Old Time Mandolin Music


Here are a few representative OTM Mando players (old and new).  Please forgive me for any oversights or omissions.  Please send suggestions to Paul at paul@oldtimemandolinmusic.com.

Adam Tanner - Adam is a fine mandolin and fiddler player who is an adjunct member of the Crooked Jades.  Adam’s website features a video of Adam playing Shortnin’ Bread on the mandolin.

Bill Foss - Bill is an excellent and versatile mandolin player based in California.  Bill does it all: Early Jazz, Rags, Blues, OTM.  Bill is currently playing with at least three bands: the Knuckle Knockers (OTM) and Axelrod, Cary, and Foss (Rags and Blues), and Duo Pizzicato (Italian).

Bertram Levy - Bertram played OTM with the Hollow Rock String Band in the 60’s.  Hollow Rock String Band featured Alan Jabbour on fiddle.  Bertram is mult-instrumentalist.

Brian Ray - Brian is a mandolin player from Madison, WI playing Old Time tunes in a mando/fiddle duo called The Briarpickers.

Caleb Klauder - Caleb plays OTMM with the Portland based Foghorn Stringband.  Caleb moonlights as Honky Tonk Country singer.  

Carl Jones - OTMM player married to and tours with the most fine OTM fiddler Erynn Marshall.  Carl played on Norman Blakes most excellent mandolin oriented Round LP "Norman Blake - Original Underground Music from the Mysterious South - The Rising Fawn String Ensemble" - 1982 on Rounder Records 0166.  Oh those were the days when Rounder was committed to real music and not driven by corporate lust.  It's a sad testament to the children of the 60's that they sell such a rich musical legacy to another big music corporation.  Ok I'll get off my soap-box.  Oh yeah you can get most of the Rounder old catalog on Amazon through their on demand service.  The prices are a bit steep but the must is worth it.  Of coure you can look for it used.  All the music from the Original Underground Music from the Mysterious South plus more mandolin music is available on the Norman Blake's Rounder CD titled Natasha's Waltz.  "Go crazy Ostrusko"

Cary Lung - Cary plays OTMM with Seattle based string band Red Dog.  Cary group in the California’s central valley (The Big Valley) and played with Kenny Hall and the Sweet Mills string band.

Charlie McCoy - Papa” Charlie is one of the three most important early blues mandolin players along with Yank Rachell and Johnny Young.  Charlie played Blues, Jug and other string band music mostly recorded in late 1920’s through the 1940’s with his brother Kansas Joe McCoy and a variety of other musicians and bands.  Charlie was also a fine guitar player.

Clyde Curley - Tone, touch, and timing.  The three T’s along with an uncanny knack for picking great OTM tunes to create some of the coolest OTM ever played on a mandolin.  Clyde has worked with Susan Songer to create The Portland Collection tunes books.

Coley Jones - Fiddler and mandolinist Coley Jones along with Sam Harris on guitar and Marco Washington on Bass were Coley Jones and the Dallas String Band.  Fine blues/rag mandolin playing by Coley Jones.  Dallas Rag has been covered by many contemporary mandolin players including Curtis Buckhanon (Buckhanon Brothers), New Lost City Ramblers, Skip Gorman, Tom Marion (Bo Grumpus).

Corbin Pagter - Corbin plays with The Mt. Diablo String Band which includes Sweet Mills String Band Alum Harry Liedstrand.

Curtis Buckhannon - Curtis plays OTM with The Buckhannon Brothers and the now defunct IL-MO Boys.  Curtis’ tremolo is as smooth as butter.

Dennis Pash - Dennis is fine mandolin player who specializes in rags and cakewalks, and is currently a member of the Ragtime Skedaddlers.  The Ragtime Skedaddlers are ragtime stringband feature two mandolins!  Excellent tunes and great mandolin playing.  We need more Ragtime Stringband Music!  Dennis was also a member of the defunct The Etcetera Stringband.  

Ellen Vigour - Ellen play’s rhythm OT mandolin with her husband Pete Vigour in Uncle Henry’s Favorites.  An under appreciated job, OT rhythm mandolin, Ellen does a fine job of demonstrating how to do it well.

Howard Armstrong - Howard played fiddle, mandolin, and guitar with string bands like The Tennessee Chocolate Drops and Martin, Bogan, and the Armstrongs.  Howard’s playing is really genre bending.  He played OTM, Blues, Rags, Tin Pan Alley, World Music, Country, and the list could go on.  Howard played whatever kind of music was needed to get work.  There’s an excellent film about Howard called “Sweet Old Song” that was first broadcast on PBS.  The film is now available on DVD ->  Sweet Old Song on DVD.   Also, not to be missed is Terry Zwigoff’s documentary of Howard titled “Louie Bluie”.  A great documentary with stories and music by Howard and Ted Bogan, Yank Rachell, “Banjo” Ikey Robinson.  Howard’s son Tom Armstrong plays bass on many of the tunes.   I forgot to mention Howard was also a fine artist and a poet.

Jim Collier - A fine North Carolina OT musicians who plays a  guitar, banjo, fiddle, and of course mandolin.  Jim’s mandolin playing can be heard with Red Squirrel .

