Wednesday, December 2, 2015
Thursday, October 22, 2015
Monroe was the founding father of this new musical form. He was heard each week on the Grand Ole Opry so the Blue Grass Boys was a natural choice for aspiring musicians. After a short tenure these musicians would break out on their own and many are the established bluegrass bands of today.
Living on the road has never been easy. In the 50's there were no interstate highways. Bands usually traveled in cars or station wagons loaded with all the gear, instruments, clothes, a PA set and all the band members. Needless to say the life was hard and led to a constant turnover of musicians, but with this constant supply of new entertainers came a constant supply of energetic new ideas. Each new man coming into a group would bring new blood into a musical form that had been defined less than ten years before.
One individual who made lasting contributions to bluegrass music and unfortunately didn't live to reap the harvest of his contributions was Edd Mayfield. In a recent conversation with Doug Green (A former Blue Grass Boy and now with Riders in the Sky) he called Edd "The Mystery Man". Edd's time was limited but in his three short terms with Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys he managed to record twenty songs before being stricken with acute leukemia. His style of guitar playing and lead singing had been seldom-if ever-equaled.
Thomas Edward Mayfield was born April 12, 1926 on a ranch near Dawn, Texas, some 30 miles southwest of Amarillo. The Mayfields were a family who knew the meaning of the word work, they ranched 67 sections of grass (a section being 640 acres)
Neppie (Short for Penelope) and W.F.Mayfield raised two girls and six boys, Libby Ruth, Mary Lorena, Ruben, Rufus, James, Herb Arlie (Smokey) and Thomas Edward. From the time the kids were old enough to hold an instrument they had the opportunity and were encouraged to play music. There mother played the guitar in a finger style and their father played the fiddle. The Mayfield home was a constant source of musical entertainment. The children learned a variety of break-downs, waltzes, hornpipes and other early country music.
Herb recalls "I can remember Smokey sawing on Pa's old fiddle. He was about five years old I think and was too small the hold the fiddle, so he would stand and prop it against the wall and his chest. To this day he holds the fiddle between his hand and his elbow.
Young Edd or Thomas as he was called until after high school, first learned to chord the mandolin. When he was large enough to reach the neck he moved to the guitar.
In the early 30's the Mayfield family met a young musician named Arnold Geiger who was to leave a lasting impression on the family's music. Arnold's father was a depot agent for the Santa Fe Railroad and had just moved to Dawn when the Mayfield family met him. Herb remembers, "This boy was a musician, so we just invited him out to the house to play. He was around 20 years old and made some runs on the guitar that we hadn't heard before. That was before we heard Monroe or anyone else'..From that time young Edd took the many runs he had learned from Geiger and expanded on them. Herb recalls "We moved to Dimmitt, Texas in 1932 and with nothing much happening except that the family got their first radio in 1934 and we were fortunate enough to get the Grand Ole Opry. We heard Bill and Charlie Monroe and later the Blue Grass Boys and were really excited over what we heard."
When they moved to Dimmitt, the Mayfields moved onto a two and one-half section farm where they raised dry land wheat and ran about a hundred head of Black Angus cattle. During the summer the boys would spend time riding pastures, checking for sick cattle and mending fences. "You leave the ranch house on horseback before daylight' Smokey recalls, "You'd ride all day and may not make it back to your camp by dark, so you'd ride to one of the line shacks, stay overnight then ride all the next day before you got back to your camp." Winter time would find them hitching a team of mules, loading the wagon with cottonseed cake to feed the cattle.
The Mayfield boys, like all eager young musicians, practiced every free moment. Many times they would race to the house, dead tired from work in the fields, just to get a few extra minutes of playing before a meal or beginning the daily evening chores.
The boys were also active in high school sports. Edd was on the first team from Dimmitt to go to the Texas State Basketball Championship. As the boy graduated high school they were inducted into service.
Herb recalls, "During the second Word War, four of us were inducted into the service. Two in the Pacific and two in Europe. All the way through the War, Edd carried his guitar. We all came through it OK, along with Edd's guitar."
Soon after he got out of service, Edd began dating a young lady, Jo Laverne McLain, "The first song Edd sang for me was 'Footprints In The Snow', " Jody remembers, "Edd always said his favorite songs were 'Footprints In The Snow' and 'Uncle Pen.'"
Jody and Edd were married in 1948 and two years later became the parents of their first son , Freddy.
While in service, Edd met Bill Myrick from Monroe, Louisiana. He had booked some shows for Bill Monroe and was acquainted with Horace Logan at the Louisiana Hayride. Bill Myrick asked the Mayfield Brothers to come down and arranged an audition for the saturday night show. They played two weekends on the Louisiana Hayride then made a deal with KSEL radio in Lubbock, Texas, where they would work a live show each week.
