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Reputation of Musicians in Rural America

GUEST,SirCoughsalot 10 Oct 11 - 01:49 AM
GUEST 10 Oct 11 - 07:16 AM
Amos 10 Oct 11 - 08:34 AM
Lighter 10 Oct 11 - 08:57 AM
GUEST 10 Oct 11 - 09:44 AM
Trevor Thomas 10 Oct 11 - 09:46 AM
open mike 10 Oct 11 - 10:41 AM
Bobert 10 Oct 11 - 11:54 AM
GUEST,Jim Dixon, at the Webster, WI library 10 Oct 11 - 12:44 PM
GUEST,SirCoughsalot 10 Oct 11 - 06:19 PM
olddude 10 Oct 11 - 06:26 PM
Bobert 10 Oct 11 - 08:29 PM
Midchuck 10 Oct 11 - 08:42 PM
katlaughing 10 Oct 11 - 09:00 PM
GUEST 10 Oct 11 - 10:13 PM
GUEST,SirCoughsalot 10 Oct 11 - 10:24 PM
Janie 10 Oct 11 - 11:52 PM
katlaughing 11 Oct 11 - 12:11 AM
Jim Dixon 11 Oct 11 - 11:50 AM
dick greenhaus 11 Oct 11 - 12:01 PM
olddude 11 Oct 11 - 12:05 PM
Janie 11 Oct 11 - 07:39 PM
Gibb Sahib 11 Oct 11 - 09:49 PM
GUEST,John 11 Oct 11 - 10:15 PM
olddude 11 Oct 11 - 11:15 PM
Janie 12 Oct 11 - 05:38 AM
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Subject: Reputation of Musicians in Rural America
From: GUEST,SirCoughsalot
Date: 10 Oct 11 - 01:49 AM

Hello, friends and neighbors. Lately I've been wondering about something. It seems that, both presently and many years ago, musicians in rural America, particular Appalachia, have something of a bad reputation. There are many examples. Dock Boggs' wife was against him playing music for a living (possibly at all). My grandfather told me that the "old timers" used to say that if you see a man going down the road with a guitar on their back or a rooster under their arm, that person will never amount to anything. And of course, there are some people who believe that banjo playing and dancing are downright satanic. I still know people who believe that any kind of music that isn't gospel (and a very specific kind, at that) is wrong.

So I was just wondering what people's thoughts on this would be. Why the attitude came about, how it evolved over the years, etc. Personally I think it'd be more prevalent in areas where there are a lot of churches that don't allow music in the service, but that's just speculation.


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Subject: RE: Reputation of Musicians in Rural America
From: GUEST
Date: 10 Oct 11 - 07:16 AM

"Personally I think it'd be more prevalent in areas where there are a lot of churches that don't allow music in the service, but that's just speculation." I think you've got it right there -- Primitive and Old Regular Baptists are down on musical instruments. Below is their rationale, but I've long held a suspicious that the prohibition had more to do with the fact that somebody who plays fiddle, banjo etc. is more likely to skip their farm chores...

The Scriptural Record

The following list includes every reference to the type of music which the early New Testament church used in worship to God. An examination of these Scriptures make plain the kind of music which God designed for His church.

1) And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the Mt. of Olives - Matt 26:30; Mark 14:26.

2) And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God - Acts 16:25.

3) For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name - Romans 15:9.

4) I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also - 1Cor 14:15.

5) Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord - Eph 5:19.

6) Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord - Col 3:16.

7) In the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee - Heb 2:12.

8) Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms - James 5:13.

Conclusions Drawn from Consideration of the Scriptures

Where in the inspired record of the New Testament church is there found a single reference authorizing instrumental music in worship? Nowhere! The most careful, meticulous investigation of the New Testament will not produce a single word in favor of this practice. One may search the New Testament in vain for either command, example, or inference for the use of musical instruments in worship service.

The Lord's church is a New Testament institution, and the New Testament tells the items of worship the Lord put in it. It has been shown that the New testament is silent concerninginstrumental music in the worship. It is evident that those who do use musical instruments in the worship service do without Scriptural authority.

