybody worked.  When I got done he told me their was 7500 of them.  I know I set out pines for a year - as many as I could. It was something else - those gullies were full of pines, and their's still some of them standing. They cut them a few years back.  I was told they sold $50,000 worth of pines.  So I set out all those pines to get that old mandolin - course it was just as good to me as a Gibson back then.  

You mentioned your family all sang - did anyone else in your family play a musical instrument?  My oldest brother was in the army - after he came home from the World War II he  bought me this Gibson mandolin that I have now. The one that I play now - he bought that for me in 1947. He played guitar, but he didn't play much. Me and Harold were the only ones that took it serious. Harold played guitar and I played a little rythum guitar and of course the mandolin. I've actually got a Martin guitar.  

How old would you say that Gibson mandolin of yours is? Got it the first week of 1947. It was brand new then. I got it at Hardeman's in Jackson. Their was a big music store back then  in Jackson - Hardeman Music. Towater was the man at the store and that was the only new mandolin they had at the store. He wrapped it and put it up in the back room.  He said this will be right here when you come back. I sent him a letter and just as.  He sent me a money order for $149.00.  That was a lot of money back then.  $149.00 was a lot of money, but that's what it cost.

Can you think of some of the different places that you played back then? After we got a little older - early teens - Daddy thought we were playing just for dances at  homes, but we were playing all over the country and even in some honky-tonks where we shouldn't have been.   I wasn't old enough - they shouldn't have even let me in there. We played and I hung onto that mandolin just like it was gold, which it was to me. We played places like the VFW I guess a year to two years and every Saturday night, and we played at schools.  We traveled down 104 Hwy. back when it was just a gravel road.  We later started playing on the Hayloft Frolic back during that time.  I don't recall the year.  We played from the time the Hayloft Frolic started until it ceased - just about every Saturday night.

That's something I've always found interesting  the "Hayloft Frolic" - what was that like?  Their were a lot of good musicians on that. They held it in the Armory Building.  People would dance.  A lot of different bands entered it.   It was actually a contest. They'd eliminate a band about every week.  I just liked to play - I never dreamed we would win it.  Their would be a lot of us different groups that would compete for the honor of playing on the radio.  They'd have a competition and then the winner got to play on the radio that night.  That was a real big thing to get to play on the radio back then.  I was the comedian in our bunch at that time. Who would've ever thought that somebody with red-clay mud on their shoes would ever win anything.

Who were some of the people you played with or competed with?  I played in a few little contests against Curt McPeake - course not on the banjo. I played with R.T. Lunsford - that was the man that taught Curt how to play the banjo. Me and him use to double date - he was a lot older than me.  He was a World War II Veteran.  He'd bring his banjo and I'd bring my mandolin and we'd sing and pick for the girls, and finally after I married - I married his neice. When I married I quit playing that stuff and going to all those places, and me and my wifes brother started playing Churches.  We had kind of a Louvin Brothers style. Later on my wife and I started singing in Church together, but we didn't travel like before. We have two boys and the oldest one plays piano and organ and he's a minister. The youngest boy was some kind of saxaphone player.  He played some with the Happy Goodman's.  

In closing what would you say drew you to this music ? 
It's just about the only kind of music  I ever heard. I like a little bit of all of it, except Hard Rock. I don't care for that.  I love all kinds of Gospel music.  I guess what really drew me to the oldtime music was Snoops Vestal and Boss Wadley and that mandolin of his. I guess if it hadn't been for those two I would never have played.  The thing I'm most proud of  is that this music  drew me to Church.   That'salso  where I met my wife, and we've been married now for  61 1/2 years.

Brundell Rhodes

Don & Marjorie Richard

It gives me great pleasure to introduce our Picker of the Month - or I should say Pickers of the Month, for you can't mention one in the same breath without the other.   I have had the good fortune of knowing and playing with this most gracious couple over the past 20-something years on many occasions.  Whether it be in the Ozarks, on the porch of the Wildflower Inn, or at the Community Center at Gravel Hill, or the festival at Eastview (oh how I wish they would bring that back), in their gracious home, or simply the parking lot of the Old Country Store - you'll not find a more gracious and more enthusiastic couple of oldtime musicians.   I've been playing with them so long they're just like family, and they are part of my musical family.   Anyway, it is an honor and a priviledge for me  to present our December Picker's of the Month - Mr. Don and Ms. Marjorie Richard.   Congratulations Don & Marji'.  You truly deserve it.

