Jake’s parents took him to the Festival at Clifftop in West Virginia so he could hear the old-time fiddle players, people like Melvin Wine and Lester McCumbers. Their music had been passed down by oral tradition and, when they died, their music would die with them. At Clifftop, Jake met Melvin Wine who was, by that time, in his mid-eighties. They soon became friends and, after a number of trips from Indiana to West Virginia, Jake's family ended up moving to West Virginia so that Jake could study with Melvin. In a story as old as time, Jake became formally apprenticed to Melvin.
I wanted to tell you about the book for two reasons. It is a wonderful illustration of the depth of history and the precious gift that is in the old time music as it is passed down from generation to generation. And I wanted to also share a sweet connection with THE BACK ROOM. This week BRADFORD BOG PEOPLE are playing the old time music for us. When I told Woody about my friend and the book, he told me he played several of Melvin Wine’s tunes and that he had also studied fiddle with Jake for the past two years at Allegheny Echoes music camp.
Here is a video of the now very much grown up Jake playing, Yew Piney.
Quote from, Man of Constant Sorrow, by Ralph Stanley about the tune Chinquapin Hunting:
“We were the last generation to grow up close to the land, when music was something to get you through the hard times. We take it for granted that we'll always be around somehow, and that the world we knew, at least our memories of it, will be around, too. And then one day it's all gone, and the mountains bury that world forever.
It set my mind to thinking about things you don't see anymore, like the chinquapins that used to grow wild up on Smith Ridge. When I was a boy, there were chinquapin bushes ( A nut similar to a chestnut) all around these parts. One of the first tunes my mother taught me on the banjo was the old mountain song "Chinquapin Hunting."
If you would like to read more about Sarah Sullivan's book go to: