Archives for category: Blind Boy Paxton

Uncle Dave Macon

Uncle Dave Macon Days , established in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, celebrated 35 years as one of the premier old time music competitions in the country over July 13-15th at Cannonsburgh Pioneer Village just a few blocks from the original town square where the festival started.

Dancing on the porch – photos – Brad Hardisty

Three Nationals Championships are held during the event including Old Time Banjo, Old Time Clogging and Old Time Buck Dancing. Competitions including old time style from Fiddle to Guitar to Banjo are held over the first two days.

Tearing down the 2nd stage on Sunday

This year, Mike Snider who grew up in Gleason, Tennessee, was the Heritage Award Winner.

 “I am thankful to be chosen for an award that has to do with good ole string band music. I feel like I’m in the business for the same reason as Uncle Dave; for the joy of playing the tunes and sharing a laugh or two with the common everyday folks. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone in July.” –  Mike Snider

Mike was a regular on Hee-Haw after winning a National Competition for Bluegrass Banjo, followed by work at the original Opryland Theme Park before being inducted into The Grand Ole Opry in 1990.

Mike and his band are regulars on the Grand Ole Opry, where host, Eddie Stubbs of WSM 650, has said that his group is “best string band in the nation.”

Famed Banjo player, J. D. Crowe took the Trailblazer Award. J.D.  has been a part of Bluegrass and traditional music when as a young teen in 1956, he joined Jimmie Martin and The Sunny Mountain Boys followed by the formation of The Kentucky Mountain Boys.  J.D.’s most groundbreaking group came in the early 70’s with his band J. D. Crowe and The New South, who were at the time considered a bridge to the future with past traditionalists. The players that came out of that group such as Tony Rice, Jerry Douglas and Ricky Skaggs went on as icons. The 70’s were a time when some of the best players, such as Sam Bush set the tone that would become a permanent growing worldwide movement that is bluegrass today.

Chapel Windows at Cannonsburgh Village

The Macon- Doubler Fellowship that was established by the late Alvin Doubler and his wife Mary Macon Doubler, Granddaughter of Uncle Dave Macon were awarded to Sandra Gilliam of Manchester, Tennessee and Colton Wrisner, who is a ninth grader at Warren County High School.

The Well Gospel Band on Main Stage

Cannonsburgh  Pioneer Village has over 20 structures representing life n the 1800’s in middle Tennessee. There was plenty to do besides listening to music by the main stage, wandering through local artisan booths to finding some food across the creek, which was pretty much State Fair Cuisine.

So slow smoked, it taste like ham!

There were hand dipped corn dogs and smoked Turkey legs amongst the Gyro and Philly Cheese Steak sandwiches.

Paul Marcil

People were encouraged to bring stringed instruments and join a  jam in the area where grub and historic structures were situated. It gave the feel of attending a county fair in the 1800’s.

The Bluegrass Bus

The Bluegrass Bus, with the historic logos of WSM Radio, The Grand Ole Opry, Lester Flatt and Earl Skruggs as well as Martha White Flour, looked the part of Flatt & Skruggs tour bus, while inside there were press photos, autographs and collectibles from the last 70 years of Bluegrass and Country Music History.

Gerron “Blind Boy” Paxton – photo / Brad Hardisty

One of the people hanging out in the park playing some old time Banjo and Fiddle was none other than Gerron “Blind Boy” Paxton, whom I had met at the Folk Alliance in Memphis back in 2010. He was hanging out with Hubby Jenkins and Dom Flemons of The Carolina Chocolate Drops back in Memphis and holding his own.  Gerron is a multi-instrumentalist, who is equally adept at Old Time Banjo, Fiddle as well as Piano when he can find one. Gerron specializes in late 1800’s-earlly 1900’s music.

I asked Gerron if he had put out an album yet. Gerron said that he had released a 78 over in England, although for now he calls Brooklyn, New York home after being raised in Los Angeles, California. A lot of people had been inquiring about recordings and “Blind Boy” spoke about maybe opening up and E-Bay Store when he gets back home.

  The Well Gospel Band took the stage Sunday Afternoon, for some old time gospel playing a bluegrass version of “Count Your Blessings. “ While the weather was a little difficult with some rain on Saturday, Sunday the sun was out and there was no charge to enter the grounds for one last round to catch up with old friends and make some new ones.

