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Fiddlin' Banjo Billy Mathews / Blog

August/ September 2012

August 2012

Howdy Friends and Neighbors! Welcome to another edition of my banjo blog or as I like to call it, “Letters from home”. Well the news is this is possibly the worst drought in the last 50 years ridiculously hot temperature day after day since early June. There have been a few pop up showers, but very small amounts of rainfall. The water table here is about 12” below normal and getting worse all the time. But the season will change eventually, but until it does we will just have to tough it out and recover the best that we can. I continue with documenting the tunes in my 500 collection and I am finally making progress. I have been getting reports and updates from The Flamingo Girls who are at Clifftop, which is the National Old Time music festival in West Virginia. Suzi and Christine piled the banjos and fiddles into the car and took off for the week. I have been hearing many a tall tale from the girls and their musical exploits, its like having journalists in the field who report on the sites, sounds and activities from this huge annual event. The weather has finally shown the first signs that the patterns are changing, we had a little rain and the temps are more moderate. So we hope that fall is just around the corner. Once again I am getting ready to take on my fall schedule and if that’s not enough to do, I will be launching my new project called The Old Time Music Collective this is a member’s only group. I will be offering exclusive video clips and tunes from the archives with new information every month on our member’s page. If any of you are interested in this new offering, go to my website www.banjobilly.net to find out more. We (The Old Time Players) will be involved in recording the last of our tunes for our new CD! So far it has been a lot of work, but if it were too easy it wouldn’t be any fun. The true value of this Old Time music is that it brings the people together and encourages them to participate. It’s the imperfections that give this music a valid character. So play on and do the best you can and remember Old Time music is always better than it sounds.

That brings us to some not so pleasant news; Garry Harrison of Bloomington, IN has passed on quietly in his sleep. For those of you who might not know of him, Garry was (and still is as far as I am concerned) one of the fiddling greats of all time. He has been one of our most grand fiddling icons, mentor and most importantly our friend of many years. The gift that he gave all of us is immeasurable. When unexpected things like this happen we immediately question our own mortality, which is like it or not a burden we all share. To fill the void of Garry’s absence will be nearly impossible, but we have to try. We all have to buck up and pull together Garry would expect no less. We love you Garry and will carry you with us always.

Well that’s all I got for now its time to get back to the business at hand, if you have any requests, questions or comments the lines are always open. So join me again next time for “Letters from home”. Keep in touch, Stay safe Billy

July 2012

Howdy Friends and Neighbors! Welcome to the next edition of my Old Time Blog or as I like to call it, “Letters from home.” This time I am at the table in the backyard at the little white house on the railroad line in East Champaign Illinois. I travel this way several times a year for employment and general music making merriment. We have just returned from the Indiana Fiddler’s Gathering in West Lafayette, Indiana. I have been in attendance, camping out in this lovely spot for several years. It’s always refreshing to annually be reunited with some of my greatest musical contemporaries, many of whom I have known very well for over 30 years. Sometimes we stay up too long and carry on well into the early morning hours, depriving ourselves of our precious sleep, but in the end the sacrifice is always well worth it. I have been making good use of my time, being busy recording more tunes for an upcoming CD. Well finally, after a couple of weeks at over 100 degrees we got some welcome relief from the heat and most likely it will be short lived, but we’ll take whatever we can get. I will take advantage of the cooler temperatures and make my way back to Arkansas for the remainder of this month. I do rather enjoy getting out to meet up with some of my favorite people and have some memorable times and tunes. These are the things that are most important to an Old Time musician like myself. Happiness is always a fleeting thing, here today gone tomorrow. So grab up as much of the magic that you can find and keep it close to your heart. Well it’s time for me to pick it up and get ready to travel the long road home. So I will leave you with yet another poem from an Old Time Fiddler’s archive.

Home in Arkansaw

Sometimes I travel too far, too long and I miss my Old Mountain Home The memories of the Old Folks and the little children , so dear The animals in the barnyard the moon in the sky, the sunshine above The air crisp and clear South of the Missouri line where things are still like the olden times where the spirits of the old days and the old ways still roam It’s there I built a little cabin that I call home

Well it’s time to finish up now and get on with the business of the day, so tune in again for the next installment of Letters From Home and the continuing story of an Old Time Fiddler in a modern age. Billy

