Here it is Father's Day and once again I am using the picture of my parents in 1940 to celebrate this occasion as I did on Mother's Day. To me they were a matched set, the Yin and Yang of my young life.
Daddy was a man who was self educated, he only went to school through the fourth grade. He helped his family by hunting and trapping in Hilham, Tennessee. To hear some of his stories he led a Hucklebery Finn sort of life. He was a teenager in the mid 1920s and loved the hillbilly music he was hearing. Naturally! he built a fiddle out of an egg crate so he could teach himself to play and join in with a local dance band that played every weekend. In a short time he decided he needed a more professional model of fiddle and sold Bluing to the ladies in the community in order to get his working fiddle from the Montgomery Ward catalog. He became the fiddler in the band and played on weekends at Mrs. Upton's house. She had a large home and would clear out the main room for dancing. Daddy said every weekend he would ride his horse home with red rimed eyes from all the cigarette smoke and dust that rose from the floor, there were no sub floors just tamped dirt under the floor boards. The dancing and stomping would raise quite a mess and everyone went home with a good coating of dust and the appearance of a coal miner.
Toward the end of the 30's he headed to Detroit to join his brother in finding work to make a living. He met and married Mother and turned his talents to making a living as a precision tool maker for U.S. Rubber during the war. He worked in 1/1000' tolerance and was considered vital to the tool making going on at the time. He had time on his hands because his skill was only required as things needed repair. To keep him happy he was allow to use scrape steel to create hunting knives and trinkets for himself. He took the scrape metal to a high level as he created a 22 caliber pistol making all the parts except the barrel and a spring or two. Making that gun gave him a realization of what he could actually do as a craftsman and in time he created wonderful and beautiful Black Powder Kentucky Rifles and Pistol sets that sold to people all over the country and even in Canada. They sold first to family, but soon collectors that saw them were also buying them. Daddy kept raising the price and they kept selling. He hardly knew what to make of it. He figured he surely would price himself out of the market, but he never did.
In time, after my folks moved back to Tennessee Daddy found a fellow, Ray King in Monterey that had a Gibson Mastertone banjo. Daddy thought it was just the cat's meow and he took on a new challenge. He wanted to see if he could recreate that banjo for himself.
And as you can see, he did it. He made everything except the tambourine top, the ring and the tuning pins. And he had the best time singing and playing. I guess it is true, whatever goes around comes around. At the end of his life he was making music like he had as a young man. Daddy sang in that high lonesome nasal sound of Bluegrass music and had so much fun. It was a joy to hear him and sing along.
He doesn't sing in this following clip, but you can get a hint of his musical style which is in the archives of Vanderbuilt University, in their music collection of old timey Appalachian folk music.Here he is entertaining his first great grandchild, who he calls Red here in the clip. The toes keeping time to the music is that of Aisling from over at the Quiet Country House. She is 'Red's' mommy, my daughter, the Banjo Man's only granddaughter and she has since inherited the banjo.
You may have to let the video load and then play it for real.
To stroll down other lanes visit Aisling at her place.Video by Limerick, 1991