Tuesday, August 28, 2007

a daily blog

okay, I'll try to start blogging DAILY now.

I'll likely start off with little tidbits of information about Rose Hill that I would like to eventually incorporate into the website. Rose Hill and the surrounding area here in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains have a wonderful history and ongoing traditions in arts and culture, like bluegrass and dulcimers and clogging. And there's the Melungeons...

Today, I'll just start off with a "tidbit" about Rose Hill and the history of bluegrass.

DID YOU KNOW... A Rose Hill native, Earl Taylor, and his Stoney Mountain Boys, were the first musicians to ever play bluegrass music in Carnegie Hall?!! Yes, it's true. It was 1959. And GUESS WHAT! - Earl Taylor and the Stoney Mountain Boys were a SMASHING SUCCESS that night there in Carnegie Hall!

Yes, Rose Hill is the birthplace of bluegrass musician Earl Taylor. Earl Taylor was born in Rose Hill on June 17, 1929 and lived until 1984. Earl Taylor and the Stoney Mountain Boys were the first musicians ever to play bluegrass in New York’s Carnegie Hall. It was 1959. Through personal interviews, Geoffrey Himes developed a January 12, 2000 feature story in the Baltimore City Paper which offers significant insight into the historical context of Earl Taylor and other Appalachian musicians who had migrated north and described that night in 1959. The feature article was titled “From the Hills: How Mid-Century Migrants from the Mountains Brought Bluegrass--and More—to Baltimore.” For the full article go to www.citypaper.com/printStory.asp?id=3636. As part of the research for the article, Himes interviewed two of band members, Curtis Cody and Walt Hensley.

"Alan [Lomax] came down to the 79 Club and asked us, 'Do you want to play Carnegie Hall?' I had never heard of it. I thought it was just a bigger-than-normal dance hall," Hensley recalls. "I had never drunk whiskey in my life, but when I got to Carnegie Hall and looked through the curtains and saw those decorations and those balconies full way up high, I went backstage and took a little nip to settle my nerves. When we walked out there, we were shaking so much it was like the wind was blowing out there."

"The place was packed," says Curtis Cody, who played fiddle with Taylor, Hensley, McIntyre, and Sam Hutchins that night. "We looked out through the curtains, and that place was buzzing. I said, 'Walt, I don't think they'll like us a bit.' But when it came our turn, he played something on the banjo, and they tore that place up. Everybody liked it. Someone from United Artists heard us, and we went back a few months later and cut a record."

Another article, one titled “Walter Hensley – The Banjo Baron of Baltimore” by Tina Aridas provided on DC Bluegrass Union, also described that evening in April 1959 when Earl Taylor and the Stoney Mountain Boys played bluegrass at the elegant Carnegie Hall. For the full article go to www.dcbu.org/walterhensley.htm. The article similarly comments on how band member Curtis Cody peeked out from behind the stage curtains just before the performance and saw Carnegie Hall. According to the article, Curtis Cody talked to banjo player Walt Hensley just before the show, saying,

“Walt, I don’t think they’ll like us a bit.” Walt recalls that his legs “were like Jell-O –and we had to play the fastest song we knew.” But when Walt, with legs shaking, stepped out onto the stage before the assembled audience at Alan Lomax’s Folksong ’59 concert, Curtis recalls that “he played something on the banjo, and they tore that place up.” Earl Taylor recalled, “When we would end a number, I knew that it would take five minutes before we could go into another one –that was how much rarin’ and screamin’ and hair-pullin’ there was.”

Earl Taylor and the Stoney Mountain Boys were featured on the LP “Folk Songs from the Bluegrass” released by United Artists in 1959. Songs done by Earl Taylor and the Stoney Mountain Boys on the LP include John Henry, Cripple Creek, Lee Highway Blues, Foggy Mountain Special, and Little Maggie. This LP, “Folk Songs from the Bluegrass,” was presented by Alan Lomex. Son of a folklorist, Alan Lomax was a musicologist, writer, and producer. He and his father gathered field recordings of folk musicians. The recordings culminated into significant anthologies of American folk song. Alan Lomax and his father expanded the Archive of American Folk at the Library of Congress folk music recordings holdings.

Earl Taylor and the Stoney Mountain Boys were included on the CD “Mountain Music: Bluegrass Style” released in 1992 by Smithsonian Folkways. The CD is a compilation of field recordings done by Mike Seeger. Songs done by Earl Taylor and the Stoney Mountain Boys on the CD include Short Life of Trouble, Foggy Mountain Top, Foxchase, and Sally Ann.

Hey, and GUESS WHAT... when I was visiting my local Wal-Mart this Summer, I found and purchased a CD that includes Earl Taylor and the Stoney Mountain Boys on it! On the CD cover it says, "Rural Rhythm presents Legends and Lost Classics GRASSROOTS BLUEGRASS - 25 Traditional Classics." Three of these 25 classic recordings are by Earl Taylor & Jim McCall with The Stoney Mountain Boys.

Rose Hill's Earl Taylor and Stoney Mountain Boys classic bluegrass recordings can be purchased on Ebay, Amazon.com, and even WAL-MART!

Ookay, how was that for a "tidbit" of interesting ROSE HILL, VIRGINIA information?
ANY COMMENTS?? Go ahead, POST A COMMENT!! Back at ya tomorrow!


s.lowe said...

That was very interesting information. Does anyone know who their relatives are? There are alot of Taylors and Hensleys in Rose Hill.

Joan said...

THANK YOU for posting our 1st Rose Hill BLOG COMMENT! We'll have dialogue threads running in no time. Seems like you and me both are learning how to put these posts up and where to put them and such. But so far, seems to be a really fun, FREE tool! I had no idea you could set up a blog for free until we were setting up this Rose Hill website. My brother's a blogger (SWVA law blog), and I just used the same host he had chosen.

Anyway, I reckon I'm supposed to be talking about bluegrass instead of blogging. Right, wonder which Taylors he was related to around here. Skimming through the local phone book, there's about a dozen different Taylors listed in Rose Hill.

Hensley is definitely a common name here. But according to the Baltimore newspaper article, Walt Hensley, the banjo player for Earl Taylor and the Stoney Mountain Boys and the longtime leader of the Dukes of Bluegrass, was born in Grundy VA (and moved to Baltimore in 1956).

Glad you thought it was very interesting information. Again, THANK YOU for posting a comment!

JT said...


My Name is Judy Taylor,I`am the daughter of the late Earl TAYLOR of the Stoney Mountain BOYS. Please contact me when you can at: 64mustang@zoomtown.com



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I just read your daily blog and loved it! My fathers side of the family are from Rose Hill and we go visit relatives there as often as we can. Earl Taylor was my great-uncle. Other Taylors were also closely related to the bluegrass music industry. Harrison Taylor, who still lives in the Rose Hill area, was good friends with the likes of Bill Monroe and George Jones. Another tidbit about Earl Taylor, was that he played with Lester Flatts and Earl Scruggs. I do believe that Earl Taylor appeared in several episodes of The Beverly Hillbillies as well.

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