College for a Day
November 30, 2010
Tunes for Twangers II
Silver Threads ... Make the Gold
In our session today, we shall explore the decidedly "murky waters" that represent the roots and origins of that which we know as country music. These are by no means "guaranteed roots" ... even "experts" have a disparate sense of valuing the early influences. But without a doubt, over the years, over the decades a combination of forces came together to help forge country music. It is these influences, these silver threads that lead to the gold records of the great country artists of yesteryear and today. Country music then and now has always spoken to the basic emotions of human life - love, love lost, hope and heartbreak.

Silver Threads Among the Gold

just to get in the mood - plus a little Bing Crosby never hurts

The Silver Threads

British ~ Anglo/Celtic Influences

Influence of Religious/Sacred Music

Delta Influences ~ Country Blues

... for those of you who were with us for the Spring 2010 edition of College for a Day and perhaps chose to be a part of the Twangers who explored the "The Incredible, The Astounding, The Amazing Original Carter Family" ... please know that today's session is actually a bit of a "pre-quel". But trust me, The Carter Family will make an appearance or two again today ...

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British ~ Anglo/Celtic Influences
from England, Ireland & Scotland

- story telling/oral tradition
- ballad singing
- fiddles
- reels and gigs

primarily the mountains of western Virginia, eastern Kentucky and western North Carolina

Irish Folksong


... when listening to the ballad - what aspects remind you of music of today, what are the similarities

... when listening to the reel - what aspects remind you of country music, where are the similarities

Let's listen to some of Uncle Jimmy Thompson
first performer on the G.O.O. - 1925 and then a Bluegrass Classic

Uncle Jimmy #1

Uncle Jimmy #2

Orange Blossom Special - Stanley Brothers


Old Time Church

from the Sacred Harp Hymnal

Influences of Religious and Sacred Music

- the psalmody of the Protestant Calvinist churches
- shape note singing - solfege
- Sacred Harp Hymnal
- call and response
- harmony

There has been no greater influence on country music than southern religious life, both as to the nature of the songs and to the manner in which they were performed. The fundamentalist and revivalist sects - the Methodists, Baptists and Presbyterians - began moving into the southern back country shortly after the American Revolution. These groups, moving down the Appalachian chains into the frontier areas of the South, brought a popular brand of religion to the socially isolated and religion-starved pioneers of the back country. This religion, striking out against the formalism and the maintenance of a church hierarchy, appealed to the democratic instincts of the people …The popularity of frontier evangelical groups was due as much to their congregational singing as to any other factor. The Methodist church, in particular, was often times called the “singing church” [from Country Music USA - Malone]

... when listening to When Jesus Wept or the example from the Sacred Harp Hymnal - what comes to mind

... when thinking of the country music of today, how/where do you see and sense the influence of religious and sacred music

A Carter Family Classic

A Hank Senior Classic

A Johnny Cash Classic


Delta Influences ~ Country Blues

- work songs
- call & response [also present in “church” singing]
- guitar and banjo
- improvisation
- country blues
- hard times and bad times ~ generations after the Civil War

Fisk Jubilee Singers
an amazing tradition, an "amalgam" of styles


Work Songs

Cross Road Blues

... when listening to the work song, can you hear/sense the call-response concept

... when listening to Cross Road Blues, do you think more of country music or the jazz/blues style

The Fisk Jubilee Singers

... when listening to the FJB singers - which/what of the three "threads" seem to be most-prevalent

Blind Lemon Jefferson

Deford Bailey

Jimmie Rodgers Blue Yodel


So the Silver Threads do "Make the Gold"

Mr. Cash - Folsom Prison

Reba - Fancy

Randy - Forever and Ever

and just for chucks ...
It's a Shame to Whip Your Wife on Sunday


for being a part of today's Twanger Session
Georgetown College
prepared for "College for a Day" - November 30, 2010
any errors or omissions are the sole responsibility of
Pete LaRue