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN

Daniel Frazier and Frank Fairfield at Grimey’s


A quick check of my email yesterday on my EVO phone found a note from Grimey’s that Frank Fairfield was doing an in-store appearance a couple of days after his Music City Roots set at The Loveless Barn at 6 pm. There is a lot of “roots” music lately but only a chance now and then to catch a true purist player.

Doyle and Mike and the rest of the Grimey’s crew were on hand offering Fat Tire brew to those over twenty one and a weird flavored water that tasted like Hot Buttered Popcorn, a free sample remnant from Record Store Day for those with a brave palate.

Frank was in no hurry prepping his violin, conjuring squeaks with a stroke of the cleaning cloth. Frank said he finds himself “talking to birds”. It was loud enough to conjure a dry track version of Paul’s “seagulls” from “Tomorrow Never Knows” in my brain.

Frank Fairfield’s one and only recording was released in 2009 on Tompkins Square Records out of New York City, a collection of songs older than my Grandparents with enough references to “John Hardy” and “John Henry” to find him bookended by Uncle Dave Macon and The Carter Family.

My new friendship with Blind Boy Paxton at the Folk Alliance prepared me for Frank’s mindset. You can’t really just call him an archivist, Frank dresses the part, talks the part and walks the walk as he resurrects long buried treasures performed on Banjo, Violin (Fiddle, whatever), and Guitar, a little gut box similar to Willie Nelson’s trigger. The instruments themselves were artifacts. In fact, Frank and the aforementioned Blind Boy Paxton are both a player’s player where everything needs to come from that era and bring it out live, unplugged.

The guys from Peelander-Z  were busy rummaging through Used CD’s just prior to sound check for their show at Exit/In as Frank started a duet with music partner Daniel Frazier of Memphis, Tennessee’s Daniel Frazier & The Outlaws. Frank started out on Fiddle but moved to solo Banjo, Guitar and back to Fiddle. At one point, he put on a thumb pick and hit a couple of notes and said “no” to himself and put it back in his pocket. This was all done with hands showing deft tenacity, dynamics and finesse.

His voice would fit what you would expect on an old Carter Family record and more or less is an accompaniment to his playing much in the same way as Jimi Hendrix was, it does not detract but adds to the mood.   

Frank often explained where the piece came from referring more than once to East Texas “where his people are from” especially an odd triplet rarity called a “Mazurka” that had come from the Spaniards that settled there probably in the 1800’s or before.

Frank called them popular pieces or dance pieces as he launched into “Poor Benny” and “Sally Goodin” punctuated by jokes from a pre-film era like “Why is kissing a girl like a dog sitting on a cake of ice?…Because kissing a girl is so dog-gone nice.”

Although many of the sets at Grimey’s are usually abbreviated to five songs or so, Frank came ready to do an hour or so.  I picked up his CD and through it in the car stereo and heard what I expected to hear. A  modern day field recording, not much different than what Robert Johnson sounded like recording in a Houston, Texas Hotel Room almost a hundred years ago.  Although Frank is from Texas, he fits well with East Nashville’s Americana Scene or the Brooklyn, New York roots scene that has developed over the last few years.

Like Blind Boy Paxton, Frank knows his stuff both visually and sonically as he stomped his feet and moved to the beat in his chair, but the question still arises with me. Can you branch the tree out from a pre-rock period of time and deliver something new?  A fresh take on a tribute to the past, before the term bluegrass or Chicago Blues, offers a lot for me, but, I would like to see a new song come out of this. Bob Dylan took an early Thirties and Forties feel on Modern Times and spun in it an up to date verbal onslaught. It can be done.

Frank Fairfield as well as Blind Boy Paxton, who runs with Hubby Jenkins and the Carolina Chocolate Drops, are a must see if you are a guitar or string player whether you are a Dimebag Darrell or Leo Kottke Disciple.  Frank and Blind Boy both prefer guitars that you practically have to pull the strings into tune. There must be something about having a guitar that is hard to play like Jack White says.

Pick up the CD and take a listen to “Call Me a Dog When I’m Gone” and “Cumberland Gap”. In fact crank it up while you are driving down Lower Broad and really mess with people.

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN