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Vintage Fiddlers Oral History Project, 1984-1985

item | details | guide | text


Marynell Young


Vintage Fiddlers Oral History Project




Morehead State University Special Collections and Archives

Morehead, Kentucky 40351 USA

Conditions Governing Access note

Collection is open for research. The Appalachian Development Center provided support for staff and equipment. The Kentucky Folklife Foundation supported the effort to collect Alfred Bailey's repertory on video and audio tape. A grant from the Kentucky Oral History Commission made possible the interviews and tune samples.

Preferred Citation Note

[Identification of item], Vintage Fiddlers Oral History Project, Special Collections and Archives, Morehead State University, Morehead.


0.25 linear ft.


Project Description

"To learn to fiddle, really fiddle, I mean really fiddle, you get you a big cake of rosin and go out onto the porch, with your fiddle, and sit in the sun. You are out on the porch because no one wants to hear you trying to learn to fiddle. You fiddle, and you fiddle, always in the hot sun," said J.P. Fraley, a master fiddler from Rush, Kentucky. "When the shadow of your elbow has worn a hole in the porch, you maybe can fiddle a little bit," he continued.

Fraley is one of the fiddlers interviewed for the 1984-1985 collection phase of Vintage Fiddling in Eastern Kentucky.

Another fiddler, Hiram Stamper, a World War I veteran from Knott County, starts his day with a little down-home fiddle music and a few buck dancing steps. At 93 years of age, his repertoire is a generation older than the younger (65 to 78) players.

All fiddlers interviewed for the first phase of Vintage Fiddling in Eastern Kentucky are master artists. They are Alfred Bailey. Fleming County; Virgil Alfrey, Greenup County; Chillson Leach, Boyd County; David Sizemore, Floyd County, and Clyde Davenport, Wayne County in addition to J.P. Fraley and Hiram Stamper, mentioned above.

The taped collection and the accompanying guide sheets to the cassette collection only begin to reveal the repertoire of older players in eastern Kentucky. As I worked to complete these projects, a cast of over thirty more fiddlers emerged. This, then, is a beginning, not a finale.

The goal of the two projects for 1984-1985 was to collect and preserve the record of the fiddling careers of six Appalachian fiddlers. The Kentucky Folklife Foundation funded the collection of the entire repertoire of one eastern Kentucky fiddler, Alfred Bailey. The goal of the project funded by the Kentucky Oral History Commission was to preserve the record of the fiddling careers of six Appalachian fiddlers.

Sketch of the Fiddlers

1. Alfred Bailey, a resident of Fleming County, has entered and won fiddle contests for over 50 years. He decided not to enter Rowan County's harvest festival contest in 1984 because the strain of competition and a known heart condition are, as notes, "not a good mix." His repertoire ranges from tunes learned from his father, other family members, and local players to tunes played over the radio.

2. Virgil Alfrey and Clela Alfrey, a husband and wife team, have performed since playing on radio stations as teenagers. A crane operator in Greenup County, Virgil learned to play fiddle as a youngster, but spent thirty years playing electric guitar for dance bands. According to Alfrey, he likes to take five or six fiddle tunes and "polish them up" for fiddle contests. Clela writes weekly columns about musicians for two area newspapers. Virgil, along with Clela's accompaniment, was the top fiddler at the 1984 Fiddlers Grove competition in North Carolina. He possesses a pervasive knowledge of waltzes and chording styles to accompany them.

3. Chillson Leach was introduced to the interviewer-collector by Virgil and Clela Alfrey. He learned to play fiddle at the age of nine when he lived in Mt. Sterling. For years he never played. Recently, after his retirement, he again began playing old tunes he learned as a child.

4. J.P. and Annadeene Fraley have contributed to traditional music programs in many states. They have performed at the International Folklife Festival in El Paso, Texas, and at Alaska's Folklife Celebration, for example.

5. David Sizemore, a resident of Prestonsburg, like the other fiddlers listed here, has a repertoire of several decades. He enjoys guitar backup to other fiddlers as well as performing with bluegrass bands. His ability to make and repair instruments, along with a score of fiddles he has adorning his music room wall are testimony to his commitment to traditional music.

