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Author Topic: Favorite Old-Time Back-up Guitarists  (Read 1236 times)

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Offline Johnm

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Favorite Old-Time Back-up Guitarists
« on: September 02, 2013, 03:52:24 PM »
Hi all,
Listening to Andrew and Jim Baxter a lot recently has gotten me thinking about Old-Time back-up guitarists in the larger sense, and how much I enjoy and appreciate a lot of their playing.  The best ones added a disproportionate amount to the sound of whatever ensemble they were playing in.  Here are a few of my favorites:
   * Jim Baxter--no surprise here, I suppose, but focusing in a deeper way on what Jim did in his back-up role behind his Uncle Andrew has made me value his musicality and imagination.  I remember what my friend Stu Herrick said after hearing Jim Baxter for the first time:  "He sounds like Riley Puckett on Ecstasy."
   * Alfred Steagall--I don't think Steagall recorded a whole lot, but he can be heard to great advantage backing Kelly Harrell on much of Harrell's recorded repertoire.  Steagall was an absolute ace, comfortable and inventive in F, which was one of Harrell's favorite singing keys, and if he had only ever recorded his back-up part to "My Name Is John Johanna", he would still be one of the best ever.
   * Dallas Jones--the back-up guitarist for the Leake County Revelers was just about perfect--perfect time, beautiful note choices and absolutely solid.  He had beautiful straight-up-and-down time and wasn't working to push things all the time like a lot of modern guitarists in the style.  He never sounded like he was in a hurry.
Anybody else have any favorite Old-Time back-up guitarists?
All best,
Johnm

Offline ScottN

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Re: Favorite Old-Time Back-up Guitarists
« Reply #1 on: September 02, 2013, 10:37:47 PM »
Kirk McGee is usually overshadowed by brother Sam's presence but I enjoy the role he plays.  When Sam plays behind someone else "back up" guitar doesn't always seem to be the right term, but I still love it.

A pretty small sample but Doc Watson backing Ashley is also great.

Thanks,
              Scott

Offline Mike Billo

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Re: Favorite Old-Time Back-up Guitarists
« Reply #2 on: September 03, 2013, 07:08:33 AM »

  Roy Harvey, with Charlie Poole, was terrific.

  Made some fine records of his own, too.

Offline frankie

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Re: Favorite Old-Time Back-up Guitarists
« Reply #3 on: September 03, 2013, 10:22:59 AM »
Fonzo Cannon from Freeny's Barn Dance Band
Jimmy Carter from the Carter Brothers and Son - fiddle tunes, my *ss....  those are GUITAR tunes.
John Dilleshaw (Seven-Foot Dilly)
ditto on Dallas Jones and James Baxter...

Mississippi and Georgia seem well represented....

Offline banjochris

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Re: Favorite Old-Time Back-up Guitarists
« Reply #4 on: September 03, 2013, 10:50:00 AM »

A pretty small sample but Doc Watson backing Ashley is also great.


As is Watson backing Carlton.

Offline banjochris

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Re: Favorite Old-Time Back-up Guitarists
« Reply #5 on: September 03, 2013, 10:57:40 AM »
Can't dispute any already listed. I would add

Riley Puckett (crazy but exciting)
Asa Martin
Luches Kessinger
Walter Vincson
Charlie Monroe
Ira Stripling
and weirdly enough, Henry Whitter (primitive but very underrated, esp. for his work backing G.B. Grayson)


Puckett, Baxter, Martin, McGee would probably be at the top for me.

Offline Tom Mylet

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Re: Favorite Old-Time Back-up Guitarists
« Reply #6 on: September 03, 2013, 11:40:37 AM »
I love all the above but can't help but wonder what Miss. John Hurt sounded like substituting for Smith in Namour and Smith...

Tom Mylet

Offline Lyndvs

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Re: Favorite Old-Time Back-up Guitarists
« Reply #7 on: September 03, 2013, 11:44:01 AM »
Dick  Burnett.

Offline banjochris

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Re: Favorite Old-Time Back-up Guitarists
« Reply #8 on: September 03, 2013, 01:07:10 PM »
Dick  Burnett.

Good one. Inimitable.

Offline nobocaster

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Re: Favorite Old-Time Back-up Guitarists
« Reply #9 on: September 03, 2013, 02:10:27 PM »
  Before I read any replies, the first to come to mind were Riley Puckett, John Dilleshaw, and Jim Baxter.

  Some contemporary favorites are Karen Heil from San Francisco, and Rich Hartness of North Carolina.

Offline pkeane

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Re: Favorite Old-Time Back-up Guitarists
« Reply #10 on: September 03, 2013, 08:58:11 PM »
wow -- great thread.  I'll just second some players that John & Frankie mentioned -- I love the playing behind Kelly Harrell (didn't know the name - Alfred Steagall) and the guitarist in Freeny's Barn Dance Band (also hadn't known name -- Fonzo Cannon).  Great stuff.  Ditto also on Dallas Jones (Leake County Revelers) and Shell Smith (Narmour & Smith). 

I'd throw in Clarence Hall (had to look up name in Tony Russell discography) who played in Big Chief Henry's Indian String Band, and Byrd Moore (Killin' Blues, My Trouble Blues among others).

By the way, I have had a blast reading and playing through John Schwab's book "Old Time Backup Guitar: Learn from the Masters."  Lots of stuff from some terrific players: Luches Kessinger, Asa Martin, Edgar Boaz, Roy Harvey, etc. Highly recommended.

Offline Lyndvs

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Re: Favorite Old-Time Back-up Guitarists
« Reply #11 on: September 04, 2013, 02:07:01 AM »
Any of the three who played backup guitar in various combinations of Prince Albert
Hunt`s Texas Ramblers.Harmon Clem,Hunt himself and "unknown".A great stringband.Also for my money Hunt was one of the best white blues singers recorded.
« Last Edit: September 04, 2013, 02:11:06 AM by Lyndvs »

Offline Johnm

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Re: Favorite Old-Time Back-up Guitarists
« Reply #12 on: September 04, 2013, 07:43:12 AM »
Hi all,
It's great to see all of the responses here.  I'd add a couple more--Hub Mahaffey,mostly for his work with J.R. Dykes in the Magic City Trio, Shell Smith (mentioned previously) for "Carroll Country Blues" especially, but all of his work with W.T. Narmour, the tag team of Henry Williams and Peg Leg Howell, and Norman Woodlief, who did some really spiffy playing with Charlie Poole and Walter Smith, among others.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Lastfirstface

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Re: Favorite Old-Time Back-up Guitarists
« Reply #13 on: September 04, 2013, 02:47:39 PM »
Most of my favorites have been mentioned already but I'd like to add Emmett Hethcox, the partner of fiddler George Walburn. His recorded output is small, but there's some standout guitar playing on the surviving 78s.

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Favorite Old-Time Back-up Guitarists
« Reply #14 on: September 04, 2013, 06:26:32 PM »
Great thread. Lots of favourites already mentioned. Denmon Lewis of the Lewis Brothers has not. Not a lot on record I guess, but just for Sally Johnson he qualifies in my book. And When Summer Comes Again is a gorgeous tune.

And Fonzo Cannon should qualify on his name alone!
« Last Edit: September 04, 2013, 06:29:49 PM by uncle bud »

 


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