May-June 2013

Workshops of the 8th Ever Los Angeles Old Time Social

By David Bragger

LAOTSMy very, most favorite, super awesomest, out-of-control, spectacular musical event in L.A. is The Los Angeles Old Time Social. This year from May 16-18th is the 8th Ever LAOTS and I’m chomping at the bit to help get it started! It is a volunteer and community driven 3-day event that brings people together to listen, perform, dance, study and play old time music. So naturally it’s my favorite annual event in the city. Each year the turnout grows exponentially and I am proud to be teaching and coordinating the workshops this year.

Every year the Social brings in talent from out of state as well as the old-time gurus of the greater Los Angeles area. This year will feature the artistry, talents, and teaching of a myriad of musicians, dancers and callers including Bob Carlin, Jesse Milnes, Emily Miller, Tom Sauber, Dan Levenson, Emily Rose, Paul Rangell, Emily Abbink, Sausage Grinder, King Baby, Kurt MacInnis, Frank Hoppe, David Bragger, Christopher Berry, Steve Lewis, Susan Michaels, Amy Hofer, The Hollywood Boll Weevils, and the Social founders Triple Chicken Foot. After two days of jamming, parties, private workshops, and a formal concert, things get really intense. Day 3 brings it all together with a cake walk, a family dance, an epic square dance and Workshops Galore!! This year’s Social will present more diverse workshops than ever. For those interested in guitar, fiddle, banjo, mandolin, clogging, square dance calling, or harmony singing, have a look at this year’s program and register!! 20 bucks gets you all the workshops you can handle!!! Two areas, the Upstairs and the Downstairs, will expand your musical brain with the following workshops:


• 12:00-1:00pmOld-Time Fiddle Tunes from West Virginia

Jesse will teach fiddle tunes from Melvin Wine and Ernie Carpenter, two of West Virginia's fiddling treasures. Both Melvin and Ernie often played for square dances in central West Virginia and their tunes are eminently danceable (even the crooked ones!). Beginners can come and focus on picking up the tunes, while more advanced players can get some instruction on West Virginia bowing.

Thanks to his folklorist father, Gerry Milnes, Jesse grew up around the old-time music legends of West Virginia including Melvin Wine, Ernie Carpenter, Vernon Burky and Elmer Rich. He learned to play backup and lead guitar first and then picked up the fiddle as a teenager. He has since won many fiddle contests around the region, including the West Virginia State Folk Festival and the Ed Haley Fiddle Contest. Now, he plays for square dances near his home in Valley Bend, WV when he's not on the road with the country band, the Sweetback Sisters. 

• 1:00-3:00pm –Mandolin Tunes from Italy, Mexico and New Mexico for Mandolin/Violin and Guitar with Paul Rangell and Emily Abbink.

In a two-hour workshop they will introduce (at least) three tunes – from Italy, Mexico and New Mexico. They will cover the melody for mandolinists and fiddlers and provide the chordal back-up for the guitarists. Likely the two groups will split up to learn the parts and then converge to play the new tunes together. They will add a few tunes for demonstration of repertoire and discuss briefly the origins of this music. This workshop is not for beginning musicians.

Paul Rangell has been playing guitar and pursuing traditional music since a boy in the 1960s. He plays guitar in several bands, focusing on rhythmic accompaniment to fiddle music of many lands. He also plays mandolin, violin, tenor banjo and guitarron in various configurations. In Santa Cruz, you can hear him every Sunday morning at the Buttery Cafe with his family band, The Rhythm Rangellers, with The Percolators, with Adam Rose, and with Irene Herrmann in groups that specialize in selective instrumental repertoire. He is a regular at the Farmer’s Markets and plays Italian and Mexican mandolin tunes every Tuesday night at La Posta (Seabright) with his wife, Emily Abbink. He loves old-time American songs, Brother Duets, early country, Western Swing, and classic Mexican songs. He has taught many summers at The Festival of American Fiddle Tunes (Port Townsend, WA) and Lark in the Morning (Mendocino, CA) as well as private lessons for several years on guitar, mandolin and fiddle.

Banjo Workshop with David Bragger• 3:00-4:00pm  Old Time Fiddle Tunes of Pennsylvania and Kentucky for Fiddle and Mandolin with me, David Bragger.

This workshop is for all levels! The objective is to get the fiddler playing some incredible tunes that will rock any jam session. I’ll be drawing from a vast repertoire of Kentucky and Pennsylvania fiddle tunes that are fun, rhythmic and easy to grasp. As always, my workshops emphasize the key ingredient to old time fiddle: bowing!! Mandolin players can hang out and get the tunes too! All workshop attendees will receive audio files of the tunes with phrase by phrase instruction.

David Bragger plays banjo, fiddle and mandolin in the old-time stringboard Sausage Grinder and in several local dance bands. David teaches old-time fiddle, banjo and mandolin to students of all ages and levels. He is also the host of the Old Time Tiki Parlour which showcases concerts and workshops by the best old time musicians alive, including Kirk Sutphin, Dan Gellert, Bruce Molsky, Bob Carlin, Bertram Levy, etc. His students have won awards at festivals from Topanga Fiddle Banjo Festival to Galax, Virginia. Most importantly, he shows you how to have a foot-stomping ruckus of a good time!

• 4:00-5:00pm  Two-Finger Banjo Kentucky Style with Chris Berry.

Chris will present a quick review of the basics of two-finger thumb-lead banjo, and then take the next step and teach a couple of classic Kentucky tunes. If you’ve never played thumb-lead banjo before, he urges you to check out his lesson on Groundhog on YouTube. He’ll go over those licks quickly, then move on to B.F. Shelton’s Oh Molly Dear and Dick Burnett’s banjo part on Willie Moore. Video and/or audio recording is encouraged!