    When and how did you first become interested in oldtime music?

(Marjorie)  With just a few lapses now and then, this music has always been part of my life.  My dad, mom, grandfather, and two of  dad’s cousins had a string band in the mid-1930’s and played occasionally for local events. During my childhood Dad had a home recording machine that brought almost every old-time string band in the area to our living room. There was always music in our home.  It’s a great legacy that my parents left me. 

(Don) I started going to square dances at the Lion’s Club in Corinth, Ms. when I was about 14 and I’ve always loved the music.  I would occasionally go to Marjorie’s house when they had musical groups there, (We lived about a mile apart.)  I did not play an instrument at that time.  I was on one of my Air Force assignments to Vietnam when I bought a  banjo for $25 in the Philippine's, when I was about 28 years old.  Just about drove Marjorie crazy trying to learn how to play the darn thing!

How long have you been playing oldtime music?

(Marjorie) As a little kid, while my hands were still too small for a guitar, Dad gave me a ukulele and taught me the chords in the keys of “C” and “G”, and I played along with the rest of them when I could.   

(Don) When people ask me that question I usually say about 40 years.  Sometimes their response is: “ You must be pretty good,” and my reply is “No, I just play badly with more confidence.”

What are your musical influences?
(Marjorie)  Besides my dad, who played the fiddle and guitar, and my mom who played the mandolin, my greatest influence was Dad’s sister, my Aunt Eunice Smith, who played piano with area square dance bands.  She could play the fiddle tunes note for note on the piano.  She and I sang together a lot just for fun, and she taught me how to sing harmony. 

(Don)  Eunice Smith was playing the piano at all those square dances I went to in Corinth and also Bolivar, and certainly Marjorie’s folks were very encouraging.  Her dad allowed me to “play” along when I couldn’t tell one chord from another. Certainly our association with the Jackson Area Plectral Society has been a major influence over the past twenty-plus years.

Does anyone in your family play music?

(Marjorie) No one still living except my cousin, James Smith, of Huntsville, Alabama.  He plays autoharp and sings the old-time songs.  Our daughter learned the flute, and sang alto in our church youth choir as a teenager, but doesn’t sing or play an instrument of any kind now. 

(Don)  I was one of ten children in my family and brother Steve is the only other member of my immediate family that plays an instrument.  I had a great uncle, Rob Moore, that played the banjo in the early 1900s and I have his restored banjo. 

What kinds of times and places have you played music in your life?

(Marjorie)  As a teenager I occasionally sang on WCMA in Corinth, Mississippi on their live Saturday morning music programs, usually with Arnold English’s band.  Don was career Air Force, and when we came home on leave we’d play with a group that gathered weekly at the store in Eastview.  Don’s brother Steve was usually part of that group, and a young banjo player named David Killingsworth. (yes, “banjo”!)  

Don was stationed at the Air Force Academy 1969-73, and a group of us got together at someone’s house about once a month.  Quite a mixture—faculty, staff, cadets, playing everything from banjo to piano to trumpet—but we had fun with it.  Mostly old-time and country.  

(Don) I could not come up with a list!  We often put our banjo and autoharp or dulcimer in the car when we travel, and we’ve played at an old country store in Floyd, Virginia, the porches and the barns in Cades Cove in the Smokies, on a hotel balcony overlooking a mountain stream in Gatlinburg, in an old log church at Shiloh, and many times in  Mountain View, Arkansas.  we are usually the last to leave the grounds at Athens State College every October and at numerous jam sessions at festivals all over the country.  We enjoy playing with our brother Steve at family gatherings. 

What else do you do besides play music?

(Marjorie) Our church is important to us.  Don has taught a Sunday School class of adults for at least fifteen years.  He’s also a trustee and I’ve been assigned to a committee position beginning in January. We’ve sung in the choir since joining First Baptist in 1984, and right now the Living Christmas Tree is our focus—16 songs to memorize!  We follow the Union University basketball and golf teams, and Don’s the scorekeeper for home basketball games.  We’re avid golfers (though we’re not very good), and we like to travel.  We’ve put 26,000 miles on our minivan since April of this year. 

What makes this kind of music "good" to you?

(Marjorie) Keeps me in touch with my roots, my heritage—it’s the kind of music my father and grandfather played, and it reminds me of family and my Tennessee home wherever I am, whenever I hear it. It’s easy to listen to. 