Jim Watson - A great OT mandolin player who was a founding member of the Red Clay Ramblers.  Jim tours with Robin and Linda Williams and also plays with a group called the Ramblers which is an OT band with two other former members of the Red Clay Ramblers (Bill Hicks and Mike Craver).  There’s some good videos of Jim playing on YouTube -> http://www.youtube.com/user/ORCRfan.  You can find an interview of Jim from the Fall 1989 issue of the Mandocurcian Digest here: Jim Waston interview.  Be sure to visit the Original Red Clay Ramblers website for more information about Jim and his solo work.

Jody Stecher - Like Mike Seeger and Norman Blake, Jody plays about every stringed instrument and represents the OTM community well.  My favorite OTM recordings are from his years when he played with Kate Brislin and recorded for Rounder Records.  

John Hasbrouck - John plays mandolin with the Northside Southpaws based in Chicago.  John plays a variety of early american music on the mandolin (Jazz, Blues, OTM, ragtime, and swing).

Kenny Hall - Kenny is a great OTMM and fiddle play from Fresno, CA.  Blind since birth, Kenny plays his mandolin in a vertical position with his fingers.

Lynn “Chirps” Smith - Chirps started out playing mandolin in a group called the Indian Creek Delta Boys.  Chirps still plays mandolin, but is best known for his fiddle playing. Chirps was also a founding member of the Volo Bogtrotters.

Mandolin Mafia - Not a pure OTM group, but they play many great OTM tunes.  Kelly Purdue, one of Mando Mafia’s co-founders, passed away in December of 2005.  I’m not sure of the group’s current status

Mike Black - Mike, is not strictly speaking an OTM musician, but he plays mandolin in the spirit of OTM string bands.  Mike is the mandolin player for a group called Three Bean Salad which includes Mike’s wife, Dayle Dryer Black, on Fiddle and Mike Yoder on Guitar.  Mike composes most of the tunes for TBS.  TBS is worth checking out and consideration for expanding your OTM repertoire.  Lots of TBS tunes have a little bit of a modern sound, but I think they are written to be danced too and played over and over and over...

Mike Seeger - Outstanding OTM musician.  Co-founder of the New Lost City Rambles. Multi-instrumentalist.  I could go on and on and on...

Norman Blake - Another great multi-instrumentalist that plies his musical trade in the OTM arena.  Often plays as part of a duet with his wife Nancy Blake.  Norman’s OTM mando playing is scattered through out his work.  The CD “Natasha’s Waltz” is his most mando-centric recording.

Nick Robinson - A powerful Ragtime mandolinist currently playing in two West Coast Ragtime string bands: The Ragtime Skedaddlers with Dennis Pash and The Ragtime Boyos.

Peter Ostroushko - Peter is not a strict OTM player, but he has recorded a lot OTM.  Peter has had a long and fruitful association with Norman Blake.

Randy Johnson - Randy is a talented multi-instrumentalist specializing in OTM currently resides in Greensboro, North Carolina.  Randy is currently a member of The Carolina Jug Stompers.

Rich Delgrosso -  Rich is a great blues mandolin musician and plays a lot of great country blues style mandolin, e.g. Yank Rachell and Howard Armstrong, and wrote a Blues Mandolin column for the now defunct Mandolin Magazine.  Rich has recently joined forces with Mary Flower and Martin Grosswendt as the Ragpicker Stringband.  Top-shelf string band music!

Scottdale String Band - Named for Scottdale Mills near Decatur, Georgia, the Scottdale String Band was somewhat unique for string bands recording in the late 1920’s.  Scottdale String Band featured the mandolin as the lead instrument and the released several old time style rags.  Scottdale String released 33 sides on Okeh and Paramount records between 1926 and 1932.  Blevie Freeman is credited as playing the banjo-mandolin on their first two sides.  Charlie Simmons is credited as playing the banjo-mandolin on the rest of their sides.  More sides are available from Joe Bussard.  Also see this translated page from Wikipedia Germany -> Scottdale Srting Band

Skip Gorman - Like Peter above, Skip is not a strict OTM player, but has plenty OTM on his recordings.  Skip plays a variety of Americana type music including Bluegrass (Monroe style), Cowboy Music, and OTM.

Steve James - Outstanding Country Blues guitarist and songwriter who also plays a wicked Blues mandolin.

Steve Terrill  - Steve was born in Virginia and now lives in North Carolina.  He’s the CEO of the media conglomerate Old 97 Wrecords and occasionally plays mandolin with The Hushpuppies.

Ted Hawkins - Ted played with Riley Puckett in the 30’s. Mike Seeger’s Old-Time Country Mandolin Book and CD has a good transcription of Ted Hawkin’s tune called “Hawkin’s Rag”.

Three Tobacco Tags - Two mandolins and a guitar.  Mandolin players George Wade and Luther Baucom, textile mill workers in Gaston County, NC recorded 40+ sides together between 1931 and 1938.  Four sides are available via compilations (see discography).  More sides are available from Joe Bussard.  Also see this translated page from Wikipedia Germany -> Three Tobacco Tags  A nice article about the Three Tobacco Tags on the Old Time Party website.

Yank Rachell - Born in Brownsville, Tennesee in 1910, Yank’s powerful Blues mandolin playing first emerged during the 1920’s when Yank played with Sleepy John Estes.

Wendy Anthony - Canadian Old Time Music mandolinist writes a column for Mandolin Session on “Building a Traditional Tune Repertoire” (read OTM).