This week, I’m beginning with a story: acclaimed West Virginia fiddler Ernie Carpenter talking about his fiddling heritage handed down by his father and grandfather, a maker of dugout canoes on Elk River, West Virginia.
In this fascinating 1987 reel-to-reel audio recording, Ernie tells his tale, and goes on to play one of his grandfather’s tunes – the jauntily crooked Granddad’s Favorite.
Ernie’s father, Shelt Carpenter, photographed around 1932.
The audio recording is followed by the video of the musical part of the same performance at the October 1987 Celebration of Traditional Music, Berea College.
And, last but by no means least, this week’s post is topped off by a wonderfully clear teaching video: Andy Fitzgibbon’s rendition of Granddad’s Favorite, as played by Ernie Carpenter.
You’ll notice that Granddad’s Favorite is a crooked tune, with extra bars when you least expect them. It also comes with two warnings for fiddlers:
In the recordings below, the fiddles are cross-tuned: Ernie Carpenter in GDGD, Andy Fitzgibbon in AEAE. If you’d like to try cross-tuning, you’re less likely to break a string tuning your two lower strings up to AEAE, than tuning your top two down a tone for GDGD, and then having to crank them back up again to standard/GDAE. (I speak from sad experience.)
And if you prefer to keep your fiddle in standard tuning, don’t try to copy the fingering in the video!
And now for our story. Are you sitting comfortably? Then Ernie will begin.
Ernie Carpenter (fiddle), Gerald Milnes (banjo)
Fiddle cross-tuned GDGD, key of G. (Tune at 3:20)
(Tune number 02 on AC-OR-005-373 in the Appalachian Center Collection, Berea College, Southern Appalachian Archives. http://dla.acaweb.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/berea/id/3114/rec/4)
You can watch footage of the musical part of this performance on the Berea College Southern Appalachian Archives website here.
Andy Fitzgibbon (fiddle)
Teaching video made for Andy’s students at the Wellington Bluegrass Society fiddle workshops. Fiddle cross-tuned AEAE, key of A.
(‘Ernie Carpenter’s Granddad’s Favorite- Andy FitzGibbon’ YouTube video, 2.27. Posted by Andrew FitzGibbon, 8 Sep 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uY9BAVRzvrc)
Andy Fitzgibbon plays with the Iron Leg Boys, and is part of the New Young Fogies project co-run by Anna Roberts-Gevalt (of Anna & Elizabeth: see ‘Billy in the Lowground’ 7 May 2015)
Ernie Carpenter‘s fascinating family history is outlined on the Berea College website.
For more of his music on Fiddletails, see ‘Gunboat’ (Sept 2015)
Ernie Carpenter (1909-1997)