LOS ANGELES OLD-TIME RENAISSANCE
For decades, the greater Los Angeles area has been an unlikely nexus for some fine players of old time music including legends Mel Durham, Ed Lowe and Earl Collins. Contrary to what some have thought, there has always been old-time music here. However, in the past couple years, things have dramatically changed. We are experiencing the first chapter of an old-time renaissance. I’ve added my two cents by teaching old-time music, writing this column, and co-founding the old-time string band Sausage Grinder. But others have made different contributions that have really brought the spotlight back to Los Angeles. For starters, members of the old-time trio Triple Chicken Foot created an Old Time Social event that is in its fifth year now. It brings bands, workshops, jammers, and dancers together for three days. It is not to be missed. In all, L.A. has several old-time jams in a variety of locations to choose from, square dances (with live old time music), homegrown old-time performers, lessons & workshops, square dances and a strictly old-time festival. ‘Tis time to rejoice! Take a swig of your favorite homebrew, grab a fiddle and dance the night away.
-Joe Wack’s OT Jam — 4th Saturday from 1pm to 4 pm at the Audubon Center at Deb’s Park (http://ca.audubon.org/debs_park.php)
– CTMS Old Time Jam –1st Sunday from 1pm to 4. Led by Steve Lewis
–Hyperion Tavern Jam-3rd Thursday from 9:00 onward at the Hyperion Tavern. Led by The Foot. It’s a neighborhood style jam, with beer and all the fun that comes with playing in a (ex-leather) bar.
Triple Chicken Foot — Having played together for more than five years, Ben Guzman, Kelly Marie Martin and Mike Heinle, have focused on playing straight Old Time music rooted gospel songs, archaic banjo tunes, or crooked fiddle tunes. They have also recently finished recording their second full length CD titled Tar River to be released in early May 2010.
Sausage Grinder — Sausage Grinder, Los Angeles’ premier jug band, has just released its debut CD, Delicious Moments. The six-piece acoustic ensemble – fiddle, guitar, banjo, mandolin, washboard and jug – combines the old-time sound of bands like the Carolina Chocolate Drops and Camp Creek Boys with the low-down sound of old-time blues, topped off with a touch of ragtime and hillbilly jazz.
The Earwigs-an OT instrumental string band found at many of the local contra dances featuring the renown playing of Steve Lewis and Tom, Patrick & Mike Sauber. They’re practically a family!!
Frank Fairfield — California-based fiddle, guitar, and banjo player, and ardent 78 collector Frank Fairfield has made his living as a musician, often found playing on the streets of Los Angeles.
OLD TIME SOCIAL, SQUAREVOLUTION AND BEYOND
Five years ago Triple Chicken Foot launched the 1st Ever Los Angeles Old Time Social. Starting on the Thursday before the Topanga Banjo and Fiddle Contest, the Social invites folks to play music for four days straight. It is old time only, and takes place in the center of Los Angeles proper. Every year hosts a show at the Hyperion Tavern on Thursday. Friday is a sit down concert with three acts. Saturday is an all day event with jams, workshops in fiddle, banjo, guitar, and square dances for kids and adults.
Having been up and down the west coast attending various OT festivals and gatherings, The Foot wanted square dances in LA! They saw square dancing as the next step in community redevelopment and of course another opportunity to play music. In 2009 they put on over 10 dances! More are planned for this year. They have been thrown on traffic circles, at bicycle events, and community gatherings of all types.
Oldtimeisagoodtime.com is the TCF website informing the LA community of what is going on in the Old Time world. It is a production company of sorts, hosting concerts, putting on Square Dances, and facilitating information for the Los Angeles Old Time Social. The root purpose is to be an active voice of the Old Time community, and a resource to allow ideas in Old Time to be tried and fleshed out.
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.