April/ May 2012

Howdy Friends and Neighbors,

Welcome to another edition of my Banjo Blog or as I like to call it; Letters From Home. Once again I am remiss in my writing duties. Naturally at this time of the year there is a never ending list of things to accomplish which of course causes me a great deal of distraction. As you have probably noticed Spring has sprung very early this year and summer is already fast approaching. I have been fortunate, so far to be able to do the physical work that is required to survive out here in the woods at the homestead on the mountainside. In mid- March I traveled once again to Illinois to play some gigs with my musical buddies, The Old Time Players, Paul and Christine Breen. While I was there we started a new recording project. This time we are focusing on tunes that are rarely heard or played by anyone for that matter. Waltzes, Schottische, Rags and Cakewalks many of these tunes were very popular in their day. Most of this stuff has been put on the shelf to collect dust and has been neglected and overlooked. The problem is the people who once enjoyed this music are almost entirely gone now and with them go the memories of these tunes. It's important to give these tunes an airing and revive and reacquaint this generation with new memories of the old tunes. This way the tune will likely live on for many years to come. I have a busy schedule coming up, with another swing through Champaign for a dance and concert, then back to The Heritage Days at Big Spring in Van Buren Missouri. A new thing coming up on Labor Day is the Mount Carroll Fiddle Camp where I will be doing beginning Fiddle and Waltz workshops, which will hopefully be a great success. I highly recommend this event for all people interested in learning to play. See MtCarrollFiddleCamp.com for more information. To see my full schedule, visit: http://www.banjobilly.net/where_is_banjo_billy2.htm or visit me on Facebook and check out my EVENTS.

Now it's time for Billy's Corner, the part of the blog where I get to ramble on about one thing or another. In these days of economic austerity, it's important to remember, even in a small way, to support The Arts. As in the past participation in the Arts continues to inspire our younger generation to even greater heights. I have recently been reminded of this when I witness our young people, fiddle in hand, try to scratch out a tune. It's the baby steps, one after the other that will, whether they realize it or not, eventually bring them to their destination. It takes time, but all good things do take time to grow. Fortunately, I get to help in the nurturing process and I couldn't be more delighted. A great way to support The Arts is to visit my website, www.banjobilly.net and check out my merchandise.

Well it’s time again to finish up for now and get on with the business of the day so tune in again for the next installment of Letters From Home and the continuing story of the Life and Times of Banjo Billy. Try to keep an open mind, learn something new every day, things will be better by and by "Got to go now". Billy

Jan-Feb 2012

Howdy Friend and Neighbors,

This is your old pal coming to you again with the next edition of my banjo blog or as I like to call it “Letters From Home”, where I try to bring you up to date on my travels and adventures. Here it is the end of January my time has been flying by. I have been up in Illinois since New Years, I played some gigs, made a little money and had a lot of fun and that is actually what it’s really all about. I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to continue down my chosen path. I have been meeting many new people in my travels lately, which certainly helps to keep things interesting. Well “The Ground Hog” says that there are 6 more weeks of winter, which seems odd, I am still waiting for winter to come. For some reason this winter season has been, so far, very mild. I haven’t seen one like this for a long time. But it ain’t over yet. Had huge fun and excitement at my 9th Annual Super Bowl Fiddle Workshop in Mountain View Arkansas. Had lots of fiddlers, they learned a bunch of new tunes and we had a couple of great jams. But the big excitement of the weekend was the new banjo workshop directed by my once banjo student and now notable clawhammer banjo instructor, Christine Breen with the extra help from the Banjo Babes, raised the level of excitement to a new all time high. All the folks there had a grand Old Time experience and I am sure they will all agree we had such a wonderful time that it won’t be soon forgotten. Next year will be the 10TH Annual Super Bowl Fiddle and Banjo Workshop. We are already planning a big tadoo for the reunion and we hope to see a lot of people coming back that have been absent as of lately for one reason or another. I have a few things coming up a dance in Springfield, MO. and a house concert April 1st at Techline in Champaign, IL and a fiddle workshop also. I am still of course working on the text and further documentation of my sources for The 500 Project. Well that about does it, to bring you up to date. New this time in the blog is a new section called “Billy’s Corner” where I have made a space for points of interest, also some ramblings and commentary about my perspective, being of course an Old Time Fiddler in a modern age. I began my young life just out of college, when I decided to seek out the mysteries of Traditional American Life, pretty much the opposite of mainstream to see what traces and remnants still existed away from the well beaten track of the urban centers. Back to the old days of self sufficient rural life style, where there was really no one to ask for directions, you pretty much had to figure it out by yourself and go on from there. I have devoted much of my life to breathe new air into the old ways and promote the good parts of the old days, community, a feeling of belonging, having wonderful friends and promote the best relations possible with everybody I meet. Your honest basic existence is all you can hope for in this life and several other people to share it with and actually if you possess these basic things, you become the most fortunate of all. I am usually broke most of the time, it’s either feast or famine, at this rate I’ll most likely have just enough to make it until I die and really that’s all anyone can ask for. Well it’s time to finish up now and get on with the business of the day, so tune in again for the next installment of “Letters From Home” and the continuing story of the life and times of Banjo Billy. “No complaining, just get on with it”.