(Don)  Certainly the whole spectrum of people that just get together and have fun with this music is a great attraction to me.  It draws people from all walks of life.

Why did you choose to play this kind of music?

(Both) It’s the kind of music we like best, and most of it is simple enough that it’s fairly easy to learn.  Also, we like the kind of folks who play old-time music—just good, down-to-earth, friendly people who accept you and encourage you and help you learn.


Mr. Dudley Richard

Buck dancing and flat footing are traditional Appalachian dances. People dance in a small area of their own; no one worries about dancing the same steps as everyone else.

Buck dancing is a general name for any type of fast paced solo dance. Buck dancing is similar to tap and clog dancing, but with steps designed to create more sounds per beat.

Here Mr. Dudley buckdances on his 100th birthday. 

Charmin' Charlie Sipes

Mr. Ellis Truett

I had been contemplating and mulling over and over in my mind - who in the world to highlight this month as our "Picker of the Month", and then it hit me.  My goodness, why haven't I thought of this sooner? Who better deserves the honor more than a member who has for years promoted oldtime music in our  area, organized a major festival for years, collected antiquities of oldtime music, designed and built countless dulcimers, and pickin' sticks, taught multitudes of novice musicians how to play the dulcimer and even a few how to build one, has been the subject of  articles published in major publications like Southern Living, and even had videos produced and distributed by a major university, and to top it all off - he's celebrating his 90th birthday this month and still going strong.  Yea, you know who I'm talking about - Mr. Ellis Truett, although he would be the first to tell you  - "don't call me Mr., just call me Ellis." My dear old friend - we salute you and honor you as our most outstanding  "Picker of the Month."

Ellis Truett Picker Profile 4/15/2011

1. How did you first become interested in Oldtime Music?
I'm a most fortunate man. Both sides of my family were musicians. I had a great great grandfather who had a family string band in the Glendale Community before the Civil War. His two sons played button accordians and one of the girls played the fiddle and another of the girls played a Martin guitar - an old OO Martin Guitar. Allen Kincade Jones was his name. Part of his home is still standing down in the Glendale community. I've been through it several times. It's located in Chester County not very far from Henderson. My mother's family was named Benson and they were musicians also. Levin Benson Sr. was in the colony of Deleware before the Revolutionary War. His son, Levin Benson Jr. is buried down there near Reagan, and my grandaddy Benson could play anything - fiddle, anything. My mother picked the guitar and sang. You'd of forgotten Loretta Lynn if you'd heard my mother sing.
2. When did you first start playing?
I grew up listening to my Grandaddy Truett singing old songs like "Hawk Shot the Buzzard", etc. My daddy's mother's family had  a man named Singin' Russell. I've got his old 1835 Army Songbook. He started the annual singing at Mt. Pleasant up around Sand Ridge. I grew up also listening to the Vestal Family. Tom Vestal had an old Gibson lute, and Robert Vestal, his brother played  fiddle. Annie Vestal played a mandolin. I've been to a lot of Ice Cream Suppers and stuff like that when I was a small kid back in the 30's.  Their's been string music in my family back way back before the Civil War. I got started playing horns.  I played the trumpet - started when I was 12. When I was 14 I was playing first chair trumpet in 3 bands - The 4-H Club Band, The Union University Band, and The American Legion Band.
3. When did you first start playing a string instrument?
Well, I've got small hands and I couldn't chord a guitar, but I saw one time in the paper,  back in the 1970's where in Mt. View Ar. they were gonna' have a Dulcimer Festival, and I went over there, carried my first wife (she died in 1984), and I met Jean Simmons, and a bunch of other oldtime musicians over there.
4. I know you and Marion played a lot of places together.  She was a very special lady. Where were some of the places that you played music?
Unfortunately, Marion and I were only married about 3 1/2 years before she died. We played at Reelfoot Lake at the Festival there.  Played with Wendell Cruz and Lucille Parker and Boss Wadley, Marion and myself, but mostly just local places. We played at the Carnigie in Jackson, and played at the Folk Center at Mt. View. Marion and Boss and I couldn't go to all the places we were invited. We played a lot of church groups - played a lot of old songs like Ragtime Annie and stuff like that.
5. We've talked about playing music, but I know besides playing the music, you also built a lot of instruments.  How did you get started in that?
Well, I went over to Mt. View, AR,  and I went to a workshop - the first one they ever had over there and got started building the dulcimer from there.
6. Do you have any hobbies outside of music?
Well, I like to build things. I can build anything out of wood from a dulcimer to a house.  One of my  biggest disappointments - I had a lot and all the materials and all over in Mt. View AR. and was gonna' construct a building, and suddenly I got too old to try to do it. I've still got 17 stacks of old lumber there at my house, and already made arrangements to carry it over there.
7. You built an old replica one-room schoolhouse down there behind your home.  Tell us how that came about?
Well, in 1892 my granddaddy James Macintosh Truett was gonna be elected squire. He said, "I want you to know I ain't a runnin'". They elected him anyway, and they re-elected him 4 years later, and he wouldn't take it after that, but they built a one-room school on his property - called it The Truett School.  The first building later burned. One year they didn't have enough students to have school, and 8 men and 4 women lived in it for that year. I built a replica of it - started in 1991.  
8. A lot of your materials for the replica came from the old school didn't it?
Yea, a good bit of the weatherboard, and some of the wood I put on the walls.  The slate/blackboard in there came from the old Tiptonville High School when they tore that down. I've got a lot of old furniture in there. I've got an old organ in there. I can't find anybody to play it.
9.  Why would you say you chose to play this kind of music?
Well, it's what I grew up with. I tried to play a guitar, but my fingers were to small to chord it.  My Daddy bought a fiddle out of a pawn shop in Jackson for $10 one time and nobody ever showed me a thing in the world about it.  Only thing I ever learned to do was make it go like a fire engine, and he took it back and they gave him $8 for it back, That was my first experience with a string instrument. I later played one string melodies on tenor guitar, tenor banjo, and mandolin, played harmonicas and dulcimers, played Tennessee Music Boxes. Did you know those had their origin right here in our area. The area around Wayne, Lewis, and Lawrence County was where they originated - changed the whole history of the dulcimer. I have 5 old ones myself, and I've made 4 or 5.
10. I want to wrap it up here and I have one more question - what do you like best about this kind of music - our oldtime music?
Well, to me it's the only kind of music. This stuff we got now - most all this stuff is just noise, but most all those old songs had a moral to them. It was about something that questioned morality. It had a theme. Most of this stuff now is just racket - gonna' produce an awful lot of deaf old people.