At the time the band consisted of Herb on the mandolin, Bill Myrick on the guitar, Smokey playing the fiddle, and Edd on the other guitar. (There were very few if any five-string banjos in the area at the time.) They worked the KSEL Jamboree for about a year and during that time they first met Bill Monroe. Bill Myrick arranged to book the Mayfield Brothers on several double-header shows with Bill Monroe. Herb remembers the meeting, "We did the old song 'Keep On The Firing Line' on the show and Monroe came around the show and said that was the best rendition of that song he'd ever heard. That gave us alot of enthusiasm and that's where we got acquainted with Monroe." Not long after that meeting Edd contacted Monroe and inquired about a job.
Recently I asked Bill about Edd Mayfield and the first time they met. "I believe we were in Texas and him (Edd) and his two brothers Smokey and Herb and came by and they talk with us some. I believe later on, that Edd may have stayed in touch with me and come up here to Bean Blossom for a while. Birch was here and they had a group here. I can't remember who was in the group but anyhow he hung on here til I needed him in the Blue Grass group. Then he moved to Nashville, he moved his wife and two boys and lived out on the farm where we live."
Joe Drumwright remembers Edd's audition. "I was there when Edd tried out. Bill called me up to the hotel and said I have a fellow up here and I'd like to try him out. So I walked in and there that ole boy with that big Texas hat, and that big Gibson guitar and a thumbpick. I thought what kind of turkey is this, until, I played about two tunes with him. He was great. You couldn't get him out of time and he played some of the best backing notes you ever heard in your life. Edd was way ahead of his time. There wasn't anyone even close to him back then. He big ole strong hands and could chord a guitar all day."
Edd got the job and on October 28, 1951, he did his first recording session as a Blue Grass Boy. "The First Whippoorwill" and "Christmas Times A-Coming" have both became standards in bluegrass. Those who listen close to his voice on these recording will note a difference in his voice compared to later recordings. This was due to Edd having a very bad cold that day. Gordon Terry was on that first session and remembers, "I was with Bill when Edd first came to work. He was a good boy. I think he was one of the best guitar players and lead singers that Bill had. He sure had a high voice, Bill couldn't get them to high for him. He had a little different guitar style. Most guitar players before then had been kinda the same style but Edd was a really good guitar player for Bill's type of stuff. And at that time coming from Texas was kind of unheard of for bluegrass."
Edd worked until early 1952 then he returned to Texas. Herb says. "He worked on different cattle ranches around, but we still managed a few show dates as the Green Valley Boys.
In early 1953 Edd returned to work with Monroe, this time he went to Bean Blossom to live. Jimmy Martin was playing guitar with the Blue Grass Boys so Edd and his wife Jody and son Freddy moved to Bean Blossom where he was a part of the band that played each weekend.
In March, Edd and Jody became proud parents of another son. "Carl was born in March and the snow was so deep" Jody recalls, "Edd carried me home from the hospital in knee deep snow.' Not long after Carl was born Jimmy Martin left the Blue Grass Boys and Edd replaced him. In June of 1954 he again recorded with Monroe. "My Little Georgia Rose. (a second version of the song for Decca) "Close By" and "Put My Little Shoes Away" were cut. Later that year in September he worked the session where "Blue Moon of Kentucky" was re-recorded. In the late autumn again he decided to go back to Texas. This time he worked for the rodeo producer, Morris Stevens.
Steven provided rodeo stock for all the major rodeos in the Texas Panhandle, New Mexico and Oklahoma area. Edd became a full time rodeo hand and contestant.
But the longing to play music was too strong. In early 1958 he returned to Nashville. He recorded the gospel album "I Saw The Light" during February and March and in April 1958 recorded the two classic instrumentals "Scotland" and Panhandle Country". (The latter is played in C chord. Edd capo-ed down three frets and played the break in A to get a better tone.)
I asked several former Blue Grass Boys about Edd. "Edd was a very pleasant fellow and very much a man," Kenny Baker responded. "He played a mighty strong guitar."
"What I will always remember most about Edd is his quiet nature,: recalled Merle "Red" Taylor, "He was always a friend to everyone. Among other things he was a real Texas cowboy. He could ride and rope cattle with the best of them. I think Edd Mayfield stood just as high with Bill Monroe singing as any man who ever sung with him."
James Monroe remembers, "I used to get Edd to pitch baseball with me. They would come in off the road dead tired, but Edd would always take tome to play ball. He was a stout man too. He could climb a rope with out using his feet. He was powerful."
In a recent show at Bean Blossom I talked to Bill Monroe about Edd Mayfield.
"Well Edd was a good man and he was a good guitar man, a good singer." I asked if he added anything to bluegrass. "Yes, Sir, he did. He played a great part in bluegrass when he came in there with me. He was wonderful in the quartet and our duets together. Yes, Sir, I thought a lot of Edd, he was great on that quartet album, 'I Saw The Light.'"
I asked Bill if he's had any guitar men who played the way Edd did. "No, Sir. He had his own style and was really good with it. Edd was a strong man, he helped me move a house there on the farm. He was really stout."
"You Know the old time way of digging post holes, he could really dig a post hole. He could ride a horse and lasso any kind of cow or calf. One time they seen him go over the bank here on his horse--the horse was named Pal. He named that horse after, 'Goodbye Old Pal.' So they seen him go over the hill running that bull. So when they all went over that hill to see what went on, they didn't know what happened. They went down to where he was. The bull was laying down, Edd had throw ed him and tied him and was standing up there by Pal. Pal was right there with him."
