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Monday, December 7, 2009


lucas pasely & fred mcbride

The banjo picker pictured above is Lucas Pasley, English teacher at the high school, skateboard champion, old-time musician who plays well all the instruments of an old-time band, fiddle, banjo, guitar and bass. Playing the fiddle in the picture is Fred McBride, Lucas's great uncle. Both are kin to Guy Brooks, fiddler of the Red Fox Chasers. I can't remember the greats and great greats, but it all has to do with uncles. Guy Brooks was brother to Lon, another fiddler, and Frank. Lucas's grandmother is a daughter of Frank. I may be off the beam here, but I'm thinking Fred McBride's mother is connected to Guy, Lon and Frank, maybe their sister. Don't put that in the genealogy record without researching it.
Lucas learned a great deal from Fred on old-time fiddle playing. Fred played old-time banjo too, and passed some of that to Lucas as well. The Thursday night jam at Backwoods Beat Music had for its core, Fred, Lucas and George Eller. George played banjo. Other people showed up irregularly, but these were almost always there, Lucas learning from Fred, watching subtleties of Fred's noting and bowing, George, a neighbor to Fred at Hays, or N Wilkesboro. They drove up the mountain with their women, Fred's wife Frances, and George's girlfriend he went dancing with a few times a week, Dallas.
Fred, true to being an old-time fiddler, never thought about recording. Some people who played old-time music got together to back him up with rhythm and get Fred recorded. The Sawyers of the Stone Mountain Store for guitar and bass, and Linda Cabe played banjo. They were the Stone Mountain Old Time String Band. I believe copies can be found at the Store at the entrance to Stone Mountain Park. David and Tammy Sawyer. It's an excellent old-time album all the way through. Fred said of making it, that playing the fiddle with headphones on in a glass booth didn't feel right. He didn't want to do it again. From listening to the music, you can't tell it didn't feel right.
Lucas often brought his wife Ibi along. She played bass as long as her fingers could hold out. The baby Hazel was with them. She was named after hillbilly singer Hazel Dickens. At the jam we watched Hazel learn to walk in her first few years, then how to dance. I made several tapes of the Thursday night jams. A good recording system was a cassette recorder, a $7.95 mic from Radio Shack and 20' extension wire. The mic hung down from the ceiling over the circle of musicians. I don't like to use the mic in the recorder because it picks up the sound of its own mechanism, a train on a track sound in the background.
Lucas is somebody who is interested in so much, and wants to learn well whatever he investigates, he keeps several projects going at all times. He stays with them. He's restoring the house while they live in it. A step at a time. He's taking the reel-to-reel tapes Clifton Evans made of different old-time musicians in the county and putting them in the computer, then onto CD. This is a project over several years with 3 kids. Hazel is in kindergarten now. Lucas has all the extracurricular activities required of teachers to go with it. He keeps at his own projects a little at a time, watches them grow, suffers frustration the process is so slow.
While we were sleeping, Lucas put together a small in-home business of grinding coffee beans to sell a pound at a time. He sold out of his first grinding first day. It's coffees we don't find in the grocery store. Coffee from Yemen, Ethiopia, Kenya, Costa Rica, Colombia, Sumatra. Lucas put together the website too. It has never occurred to me to go online and order different coffees from any of several sites that sell coffees. I've been drinking Folgers and Maxwell House with enough satisfaction to see no reason to explore beyond.
When Lucas told me what he was doing with the coffees, I suddenly became curious about Kenyan, from reading Out of Africa years back, Isak Dinesen's memoir of her life on a coffee plantation there. Now that I've tried the coffee, I like it better than grocery store coffee. I'm ruint. Next I want to try Ethiopian. Could actually go on drinking Kenyan, the land of the hippopotamus, the crocodile, the lion, the giraffe, National Geographic photographs of clouds of pink flamingos in flight, safari movies, nature documentaries, African poverty. I'd have liked the movie much better without the Hollywood blondeboy of the moment, Robert Redford. All those guys do is pose and say something, pose and say something. Everything goes on hold while the star poses and poses again. He sits back in his chair and lets the stuntman do the rest.
For me, it was a good time listening to the live music going on, knowing everybody at the jam, and meeting the new ones. Fred and George were musician friends with Bertie Dickens, the banjo picker in Ennice. I believe it was George who gave me a video tape of a jam with Bertie, Fred, George, Faye Wagoner and some others I can't remember. Reminders that there is music played every night of the week at various places in these mountains. Wednesday night jams. Thursday night jams. Monday night jams. They're not public events, but anyone is welcome to sit and listen. A bunch of musicians get together at somebody's house, their wives the audience, and make music as long as they feel like it. This is where the music in these mountains lives, in the jams.

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