I truly appreciate Mr. Ellis, not only for his wonderful story, but his steadfast  devotion to the preservation of our oldtime music, and more importantly the friendship we've had over the years - I truly hold dear. He has been my musical father for almost 30 years and I will always treasure that. 


Kevin Wright

Thanks for everyone casting your ballot this month for our  Picker of the Month.  This is the first time we've actually voted on a Picker of the Month, and I don't think you could've picked a better choice. He's been around the club since it's inception, picks with everyone in the club, has a vast knowledge of our oldtime/bluegrass music, always cordial and friendly, a welcome to any jam session - your choice for the month - Mr. Kevin Wright.

1. When and how did you first become interested in Oldtime Music?
We had an old Fender Flat Top Guitar laying around the house, that I used to play with as a small child.  It stirred up my curiousity, but I couldn’t play it.  My first recollection of oldtime music was my step grandfather, Oscar Stewart,  had some Flatt & Scruggs Albums that I heard. We’d always watch Hee Haw on television at home, since it came on one of the channels we picked up with our antenna.  I had a friend who went to church with me from Trenton, TN and he played banjo, but was killed in a auto accident while in college. After hearing him, I wanted to learn the banjo.   I really got interested, however, in my first year at Tennessee Tech, I believe it was about 1984 and the guy who lived across the hall in my dormitory played a banjo. His name is Jeff Cales.  Jeff had an old guitar and taught me the 3 chords to back up Foggy Mountain Breakdown, Mother Maybelle Carter style, with a  thumb pick and strumming with the back of the fingernails.  They had music jams at a music store in Cookeville and that’s where it all came together.  It was kind of like the Plectral Society, but not formally organized.  Jeff Cales also showed me some 3 finger banjo stuff while at Tech.

2. How long have you been playing Oldtime Music?
I guess it is almost 27 years now since I started in 1984..  I worked with Betsy Autry at Tharp Brothers’ Grocery Store in Humboldt, and she invited me to come to her father-in-law’s house and pick with her banjo pickin’  husband, Billy Joe Autry. His father, Mr. Lewis Autry, would have supper and pickin’s on Sunday nights.   Billy Joe or Carlton Harrison invited me in 1987 to the beginnings of what is now the Jackson Area Plectral Society.  The club wasn’t even incorporated at that time.  I remember we played at Medon Community Center, Upstairs in Darol Aylor’s business in Casey Jones Village, Highland Park School, and Arlington Street back then and you used to get everyone to perform on a microphone on Saturday nights occasionally. You were always good at including everyone Jeff and that really meant a lot to everyone back then.   My how time flies when you are having fun.