Bill spoke of the last trip that Edd took: "We left Nashville one time from the farm. I could tell he was looking bad. He didn't look good. We went on to Pulaski, Virginia. We went to a hospital and they couldn't take him in there someway. I don't know why, We went on into Bluefield and I took him to see a doctor there. So, then they come back to me and told me he had about three days to live, I went to calling his people, got his wife to come on up from Nashville. I stayed with him all the way.
He was a fellow who really loved watermelon and I asked him what he'd like to have that day and he said 'some watermelon.' So I went and got him some watermelon and brought it back to him. He went to eating some and like it and I told him that watermelon was from Kentucky. You know we used to kid each other about Kentucky and Texas. I told him that that watermelon was from Kentucky, he laughed and said, "That's the best kind, ain't it!" When his wife and boys got there , he got to speak to his sons I think and told them, "You are going to have to let me rest.' He focused his eyes up there on the wall in the corner and he just stayed right there. I'd say in fifteen or twenty minutes he was gone. I guess Edd really loved Texas. They buried him in Texas--Dimmit, Texas.
"Edd was the kind of man who loved mother nature, that's what I've always loved and he really loved mother nature. Its a shame that he had to leave so young.'
Edd Mayfield passed away July 7, 1958 at the age of 32. Merle "Red" Taylor's words say it all, "We lost a great friend in Edd Mayfield, but his life and music will remain in all our memories forever."
Written By Doug Hutchens and Reprinted by Permission of Blue Grass Unlimited. pp.26-30 August 1983
Thursday, May 17, 2012
Thanks for being my friend..... Still remember you playing "Sleeping at the Foot of the Bed" on the Andy Griffith, Don Knott, Jim Neighbors TV Special....told you about it several times and you all ways grinned... And Kenny Baker talking about you following him on the banjo playing fiddle tunes....He said it time and time again...."that Dillard Boy could get it"......Again you grinned.
I told you time and time again...I love you man.....tonight I miss you Man......and I always will.
Rest Easy Doug Dillard
I love you
Soon those who are interested can come back here soon and hear an interview I did with Doug in 1990.....It was a pleasure then and I consider it an honor to pass it along.......
Sunday, April 8, 2012
Yesterday afternoon Uncle Eustaces' family did a birthday supper for Mom (Lillian Hutchens) and Aunt Lou (Lou Hutchens) They are sisters. Mom's birthday was friday and she was 88 and Aunt Lou's will be 90 on Monday .
Many neighbors and family members were able to attend....It was a great afternoon of fellowship, friends and food.
Thursday, March 29, 2012
Here is a link to an interview I did with Earl on Halloween night 1989 in his home in Madison Tennessee.
Scroll down the page and you will see: The Doug Hutchens and Earl Scruggs Interview Track 01 -- 15 where he talked about a variety of things and I played music before and after each segment. Somehow track 15 is so appropriate today.....
I don't think you have to be a member to listen, but if you do its free and I think you will find it worthwhile.
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Bill’s words from July 27th 1971 gave me the best of both worlds.
Billy Rose was playing bass but wanted the job that Vic Jordan was leaving with Jim and Jesse. Billy had talked to Jesse earlier in the week and thought he had the job. So he was going to turn his notice into Bill that night.
Tater and Blake took care of much of the band hiring etc at that time like Kenny Baker had done in the past and they ask Billy not to say anything to Bill until after the TV portion (Bill’s health was fragile at that time) of the show, knowing that it might upset Bill.
I had gone down to the backstage of the Opry that night and as I came through the back door I ran into Tater he asked "Are you still interested in working with us again?" He had heard Bill and I talking a few times about me returning....and he wanted someone in the band that could drive the bus. I said sure. He told me that Billy was going to turn in his notice to Bill after the TV portion and that if I wanted the job it would make things much easier because Bill would not get as upset in loosing a band member.
I walked around the corner and ran into Blake. He said "Do you know what's going on" I told him I had just talked to Tater.
So I was going back and be a member of Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys. I was thrilled.
Hal Durham and Grant Turner presenting Bill with a Special Mandolin that the Grand Ole Opry had comissioned for him. It had a carving of his head on the peghead.
The TV portion came off well and about the time they took their instruments in the dressing room Jimmy Campbell's wife at that time, Andrea came through the back door in a rush asking where Billy was. We looked around and he and Bill were both gone. Someone said I think he's gone to turn in his notice. She said we’ve got to catch him. Her husband Jimmy was playing fiddle with Jim & Jesse and had heard them talking as they drove up the interstate. Jim had hired Raymond McClain the day before Jesse had hired Billy with out Jesse knowing it. Jimmy knowing what Billy's plans were had called back to let him know what was happening, because if he turned in his notice Bill might not have him back.
The long and the short, she caught Billy and I became probably the only guy to get the job and loose the job while never playing a single note.