Down in a Little Green Valley

As I spent time outside over the last few days I was reminded of this post I wrote back in 2013. With summer's bright green coat shining brightly this time of the year always makes me feel like I'm living in a little green valley.

Carson Robison

On August 4, 1890, Carson Robison was born in Oswego, KS. Robison had many occupations over his lifetime, most of them centered around life on the prairie. He was a farmer, a cow puncher, and an oilfield worker. Robison was also a song writing musician who had a unique whistling talent-he was able to whistle in 2 part harmony at the same time. Robison was nicknamed The Kansas Jaybird.

In 1904 he penned his first song Anthem. By 1924 he made his first recordings with Victor Records laying down the tracks Songbirds in Georgia and Whistling the Blues Away

Throughout the coming years, Robison formed his own band, Carson Robison and His Pioneers. The band traveled throughout the US and abroad even performing for King George and Queen Elizabeth. 

In 1971 Robison was inducted into the Nashville Songwriter's Hall of Fame.

To see a discography of Robison you can go here: Nashville Song Writers Hall of Fame. A quote shared on the same website gives us a glimpse into Robison's mind:

"Nature and tradition have been my best sources for material. I've learned plenty of things from her and I reckon most people could write songs about the odd characters, odd happenings right in their own backyard. I'm not aimin' to hand out any advice on how to write songs. I don't think there's a set formula for the work. My heritage and tradition has come down to me from the covered wagon days and I suppose there couldn't have been a better background for my efforts. I just hope they keep that tradition alive long after I'm gone and I hope my son carries on after me."  

Paul and Pap learned one of Robison's songs from Granny's uncle, Henry Truett. Other than Uncle Henry, Marty Robbins, Doc Watson, and Fret Killer (of Youtube fame)-they've never heard anyone else sing it. The title of the song is Little Green Valley-its a great song take a listen and see if you don't agree. (Pap-my father, Paul-my brother, and Mark-my nephew, can be seen playing in this video-off camera Ben-my nephew is hitting some licks on the guitar too)

I hope you enjoyed the old song-it's got a catchy tune. And who wouldn't like to live in a Little Green Valley like the song describes?

Tipper

*Source: Nashville Songwriters Foundation

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Chitter and Ray Price

The Pressley Girls Crazy Arms

The girls have been singing the song Crazy Arms since about 2012.  It was great with just the girls, but once Paul added a third harmony part somewhere along the way it has become one of the most requested songs we perform.

The song was written by Ralph Mooney and Charles Seals. Ray Price had a super hit with the song in 1956.

Years ago, before I was even married, I bought Paul a VHS tape of old Louisiana Hayride performances for Christmas. We watched that thing until we about wore it out. So many good performers were included on the tape. Lonzo and Oscar were two of Pap's favorites. He'd laugh at their jokes and then point out how super talented they were as musicians and vocalists. 

It would be hard for me to pick a favorite from the tape, but I especially liked Ray Price doing Crazy Arms. I swooned every time I watched Van Howard step into the frame and add his layer of harmony to the song. 

Chitter is a funny girl, if you've ever seen us perform or met her in person you're well aware of that already. The girl was funny from the day she was born. When she was about 3 years old she started telling anyone who'd listen that she had a pet frog that lived in her throat, then she'd try to prove it was true by making a frog sound. 

We never know what Chitter will say at a show, I swear sometimes I think she surprises herself by the things she tells the audience. At our show Friday night they asked us to make a few announcements during our set. Chitter turned those announcements into a comedy act.  One group of folks actually asked her to make the announcements again.

A year or so ago we were playing at a festival and before we played Crazy Arms she told the crowd how much she loved Ray Price and his music. As she held two fingers crossed in the air she went on to tell them if she'd lived back when he was making all those hit records she had no doubt her and Ray would have been close-as in best buddies. Chitter can be pretty charming so I don't doubt Ray Price would have liked her if they'd ever met.

Here's a video of Crazy Arms from our concert at the John C. Campbell Folk School a few weeks ago.

I hope you enjoyed the song. I may share other songs from the concert in future posts, but if you'd like to see the whole concert now go here. The Deer Hunter filmed it for us. I wish he'd gotten Chitter's talking between the songs too, because her comedic flare was really going strong that night. 

Tipper

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He Whispers Sweet Peace To Me

Chatter, Pap, Tipper, Chitter - Jan 2016
Chatter, Pap, Tipper, Chitter - January 2016

It's only been about a year since I posted the song He Whispers Sweet Peace To Me

On August 24, 1872 Will R. Ramsey was born in Texas. During Ramsey's early childhood, his family relocated to Arkansas. Once Ramsey was old enough, he was musically trained and eventually became the owner of Central Music Company. Ramsey is a noted songwriter and published song books for close to 30 years. The most famous song penned by Ramsey is He Whispers Sweet Peace to Me.

In the video I shared of us doing the song back in January of 2015 Pap and Paul handled all the vocals on the song. Sometime after we videoed the song Pap suggested we try a trio of harmony much like we did on Where No One Stands Alone

Wow the trio sounded good! We'd get the song down pat and then someone would come up with a new idea for it. First Paul sung all the verses, then each of them sung a verse, then we switched to Paul singing 2 verses and Pap singing one with a trio of harmony on the last 2 choruses. And then just for good measure we threw in a key change!

Every time we played our new version of He Whispers Sweet Peace To Me Granny would say "That is good!" 

Part of our inspiration for the song came from a group of men Paul found singing the song on Youtube. They are the Silver Trumpets and man can they sing.

 

 

The Silver Trumpets have fantastic harmonies, but I think what makes their singing so special is that their happiness shines brightly right through the words. Pap said "Now they're singing it like they mean it."

The first line of the song: Sometimes when misgivings darken my day and faith's light I cannot see I ask the Dear Lord to brighten the way 

Unless you've heard me talk about the blog in person, you've never heard me say that the Blind Pig and The Acorn was born out of a rough, rocky, dark patch of life, but it was. So dark that just like the song says I could not see.

The Blind Pig and The Acorn gives me great pleasure. I've fully known and understood that for many years. But since Pap died Paul has pointed out the Blind Pig and The Acorn, something so good and lasting, came from great heartache and sorrow.

Indeed, my journey was brightened in a way that I could never explain because of this blog and Pap's family has been blessed in the process. 

With the help of Blind Pig and The Acorn readers I have:

  • Achieved measuable success in my endeavor to celebrate and preserve my rich vibrant Appalachian Culture and Heritage
  • Had my days enriched by the comments you leave
  • Made friends from all around the world
  • Documented my life for my daughters and anyone else who might be interested
  • Recorded 100s of songs by Pap, Paul, my nephews, my daughters, and myself 
  • Documented many of the stories Pap told me
  • Gained tangible wealth in the form of: seeds, vinegar, onions, squash, black walnuts, a walnut cracker, artwork, seeds, vinegar, onions, squash, a walnut saw, artwork, ground cherries, books, beloved books, photos of their family, photos of my family, apples, baskets, antiques, craft supplies, foxfire magazines, cookie cutters-pig and acorn, rings, stone ground cornmeal and grits, a hammer, old jars, old bottles, music, information, writings, cast iron pots, soap, honey, woven treasures, cds, hand forged crosses, poems, quilted pigs and acorns, jellies, jams, pickles, recipes, and on and on and on. Blind Pig readers are a generous bunch of folks

Thank you for reading what I write, for listening to what we sing, for helping me with my Appalachian endeavor. Without you there'd have been no reason to film all those videos like the one above, there'd have been no reason to ask Pap and Granny a million questions about the old ways and their lives.

I am rich beyond measure.

Tipper

*Source: GMA Gospel Music Hall of Fame

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This Little Light of Mine

This post was originally published right here on the Blind Pig and The Acorn in 2013.

Oconaluftee church smoky mtn park

A few months back, we visited the Lufty Baptist church in the Smoky Mountain National Park. If you've been reading the Blind Pig for a while, you'll probably remember the time we hiked back to the Little Cataloochee Baptist Church (if you missed it-just click on the words in orange) 

Last fall Chatter was looking through some videos when she came across the one we filmed at Little Cataloochee. She said "You know that was one of funnest things we ever did. Didn't you say there were other churches in the park?" I told her there were other historic churches in the park and she said "Well lets go sing in another one!"

I passed Chatter's wish along to Don Casada-aka Smoky Mountain Park Expert. With Don's help we planned a trip to the historic Lufty Baptist Church.

Lufty Baptist Church

The church is located near Cherokee, NC and is easily accessible. There's a place to park within view of the church which made carrying the guitar a breeze compared to toting it back to the Little Cataloochee Baptist Church.

Smokemont Baptist Church

There's a sign at the bottom of the hill that reads Smokemont Baptist Church. One closer to the church reads Lufty Baptist Church. Don loaned me a book about the church: Ocona Lufta Baptist Pioneer Church of the Smokies 1836-1939

Ocona lufta baptist church

The morning we set out for the church was cold, but the day warmed up fast and the sun shone brightly for us. We'd been planning the trip for a few weeks. The girls knew what songs they wanted to film, but it seemed like every time they planned to practice something came up. I hoped they would at least be able to practice the night before the trip.

Unfortunately, the day before the trip ended up being filled with teenage angst. Once I realized there'd be no practicing that night either, I wondered if we should call the whole thing off, but both girls begged me not to and promised they could handle it. 

Visiting lufty baptist church

Since the church was shut up tightly and the sun didn't quite hit it, the inside was cold! Even though the sun felt warm outside you could literally see your breath inside the building.

Historic buildings in the smoky mtn park

We checked out all the cool details of the church and then it was time to get down to the business at hand.

Smokemont

After the girls changed into their performing outfits they found some flowers that had been thrown over the bank. Don said he thought someone had recently had a wedding at the church. The flowers just happen to match the girls' outfits which tickled them to death.

Smokemont nc

When the silliness finally subsided (it never goes completely away) the girls made some of the best music they've ever made. I'm not sure if they were trying to make it up to me or if it was just the perfect day for singing.

Once we had planned the trip to Lufty Baptist Church, I kept hoping a story would come to me the way the Cora Lee Mease story did when we visited Little Cataloochee Baptist Church.

No story came in the days leading up to the trip.

I looked in every nook and cranny of the church the day we were there-still no story. I thought well, it may just be about us this time.

A good while after we visited Lufty Baptist Church the story finally came. It's not anything like the Cora Lee Mease story. Actually it's more of a connection or a thought than a story.

Drop back by over the coming days for more about the church, the singing, and the story too. 

----------------

I hope you enjoyed this re-post. The girls have been wanting to film in another historic church and I'm hoping we can make that happen sometime this summer so be on the lookout for another Pressley Girls church singing video.

Tipper

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At the Name of Jesus

Original music by Pap Jerry Wilson
Pap picking on Granny Gazzie's front porch - Ranger, NC

Pap has written tons of songs over the years.  I always liked the songs he wrote, but as I got older the songs took on a brighter meaning for me because I knew each word described what was in Pap's heart and mind.

At The Name Of Jesus is among my favorite songs penned by Pap. From the first time I heard it-I loved it. The song has a lonesome sound to it. The tune is reminiscent of the ballads Appalachia is so often associated with.

I liked the song so much, that when the girls first started singing with Pap in church I begged (then forced) them to learn it. At that young age, they thought the whooo part was embarrassing and they never did do the song more than once or twice.

We did eventually play the song together as a group. Chitter's fiddle seemed a perfect fit for the melody. I used to think  it was like Pap wrote it and then for all the years in between the song patiently waited to be played with all the needed instruments. 

I hope you enjoyed the video. The song is featured on Paul and Pap's new cd Shepherd of my Soul.  The cd contains 13 original songs written by Pap, 1 written by Paul, 3 gospel standards, and one Instrumental Reprise of the first song on the cd.  If you're interested in purchasing a cd you can buy one directly from me (go here for the details) or jump over to my the Blind Pig and The Acorn Etsy shop and pick one up there. 

Tipper

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Far Side Banks of Jordan

Granny and pap
Granny and Pap Thanksgiving 2015

Pap and Granny's 52 Wedding Anniversary would have been tomorrow. That's a whole lot of years. The Deer Hunter and I passed our 20 year mark a few years ago. He teases me that it seems a whole heck of a lot longer than that! He and I both agree the years of our marriage have flown past at record speed and I'm happy to say we both agree our lives have been better because of each other. Pap and Granny felt that way too.

Seemed like the older Pap and Granny got the closer they became and the more they held onto each other. I think Granny told every last person who spoke to her at Pap's funeral that she'd lost her best friend and I know she has. 

As we talked about what songs Pap would want played at his service Granny teared up as she told us they'd recently seen Jimmy Fortune sing On the Far Side Banks of Jordan on tv. She said Pap told her "Now you remember those words and think of them when I'm gone." Over the last few months I know Pap knew his death was drawing nigh. 

Pap had told my brothers he wanted the Robbinsville Quartet to sing for his funeral. We ask if they knew the song On the Far Side Banks of Jordan but they didn't. The only folks I'd ever heard sing it was The Marksmen. I used to have a cassette tape with their version and it always made me sad and happy at the same time. Terry Smith wrote the great song and although I didn't know it, the song has been recorded by lots of folks. 

Far Side Banks Of Jordan written by Terry Smith

I believe my steps are growing wearier each day
Still I've got a journey on my mind
Lures of this old world have ceased to make me want to stay
and my one regret is leaving you behind

But I'll be waiting on the farside banks of Jordan
I'll be sitting drawing pictures in the sand
And when I see you coming I will rise up with a shout!
And come running through the shallow waters reaching for your hand

If it proves to be his will that I am first to cross
And some how I've a feeling it will be
When it comes your time to travel likewise don't feel lost
For I will be the first one that you'll see

But I'll be waiting on the farside banks of Jordan
I'll be sitting drawing pictures in the sand
And when I see you coming I will rise up with a shout!
And come running through the shallow waters reaching for your hand

Through this life we've laboured hard to earn our meager fare
It's brought us trembling hands and failing eyes
So I'll just rest here on this shore and turn my eyes away
Until you'll come then we'll see paradise

But I'll be waiting on the farside banks of Jordan
I'll be sitting drawing pictures in the sand
And when I see you coming I will rise up with a shout!
And come running through the shallow waters reaching for your hand

Here's the Jimmy Fortune version Granny and Pap watched.

 

I could never repay you for the kind words you've sent about Pap. Words that have and will uphold me during this sad time. 

Paul and Pap's new cd Shepherd of my Soul contains 13 original songs written by Pap. What a comfort all the songs Pap wrote will be for us as we go forward. Even though Paul has listened to the songs on the cd hundreds of times as he did the mixing of the recording, he said when he heard them yesterday he heard them anew. I haven't been able to listen to any of Pap's songs yet. But I know they're there when I'm ready.

If you're interested in purchasing a cd you can buy one directly from me (go here for the details) or jump over to my the Blind Pig and The Acorn Etsy shop and pick one up there. 

Tipper

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I'm Traveling the Road that Leads Home

Pap Jerry Wilson

Photo of Pap courtesy of Ed M.

 

Just Going Home written by Jerry Wilson

I may be bowed down with sorrow Trouble where ever I go
Yet in my heart I'll be singing I'm traveling the road that leads home

Oh nothing could thrill my heart more than to know that my trials will be o're
To this world my soul don't belong In this life I'm just going home

Though I may not have great riches In this world I own no great thing
Yet at the end of my journey I'll be rich as the greatest of kings

In this world no treasures I'll seek I've lain them up where they will keep
To this world my soul don't belong In this life I'm just going home

Oh nothing could thrill my heart more than to know that my trials will be o're
To this world my soul don't belong In this life I'm just going home

Home

 

Tipper

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Who Will Sing For Me?

Who Will Sing For Me?

Oft I sing for my friends
When death's cold hand they see
But when I am gone
Who will sing one song for me?

I wonder who will sing for me
When I'm called to cross that silent sea
Who will sing for me?

When a crowd shall gather round
And look down on me
Will they turn and walk away
Or will they sing one song for me?

I wonder who will sing for me
When I'm called to cross that silent sea
Who will sing for me?

So I'll sing for my friends
And death will brighter be
Assured some friend 
Will sing one song for me. 

I wonder who will sing for me
When I'm called to cross that silent sea
Who will sing for me?

written by Thomas J. Farris

 

I've heard this old song my whole life. I tried to find out the history of it to share with you but didn't find much. What I did find can be read on The Mudcat Cafe

Although I haven't asked either Pap or Paul, I would assume its a meaningful song for each of them. They have sung at many funerals over the years. Some for friends who had lived a rich long life some for friends who left us way to soon. I imagine each of them have wondered who would sing for them someday. 

There are many variations of the song so you may be used to hearing different words than the ones in the video. It's certainly a song with a sad subject matter, however there's a lovely beauty to it as well...or maybe that's just Paul and Pap's outstanding harmony I'm hearing. 

Tipper

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RIP Merle Haggard

Merle haggard fan

I grew up in a family of Merle Haggard fans. How can anyone deny the man's musical genius? I believe his name was uttered with deep reverence in my home because as a musician he truly had it all. Haggard had a voice that arguably is among the best ever recorded, he had the guitar playing down too, but his appeal doesn't quite stop there.

Haggard was often called The Poet of the Common Man. All one has to do is listen to his original songs to understand why.

The songs Haggard penned speak directly to the every day, hard working, trying to get ahead, life is sometimes a pain, Joe on the street. His songs are about real life.

Courting days

The Deer Hunter and Tipper (early 90s)

Through the years I can trace my love of Haggard songs by the way they came packaged. 

  • First there were the albums Paul and I listened to as kids. One day as we were digging the Merle tunes I said "You know we should invite him to come over." Paul said "Yeah like why would he come here? He's famous." Even at that early age I had found the secret to Merle Haggard's success. By listening to his songs I truly believed he must be just like us. And hey someone was always coming by to pick and grin with Pap so why not Merle?
  • Elementary school was made happier the day I got my first portable 8-track tape player. The teachers allowed me to bring it to school as long as it was only played during recess. One of Granny's trips to Gainesville GA supplied my most popular 8-track for school, Merle's Rainbow Stew album.
  • During my last year of high school I bought my first car and it had a cassette player. As most high school seniors I had all the angst about what to do with my life going round and round in my head. The Merle song that takes me back to those days-Momma Tried.
  • Most couples have a certain song or type of music that brings to mind the early days in their relationship. Without a doubt the courting days between The Deer Hunter and I were filled with the songs of Merle Haggard blaring from the cd player.

A few years ago when we first filmed one of my favorite Merle Haggard songs, Silver Wings, Paul joked that it almost seemed a sacrilege to put our version on youtube because no matter how many times we did it our attempt would never even get close to the original.

I love playing Silver Wings because  it's one of my favorite songs, but mostly I love knowing that as kids Paul and I sat around in the floor and listened to Merle sing it and here we are as adults playing it ourselves. 

For this Pickin' & Grinnin' In The Kitchen Spot Silver Wings written by Merle Haggard.

I posted portions of this post a few years back and decided to re-post it since Merle Haggard died earlier this week. I've got too many favorite Merle Haggard songs to narrow it down to just one, but you can check this link out to hear a few of my favorites: Merle Medley.

Tipper

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Looking Back at Music here on the Blind Pig and The Acorn

The pressley girls at appalachian story telling festival

We had a great time at the Georgia Mountain Storytelling Festival and we thank all the Blind Pig readers who came out to see our show, you really made us feel special. During the festival quilts are displayed throughout the entire banquet hall. Attendees can go around and admire the handiwork and also read the 'story' of each quilt. On the first day of the festival we wandered around and read about each quilt as went. We were both pleased and surprised to find quilts made by Blind Pig Reader Ethelene Dyer Jones. The girls are posing in front of one of Ethelene's beautiful quilts in the photo above. 

David Holt and Josh Goforth played before us at the festival. Wow what an amazing show they put on! If the duo comes to your area they are a must see attraction. Fantastic music, singing, and storytelling that will make you laugh till tears run down your face. 

Between listening to David's stories related to his musical journey and seeing Blind Pig Readers spread throughout the audience I headed home thinking about the music I've shared on the Blind Pig and the Acorn since I first started eight years ago.

I knew without looking back through the archives the first song I ever shared was our version of Simon and Garfunkle's El Condor Pasa. But I was surprised that I shared it very close to this day eight years ago. I published my first Pickin' and Grinnin' video on March 29, 2008.

We didn't even have a video camera to film the song. Chitter filmed it with her small hand held camera, you could have probably guessed that by the poor quality of the video. I remember after we watched it we told her she must have been trying to make it look like a rock band with all the moving back and forth. And we still tease her abut filming the feet! When I watch the video today I can't believe how young the boys (my nephews) were, I think Mark was still in middle school. 

We filmed the song again in 2013. By then we had a video camera and the boys had turned into men.

The music of the Blind Pig and The Acorn has changed much in the 8 years since I started the blog. My nephews almost always showed up in those early videos. Chatter and Chitter only showed up when we could tie them down long enough to sing one song without too much arguing and fussing.

Gradually the girls began playing instruments themselves and began to take more of an interest in the music we were making in Paul's kitchen. The nephews headed out into the world to make their own way. With one living in Connecticut and the other in Texas they rarely get to play with us these days. I can't see the girls moving off as far as the nephews did, but who knows what path their lives will take and whether they'll always be able to make music with us. Whatever the future may hold, I'm glad the girls and my nephews have a warehouse full of stories and memories about making music with their uncle, their aunt/mother, and their Pap that they can pull out and tell to each other or to anyone else that will listen. 

AND I'm thankful you've let me share the music we make with you!

Tipper

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