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 kinds of times and places have you played music in your life?
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.
I have way to many hobbies:
- What else do you do besides play music?
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.
Bought my first mandolin in 2000 and started picking.
- How long have you been playing oldtime music?
Church music which led to gospel music were my initial influences in performance music.
- What are your musical influences?
- Does anyone in your family play music
My dad whistled all the time and that is the extent of family musical influence. :)
In the early fifties, in Memphis, I sang in a group called "Teenagers for Christ".....name drop.... Elvis was a member of the group. :)
- What kinds of times and places have you played music in your life?
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.
I still work at my profession/hobby.....photography.
- What else do you do besides play music?
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.
- What makes this kind of music "good" to you?
- Why did you choose to play this kind of music
It's an anytime, anyplace music.
When and how did you first become interested in oldtime music?
(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!
(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.”
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.