When Christ ascended back into heaven, the Holy Spirit undertook to guide the disciples of Christ in their activities of worship (John 16:13). The Spirit guided the apostles into singing and into exhorting others to sing, but the Spirit never guided the apostles into performing upon instruments in worship or into exhorting others to do so.


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Subject: RE: Reputation of Musicians in Rural America
From: Amos
Date: 10 Oct 11 - 08:34 AM

Well, music leads to dancing, you know, and dancing, as we all know, is a noise sure to attract debbils. It is not wise to provoke the meat that is our sad fate to inhabit here below. It brings up passions and sich. Orful, don't you agree?

:D

From another perspective it could be said that neurotic control freaks will use and do anything to keep life from getting too free, and will invoke law, scripture, community opinion, economics and any other rationale they can come up with to make sure folks stay under control.


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Subject: RE: Reputation of Musicians in Rural America
From: Lighter
Date: 10 Oct 11 - 08:57 AM

While every verse endorses singing, particularly psalms and hymns, instrumental music is not explicitly condemned. "Making melody in your heart" could even be interpreted as remembering the sound of instruments, though of course it may refer to humming only.


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Subject: RE: Reputation of Musicians in Rural America
From: GUEST
Date: 10 Oct 11 - 09:44 AM

Well if singing the Psalms is encouraged, then what about Psalm 150? It quite clearly states:

1 Praise ye the LORD.
         Praise God in his sanctuary:
praise him in the firmament of his power.


2 Praise him for his mighty acts:
         praise him according to his excellent greatness.


3 Praise him with the sound of the trumpet:
         praise him with the psaltery and harp.


4 Praise him with the timbrel and dance:
         praise him with stringed instruments and organs.


5 Praise him upon the loud cymbals:
         praise him upon the high sounding cymbals.


6 Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD.

Now if singing the Psalms is OK, then presumably one is supposed to take some notice of the words of the said Psalms? Otherwise why sing them? Now if there's a psalm with direct and specific instructions to use musical instruments, on what basis can they possibly interpret that as 'don't play instruments'.


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Subject: RE: Reputation of Musicians in Rural America
From: Trevor Thomas
Date: 10 Oct 11 - 09:46 AM

Above post was me, not logged in for some reason.

Trevor Thomas


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Subject: RE: Reputation of Musicians in Rural America
From: open mike
Date: 10 Oct 11 - 10:41 AM

the worst part is when everyone wants musicians to play for free...
artists and musicians are not respected...I have seen a t shirt that says "I have bills, too" made with artists and musicians in mind...


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Subject: RE: Reputation of Musicians in Rural America
From: Bobert
Date: 10 Oct 11 - 11:54 AM

I donno??? Yeah, I guess in some very backwards areas there are folks who are eat up with fundamentalism (i.e. ignorance) who see "fun" in any form as being sinful... So that kinda makes music (away from church) a gateway sin to the hard core sin...

I know it used to be true in the rural South when the early bluesmen were being scolded by their elders for playin' that "devil's music"... Son House was very conflicted since he was also a lay preacher... He would play the blues on Saturday night and then repent his sins the following morning...

B~


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Subject: RE: Reputation of Musicians in Rural America
From: GUEST,Jim Dixon, at the Webster, WI library
Date: 10 Oct 11 - 12:44 PM

Something I learned from my father, when he was quite old—I don't understand why he never mentioned it earlier:

My grandparents—his parents—were clog dancers when they were young. They regularly attended dances and danced to entertain others, not just to amuse themselves. I don't know if they were ever paid for dancing—probably not, I'm thinking. Anyway, he said they gave up dancing when they decided to "settle down" and raise a family, and apparently never danced again. My father said he never saw them dance.

This was in western Kentucky. I don't know what religion they belonged to; probably some type of Baptist. Dad also said that at some point his father had a "falling out" with the elders of the local church. He had recently cleared some land for farming, and they wanted him to donate lumber to build a new church. He refused—he needed to sell the lumber to pay for the land. Consequently, they were no longer churchgoers by the time my father was growing up. I don't think my father ever attended church regularly until my mother started making him go. He did hold some rather primitive religious beliefs, however.

