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Sunday, September 5, 2010


bobby patterson and willard gayheart

I've put on Willard Gayheart and Bobby Patterson's album, Virginia Beauty, bought from Bobby Thursday when they were playing at the library. They make an excellent duo. Bobby plays banjo as well as guitar. He plays the bass too. He also plays mandolin. Bobby's studio is such that he can make individual tracks and put them together with this computer program that has made all his other expensive equipment obsolete. He does it with a computer now. He played the bass track with an electric bass. He and Willard did their parts in separate rooms. Bobby plays mandolin and bass on two tracks and banjo on another, per song. Willard takes care of the guitar very well. Both of them sing, both well. It's Carter Family kind of music. Good vocals and good rhythmic pickin with mountain drive. Both men have played bluegrass and old-time all their lives. Both are what I call master musicians. They make music when they play.

If you'd like to hear them, and see them, go to YouTube, write hobblealong1 in the search box and all the videos I've been uploading there will appear, the most recent first. Or you could write in Bobby's name or Willard's and everything with them will turn up. Bobby is late 60s and Willard is mid 70s. I suppose to the young it's old people music. They're my peers, so to me it's right there. They play at the Blue Ridge Music Center on the Parkway Tue-Fri 10-3. They don't get paid, but are allowed to sell their cds. Willard told me they sell quite a lot of cds. This one, Virginia Beauty, is their second one made for the purpose of selling there. It is most often people from Away, often from Far Away, Everywhere. Willard and Bobby play for people passing through, driving the Parkway, vacationing, stopping at the music center to see what it is, what's there, buy souvenirs, sit a while and listen to Willard and Bobby, or Willard and Scott, play mountain music. People inclined to walk on by will pause before they get to the door and listen, go do what they have to do, come back and have a seat. It's the kind of music that catches your attention by hearing the music in it.

Maybe what they're doing would be cagegorized Folk for the same reasons Doc Watson is. I would personally call them mountain music. Folk is too New York for what they do. They play traditional American music mountain style. Mountain music. Much mountain music is not accessible to people from the Flatland. The old-time music all sounds the same to the ear accustomed to electric music, rock, television. In like manner, rock all sounds the same to the ear tuned to old-time. Willard and Bobby play songs in the old mountain duet styles, emphasis on songs not so mournful. Americans don't like mournful songs or sad endings anymore. But some of the mournful ones are genuinely beautiful. Sorrow has its place in art too. Bobby plays Poor Ellen Smith, who was stabbed through the heart, etc, instrumental as a banjo demonstration song. Plays it all the way through clawhammer, the old-time way, then bluegrass all the way through, Earl Scruggs style. That's how you make an audience feel cheerful playing a sad song.

I see two mountain boys, Willard from E Kentucky 10 mi outside Hazard, Bobby from the Galax area. Willard came to Galax almost half a century ago. They've played bluegrass together more than 40 years. When they play at the Music Center, they have a great deal of experience making music together, respecting each other's musicianship. By this time in their lives making music together is automatic. They know each other's styles of playing well. For the tourists they are genuine mountain musicians, among the best of them, true hillbillies playing hillbilly music. The people I've seen come in to listen to them are struck when the leave the car, walk over to the building for toilet and/gift shop, a rest area with attractions. They hear the music and return to hear some more, buy a cd and listen some more. They take home with them some music to listen to in the car and tell their friends about seeing these people play on the Parkway. Like the Laurel Fork Travelers playing at Mabry Mill on the Parkway for years. I have to give it to the Dept of the Interior for what they do with mountain music along the beautiful road.

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