Hobart Crabtree | Banjo Player

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Folk: Irish Traditional Country: Old-Timey Moods: Type: Acoustic
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Banjo Player

by Hobart Crabtree

Masterful Old-Time Banjo Tunes and Songs in the Traditional Appalachian Music Style. "I came to believe that that's the way the banjo was meant to be played, softly and sweetly" ~ Hobart Crabtree, 1990
Genre: Folk: Irish Traditional
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Sally Ann
2:46 $0.99
2. Old Joe Clark / Cripple Creek
2:21 $0.99
3. Soldier's Joy
1:55 $0.99
4. John Brown's March
2:57 $0.99
5. Cold Frosty Morn'
2:25 $0.99
6. Maggie
3:30 $0.99
7. Sugar in the Gourd
1:59 $0.99
8. Bill Cheetham
2:38 $0.99
9. Sugar Hill
2:22 $0.99
10. John Brown's Dream
2:57 $0.99
11. Golden Slippers
2:39 $0.99
12. Barlow Knife
2:13 $0.99
13. Forked Deer
2:07 $0.99
14. Simple Gifts
2:05 $0.99
15. Cindy
2:19 $0.99
16. Old Spinning Wheel
2:39 $0.99
17. Nelly Bly
2:48 $0.99
18. Old Cumberland Gap
2:49 $0.99
19. Old Clinch Mountain Backstep
2:25 $0.99
20. Old Rosin the Beau
2:20 $0.99
21. Grandfather's Clock
2:58 $0.99
22. Marching Through Georgia
2:27 $0.99
23. Shaving a Dead Man
2:41 $0.99
24. Cluck Ole Hen
2:40 $0.99
25. Silver Bell
2:44 $0.99
26. Bonaparte Crossing the Rhine
1:26 $0.99
27. Kitty McKay
1:35 $0.99
28. Hangman's Reel
3:21 $0.99
29. Dry and Dusty
1:45 $0.99
30. Maid of Amsterdam
2:34 $0.99
31. Turkey Buzzard
2:11 $0.99
32. Wild Bill Jones
4:20 $0.99
33. Pretty Polly
3:20 $0.99
34. Wreck of Old No. 9
2:31 $0.99
35. Hard Times
3:35 $0.99
36. Cotton-Eyed Joe
3:03 $0.99
37. Willow Garden
3:28 $0.99
38. Waterbound
2:42 $0.99
39. Little Streams of Whiskey
2:54 $0.99
40. Cherry Tree Carol
4:50 $0.99
41. Log Cabin in the Lane
3:04 $0.99
42. Core Drill / Boy That Tickles Me (Live)
7:32 $0.99
43. Shady Grove
2:57 $0.99
44. Don't You Hear Jerusalem Moan
3:33 $0.99
45. Ballad of John Henry
6:03 $0.99
46. Rose of Alabamy
3:13 $0.99
47. Picture On the Wall
3:05 $0.99
48. Barbra Allen
5:12 $0.99
49. Little Birdie
3:42 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
The winter of 1976-77 was one of the worst winters in memory, with bitter cold temperatures, ice, and snow.

After living several years in Tennessee, I had just moved to Big Stone Gap (Virginia) to begin a new job, and also because I was ill and longed for the security that we Appalachian people achingly call “home”. During that winter, I was mostly confined to a three-room apartment because of the weather and my illness.

One day, during this time of cloudy memory, there came a knock on my door and when I opened it, I swear to God, I thought that a Yard-Gnome had come to life and was standing there on my front porch! Because of fevers and medication, I had been having occasional hallucinations, so I figured that this was just another one. But then the Yard-Gnome spoke up and said with a great smile and twinkle in his eye, “I heard you play old-time banjo!”

Totally shocked, I finally stammered “Well, yeah, some.”

That’s all it took! Without an invitation or a by-your-leave, in he came and said, “Well, show me what you know!”

That’s how I met Hobart Crabtree.

In a short while, he drained me of my basic knowledge of claw-hammer banjo playing and I finally pawned him off onto Randy Stanley, one of the few old-time players that I knew at that time in the Big Stone Gap area.

Later, Randy confronted me about referring Hobart to him, “What in the world have you done to me? Hobart shows up every Wednesday evening expecting to play!”

Hobart was raised in Portsmouth, Ohio (hometown of Roy Rogers) in a musical family. “My dad was a very good musician,” He remembered. Being from a musical family, Hobart had started to play the banjo earlier in his life, but laid it aside for many years while he and Shirley worked to raise four boys, Doug (1961-2005) Greg, Steve and Tony.

After four years in the Air Force, Hobart and Shirley moved 12 times in the next three years. Finally, in 1964 he moved his family from Ohio to Big Stone Gap to take a job as an FAA radar technician at the Black Mountain radar station.

But Hobart’s love for old-time music and the banjo never left his mind. In 1980, after his initial lessons with Randy and me, he became involved in The Trail of the Lonesome Pine Outdoor Drama in Big Stone Gap, Virginia. He and Shirley played the roles of Uncle Billy and Mammy for many years, and Hobart played his banjo in the show.

Hobart would laughingly recall his early playing days and cite Shirley as a major influence. One day during his practice, she told him, “If you’re going to play that thing, play it so I can tell what you are playing!”

Hobart recalls that it was Scott Boatright, a masterful musician and a contemporary of the Carter family from Scott County, Virginia, who was his greatest stylistic influence. Fittingly, his last album is dedicated to Scott and includes “Turkey Buzzard,” a tune that he learned from Scott's playing.

Hobart had a passion for old-time playing unlike anyone I have ever met, and his playing soon outstripped his early teachers. He played every chance he got. He spent as much time as he could jamming, performing, recording, or attending and entering the many old-time music contests and events in our area – three 1st places at Union Grove – and he also began to build banjos and to teach. His old time banjo class at Mountain Empire Community College was the foundation for the healthy traditional music program now offered at the college, and several musicians today are playing banjos made by Hobart.

It is difficult especially as a fellow musician, to speak of Hobart’s playing as if it were in the past tense, because Hobart is still alive. But, because of the cruel Alzheimer’s disease, Hobart’s banjo playing has been taken from him and us. [Editor’s note: Hobart's suffering finally came to an end when he passed in the Autumn of 2010].

I am very proud that I was able to arrange for Hobart to play one last time for an audience at Mountain Empire's Home Craft Days in October of 2004. On that day his friends, former students, and family awarded Hobart with a banjo shaped plaque made by Randy Stanley, to honor his many loving contributions to Appalachian music.

At that moment, it was doubtful whether or not Hobart could have picked out his loyal and loving wife in the audience. But when I handed him his banjo, he reminded me, yet one more time, that it was a “Whyte Laydie”. Somehow, this fact he proudly remembered.

The musicians onstage began to play, and we all watched him become transformed, with that great beatific smile, as he joined in and played along. And even when we quit, he kept playing solo for a while, to the great delight of the audience, and Hobart.

These CDs are another memorial to Hobart, but they cannot replace that irreplaceable joy that Hobart shared with us whenever he played his banjo and sang one of the many songs that he loved to sing.

Hobart touched many people, including a loyal fan whose love of Hobart’s joyous playing led to the creation of these CDs… a testimony that any musician would Cherish!

As you play these CDs, listen for Hobart’s smile, imagine his joy and admire his seemingly simple, yet elegiac style, of which he became a true Master.

And, maybe this music will kindle a fire in some young banjo player who will set off in pursuit of a lifetime of music, carrying the unquenchable torch that Hobart Crabtree, Banjo Player, passes on to us all.

Ron Short,
Big Stone Gap, Virginia

Tunes on these two CDs are compilation from six tapes that Hobart recorded from 1990 until 1999. Evidently, Hobart was aware as early as 1999 that something was wrong with his health. He recorded enough material for two tapes in May and told his wife that he thought it might be the last tape that he would record. He was right.

The music on these CDs is not all of Hobart’s recorded material, but represents a sampling of his music. You can hear that his playing just kept getting better as the years went by.

The albums that the music was selected from and the musicians who played on them:

Crabapple Pickers. Recorded May 1990 (Hobart Crabtree, vocals and banjo; Greg Crabtree, guitar).

Sounds of a Whyte Laydie. Recorded July 1990 (Hobart Crabtree, banjo; David Castle, guitar)

Old-time Listening Music. Recorded March 1993 (Hobart Crabtree, vocals, banjo & washtub bass; David Castle, guitar)

Lamplightin Time. Recorded March 1994 (Hobart Crabtree, vocals, banjo & harmonica; Roger Crabtree, guitar, vocals & Bass; David Castle, guitar)

Simply Hobart. Recorded May 1999. (Hobart Crabtree, vocals & banjo; David Castle, guitar)

Turkey Buzzard. Recorded May 1999. (Hobart Crabtree, vocals & banjo; David Castle, guitar; Charlie Maggard, Autoharp)

Core-Drill (Story) and Boy That Tickles Me, recorded in February 1996, live at the Chicago Folk Festival, (Hobart Crabtree, vocals & banjo; Roger Crabtree, guitar)

Tunes (CD 1)
1. Sally Ann (00:02:44.18) Sounds of a Whyte Laydie ‘90 – Key of D
2. Old Joe Clark/Cripple Creek (00:02:18.65) Crabapple Pickers ‘90 – Key of A
3. Soldiers Joy (00:01:52.71) Crabapple Pickers ‘90 – Key of D
4. John Brown’s March (00:02:54.6) Simply Hobart ‘99. – Key of C
5. Cold Frosty Morn’ (00:02:22.68) Old-time Listening Music ’93 – Key of Am
6. Maggie (00:03:27.47) Turkey Buzzard ’99 – Key of G
7. Sugar and Gourd (00:01:56.14) Old-time Listening Music ’93 – Key of G
8. Bill Cheetham (00:02:35.63) Old-time Listening Music ’93 – Key of G
9. Sugar Hill (00:02:20.02) Simply Hobart ‘99. – Key of C
10. John Brown Dream (00:02:54.21) Sounds of a Whyte Laydie ‘90 – Key of A
11. Golden Slippers (00:02:36.01) Old-time Listening Music ’93 – Key of Bb
12. Barlow Knife (00:02:10.39) Simply Hobart ‘99. – Key of C
13. Forked Deer (00:02:04.28) Simply Hobart ‘99. – Key of C
14. Simple Gifts – Simply Hobart ‘99. – Key of C
15. Cindy (00:02:17.15) Sounds of a Whyte Laydie ‘90 – Key of A
16. Old Spinning Wheel (00:02:36.52) Lamplightin Time ’94 – Key of D
17. Nellie Bly (00:02:45.47) Old-time Listening Music ’93 – Key of D
18. Old Cumberland Gap (00:02:46.52) Sounds of a Whyte Laydie ‘90 – Key of E
19. Old Clinch Mountain Back Step (00:02:23.02) Sounds of a Whyte Laydie ‘90 – Key of Am
20. Old Rosin the Beau (00:02:17.32) Simply Hobart ‘99. – Key of C (traditional Scottish melody changed slightly for Willow Garden)
21. Grandfather’s Clock (00:02:55.68) Sounds of a Whyte Laydie ‘90 – Key of A
22. Marching through Georgia (00:02:25.06) Sounds of a Whyte Laydie ‘90 – Key of D
23. Shaving A Dead Man (00:02:38.56) Sounds of a Whyte Laydie ‘90 – Key of E
24. Clark Ole Hen (00:02:38) Sounds of a Whyte Laydie ‘90 – Key of Am
25. Silver Bell (00:02:41.63) Old-time Listening Music ’93 – Key of C# & Bb
26. Bonaparte Crossing The Rhine (00:01:23.45) Old-time Listening Music ’93 – Key of D
27. Kitty Mckay (00:01:33.02) Simply Hobart ‘99. – Key of C
28. Hangman’s Reel (00:03:18.51) Sounds of a Whyte Laydie ‘90 – Key of C
29. Dry And Dusty (00:01:43.16) Turkey Buzzard ’99 – Key of C
30. Maid of Amsterdam (00:02:31.27) Turkey Buzzard ’99 – Key of A
31. Turkey Buzzard (00:02:10.39) Turkey Buzzard ’99 – Key of A

Songs (CD 2)
1. Wild Bill Jones (00:04:17.66) Crabapple Pickers ‘90 – Key of Bm (early version of Cecil Sharp’s collection from Miss Viney Norton; North Carolina, 1916)
2. Pretty Polly (00:03:17.54) Crabapple Pickers ‘90 – Key of Dm (probably the most sung ballad of all time; American version of the English Gosport Tragedy; see also Cruel Ship Carpenter)
3. Wreck of Old No. 9 (00:02:28.58) Lamplightin Time ’94 – Key of A (early-recorded version of this popular railroad song by Vernon Dalhart, 1928)
4. Hard Times (00:03:32.69) Turkey Buzzard ’99 – Key of B (one of Stephen Foster’s most popular songs with folk-revivalists, but not very popular in 1855 when it was written)
5. Cotton-Eyed Joe (00:03:00.67) Simply Hobart ‘99. – Key of C (an old fiddle tune; both black and white added verses – “Cotton-Eyed), however, was a racial reference to the large white portion of the eye)
6. Willow Garden (00:03:25.55) Crabapple Pickers ‘90 – Key of C# (probably related to an English or Irish ballad, the Oxford Tragedy; collected by a Sharp and 1917 from Mary Watson in Kentucky. Recorded as Rose Conley by Grayson & Whitter and 1928)
7. Waterbound (00:02:39.67) Lamplightin Time ’94 – Key of B (A ‘folked’ version of a river song, Boats Up The River sung by Roscoe Holcomb, Ola Belle Reed and others)
8. Little Streams of Whiskey (00:02:52.31) Lamplightin Time ’94 – Key of A (Hobo parody of a mid-19th century English ballad, Binzer on Rhine by Lady Carolyn Maxwell)
9. Cherry Tree Carol (00:04:47.42) Turkey Buzzard ’99 – Key of B (sometimes called, the Coventry Carol; one of the most popular English religious folk songs, today, but was very controversial because of Joseph’s questioning about the “Father” of Jesus and the reference of Jesus’ first Miracle, from the womb!!)
10. Log Cabin in The Lane (00:03:02.06) Lamplightin Time ’94 – Key of B (traditional words, but music by William Shakespeare Hays, 1834-1907)
11. Core-drill/Boy That Tickles Me (00:07:29.12) live at the Chicago Folk Festival --- Key of B (Hobart at his best, in front of a receptive audience; earliest recorded version of a song by the Dixon Brothers, 1937, but probably older than that; reference to table ‘legs’ with britches refers to the Victorian response to any public display of ‘legs’.)
12. Shady Grove (00:02:55.26) Turkey Buzzard ’99 – Key of Dm (Lord, how many versions are there? Earliest noted recording is by the Kentucky Thorobreads 1927)
13. Don’t You Hear Jerusalem Moan (00:03:30.49) Simply Hobart ‘99. – Key of C (probably a Black parody of ‘White’ religion, as they saw it. Uncle Dave Macon sang it; Hobart got it from the Skillet Lickers and there’s also a 1928 version by Bill Chitwood and his Georgia Mountaineers)
14. Ballad of John Henry (00:06:01.16) Crabapple Pickers ‘90 – Key of B (in another 100 years, we still won’t know the true origin of this song. John Henry may not have been a real person, but this is probably a ‘true’ folk song about a Black railroad worker, circa late 1800s)
15. Rose of ‘Alabamy’ (00:03:10.43) Simply Hobart ‘99. – Key of C (A many versioned, much performed Minstrel song, attributed to one Silas S. Steele, circa 1846)
16. Picture on the Wall (00:03:06.62) Turkey Buzzard ’99 – Key of Bb (one of the many popular, ‘Mother’ songs of the 1880s; this one attributed two JP Skelly, 1880)
17. Barbra Allen (00:05:09.49) Lamplightin Time ’94 – (one of the rare and special moments that we find Hobart without his banjo. As to the song, there may be hundreds of versions. Samuel Pepys, in his Diary, refers to hearing it sung in 1666. The earliest ‘Broadside’ is around 1690)
18. Little Birdie (00:03:41.66) Lamplightin Time ’94 – Key of D (Hobart and his beloved “Whyte Laydie” with his version of this great old banjo tune, which has as many versions as singers. This one was probably from Frank Profitt’s singing and owes much to ‘Leadbelly’s’, Easy Rider)

Special thanks to:
Lewis Sizemore, loyal fan and a friend
Nell Fields, Cowan Creek Mountain Music School
Paul Kuczko, Lonesome Pine Office On Youth
Alan Maggard, Maggard Sound studios
A very special thanks to Tony Crabtree for digitizing in his Dad’s music
Greg and Steve Crabtree
In Memoriam, Shirley Crabtree (1938-2015)
In Memoriam, Doug Crabtree (1961-2005)

Producer: Ron short
Designer: Jenny Salyers
Engineers: Tony Crabtree, David Cassell, Alan Maggard
Recorded and Mixed at: Maggard Sound Studios
220 railroad avenue
Big Stone Gap VA 24219
Cover painting by Lee Reeves, Jenkins KY 1994



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