Fiddlers, Banjo Players and Strawbeaters: Alabama's First Pop Musicians
Joyce Cauthen is the executive director of the Alabama Folklife Association, a statewide organization that sponsors research, promotion and preservation of Alabama’s folk culture. She is the author of published in 1989 by the University of Alabama Press, and has served as the producer of numerous recordings of traditional music of Alabama, including “Possum Up a Gum Stump: Home, Commercial and Field Recordings of Alabama Fiddlers.” She served as editor of Benjamin Lloyd’s and produced the accompanying CD. Her last project was a CD and booklet entitled which features recordings made across Alabama of children’s folksongs and games in 1947. She is a graduate of Texas Christian University and has a master’s degree in English from Purdue University.
In her presentation, Cauthen will discuss the early fiddles of Alabama, the musicians who played them and the popularity of this music in their communities. Discussions will also surround the pivotal role played by African Americans in developing the music at the roots of today’s bluegrass and country music. Cauthen will demonstrate use of the banjo, “straws” (a technique in which broom straws or knitting needles were beat on the strings as the fiddler played) and guitar in backing up the fiddle. Her talk will be made especially interesting by the presence of fiddler Jim Cauthen, who will demonstrate fiddle tunes that have been specifically mentioned in historical writings, slave narratives and early newspapers of Alabama. The audience will hear musical styles and tunes that are seldom heard today—and will have the opportunity to ask questions and share their perceptions of the differences in this music and the modern country music that are based upon it.