There are lots of religious sects that disapprove of dancing. Even in southern Minnesota, my wife grew up in a small town where the only church was a conservative brand of Lutheran—Missouri Synod probably. The local high school never held dances—such was the influence of the local pastor. Things got more liberal later.


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Subject: RE: Reputation of Musicians in Rural America
From: GUEST,SirCoughsalot
Date: 10 Oct 11 - 06:19 PM

Interesting about Son House, I didn't know he was a preacher. Howling Wolf's mother disapproved of him playing the blues. Once when he came home he tried to give her some money, but she wouldn't take any of it since he had earned it playing "the devil's music".


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Subject: RE: Reputation of Musicians in Rural America
From: olddude
Date: 10 Oct 11 - 06:26 PM

absolutely not true, i grew up right on the line. Everyone played music, Saturday night in the summer it was a non stop music jam out in the grove. Songs like Flop eared mule and granddad's waltz ...

No one ever thought about making a living playing music. But there are many that did. I remember Tex Lamb .. His country music band played all over the area and indeed every small venue in several states. People were amazed and delighted and use to say Tex was pretty well known in his day and made a living doing that.

I never knew anyone who ever commented that music was not an option. Most however never did it for a living because they were too busy in the mines or in the fields or factories


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Subject: RE: Reputation of Musicians in Rural America
From: Bobert
Date: 10 Oct 11 - 08:29 PM

Yeah, SirCoughsalot...

There is an old video of Son House from about 1964 where he does a tormented monologue about his blues playing... If you watch it carefully you'll see his eyes roll upwards over and over as if he's trying to win favor with God for his sins of playing the "devil's music"...

Very interesting video...

B~


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Subject: RE: Reputation of Musicians in Rural America
From: Midchuck
Date: 10 Oct 11 - 08:42 PM

I am advised that there are areas in the rural South where people avoid having sex standing up, for fear that someone might think they were dancing.

Peter


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Subject: RE: Reputation of Musicians in Rural America
From: katlaughing
Date: 10 Oct 11 - 09:00 PM

Are we just talking about the rural South or all of the USA? My parents both grew up in rural areas of Colorado and music was a huge part of their lives with whole families taking part in Saturday get-togethers, etc. There was never anything negative associated with the music or musicians that I know of.


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Subject: RE: Reputation of Musicians in Rural America
From: GUEST
Date: 10 Oct 11 - 10:13 PM

KAT - it is a troll - don't bite.


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Subject: RE: Reputation of Musicians in Rural America
From: GUEST,SirCoughsalot
Date: 10 Oct 11 - 10:24 PM

I don't know what you mean by that, GUEST above me. But to answer your question, katlaughing, the question was directed toward all of the USA, but most of my experience and examples were from the South. I didn't know if it was prevalent elsewhere.

And Bobert, that is fascinating. Is there anywhere I could watch it?


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Subject: RE: Reputation of Musicians in Rural America
From: Janie
Date: 10 Oct 11 - 11:52 PM

I've probably told this story somewhere else on Mudcat, but in case I haven't, will repeat.

My paternal grandparents, born and raised in eastern Kentucky, were devout United Baptists. The particular association of United Baptists to which they belonged, as well as some Old Regular Baptist congregations, were all in favor of "making a joyful noise," but completely eschewed the playing of instruments, and many congregations equally eschewed using any electronic amplification of voices, i.e. using pa systems in church. Many fights and splits among congregations and associations related to same.

Pawpaw was a fine musician, had a beautiful mountain voice, and was a virtuoso whistler. I am so fortunate to have so many memories of listening to him sing or whistle as he went about his weekend chores. Always hymns.

I don't know whether to apologize or not for this stream-of-consciousness post that is provoked, but not actually in response to the original question posed. It just hit close to home and I thought it might be in the interest of the history of folks to respond from a personal, family perspective.



