Visit the Hillbilly at Harvard Blog for blog archives and more information about the program.

Recent posts:

Stuart and Stinson Celebrate Nashville’s ‘Duchess’, NC&StL No. 576


NC&StL Engine No. 576 at Centennial Park, Nashville. Photo by Ryan Kaldari, 27Apr05.  PD, via Wikipedia Commons.

Since 1953, Nashville, Chattanooga & Saint Louis locomotive no. 576 has adorned Nashville’s Centennial Park. It was the last of the 20 class J3 4-8-4 (‘Dixie’) steam engines built by the American Locomotive Company (Alco) for the NC&StL (abbreviated ‘NC’) in 1942 and 1943, and devoted to the massive war effort, moving millions of men, and tons of ammunition, equipment, and even oil from the Mississippi to Atlanta. But by 1952, business was down, and diesel-electrics had replaced most of the mainline power.  Trains Magazine editor David P. Morgan described the end of all but 576:

“We didn’t owe them anything and they didn’t owe us any thing,” says [Superintendent of Machinery C. M.] Darden of the J3’s as they neared the inevitable torch. . . Owner L&N [Louisville and Nashville Railroad], busily dieselizing itself by that date, decided not to buy the engines, so they went to the cutting torch. All except No. 576. She was presented to the City of Nashville in 1953 and mounted behind a fence in Centennial Park – just a stone’s throw (or a whistle’s blast) from the former Nashville Shops of the railway.

This year, after long negotiations, a group called The Nashville Steam Preservation Society (NSPS) succeeded in convincing the City of Nashville to permit moving the locomotive to the Tennessee Central Railway Museum, in order to restore No. 576 to operating condition and then to use it for excursions on the Nashville and Eastern Railroad.

576 & Cash Life magRailroading and country music, of course, have a long history together.  Life Magazine even did a cover photo of Johnny Cash leaning on the drivers of No. 576; the NSPS has a print for sale in their Company Store (see right); it’s also available on a T-shirt and coffee mug.

The whole restoration project caught the imagination of Marty Stuart and bandmate Harry Stinson.  They even came up with a name for the locomotive, the ‘Duchess’.  Originally the J3s were known as ‘Yellowjackets’, because of a yellow band down the sides; after that got reduced to a thin line, they were called ‘Stripes’.  But why not The Dutchess, ‘Queen of the Dixie Line’?  Has a nice ring to it.  From the NSPS website, quoting Marty:

“Harry and I both have a long history with this train, as do so many others. Johnny Cash was photographed for LIFE Magazine in front of it, and that guitar he’s holding is now one of my prized possessions. When you think about the soldiers that rode behind this engine to war, or the folks who traveled on it to Memphis and Atlanta, or the kids who dreamed about great adventures while climbing on it in the park – that’s why we wrote this song,” Stuart said. “We call her The Duchess, and she deserves to be honored. I offered myself to the Nashville Steam organization to let me be the hood ornament on the front of this campaign, and I’ll help any way I can to raise the funds and get her rolling again.”

Here are Marty and Harry:

There’s lots more information and videos on the NSPS website.  The restoration of No. 576 is a large and expensive project.  They estimate it will take about two million dollars;  they’ve raised about a quarter of that, so there’s still a long way to go.  Marty and Harry’s song will doubtless help.  You can download it HERE.  They’re asking $5.76 (of course) for the download, and they won’t object if you add a few bucks.  If you’re like me, you’ll want to see that engine running under steam before too long.  Watching it run would be a good excuse to go to Nashville!

Oh, and here’s the song:

Hat tip to ‘jh’ on the Mac Resource Forum.   /CL


Harvard Football vs. HAH: Call It a Draw

Harvard AthleticsWHRB Sports is asking for only 15 minutes before the games, so most Saturdays this fall we’ll be going until 12:45 PM.  Can’t complain.  The two games in September will not affect HAH.  The Penn game is scheduled to start at noon, so we’ll be ending at day at 11:45 AM.  Surprisingly, game time for the Yale game has not yet been determined.  Usually we have to end early for The Game; will update this post when I learn more.  /CL

  • Sat, 21 Sep:  at San Diego: Game 4:00 PM; no effect on HAH
  • Fri, 27 Sep: vs Brown: Game 7:00 PM; no effect on HAH
  • Sat, 5 Oct: vs Howard; Game 1:00 PM HAH ends 12:45 PM
  • Sat, 12 Oct: vs Cornell; Game 1:00 PM; HAH ends 12:45 PM
  • Sat, 19 Oct: at Holy Cross; Game 1:00 PM; HAH ends 12:45 PM
  • Sat, 26 Oct: at Princeton; Game 1:00 PM; HAH ends 12:45 PM
  • Sat, 2 Nov: vs Dartmouth; Game 1:00 PM; HAH ends 12:45 PM
  • Sat, 9 Nov: at Columbia; Game 1:00 PM; HAH ends 12:45 PM
  • Sat, 16 Nov: vs Penn; Game 12:00 noon; HAH ends 11:45 PM
  • Sat, 23 Nov: at Yale; Game TBA; HAH ends TBA (Yale game)

Photos from the Jenny Brook Bluegrass Festival

I don’t get to many festivals, as the biggest day is always Saturday, and I have radio business then.  But I did arrange for a pre-recorded Hillbilly at Harvard on June 29th, so Dr Janie and I took the Green Expy and our little molded-fiberglass Casita travel trailer (click that link for the tale of the Casita) up to tiny Tunbridge, Vermont for what proved to be a delightful four days, marred only by a nasty thunderstorm that curtailed the Saturday evening showcase for The Earls of Leicester midway through their set.  But that was exciting, too.

Following are some photos from the Festival, a ‘slide show’ of sorts.  I used my aging Canon Rebel T2i and Tamron 18-270 zoom lens.  The photos here are reduced for bandwidth, but full-resolution versions are available on Flickr, HERE.

We arrived Thursday evening in time for The Malpass Brothers, who of course don’t play bluegrass.  But they do play traditional, honky-tonk country music, of the kind you don’t hear on the commercial bro-country stations any more, and that appeals to a lot of bluegrass-country fans, like me.  Their set was mostly covers, though they do write and play originals as well.  The Brothers are Christopher and Taylor Malpass.  I don’t have the names of the rest of the band at Jenny Brook, but if I find them, I’ll add them here.

Click on one photo to see larger photos in sequence.  High-res versions are in Flickr.

From northern New York state, Beartracks, originally founded by the late Junior Barber, consists of siblings Julie Hogan, bass, and Tom Venn, guitar; plus Harry Ralph, fiddle; and Steve Light, banjo.  Missed most of their dinner-time set, and then unfortunately on Friday, too, but did get a few photos:

Click on one photo to see large photos in sequence.  High-res versions are in Flickr.

If you’ve been following the radio show, and this blog, you’ll recognize Rock Hearts: see ‘Rhode Island’s Best-Kept Secret?’ and ‘The 2019 Joe Val Festival—Photos!’   They played live in sumptuous Studio B in February, before they appeared at the JVF.  Rock Hearts are: Alex McCloud, guitar; Billy Thibodeau, mandolin; Joe Deetz, banjo; Danny Musher, fiddle; and [didn’t get his name], bass (replacing Pete Kelly, who had to leave for personal reasons).

Click on one photo to see large photos in sequence.  High-res versions are in Flickr.

The Feinberg Brothers were new to me.  From Long Island, NY, they have an urban feel, being both well-dressed and well-rehearsed.  But they’re a family band that plays straight-ahead bluegrass with finesse and powerful vocals.  They are: Rourke Feinberg, fiddle; Patrick Feinberg, mandolin; Ronnie Feinberg (their father), guitar; Terry McGill, banjo; and Pete Elegant, bass.

Click on one photo to see large photos in sequence.  High-res versions are in Flickr.

On the way back across the river to the ‘boondocking’ field where we were camped, we stopped for a minute at the Sugar House Stage, dedicated to late-evening jamming, where the Po’ Ramblin’ Boys (with Laura Orshaw on fiddle) were holding forth.  More photos of the Po’s later, but here are a couple:

Friday morning we got a chance to listen to Vermont-based Beg, Steal or Borrow; I had heard the name, but never the band.  They were quite a revelation, with one fascinating new song after another, with excellent songwriting, backed up with inventive but still traditional picking and singing.  I’ve been playing their new (and first) album, called Old Mountain Time, on HAH, and highly recommend it.  Beg, Steal or Borrow (no Oxford comma) are: Jeremy Sicely, guitar; Geoff Goodhue, mandolin; Roland Clark, violin; Fran Forim, bass; and Luke Auriemmo, banjo.

Click on one photo to see large photos in sequence.  High-res versions are in Flickr.

We heard a little bit of The Price Sisters, but then got up to take a walk around the festival fairgrounds and the high street (it is higher than the fairgrounds).  I must admit I haven’t played the Price Sisters’ first Rebel album much, because while they sing beautifully, I find their harmonies quite outside of the country tradition.  Obviously, many fans don’t agree with me.  The sisters are twins, but wear their hair and dress differently: Lauren plays mandolin; Leanna plays fiddle.  Others in their band are Scott Napier (guitar); Bobby Osborne, Jr, bass.; and Lincoln Hensley, banjo.

Click on one photo to see large photos in sequence.  High-res versions are in Flickr.

Musical intermission:  We walked around, admiring the many varieties of trailers and motor homes, not to mention tents, crammed into every available space.  The first photo features a Casita like ours on the right, and a small, vintage Airstream on the left.  Then a potpourri of RVs, from a pop-up trailer to a couple of large buses:

Click on one photo to see large photos in sequence.  High-res versions are in Flickr.

Here’s the historical marker describing the Tunbridge World’s Fair, held annually, and the 1839 Tunbridge Church from both back (visible from the fairgrounds) and front (from the high street):

Click on one photo to see large photos in sequence.  High-res versions are in Flickr.

It was a hot day, so the river afforded many some cool relief:


Back to music: Old friend Jim Rooney was at the festival.  Turns out he lives only a few minutes drive away.  He was hanging out with some local radio folks, but he was also enticed to play some music with Beg, Steal or Borrow at the ancillary Weston Stage in the afternoon.  It’s a nice, up-close-and-personal venue; here are a few shots:

Click on one photo to see large photos in sequence.  High-res versions are in Flickr.

That’s Michelle Canning, at the end of that sequence, doing the MC work at the Weston Stage.  Once she remembered me, she gave me a copy of her new album, The Next Eleven Miles, which I’ve been playing on HAH.

Some campside pickin’:

Click on one photo to see large photos in sequence.  High-res versions are in Flickr.

Back at the Main Stage: The Larry Stephenson Band held forth, after the dinner break.  I’ve always been a fan of Larry, ever since he added high tenor harmony to Bill Harrell‘s mellow, friendly voice. Larry was actually in our studio at WHRB, which he remembered with some prompting—it was a long time ago.  When he cuts loose, it is quite an experience, as when he undertook a requested ‘Muleskinner Blues’.  The band: Larry Stephenson, mandolin; Nick Dauphinais, guitar; Derek Vaden, banjo; Eddie Faris, bass.

Click on one photo to see large photos in sequence.  High-res versions are in Flickr.

Then it was time for the Po’ Ramblin’ Boys.  I saw them at the Joe Val Festival in 2018.  They play hard-core, three-chord, honky-tonk bluegrass.   They have a new album due out on Rounder this fall.  C.J. Lewandowski, mandolin; Jerome Brown, banjo; Josh Rinkel, guitar; Jasper Lorentzen, bass.  Also touring with the band: Boston’s own Laura Orshaw, on fiddle.

Click on one photo to see large photos in sequence.  High-res versions are in Flickr.

Friday evening closed with old favorites The Gibson Brothers.   They were of course at Joe Val in 2018 and this year (check out all the photos from those festivals at the links), and they’ve appeared live on HAH at least a couple of times in the past.  Eric and Leigh joked a lot about their mother coming to the Festival on Saturday (but I missed their Saturday set).  They played with their usual alacrity, Eric Gibson on (mostly) banjo, Leigh Gibson on guitar, joined by long-time comrade in musical arms, Mike Barber, bass; and Justin Moses, mandolin and Dobro.

Click on one photo to see large photos in sequence.  High-res versions are in Flickr.

Saturday morning I caught a little of Carol Hausner and Mark Struhsacker, a Vermont-based duet playing old-time Appalachian songs with a gentle spirit that belied their adept singing and playing.

Click on one photo to see large photos in sequence.  High-res versions are in Flickr.

It took Carolina Blue to wake me up.  They’re playing original songs in the traditional Carolina mountain style, and they’re doing it right.  I missed them at Joe Val in February, so it was a treat to get acquainted with them this Saturday.  I’m playing their new album, I Hear Bluegrass Calling Me, from Pinecastle Records.  They are: Bobby Powell, guitar; Timmy Jones, mandolin; Reese Combs, bass; James McDowell, banjo (who looks like a young Don Stover); and Aynsley Porchak, fiddle (wearing a ‘pillbox’ hat that reminded Dr Janie of those ladies used to wear to church).

Click on one photo to see large photos in sequence.  High-res versions are in Flickr.

Darin and Brooke Aldridge are husband and wife.  Brooke is the two-time reigning IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year, and deservedly so.  Her rendition of ‘Wayfaring Stranger’ just blew me away—maybe it’ll be on the Aldridges’ forthcoming Rounder album.  On stage with Darin on guitar and Brooke on mandolin were Carley Arrowood, fiddle; Billy Gee, bass; and someone on banjo and second guitar, whose name I can’t find.

Click on one photo to see large photos in sequence.  High-res versions are in Flickr.

More travel trailers, anyone?  Here’s a wooden ‘tearbox’ camper, probably home-made.  Also a Casita like ours, from an earlier year; a Trillium molded fiberglass trailer, from Quebec, maybe 30 or 40 years old; an A-Liner fold-up, belonging to our neighbor in the field across the river (she could easily open and fold it by herself); a nicely-decorated vintage no-name (the owner said they were sunflowers, but they looked to us more like potatoes); and a old-style Airstream (kids were playing in it, but the grown-ups were out, so I couldn’t ask the year).

Click on one photo to see large photos in sequence.  High-res versions are in Flickr.

How about some lunch?

Click on one photo to see large photos in sequence.  High-res versions are in Flickr.

Back at the Main Stage, to encounter an unexpected treat: a quartet with the improbable name of Sailor Street.  They are Tim Stafford, one of the founding members of Blue Highway; Tim Shelton, a founding member of NewFound Road; and Heidi and Ryan Greer, a gospel duo from Kentucky.  Heidi plays fiddle; in this group, Ryan is playing bass:

Click on one photo to see large photos in sequence.  High-res versions are in Flickr.

The Jenny Brook Festival booklet writes, “The members of Sailor Street are a mutual admiration society of sorts, and the live show features original songs and classic tunes.  The band’s live show is influenced by artists like Emmylou Harris of the late ’70s and Tony Rice circa mid-’80s.”  This ‘Demo Reel’ from their website demonstrates it nicely:

If they’re playing where you are, you’ll get music like that.

More festival scenes: Campside picking, restrooms, and folks congregating under darkening skies for the Saturday evening main event:

Click on one photo to see large photos in sequence.  High-res versions are in Flickr.

The Earls of Leicester were the featured show, and they got off to a rousing good start.  They are of course celebrating, and resurrecting, the music of Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs, and the Foggy Mountain Boys, and Lord knows they bring it all back to life.  Shawn Camp, guitar; Charlie Cushman, banjo; Johnny Warren, fiddle (son of Paul Warren, who worked for years for Lester and Earl); Jeff White, mandolin; Barry Bales, bass; and Jerry Douglas, Dobro.

Click on one photo to see large photos in sequence.  High-res versions are in Flickr.

But about midway through their show, the clouds grew darker and ominous, and distant rumbles of thunder grew louder. . .

Rain fell, lightning flashed, and The Earls wisely said goodnight.  We all headed for shelter.  Word was there would be some jammin’ at a building called the Pavilion, so some of us ran there.  It was a large, reverberant space; with the thunder and the rain pelting the tin roof, it was hard to hear anything.  But one young lady with mandolin in hand took control, and got an impromptu jam going:

We could hear her clearly over the din.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get her name, but with her commanding presence, I reckon she’ll have a future in this music.

Sunday dawned bright and calm.  At the Vendors’ tent, Mike and Mary Robinson held a service and sing-along:

Click on one photo to see large photos in sequence.  High-res versions are in Flickr.

And then we were treated to a ‘tent show’ concert by Carolina Blue, playing a great selection of bluegrass gospel songs:

Click on one photo to see large photos in sequence.  High-res versions are in Flickr.

And finally, another ‘tent concert’ from Dreamcatcher, a young ensemble, all students from East Tennessee State University, including Aaron ‘Frosty’ Foster, guitar; Eli Gilbert, banjo; Max Silverstein, fiddle; Grace Gilbert, bass; and Jordan Roberson, Dobro.  They were joined by Tony Watt and Laura Orshaw, from the Boston-Cambridge area.  It was a lively and entertaining informal finale to a weekend of great music.

Click on one photo to see large photos in sequence.  High-res versions are in Flickr.

Thanks to Candi Sawyer for the opportunity to hang out at the festival and get some photos.  It was a lot of fun, and definitely worth taking a Saturday off from the radio show.  I didn’t see all the bands at the festival, of course; my main regret was missing Candi and Seth in the Seth Sawyer Band.  But we did see them last spring at a BBU show in Lexington, and I’m sure we’ll catch them again.

Please feel free to correct errors in the Comments.

Dr Janie and I headed south by way of White River Junction, where there was reported to be a railroad museum.  But it’s out of business.  Still, there was some interesting activity at the Amtrak Station there, which I’ll have to write about—but not here.  /CL

Not to Mention the old Shade Tree. . .

Jalopnik news item of interest to some of us:

Sacramento County Says It’s Illegal to Work on Your Own Car in Your Own Garage

Jason Torchinsky

There’s an interesting discussion happening over at the Grassroots Motorsports forum right now, and presumably at many other places off-line. It’s about laws in Sacramento County stating, essentially, that almost any auto repair you do on your property is illegal. . .

The code states that conducting “minor vehicle repair” or “minor automotive repair” is legal at a residence, and defines “minor automotive repair” as:

Brake part replacement

Minor tune-ups

Change of oil and filter

Repair of flat tires


Other similar operations

And while you can do those things at residences. . .

. . . it is unlawful for any person to engage in, or permit others to engage in, minor vehicle repair or maintenance in any agricultural, agricultural-residential, residential, interim estate and interim residential zones under any of the following circumstances:

1. Using tools not normally found in a residence;

2. Conducted on vehicles registered to persons, not currently residing on the lot or parcel;

3. Conducted outside a fully enclosed garage and resulting in any vehicle being inoperable for a period in excess of twenty-four hours.

Here we have some issues. How exactly do you define “tools not normally found in a residence?” A socket set? A torque wrench? A brake drum puller? This feels like a rule that’s dangerously open to interpretation with pretty minimal supporting evidence.

Number two is clearly there to prevent people from running off-the-books repair shops, but what if you’re working on a friend’s car? And number three means you can’t do anything unless you have an actual garage, and whatever you’re doing you better get it all wrapped up inside of one day, which, as most of us who’ve dealt with one stubborn, time-sucking, hard-to-reach bolt know, is not always possible. . .

Read the whole thing.  Even when I did something as minor as an oil change, I always used the side yard or the driveway; there was never room in the garage.  I do remember using the garage to adjust the valves on my little ’81 Toyota Corolla wagon.  Is a feeler gauge a tool “normally found in a residence”?

I know that modern automobiles, with all their computerized gizmos, are increasingly hard for the average owner to work on.  But there is still a lot that the mechanically-inclined can do.  Last I heard, my brother was still doing brake jobs in his driveway.  Fortunately, he doesn’t live in Sacramento.  But California claims to lead the nation, and I guess they do, if you count obsessive regulation.  Lots of home-owners’ associations already forbid more than Sacramento does.  So is the Shade-Tree Fix-it Man doomed?

Don’t tell Merle Haggard:

[Hat tip Instapundit.  Also posted on Walking Creek World.] /CL

Pickin’ on Ninnies


Hank Snow (P.D. via Wikipedia)

Saturday a listener named Liz posted a comment on the Paper and Pen page. I was going to respond there, but then decided that the question was important enough to merit a post. Liz wrote:

“When the pickaninnies pick the cotton” eh?
I will not try to figure out why anyone would play those Lyrics on the radio in this day and age.
Hank Snow, “Peach Picking Time in Georgia” from your
July 6, 2019 show


Jimmie Rodgers (P.D. via Wikipedia)

Liz has a point, given present-day sensitivities. Yet Hillbilly at Harvard is a program that samples nearly 100 years of country music, and tries to be faithful to its historical contexts. It is inevitable that words and phrases once current but no longer common or innocuous will turn up. Jimmie Rodgers recorded ’Peach-Pickin’ Time Down in Georgia’ in 1932, in the depths of the Depression, and near the end of his short life (truncated by tuberculosis). Jimmie was riding a crest of popularity spurred by the spread of phonographs and radios across the land, and a large part of his appeal was his synthesis of white ‘western’ styles with the black blues. While his recordings were not marketed as ‘race records’, it is very unlikely that he would have recorded a song that might offend his black listeners on radio.

Bill Monroe Sings Country SongsThe song has been covered many times by many musicians. Bill Monroe’s version from 1964 uses Jimmie Rodgers’s original lyrics. The Hank Snow version I played was from a 1969 album, though he may have recorded it earlier. That same year, the much younger Merle Haggard (in his wonderful double-LP tribute to Jimmie Rodgers, Same Train, Different Time) changed the line to, “When all the pickers [are?] picking the cotton, that’s when I’ll pick a wedding ring.” He changed it again in his Peer Sessions CD album in 2002: “Now after I’ve picked all my cotton, I’ll pick a wedding ring.” Same song, different times, but I don’t think Merle would have had us stop playing the original. The history is important; indeed it is essential.


Merle Haggard, 1971 (P.D., via Wikipedia)

If you look up ‘pickaninny’ in Wikipedia, you’ll find that it’s derived from a Portuguese term meaning ‘something small’, and came to be used, in the English-speaking world, of small children, and in the American South more particularly of black children. Historically it was not a slur, but was also used affectionately, among both blacks and whites. That it accrued a disparaging sense in some elements of American popular culture is an unfortunate consequence of the Jim Crow era, but I don’t think Jimmie Rodgers, who spent all his life with both white and black railroad men and musicians, would have entertained any negative connotations. Children, of course, did still pick cotton in those days, but I expect the great singer and songwriter, latterly known as ‘The Father of Country Music’, liked the alliteration even more. /CL