3. What were your musical influences?
I’d have to say Accapella Church singing while attending church with my grandparents was the biggest thing.  We’d always sing 4 part harmony at my grandparents Church of Christ congregation.  Also I remember my grandfather Barrett, who was from Pinetop in Hardeman Co., TN,  singing standards such as “Shanty in old Shanty Town”, he had Bing Crosby records also and my grandmother Barrett, who came from the Pickett County, TN hills, singing ”Froggy Went a Courtin”, “It’s A Long Way To Tipparary” and other folk songs.  I remember watching the Lawrence Welk show at my grandparents and I still love to watch the reruns.  My grandmother Wright, being Baptist, loved Southern Gospel music, and we’d listen to those Southern Gospel Quartets on some television show  on Sunday Mornings before church, when I spent the night at her house. As a child I listened to my mother’s lp’s which included Peter, Paul & Mary, The Kingston Trio, and we had lots of country 8 tracks (if you remember them).  My mother would also sing to me and play her piano.  I would try to sing with her and sit on her piano bench.  As far as when I started playing guitar, I loved Tony Rice from the minute I first heard him.  My 2nd roommate at Tennessee Tech was a guy named Tim Eldridge.  Tim was introduced to me by my grandmother’s first cousin, and boy could he flat pick a guitar.  He and I would jam in our dorm rooms when we should have been studying.  He really gave me an introduction to bluegrass and we’d go to Nashville on the weekends and visit the Station Inn and Ernest Tubb Record Shop.   I also listened to Flatt & Scruggs, The Seldom Scene, The Country Gentlemen, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Newgrass Revival and The Bluegrass Album Band,  back then.  Much later on, did I learn to appreciate the music of Bill Monroe, Stanley Brothers, Reno & Smiley and the Louvin Brothers.  I got a cheap banjo and tried to learn how to play banjo.  A good banjo picker from
Cookeville named Mike Garrison showed me some stuff on the banjo also. I learned a bunch of fiddle tunes while playing back up for a legendary Old-Time Fiddle player named Frazier Moss,
from the Cookeville, TN area.  Also, I learned so much from my dear friend, Ben Stockard, who is now deceased, and was a former President of the Plectral Society.  Ben could play so fast, it was unbelievable and he kept learning stuff until the day he died.  I couldn’t even keep up some of the time.  He and Aubrey Taylor and I must have played a thousand tunes a million times over the years.  I’ll have to say that Brad and Brandon Apple have had such a profound influence on my music that I just can’t put it into words.  They are both incredible musicians and are inspirational. Curtis Mann has influenced me on my timing more than anyone.  Kurt Stevenson, James Kee and David Killingsworth have all influenced me musically as well.

4. Does anyone in your family play music?
My mother was a voice major at Indiana University, but later became a school teacher and principal.  She played piano and a folk style of guitar.  She could sing the highest soprano notes until she got a respiratory infection, which lowered her entire range.  Oddly, enough she didn’t show me anything on the guitar that I can remember, but she did help me understand some elementary music theory early on.  My sister and I took piano lessons for a little while, but neither of us wanted to practice.  That was the beauty of oldtime music, I could learn it by ear, when I wanted to, and practice whenever I wanted to.

5. What kinds of times and places have you played music in your life?
While at Tennessee Tech, we used to play every Saturday night in Pickett County at an old school building at the Independence Community.  That is where I first met a very young Jamie Dailey (of Dailey & Vincent) and Sierra Hull.  It is a hotbed of music.  I was in a country/rockabilly band for about a year or so nearly 20 years ago and we’d play for some dances in Crockett County.   Also for 10-15 years I’ve traveled to several of the local fiddle contest festivals, jamming till the wee hours. We’d jam sometimes with guys who are pros now, such as Cody Kilby and Josh Williams.  I’ve had the privilege of playing for ballets, symphonies, contests, square dances, benefits, weddings, auctions, cake walks and traveled to several places with our bluegrass band, Stone County Connection. It’s always special to play on the stage of The Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View, AR.  Stone County Connection opened so many opportunities for me musically, playing festivals in Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee of course.  The musicians that have played with me in this group, are some of the best anywhere.  I’m fortunate to have gotten to play guitar with these guys.

