Fiddle Club guests for 2013

Two concert meetings * are now scheduled for the Winter and Spring to be held in fun new location with great acoustics, the back room at Seman Violins (4447 Oakton, Skokie) (Check ’em out.)
B.Y.O.B. Snacks will be provided.

Jimmy Keane

Jimmy Keane, Accordion Master
Sunday, January 27, 2013, 6:30pm

As a young boy, Jimmy Keane, Jr. chose, not the ubiquitous button box or melodeon, but the full scale piano accordion. And he mastered it fully, becoming All-Ireland champion while still in his teens. Today he rules the roost. A Chicago treasure, Jimmy was recently named the Irish “Male Musician of the Decade (2000-2010).” An accomplished solo artist, he has performed with such bands as Aengus and Bohola, and participated on numerous tours of “Greenfields of America” and “An Irish Homecoming.” He’s got some new tunes he wants to try out for us, and will teach us a few.

$15 admission. Click here to register.

Kirk Sutphin & Bertram Levy
Kirk Sutphin & Bertram Levy
Sunday, March 10, 6:30 pm

Banjos, Bows and Bellows

This unique program features two artists who learned their music back in the 1970s from the same Blue Ridge Mountain luminaries–Henry Reed, Tommy Jarrell and Oscar Wright. Kirk still lives near his birthplace in Walkertown, North Carolina. He is both an excellent fiddler and accomplished in clawhammer and old-time finger-style banjo. He plays with the New North Carolina Ramblers. Bertram Levy spent his younger years in North Carolina, where he was an original member of the Hollow Rock String Band. Some years ago he moved to the Olympic Peninsula of Washington, where he helped found the American Festival of Fiddle Tunes in Port Townsend. A virtuosic banjoist, favoring gut strings, Bertram also plays tango music on bandoneon in the band Tangoheart, and traditional American music on the Anglo concertina. Their recent CD, “The Bellow and the Bow” features duets with fiddle, banjo and concertina.

$15 admission. Click here to register.

* Our guests will present a short concert (one set), to be followed by jam session.

Guest Artist for next Fiddle Club meeting

Frank Hall, Old-Time Fiddler
Sunday, September 30 – 6:30p

Atlantic Bar & Grill (5062 Lincoln), in the back room

Founding fiddler of the Easy Street String Band, Bloomington, Indiana’s finest in the 1980s. Frank also played with the Yeah Buddys and the Monks before moving to Ireland right at the start of this century. He’s still playing American old-time tunes along with some of Ireland’s best traditional musicians.

Frank Hall Easy Street String Band

You can register at and search the class catalog for Fiddle Club. That brings up two choices: 1) a single meeting registration for $15, or 2) a year’s subscription to all Fiddle Club events for $60.

Here are some tunes to learn for the jam session with Frank . . .

Sopping Up the Gravy learned from a 1972 recording of Charlie “Jake” Corns of Battle Ground, Indiana

Jim Shank from Bruce Greene

Frank is a fine dance fiddler. So Fiddle Clubbers get to decide. Do we want him to play a concert set, or should we have a dance? If the latter, we’ll start with the jam session at 6:30, and follow with the dance. Let me know your druthers with a comment below.

– Paul Tyler, convener

Tune of the Week for June 18, 2012

It’s Battle Ground week! That is, time for the Indiana Fiddlers Gathering in lovely Battle Ground, Indiana, just a couple hours out of Chicago, just off interstate 65. This years festival will be the 40th. I missed the first four, but have only missed two since. Lots of folks look forward to reuniting for a weekend of tunes and friendship. Plus there are concerts on the stage, workshops under the trees and an old-time square dance on Saturday with music by the Bum Ditty Barn Dance Band.

I think the year was 1979 when the Gathering was treated to the music of the Roan Mountain Hilltoppers, a family band from Tennessee. Their tunes were great. Their spirit infectious. And they hawked their most recent album in LP and 8-track tape formats! (Now available on the CD Down Home.) Banjoists take note of the distinctive left-hand style in the picture below. The Easy Street String Band, an outfit from Bloomington, was inspired by a Hilltoppers original, and included it on their LP Money in Both Pockets. (Originally released on the Prairie Schooner label out of St. Louis, it is now available as a CD from Yodel A-Hee.)

Bill & Joe Birchfield of the Roan Mountain Hilltoppers
Bill & Joe Birchfield
of the Roan Mountain Hilltoppers
Photo by Al Smitley
(click photo to enlarge)
Easy Street String Band
Easy Street String Band
On the right is Frank Hall, who was the source for an earlier Tune of the Week.

Rattletrap by the Roan Mountain Hilltoppers

Rattletrap by the Easy Street String Band

S:Joe Birchfield & the Roan Mountain Hilltoppers
Bc | d2c2 BcdB | e2c4 Bc | d2c2 B2G2 | ABA2 G2Bc |
d2c2 BcdB | e2c6 | g2=f2 d3B | ABA2 G2 ::
(3DEF | G2GD B,2B,D | +C2E2++CE++CE+ +^C2^E2++^C^E++^C^E+ | +C2E2++CE++CE+ D3D | +CE+D+C2E2+ D2EF |
G2GD B,2D2 | +C2E2++CE++CE+ +^C2^E2++^C^E++^C^E+ | +C2E2++CE++CE+ D3D | +CE+D+C2E2+ D2 :|

Paul Tyler, convener

Tune of the Week for April 30, 2012

Tune histories are funny things, especially because different names are often given to the same tune, while, at other times, different tunes are given the same name. And often, some tunes seem to slip through the years without any name attached. Little Billy Wilson is a case in point. I think. Are we talking about the same tune?

Check out what the Traditional Tune Archive has to say about Little Billy Wilson. It names Billy Wilson, as recorded in 1926 by Uncle Jimmie Thompson, the first fiddler on the Grand Ole Opry, as the ultimate source for the tune as played today. Lynn “Chirps” Smith, formerly of Grayslake, Illinois, now living on the other side of the Cheddar Curtain in Wisconsin, can play the tune Uncle Jimmie’s way (as well as anybody can that I know.) But this recent recording by him mostly follows the common contemporary setting of the tune.

Little Billy Wilson, Chirps Smith of Lagrange, Wisconsin

That distinctive first strain appears in many other tunes. According to Guthrie “Gus” Meade, the tune scholar who compiled the incredibly mammoth and helpful reference work, Country Music Sources, Little or plain old Billy Wilson resembles such tunes as Ace of Spade, Jack of Diamonds, Possum Up a Gumstump and Indiana Home. Of course, some of those titles also float around a bit, and have been attached to dissimilar tunes. Nearly 25 years ago, I recorded an Indiana fiddler who played that first strain in a tune he called “Old Woman, Stop Your Quarreling.” Are we talking about the same tune? I’m not sure. And that first strain can be found in two unnamed breakdowns in A, printed in the Old-Time Fiddler’s Repertory: one each in Vol 1 (#37) and Volume 2 (#14). R.P. Christeson collected both of these pieces from Bill Driver of Iberia, Missouri. Paul Gifford also learned a few unnamed breakdowns with that A strain from old-timers in Michigan.

But I think it is the second and/or third strain of Little Billy Wilson that carries some of the distinctiveness of this week’s Tune of the Week. That distinctive flavor is reflected in this unnamed tune found in a rare tunebook published in Fort Wayne, Indiana the same year that Uncle Jimmy Thompson recorded Billy Wilson. Check out old number 29 below from Charles Blee’s Ball Room and Country Dance Music: Quadrilles, Schottisches, Watlzes, Polkas and the Danish, Rye Waltz, Varsouvienna, Oxford Minuet.

Old 29

And then give a listen to this unnamed tune on hammer dulcimer, recorded by Paul Gifford in 1975 (click on Paul’s name for more traditional dulcimer playing).

[Little Billy Wilson], Paul Van Arsdale, Frewsburg, New York

The ABCs that follow are fairly generic, based on how the tune has commonly been played since the old-time music revival of the 1970s.

T:Little Billy Wilson
fg | a2g2 a2e2 | fedf edcA | B2E2 B2GB | ABcd e2fg |
a2g2 a2e2 | fedf edcB | ABcd efed | cABc A2 ::
cB |ABcd efed | cAcA B2cB |ABcd efed | cABc A2 ::
cB | A3 A2cBA | F3E F2EF | A3 A2Bcd | e3f e2c2 |
B3 B2cBA | F3E F2EF | A2ae fecA | BABc A2 :|

– Paul Tyler, convener.
NB This post has been amended to rectify various assumptions wrongfully made.

Tune of the Week for April 2, 2012

Frank Hall
Frank Hall
Emmett Lundy
Emmett Lundy

Frank Hall, my good friend and fellow Hoosier-in-exile, visited a while back from Ireland, where he has lived for the past decade. Our session served as the maiden voyage for my then brand new Zoom digital recorder, which has since been a real work horse for Fiddle Club of the World. Here is a tune from that October 2007 session in my living room. Frank played one that was first recorded by the great Emmett Lundy of Galax, Virginia. Compare the versions below. Obviously the same tune, but quite different treatments.

Also, compare the photos above. Both men are quite dapper and accomplished. Frank, however, has recently become a citizen of the Republic of Ireland. Sláinte (to your health), Buddy!

Piney Wood Gal by Frank Hall (2007), with Lena Ullman, banjo

Piney Wood Girl by Emmett Lundy (1925), with E.V. Stoneman, harmonica

BTW Frank Hall has an open invitation to be a featured guest at the Fiddle Club of the World any time he flies in to O’Hare from Dublin.