Chris Berry, a native of Long Beach, California, has been playing country blues and old-time country music on guitar and banjo for over 20 years. He learned many tunes from the late legendary Illinois/Southern California fiddler Mel Durham and plays banjo on his CD Skillet Fork. He has taught and played at many Los Angeles-area festivals including the California Traditional Music Society’s Summer Solstice and Equinox Festivals, the Topanga Banjo and Fiddle Contest, and the Goleta Old-Time Fiddlers Convention. When Chris isn’t busy playing old music, watching 1960s British television or 1970s American game shows. He works as an editor and web designer.

tom sauber• 5:00-6:00pm  Old Time String Band Guitar with Tom Sauber. This guitar workshop is only one hour’s worth but he’ll touch on things like rhythm patterns for the right hand, bass runs (yea or nay), and chord options (hint: there are many). With that said, the over-riding goal will be to help you become a more sensitive, supportive, and complementary accompanist in the context of a string band ensemble.

Tom Sauber: Later this summer will mark 50 years of playing old-time music primarily on fiddle, banjo and guitar learning first hand from fiddlers Earl and Max Collins, Bob Rodgers, Mel Durham and Leslie Keith; banjoists Ed Lowe, Art Chambers and Dock Boggs; and guitarists Don Durham, Sam McGee and Doc Watson. I’ve also played a lot of Cajun music, learning from local Creole musicians Joe Simien, Wilfred Latour and Edgar LeDay; and Bluegrass music, playing with the likes of Herb Pedersen, Alan Munde, John Hickman, Byron Berline, Roland White and many others. Oldtime bands include One-Eyed Dog, Tom, Brad, and Alice and The Brainstormers.


• 12:00-1:00pmAppalachian Style Percussive Dance Workshop with Ruth Alpert and Rebecca Stout.

Find yourself unable to sit still when you hear rousing old-time music? Come learn the basics of Flatfooting and Clogging (and the difference between them) and have some steps to jam with! We’ll accommodate all levels from beginner to advanced – no experience necessary.

Rebecca Stouts Art of Rapistry

Ruth and Rebecca have slightly different styles but both value clear and accurate sound over flashy moves. They each have many years experience and a great passion for dancing!

Rebecca began clogging as a child in Cordele, Georgia, as part of the precision dance team The Dixieland Cloggers. She went on to spend the next three decades developing and fine-tuning her unique “Tennessee Shuffle” style of free-form flatfoot, inspired by friends, relations, masters and mentors throughout Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia. Today, Rebecca teaches traditional Appalachian Flatfoot focusing on dance as a percussive instrument.

Ruth has been flatfooting for 35 years. She has taught workshops, danced with old-time Appalachian string bands, busked on the streets of numerous cities in several states, and won first place in Flatfooting at Smithville Jamboree in TN. She is currently the percussion section of The Honeysuckle Possums, an all-female band in Santa Barbara.

• 1:00-2:00pm  One Finger Wonders” on Clawhammer Banjo with Steve Lewis.

A number of great dance tunes can be played effectively with one finger and mostly at the 2nd fret in standard G/A or D/C tunings. That’s what we’ll be doing – using hammer-on’s, pull-off’s, and slides to crank out some lively tunes. Always fun to do, and especially effective on fretless banjos. He’ll review the basic techniques, and then put them to use! All levels welcome, but you’ll get the most out of the workshop if you already know how to do the basic clawhammer stroke.

Steve Lewis discovered the banjo and old-time music the same year he began his teaching career. Since that time he has been a regular performer, instructor, workshop leader and contestant at festivals and fiddler¹s conventions from San Diego to San Francisco. Steve began playing for contradances in 1989. He currently produces and plays for the 4th Saturday dance in South Pasadena. He also leads the 1st-Sunday Oldtime Jam at the Viva Fresh restaurant in Burbank (11:00 – 2:00 pm). Although he plays in several local bands, makes banjos in his ³spare time² and does little else, Steve denies any banjo obsession.

• 2:00-3:00 Harmony Singing with Emily Miller and Jesse Milnes?

Harmony singing:In this workshop, we will work on the quintessential harmony singing of American country music. We will cover the basics of creating tenor and baritone harmonies to bluegrass, old-time and early country songs for the ultimate satisfying duet and trio singing experience. There's nothing more fun than singing in harmony!

Jesse Milnes and Emily Miller play country and old-time music, singing close harmony with Jesse's unique finger-picked guitar style, and a healthy dose of old-time fiddling. Emily was raised playing fiddle and singing Louvin Brothers and Stanley Brothers songs with her parents while they traveled the world as journalists. Jesse grew up in the world of West Virginia old-time music, learning from masters like Melvin Wine and Ernie Carpenter as well as his father, Gerry Milnes. They live in central West Virginia when they are not on the road teaching country harmony singing or performing with their country band, the Sweetback Sisters.

• 3:00-5:00pm  How to Call a Square Dance with Susan Michaels.

Learn how to call squares for your friends and family. Beginners welcome. Or just show up and get your dancing shoes on.

Susan Michaels is a teacher and a caller of traditional American dancing, especially contra dancing and square dancing. She has called and taught dances at local evenings, weekend workshops, week-long elementary school programs, week-long family camps and dance weekends throughout the U.S. and Canada.

David Bragger is a Los Angeles-based instructor and player of old time fiddle and banjo music. He also photographs, films, and collects the lore of traditional artists, from puppeteers in Myanmar to fiddlers of Appalachia


All Columns by David Bragger