Before he got "saved" in his mid 20's, he was a noted fiddler and banjo player, but I never heard him play an instrument. He was apparently also noted for making moonshine and being a bit wild with the ladies in his early years. In the part of the country where they grew up, the music and dances were also associated with the drink. And let me tell you if you don't already know, how destructive a culture of alcohol can be to a family and community. His own father was a hard drinker and a hard man who terrorized his wife and his 13 kids.

Pawpaw had an account of being "offered a recording contract" to sing his a cappella hymns, which after great thought and prayer he declined as not being to the "Glory of the Lord." I can't know for sure, but suspect one of the collectors of the 1960's or Berea College students showed up for one of the singings at a church association meeting in Kentucky or Ohio wanting to record.

I see the prohibition of instrumentation, the prohibition against amplification, and Pawpaw's decision to not be recorded to all stem from a matrix of social responsibility, social control, and keeping the ego in check - a matrix all balled up with bonafide faith, sociology, psychology, religious belief, spiritually and conflicting social mores.

These were the 20 years that were the run-up to Prohibition. Prohibition was an ill-conceived and ill-advised social experiment, an ineffective attempt to deal with the ravages that uninhibited alcohol and drug use were were wreaking on families and communities across America at a time when the notions of social awareness and social responsibility, indeed, the science of sociology itself was developing, but strictly within the context of a moral philosophy -at that time moral philosophy was inextricably bound to religious belief.

Two other things.

1. My grandmother, long after she was quite senile, had good memories and terrific stories still accessible in her long-term memories. One Sunday I sat with her, listening to stories of her youth. By that time, when she was in her late 80's, I understood that her own old memories were honest and emotionally true. I wasn't sure she had ever loved my grandfather. She had passionately and compassionately loved her children and her grandchildren. She and my grandfather had lived, and continued to live "upright"lives of duty, service, and responsibility, narrowly constrained by black/white definitions of right and wrong as defined by the tenets of their church.

Talking about the days when she and Pawpaw were courting, (she was barely 17 when they married,) she described a bean-stringing followed by a square dance. She looked dreamily into the distance, her rheumy blue eyes suddenly young, raised a hand to her cheek as if it were the hand of a young lover and said, "law', that man could play the banjo."

From the wellspring of his adoring love for his grandchildren, Pawpaw softened his stance, at least a little, in his very late 80's, extending to his death at age 97. My sisters and I, his oldest grandchildren, and those who spent the most time with him throughout his life, developed a taste for Appalachian string-band music as well as a love for some of the old ballads he had known in his youth. Although my younger sister, Annie, was the only one of us to become an accomplished musician (fiddle is her forte, but if it has strings she can play it,) he loved us enough, even while fearing for our salvation, to appreciate that we could play, sing and dance to the old tunes and songs and still function like decent and conscientious citizens. Annie took to "forgetting" a spare fiddle or guitar when she dropped by for a visit. After all those years, Pawpaw had truly forgotten how to play, but Nannie confided that he would take the instruments out of their cases and "mess around" with them with some frequency. It is not clear to me if he could have picked them up again, at least to some extent, if he could have done so with a clear conscious, if it had truly been so many years - 65 or more- that combined with his advance age, meant the capacity to play these instruments was truly erased by age and arthritis.

Doesn't really matter. He was still singing, humming and whistling hymns with a high lonesome sound right up until the stroke that killed him, three weeks later, at age 97. Nannie, so senile as to be close to a blasnk slate, was still remembering the sound of his voice raised in song in praise of their beloved Jesus when she died 7 months later at age 93.


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Subject: RE: Reputation of Musicians in Rural America
From: katlaughing
Date: 11 Oct 11 - 12:11 AM

Beautiful, Janie. It is always a great pleasure to hear what you have to say. Thanks!

kat

BTW, as a mod, I must remind all "GUESTS" to use a consistent moniker. If not, you risk deletion. Thanks to those of you who have clarified your sans cookie status.:-)


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Subject: RE: Reputation of Musicians in Rural America
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 11 Oct 11 - 11:50 AM

I think Janie touches on something important here: that "social" music—as opposed to religious music—was associated with alcohol, and that's (in part, at least) why it was condemned.