See ya Billy

Winter Blog- Thanksgiving 2011

Howdy Friends and Neighbors, This is your old pal Banjo Billy once again with the next edition of the Banjo Blog or as I like to call it, letters from home. “Happy Thanksgiving!” Well I am here at home, back at the Old Homestead way back up on the mountain. I’ve been here a little over a month now, trying to reclaim and resurrect my lifestyle after spending four months recuperating from my illness. I want to say “Thank you” to all the people; you know who you are, for sending cards, making phone calls, and sending messages to my e-mail. I really appreciate it. That’s probably the reason I recovered! Well it seems like winter is finally upon us. The days are short and dark. The nights are long and cold. A good way to spend some time when all is quiet is the optimistic contemplation of futures and the creative possibilities. There is never a better time to figure how you might proceed when the year comes to an end. I have been working on my schedule for the New Year. I plan to be back in Ole Champaign again at Strawberry Fields in January the 21st & 22nd and maybe a dance. Then onto my 9th Annual Super Bowl Old Time Fiddlin Workshop at the Inn At Mountain View, Arkansas on February 3,4 and 5th. Christine Breen noted Clawhammer Banjo Instructor from Champaign, IL will join me Super Bowl Weekend doing a banjo workshop of her own. So don’t forget space is limited, register early. The link is on the Inn’s website www.innatmountainview.com or you can call (501) 259-7637 for more info. I am happy to announce the arrival of Grandson #2. His name is Sawyer born 10/24/2011. He is born to my youngest daughter Molly. Maybe I can teach him to play the banjo? I have also been working on the documentation for the 500 collection but it is still pretty slow going right now, but I’ll get there. Still too many things to get done, but I still keep working from the top of the list which changes all the time. The things further down the list will be creeping up on me probably when I least expect it. The thing will eventually make it to the top of the list, but for now just dealing with the overwhelming complexities of modern American Life is a huge job in itself. I continue to try to settle into some kind of a routine, if such a thing exists? The holiday season is gaining fast; soon 2011 will be just a memory. Things are tough right now for a lot of people, but eventually circumstances will change as they always do. So hold out if you can, things will get better, so until they do might as well play a tune, it always help to make time go by. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all you folks, the key word for the Holidays this year is Hope. You can’t eat it, but it will get you by. See you next year. “Peace” Banjo Billy.

October 2011

October 2011 Howdy friends and neighbors! Welcome to another addition of my Banjo Blog, or as I like to call it; letters from home, where I try to bring you up to date on my travels and adventures. I am in long neglect of my writing duties. I have been delayed by a terrible case of pneumonia and I went down fast and have been out of commission since the Fourth of July. This episode is what I now refer to as my Midlife Medical Makeover. Thanks to a gallant effort by the medical community, I have recovered back to as good as I use to be, maybe even better, only time will tell. The recording of the Five Hundred Project is now complete and available online (exclusively @ www.banjobilly.net). There is still much to do, for the present I am working on the documentation of my sources for these tunes and the compilation of the text in book form, which will be available first on disc and then in hard copy. The second part of this project described here is not quite as demanding as the first part and I hope to have it ready by Summer 2012. I am currently back to work to fill out my fall schedule and hopefully will collect enough acorns to pack it in for the winter. Wish me luck cuz I’m probably gonna need some and remember; “Times with no money is never as bad as times with no music” Play on! Your pal, Banjo Billy

March/April 2011

Howdy there friends and neighbors, its your old pal Banjo Billy with a long over due blog or as I like to call it "Letters from Home." Well, I haven't written anything since Christmas. I spent the first part of January in the cold north country of Illinois and then I made a detour over to Des Moines, Iowa to see an old friend of mine and then home to the Ozarks. Seems like this year Old Man Winter has really caused a lot of disruption once too many times to suit me. We've been hit with several Icelandic Blasts, one after another for almost a month, which of course has had a considerable impact on my day to day operations, so needless to say, I am still recovering. So, ever onward we go. The groundhog said that spring is coming early this year. So, of course we are depending on that, but for now we just hope that the worst part is over. Days are getting noticeably longer and optimism is finally on the rise.

I am finally just getting started on the last installment of my 500 Fiddle Tunes Project. The tune counter is beginning to move again toward my goal. I am hoping to wrap it up by summer time and and have the whole collection recorded, produced and ready fore sale.

That's about all I know at present. Hope all is well in your world. Let the joys be many and the burden be light. The water is a boil, so join me in a cup of your favorite beverage! Better get back to it. Got to go. Billy