6. Hiram Stamper, a life-long resident of the Cumberland Plateau, has fiddled for over 80 years. At 93, he is an agile and vigorous performer who is expert at what are now rarer tunings.

7. Clyde Davenport lives in Monticello, Kentucky. He performs flawlessly and almost without effort. His repertoire contains many locally played tunes learned from his father and uncles. He has an unusual style of fingering, and for this reason, was video (VHS) taped. According to Davenport, he knew dozens of tunes by the time he was five years old and could play immediately upon being given the chance at the age of seven.

Scope and Content

The goal of the project, Vintage Fiddling in Eastern Kentucky, is to preserve and to make available to scholars and enthusiasts information about traditional music in the Commonwealth's eastern-most counties. Aware that fiddle tunes exist in the oral tradition, I knew that a collection would help preserve and present, not only the tunes played, but would provide a record of the fiddlers' lives as well. They readily agreed and donated their time and talents.

In conjunction with my effort, David Bartlett, Associate Professor of Art at Morehead State University, produced a collection of black and white photographs of the fiddlers.

Accordingly, we are submitting to the Appalachian Collection of the Camden-Carroll Library archives the following items:

This particular collection and the accompanying guide sheets merely "scratch the surface" in revealing the repertoire of older players in eastern Kentucky. During the course of this project, opportunities to preserve and present additional examples of this heritage have mushroomed. Aside from the seven whose talents are documented, there are thirty more fiddlers, all over 65 years old, who continue playing tunes learned down through the generations.

Marynell Young, Appalachian Development Center, Morehead State University, November 1, 1985

User Restrictions

Copyright has not been assigned to Morehead State University. These materials are made available to you for educational purposes. They are intended for not-for-profit use. Photograph copyright belongs to David Bartlett, photographer. Any use without his permission is strictly prohibited.

Collection Inventory

Photographs of Fiddlers by David Bartlett
J.P. and Annadeen Fraley
[item: afrale01] browse
J.P. Fraley
[item: jfrale01] browse
Virgil and Clela Alfrey
[item: alfrey01] browse
Virgil and Clela Alfrey
[item: alfrey02] browse
Alfred Bailey
[item: bailey01] browse
Alfred Bailey
[item: bailey02] browse
Alfred Bailey
[item: bailey03] browse
Alfred Bailey
[item: bailey04] browse
Clyde Davenport
[item: daven01] browse
Chillson Leach
[item: leach01] browse
Chillson Leach
[item: leach02] browse
Chillson Leach
[item: leach03] browse
David Sizemore
[item: sizem01] browse
Hiram Stamper
[item: stamp01] browse
Alfred Bailey
Tape 1, Side 1, May 17, 1985
[item: 1_1] browse
Tape 1, Side 2, May 17, 1985
[item: 1_2] browse
Tape 2, Side 1, May 17, 1985
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Tape 2, Side 2, May 24, 1985
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Tape 3, Side 1, May 24, 1985
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Tape 3, Side 2, May 24, 1985
[item: 3_2] browse
Tape 4, Side 1, May 24, 1985
[item: 4_1] browse
Tape 4, Side 2, May 24, 1985
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Tape 5, Side 1, May 24, 1985
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Video Tape v1, May 24, 1985
Scope and Content Note:

The following is an unrehearsed interview with Alfred Bailey for the Morehead State University Vintage Fiddlers Oral History Project. The interview was conducted by Marynell Young at Alfred Bailey's home, 435 Fountain Avenue, Flemingsburg, KY 41041. Alfred's wife Mary was also present during the interview session. Mr. Bailey plays wihtout mistakes for long periods and almost never asked for tape deletion. Warm tune. Alfred has given interviewer a list and wants the tunes called out to him. (v1.0001 ) , Tom and Jerry(v1.0044 ), Precious Memories(v1.0100 ), Dill Pickle Rag(v1.0157 ), I Don't Love Nobody (old version)(v1.0207 ), I Don't Love Nobody (new version)(v1.0237 ), Jack of Diamonds(v1.0285 ), Fire on the Mountain(v1.0318 ), Bonapart Crossing the Rhine(v1.0347 ), Wild Horse(v1.0377 ), Golden Slippers(v1.404 ), Bitter Creek(v1.0442 ), Shannon Waltz(v1.0480 ), Old Coon Dog(v1.0522 ), Goonight Waltz(v1.0547 ), Peek-a-boo Waltz(v1.0595 ), Nobody's Business What I Do(v1.0615 ), Tilden in the White House -- talk -- learned from an old French Harp player(v1.0650 ), Tilden in the White House(v1.0654 ), Roger's Reel - learned from G.L. Hawkins(v1.669 ), San Antonio Rose(v1.0707 ), Kentucky Waltz (from Bill Monroe)(v1.0727 ), Peach Licker Still in Georgia(v1.0793 ), Margarie Waltz - learned as a boy from Charlie Linville(v1.0816 ), Green Valley Waltz(v1.0865 ), John Henry(v1.0884 ), Black-eyed Susie(v1.0909 ), Wake up Susie(v1.0925 ), Bumble Bee in the Jug Rag(v1.0946 ), Talk -- take a break. First break of any kind. (v1.0969 ), Amazing Grace(v1.0970 ), I Saw the Light(v.0993 ), Old Rugged Cross(v1.1017 ), Onward Christian Soldiers, played Battle Hymn of the Republic(v1.1047 ), America(v1.1076 ), Talk about retuning(v1.1101 ), Old 97(v1.1102 ), Darling Nellie Gray(v1.1119 ), My Little Girl I know I Love You (Talk)(v1.1132 ), Sung Old Log Cabin in the Lane(v1.1155 ), I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles(v1.1177 ), Talk -- where it was learned(v1.1196 ), Good Old Sumertime(v1.1200 ), Let Me Call You Sweetheart(v1.1217 ), Wabash Cannonball(v1.1244 ), Orange Blossom Special(v1.1260 ), Mockingbird(v1.1303 ), Talk about learning Mockingbird(v1.1334 ), Foggy Mountain Breakdown(v1.1337 ), Skip-to-my-Lou(v1.1357 ), Thunder Hornpipe(v1.1369 ), Sailor's Hornpipe(v1.1391 ), Talk about lunch arrangements. End of tunes.(v1.1412 )

Video Tape v2, May 24, 1985
Scope and Content Note:

The following is an unrehearsed interview with Alfred Bailey for the Morehead State University Vintage Fiddlers Oral History Project. The interview was conducted by Marynell Young at Alfred Bailey's home, 435 Fountain Avenue, Flemingsburg, KY 41041. Alfred's wife Mary and photographer David Bartlett were also present during the interview session. Mr. Bailey plays wihtout mistakes for long periods and almost never asked for tape deletion. Arkansas Traveller(v2.0000 ), Turkey in the Straw(v2.0047 ), Old Joe Clark(v2.0083 ), Chicken Reel(v2.0107 ), Cacklin' Hen(v2.0143 ), Red Wing(v2.0177 ), Anna Laura(v2.0206 ), Pretty Rainbow(v2.0238 ), Fox Chase (from Sanford Kelly, see clipping in last section of Alfred Bailey)(v2.0300 ), Talk about Goodnight Waltz(v2.0325 ), Martin's Waltz(v2.0330 ), Talk about state contest at Rough River(v2.0371 ), Ida Red(v2.0380 ), Go to Heaven, Uncle Joe(v2.0407 ), Talk about previous tune - learned it as a boy from a French harp player(v2.0428 ), Soldier's Joy(v2.0471 ), Liberty(v2.0491 ), Durang's Hornpipe(v2.0505 ), Lancing Quadrille(v2.0535 ), Durham Bull (a modern piece)(v2.0558 ), Talk about Buddy Durham, a Canadian(v2.0584 ), Fiddler's Dream(v2.0591 ), Red Apple Rag (in D) - others play it in A(v2.0595 ), Fiddler's Dream(v2.0621 ), Ragged Ann(v2.0650 ), Stonewall Jackson(v2.0677 ), Bonapart's Retreat(v2.0704 ), Up Jump the Devil(v2.0740 ), Rockin' Bow demo(v2.0765 ), Talk -- played it before(v2.0770 ), Alabama Jubilee(v2.0796 ), Don't Let Your Deal Go Down(v2.0796 ), Talk of learning procedures and "accidentals"(v2.0824 ), Replays tune in "G" -- learned it since he was this high(v2.0844 ), New/old discussion Bert Lane(v2.0850 ), Cincinnati Rag(v2.0866 ), Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star (old way)(v2.0903 ), Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star (new way)(v2.0939 ), Sally Johnson(v2.0961 ), Angus Campbell(v2.0986 ), Down Yonder(v2.1008 ), Retuned fiddle(v2.1032 ), Black Mountain Rag(v2.1035 ), Drunken Hiccups(v2.1068 ), Bell Cow(v2.1080 ), Joking -- End of tape.(v2.1099 )

Tape 8, Side 1, July 25, 1985
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Tape 8, Side 2, July 25, 1985
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Tape 9, Side 1, July 25, 1985
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Tape 9, Side 2, July 25, 1985
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Mary Bailey
Tape 7, Side 1, May 17, 1985
[item: 07_1] browse
Tape 7, Side 2, May 17, 1985
[item: 07_2] browse
Virgil Alfrey
Tape 10, Side 1, May 22, 1985
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Tape 11, Side 1, May 22, 1985
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Tape 11, Side 2, May 22, 1985
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Tape 12, Side 1, May 22, 1985
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Chillson Leach
Tape 13, Side 1, May 29, 1985
[item: 13_1] browse
Tape 13, Side 2, June 5, 1985
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Tape 14, Side 1, June 5, 1985
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J.P. Fraley
Tape 15, Side 1, May 29, 1985
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Tape 15, Side 2, May 29, 1985
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Tape 16, Side 1, May 29, 1985
[item: 16_1] browse
Tape 16, Side 2, May 29, 1985
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Annadeene and J.P. Fraley
Tape 17, Side 1, June 4, 1985
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Tape 17, Side 2, June 4, 1985
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Tape 18, Side 1, June 4, 1985
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Tape 18, Side 2, June 4, 1985
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Tape 19, Side 1, June 4, 1985
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Tape 20, Side 1, August 2, 1985
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Tape 20, Side 2, August 2, 1985
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David Sizemore
Tape 21, Side 1, August 22, 1985
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Tape 22, Side 1, September 26, 1985
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Tape 22, Side 2, September 26, 1985
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Tape 23, Side 1, September 26, 1985
[item: 23_1] browse
Tape 23, Side 2, September 26, 1985
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Hiram Stamper
Tape 24, Side 1, August 23, 1985
[item: 24_1] browse
Tape 24, Side 2, August 23, 1985
[item: 24_2] browse
Video Tape v3, August 24, 1985
Scope and Content Note:

The following is an unrehearsed interview with Hiram Stamper (Age 93) for the Morehead State University Vintage Fiddlers Oral History Project. The interview was conducted by Marynell Young at the Stamper residence, Knott County, KY 418822. Marynell Young plays guitar.Martha Stamper and photographer David Barlett were also present during the interview session. "Goodby Girls I'm Going to Boston" - a play dance for six(v3.0000 ), Sally Goodin(v3.0023 ), Played Sally Goodin on request another tune(v3.0055 ), Talk about tune origin for Sally Goodin(v3.0111 ), Old Joe Clark (same key as Sally Goodin)(v3.0172 ), Talk about "Old Christmas Morning"(v3.0222 ), Brushy Forks of John's Creek, a tune from Civil War. Laskt tune played in Civil War. It was in Pike County.(v3.0240 ), Talks about Labor Day concert(v3.0297 ), Talks about Last of Sizemore and Last of Callahan(v3.0315 ), Last of Sizemore(v3.0325 ), Example of bass note rhythm(v3.0340 ), Bill Baker killed four men(v3.0372 ), Black Hiram Blakely is dead now(v3.0387 ), He learned Going to the Meeting House from Bill Baker's father-in-law(v3.0396 ), Cluck Old Hen (not too different from modern version. But Hiram plays in a tuning). Plucks strings with left hand.(v3.0440 ), Talks about an old hen clucking and tune replicating it.(v3.0473 ), Goodby Girls, I'm Going to Boston(v3.0485 ), Exmaple of pulling bass string to make time.(v3.0500 ), Tunes for Going to (or Glory in) the Meeting House(v3.0530 ), Explains how he tunes(v3.0613 ), Glory in (or Going to) the Meeting House(v3.0650 ), Tunes for Chinquapin Hunting(v3.0723 ), Checks tuning. He can tune it many different ways.(v3.0747 ), Dissatisfied with tuning(v3.0768 ), Very out of tune and readjustment procedures.(v3.0782 ), Nigger Winch Along(v3.0800 ), Indian Nation - The first tune ever played(v3.0830 ), Example of left hand plucking strings(v3.0850 ), Oldest tune in the world, Chinquapin Hunting. It was played all through the Civil War(v3.0873 ), Talks about old times(v3.0925 ), Indian Nation was first tune ever played(v3.0954 ), A Hoedown dance, learned from Roger Cornett(v3.0961 ), Used to be Sally Goodin in the tune(v3.0990 ), Talk -- John Hardy was captured in West Virginia.(v3.1016 ), Retunes to play Sally Goodin - Boatin' Up Sandy(v3.1024 ), Talk(v3.1057 ), Baby-O(v3.1088 ), Example of left hand plucking and drawing of bass string.(v3.1095 ), Talk(v3.1142 ), Another baby tune(v3.1166 ), Talk(v3.1195 ), Un-named tune(v3.1220 ), Talk about France in World War I(v3.1245 ), Discusses beauty of the discord tuning(v3.1260 ), Poor Ellen Smith(v3.1268 ), Sings Poor Ellen Smith(v3.1277 ), Pretty Betty Martin, Tip Toe(v3.1284 ), Talks about how Bill Monroe calls the previous tune Fire on the Mountain.(v3.1300 ), Last of Sizemore(v3.1310 ), Brushy Forks of John's Creek, last tune every played in the Civil War(v3.1329 ), Baby-O, what'll we do with the baby-O? Wrap him up in a table cloth(v3.1360 ), A hymn - a relative of his named preacher Jim Stewart(v3.1380 ), Sings the hymn(v3.1410 ), Hiram is a cousin of Cora Wilson Stewart, founder of eastern Kentucky Moonlight Schools(v3.1424 ), Baby-O. Hiram's wife visits with interviewer over supper arrangements. (v3.1438 ), 1893 is birth year(v3.1455 ), Plum granant(v3.1462 ), End of Taping Session(v3.1470 )

Clyde Davenport
Tape 25, Side 1, August 31, 1985
[item: 25_1] browse
Tape 26, Side 1, August 31, 1985
[item: 26_1] browse
Tape 26, Side 2, August 31, 1985
[item: 26_2] browse
Tape 27, Side 1, August 31, 1985
[item: 27_1] browse
Tape 27, Side 2, August 31, 1985
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Tape 28, Side 1, August 31, 1985
[item: 28_1] browse
Video Tape v4, August 31, 1985
Scope and Content Note:

The following is an unrehearsed interview with Clyde Davenport for the Morehead State University Vintage Fiddlers Oral History Project. The interview was conducted by Marynell Young at the Davenport Residence, 120 Boone Street, Monticello, KY 42633. Marynell Young plays guitar.Photographer David Barlett was also present during the interview session. Kitty Puss(v4.0007 ), Talk about Kitty Puss(v4.066 ), Black Foot(v4.0084 ), Talk about older tunes(v4.0131 ), Roses in the Morning(v4.0144 ), Talk about tunes that have words(v4.0188 ), Old Aunt Jenny with her Night Cap On(v4.0202 ), Talk abotu words to tunes(>v4.0240 ), Highway to Center(v4.0258 ), Reaches over to get the bass string(v4.0277 ), Talks about how old tunes play differently(v4.0315 ), Hey, Little boy Where'd you get your britches(v4.0325 ), Sings words(v4.0357 ), Ask that Pretty Girl to Be My Wife(v4.0365 ), Talk about learning to play(v4.0404 ), Turkey Buzzard (Got a Little Home to Go to version)(v4.0424 ), Talk about difference in next version(v4.0463 ), Old Turkey Buzzard(v4.0473 ), Smokey Hornpipe(v4.0521 ), Interviewer asks about jig time tunes(v4.0556 ), Irish Washer Woman(v4.0572 ), Rye Straw(v4.0597 ), Old Granny Hare(v4.0630 ), Old Davy Dugger(v4.0668 ), Flatwoods (a Lost John tune)(v4.0703 ), Talk about what he used to play(v4.0734 ), Peas in the Pot. Words are "Peas in the Pot/Hot cakes are bakin' Step, girl, step, day's a breakin'"(v4.0753 ), Sleepin' Lulu(v4.0789 ), Talk about tunes with "dream" in the title.(v4.0838 ), Under the Pale Moonlight(v4.0850 ), Re-adjusts camera(v4.0880 ), Camera on photographer, David Bartlett(v4.0887 ), Discusses tunes to play(v4.0898 ), Sally Goodin(v4.0906 ), Talk about garden tomatoes(v4.0952 ), Clyde's fiddles play easily(v4.1004 ), Talks about giving away fiddles(v4.1014 ), Continued talk about making a fiddle with pocket knife, a scraper, and sandpaper.(v4.1040 ), Describes fiddle making(v4.1056 ), He made a birch fiddle(v4.1071 ), Continued talk about fiddle making(v4.1094 ), Retunes fiddle(v4.1135 ), Zollie's Retreat(v4.1159 ), Key of D tuning(v4.1190 ), Black Snake(v4.1205 ), Bonapart's Retreat(v4.1237 ), Talk about marches(v4.1259 ), Retunes(v4.1267 ), Sally in the Garden Sifting Sand(v4.1342 ), John Henry(v4.1362 ), Ginny in the Cotton Patch(v4.1385 ), Sugar in the Gourd(v4.1409 ), Getting Upstairs (Still in A tuning)(v4.1427 ), Pecker Wood(v4.1452 ), Big Sweet Tater in Sandy Land(v4.1483 ), Sourwood Mountain(v4.1516 ), Retunes(v4.1540 ), One-eyed Rosy(v4.1557 ), Plays both Cluck Old Hen and Cacklin' Hen. Retunes.(v4.1577 ), Cluck Old Hen(v4.1598 ), Five Miles(v4.1618 ), Black-eyed Susie in C(v4.1641 ), Black-eyed Susie in D(v4.1650 ), Lost Indian(v4.1667 ), Ladies on the Stemboat(v4.1687 ), Cumberland Gap(v4.1715 ), Little Stream of Whiskey(v4.1736 ), Talks about his Niklo Amatus fiddle(v4.1765 ), Billy in the Low Ground (A good shot of his sliding on ring finger technique)(v4.1768 ), All Night Long Blues(v4.1798 ), Bed Bug Blues(v4.1814 ), Tennessee Wagner(v4.1836 ), Rusty Night Dance(v4.1856 ), Taylor's Quick Step(v4.1870 ), When the Roses Bloom Again(v4.1901 ), Wild Goose(v4.1933 ), Done Gone(v4.1953 ), Repeat of Done Gone(v4.1966 ), Rocky Road to Dublin (Not the Irish version)(v4.1995 ), End(v4.2008 )

Delbert Hughes
Tape 29, Side 1, November 1, 1985
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Tape 29, Side 2, November 1, 1985
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