I learned quite a few things from the recent PBS documentary by Ken Burns on Prohibition.

One point was that the prohibitionists had themselves convinced that alcohol was the root of all evil, that by ridding the country of alcohol, you would also get rid of crime, poverty, broken families, wife-beating, slums—every vice you can think of. Once you accept that premise—and there was a huge amount of propaganda supporting it, and plenty of anecdotal evidence to cite as proof—prohibition makes sense.

Another point made repeatedly was that the "wets" were mainly urban and the "drys" were mainly rural—and America was mostly a rural country then.

From my own experience, I know that people of a puritan bent have a strong tendency to lump all vices together, and believe that they all go together, one leads to another, that allowing one small vice into your life puts you on a slippery slope that will lead to your destruction. My mother told me that her father wouldn't allow a deck of cards in the house, wouldn't allow his children to play even innocent children's card games, because playing cards of any kind leads to gambling, and gambling leads to all the rest of the vices.


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Subject: RE: Reputation of Musicians in Rural America
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 11 Oct 11 - 12:01 PM

It's a mistake to think that "Rural America" was monolithic in its attitudes. Attitudes depended on individuals and affiliations. Rufus Crisp, from Allen Kentucky, (whom I learned a lot about banjo from) was a popular and admired performer in his youth. He later married a preacher lady, and had to stop playing banjo for some 20-odd years, until she died. Inciudentally, Floyd County, KY, where he lived was a steadfastly "Dry" county,in which moonshining was an industry second only to coal mining as a source of income. There can be a vast difference between what's preached and what's practiced.


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Subject: RE: Reputation of Musicians in Rural America
From: olddude
Date: 11 Oct 11 - 12:05 PM

One size doesn't fit all for sure. At our Saturday night jam sessions in the grove we had beer, more food then you could shake a stick at, and our local Catholic priest, baptist minister and a host of others all having a beer and either playing or listening ..


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Subject: RE: Reputation of Musicians in Rural America
From: Janie
Date: 11 Oct 11 - 07:39 PM

Dick, my grandparents were from Johnson Co., just north of, and formed from Floyd Co. in 1843. It too is a dry county. My awful great grandfather was a moonshiner, (in cahoots with the Johnson Co. sheriff, according to family legend.)


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Subject: RE: Reputation of Musicians in Rural America
From: Gibb Sahib
Date: 11 Oct 11 - 09:49 PM

"Music", "singing", and "dancing" are often considered 3 different things, with very different implications as to how they reflect on the doers and audience.

Especially in the cultural area that produced the Bible.


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Subject: RE: Reputation of Musicians in Rural America
From: GUEST,John
Date: 11 Oct 11 - 10:15 PM

You folks are kind of ignoring the obvious.

In our area, musicians tend to drink. In low resource areas (Appalchia and inner cities) alcohol isn't a nice, social lubricant. It's a hard vice; absorbing needed family resources; disabling the drinker for labor or professional work; associated with violence and dangerous accident. Drunks are too often poor, abusive and nasty.

The mountains offer a pretty good life for hard-working people, but it is a harsh environment for idlers. Musicians tend to be idlers.

With our school training that association isn't causation, we tend to challenge the notion that playing music or singing causes any of these vices. The folks around here aren't so analytical. A few drunken fights, broken families, financial hardship and they go ahead and make the generalization that music is not all that great as part of a productive life.

A little piano, that's genteel. A few hymns, that's a joyful noise unto the Lord. Fiddle and banjo, that's possible bad news for the player's wife and kids.

Pretty simple.


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Subject: RE: Reputation of Musicians in Rural America
From: olddude
Date: 11 Oct 11 - 11:15 PM

count me in, i love monkeys they taste like chicken


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Subject: RE: Reputation of Musicians in Rural America
From: Janie
Date: 12 Oct 11 - 05:38 AM

Jim Dixon, I think, nailed it pretty much right on the head.


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