6. What else do you do besides play music?
Well I have to work for a living still.  I’m a commercial lending officer for BancorpSouth.  I’ve been in banking going on 26 years now and I really do have banker’s hours.  I like to cook and watch my kids play sports.  I like to do things with my girlfriend and she’s so supportive of my music.   I like to travel and fish.  I love good movies.  Listening to music is just as fun for me as playing and often times is more fun.

7. What makes this kind of music "good" to you?
Instrumentally, good timing makes me feel good.  What I mean by this, if everyone is playing on the beat or off beat (whichever the case may be), hitting a bad note is still ok.  It’s not the end of the world to hit a bad note, as long as it’s in time.  Getting out of time, is not so ok, because it effects the whole group.  Bad notes only effect you, bad timing effects everyone.  Also, simplicity makes music good also.  Just play what you should and don’t try to overdo it.  Being courteous of others with your volume, fills, etc., especially over the vocals, this really can make the music good.  What makes this music good vocally?, I’d have to say singing 3 or 4 part harmony on pitch, makes me feel good also.  This acoustic oldtime music can be so beautiful if we let it be.  It calms my nerves if the music is good, and is a good medicine (as David Killingsworth once put it).

8. Why did you choose to play this kind of music?
I think this music chose me instead of me choosing it.  Seriously, I don’t always want to play, but when I do, I have to feel it.  If you don’t have anything to feel, it is so hard to play the music.  I think I do play because it allows me to express emotions that couldn’t be expressed any other way. I mean, sometimes it makes you happy, sometimes sad and you just want to cry or something.  This music stirs the emotions.  Music is an outlet.  I know that sounds weird, but that’s what it does for me.


Wayne Jerrolds


Obituary for Dr. Joe Tucker
Dr. Joe Tucker, 88, died Thursday afternoon, July 4, 2019 at Jackson-Madison County General Hospital surrounded by his family.
He was born in Uniontown, AL on December 13, 1930 the son of the late Joe Tucker and Claudia Ethridge Tucker. He served in the National Guard during the Korean War and later retired from the guard after serving 43 years. He influenced many students while a math Professor at Union University for twenty-two years, many saying he was the reason they graduated from Union. He was a longtime Sunday School teacher at First Baptist Church, current member at West Jackson Baptist Church, member of Jackson Roadrunners, Co-Founder of the Andrew Marathon, which is the oldest marathon in Tennessee, 2003 Distinguished Service Award winner from The Jackson-Madison County Sports Hall of Fame, and member of the Jackson Plectral Society.
He is survived by his three sons, Claude Tucker (Denise), Tommy Tucker (Nancy), and Phillip Tucker; one sister, Velma Jackson (Glen); seven grandchildren, Jeremy Tucker, Rebecca Tucker, Emily Stubblefield (Justin), Zachary Tucker, Joseph Tucker, Matthew Tucker, Anna Tucker, and one great- grandchild, Josie Stubblefield.
He was preceded in death by his parents; his wife, Ira Belle Tucker; four brothers, Rogers Tucker, Lester Tucker, Lawrence Tucker, Wilber Tucker; one sister, Justine Davis, and great-grandchild Aubrey Jo Tucker.
SERVICES: Funeral services will be held Sunday, July 7, 2019 at 4:00PM in the chapel of Arrington Funeral Directors with Rev. Ricky Clark officiating. Burial will be Monday, July 8, 2019 at 10:30AM at Ridgecrest Cemetery.
The family will be receiving friends Sunday from 2:00PM until 4:00PM.
Those serving as pallbearers will be Phillip Scott, Richard Dehn, Zachary Tucker, Matthew Tucker, Jeremy Tucker, Joseph Tucker, Don Richard, Carroll Griffin and Dwayne Jennings.
The family has requested in lieu of flowers that memorial contributions be directed to the Joe Tucker Scholarship Fund at Union University, 1050 Union University Dr, Jackson, TN 38305.
Additional information can be found on Arrington Funeral Directors Facebook page or www.arringtonfuneralgroup.com
Arrington Funeral Directors, 148 W. University Parkway, Jackson, TN 38305.731.668.1111.


The Weems Family Stringband Remembered by descendants Mr. & Mrs. Ray Hinson and Joyce Webb