T:Piney Woods Gal
S:Frank Hall after Emmett Lundy
+E3B3+B AGEG | ABBA Be3 | +E3B3+B AGEG | DEGB AG3 |
dega bgag | eddd edeg | dega bgag | egag abag |
dega bgag | eddd eged | b3b ageg | dgbg aG3 :|

Tune of the Week for January 30, 2012

A little gem from Missouri
The Rhythm Rats on Marimac


From the Rhythm Rats 1994 cassette on Marimac Recordings. It has been reissued on CD by 5-String Productions (click for the catalog). The band featured fiddler Kenny Jackson with Whitt Mead on banjo and Paula Bradley on guitar. Sometime in the 1980s, Kenny Jackson and Brad Leftwich learned this tune on a visit with Ed Sutherland, a Missouri fiddler. Kenny’s fiddle on this recording has the G string run up to an A (ADAE).



Note: this is not the more famous Indian War Whoop recorded by Hoyt Ming & his Pep Steppers circa 1930 and reprised by David Holt in O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Indian War Whoop

T:Indian War Whoop
S:Ed Sutherland, from Missouri, via Kenny Jackson
de | fafe d2cd | efed BABc | dBAG F2FD | A,2CA, D2 ::

A Friday Night Fiddle Club this week!

Bruce Greene
April 15, 8:30p
The Atlantic (5062 Lincoln)

Bruce Greene

Some tunes from Bruce on an earlier post below were played slow. These, played fast, are from Bruce’s last visit to the Old Town School in 1996.

Steppin’ in the Parlor (Bruce taught this tune to the Old Time Ensemble)


Wolf Creek
(This one is a variant of one my favorites that I learned from Lotus Dickey: ie, Dickey’s Discovery.)


Go here to register for this meeting – $15. Be aware the new yearly dues option may appear on this page any day now.

Also, Bruce will be giving a workshop on Eastern Kentucky fiddle tunes on Saturday at the Old Town School. Click here to register.

Paul Tyler, convener

PS. There are more of Bruce’s tunes on my website––that you might enjoy. Some were recorded at informal sessions; others from the annual Fiddlers Reunion held at the Adler Cultural Center in Libertyville in the 1990s.

Ain’t this a time

Lots o’ fun coming our way. And beginning this week (say April 12), you should be able to sign up for a year’s worth of Fiddle Club meetings for a mere $60. Single meeting dues are $15, when there is a featured guest. Here is the link to register for a meeting. They are listed by date. Scroll through the workshop listings for descriptions.

Bruce Greene
Friday, April 15, 8:30 – Old-Time
An earlier post has a couple of tunes to learn for the jam session.

dance band practice
Sunday, April 17, 6:30 – all members welcome *
(I will soon post some tunes for the dance.)

Kathleen Keane
Sunday, May 15, 6:30 – Irish

Sule Greg Wilson
Sunday, May 29, 6:30 – Black Old-Time

Square & Ceilidh Dance workshop
Sunday, June 19, 6:30 – a dry run for musicians, dancers welcome

Square & Ceilidh Dance
Sunday, July 17, 6:30 – the real thing
Admission for dancers: $5

All events happen at the Atlantic Bar & Grill (5062 Lincoln)

* To be a member, come to a Fiddle Club event. Yearly dues are $60. Single meeting dues are $15 when we have a special guest. There are no dues for other meetings at which we just play tunes or watch films. We appreciate your support.

Paul Tyler, convener
Fiddle Club of the World (Chicago Chapter)

Bruce Greene comes to Fiddle Club

Friday April 15 at 8:30 pm
Atlantic Bar & Grill (5062 Lincoln)

Good fortune brings Bruce Greene to us in a few weeks. A sublime player, Bruce learned from senior players in Central and Eastern Kentucky back during his student days in the early 1970s. He deserves credit for discovering many of the old masters we cherish–such as John Salyer and Isham Monday–and for recording and disseminating some of our favorite tunes, like “Jeff Sturgeon,” “Betty Baker” and “The Lost Girl.” This is his first trip to the Old Town School since 1996, when he visited the Old-Time Ensemble.

Bruce Greene

Click the picture to see the Bruce’s entry in the Old-Time Fiddlers Hall of Fame.

Here are some tunes to learn before April 15.

Did You Ever See the Devil, Uncle Joe?

slow version

Paddy in the Morning

slow version

Click this link to register for the Fiddle Club of the World. You have to scroll down to April 15. Scroll a bit further and you can sign up for a workshop with Bruce at the Old Town School (4544 Lincoln)

Eastern Kentucky Fiddle Tunes with Bruce Greene
Saturday 04/16/2011 from 1:30 PM to 3:20 PM

Jim & Kim Lansford tonight

Jim & Kim
Jim & Kim Lansford

JIM & KIM LANSFORD from Galena, Missouri
Friday, July 16, 8 pm
Leadway Bar & Gallery (5233 N. Damen)

Show up tonight and register at the door. Dues are $15 for this meeting.
The registration link at is no longer working.

And here’s Jim & Kim with a medley of tunes from the nineteenth century.
These are great!

New Harmony/The Brides Reel