Search Results for "Carolina Chocolate Drops"

My profile of the Carolina Chocolate Drops in the NOLA Defender for Jazz Fest

I have been a fan of the Carolina Chocolate Drops for a few years. They are playing Jazz Fest this year. Although I cannot go, my friend Brad Rhines invited me to write a preview for the NOLA Defender, an online publication in New Orleans. It is now up as part of A Handful of JazzFest: 5 Acts to Watch on April 28, 2012. Brad’s piece on favorite Bobby Rush is also part of the preview. I wish I could attend Jazz Fest. Have a look!

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Michael M. on April 28th 2012 in General, Music

Carolina Chocolate Drops at the Sheldon, Banjos and Steve Martin

The  blogged Carolina Chocolate Drops visited the Sheldon Concert Hall on October 20, 2010. They are becoming frequent visitors here, and their draw has become strong. Saint Louis crowds tend to be very enthusiastic and complimentary. The Chocolate Drops played at 9 PM on a Wednesday, certainly a time challenging to my spirits, but that crowd was especially up for the show. It was stomp, clap and sing along from beginning to end. This Riverfront Times post about the show sums it up, and this earlier interview with Dom Flemons, previously blogged four times, gives some more background.

Who were those people in the crowd? I play old-time music here, and while I saw attendees I know to be players and listeners, many were not. The NPR crowd has some bearing. This search targeted to on Google gives 133 hits. I know local old-time musicians of their caliber and greater who never cannot evoke that reception. The band members are special people who have tapped into something big.

Like many concerts, it left me with the desire to play. If there was a lively afterparty, I lacked the endurance and, more importantly, invitation. I would love to play with them sometime.

In thinking about the show, I stumbled on The Banjo Project. This documentary hopelessly aims to profile the most American of musical instruments. The makers met with the Chocolate Drops, local picker Dave Landreth, blogged three times, and many more famous banjo folks. Steve Martin is the narrator. It is in production. I have the feeling that it has been and will be in production for a while.

It reminded me that H and I went to Steve Martin at the Steep Canyon Rangers at the Roberts Orpheum Theater back in the spring. It was a lot of fun. We got upgraded to box seats! The Steep Canyon Rangers are a very skilled bluegrass band, and Steve Martin is, of course, an all around entertaining fellow. The Orpheum is a cool old theater, but it still needs more renovations. The Riverfront Times had this preview, and STLToday had this one. After the fact, the Riverfront Times provided this recap. For a taste of the comedy and music, watch this video on YouTube.

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Michael M. on October 29th 2010 in General, Live, Music

Carolina Chocolate Drops

A Tom Hall‘s concert, I picked up a copy of FolkFire. The Carolina Chocolate Drops were on the cover. They are a rising African-American string band. Dona Got a Ramblin’ Mind is their new album. Check out their videos on YouTube and their page on MySpace. The group will perform December 27 and 28 at BB’s Jazz, Blues and Soups. At Childgrove Country Dancers on Friday, December 29, they will play a concert followed by playing the dance. I blogged about the black experience in country music a while back. The banjo, in as much as it is a musical instrument, is one more African than European. String band music almost died, African-American string band music doubly so. It is good to have this group watering the roots. My holiday schedule remains unset, but I hope I get to see them while they are here.

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Michael M. on December 10th 2006 in General, Live, Music, Recorded

Chocolate Drops on Prairie Home

The previously blogged Carolina Chocolate Drops played this past weekend’s edition of previously blogged A Prairie Home Companion. The group is a great fit for the show. I scanned through stream quickly and caught three performances. They will be in Columbia on or around Labor Day. I wish they were headed back here soon.

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Michael M. on June 25th 2007 in General, Live, Music

Mississippi John Hurt Festival

I was a pilgrim. On Independence Day, I awoke early and enlisted the canine assistance of Ralph to wake Lib. Then we headed up to Avalon. I had wanted to go to the Mississippi John Hurt Festival last year, but then I did not feel at liberty to spend the time away. I am a big fan. When I visited home later in the summer, I made a detour. It was too quick. This time, we arrived early and started with a trip to the St. James cemetery that I could not find last year. Then I soaked in the whole afternoon of music. I could have stayed longer.

The music was good, but the people were the real treat. I met Mary Frances Hurt Wright, Hurt’s granddaughter, who heads the foundation. Hurt’s oldest granddaughter was there, too. I tried to catch her reminiscences as she toured the old house that has been converted to the museum. Art Browning, the curator, gave tours and told stories. He even picked a little “Payday” for us.

I had a good time talking to some people from the forum. Novalis was down on a tour of musical sites. Jonathan Beech, who posts on the forum as Manchester Jonny, made the festival the center of his American vacation. Early in the festival, he stepped on stage to tell us about how he came to the music, and he played us a few fine tunes. He called it “a dream come true,” and it was great seeing him up there. A professional illustrator, he presented his depiction of “Louis Collins” to the foundation later in the day. He posted it on his blog. He also posted about its role in one of Frank Delaney‘s projects. I have wondered about “Louis Collins” for a while. Hurt seems to have made the song based on a local murder. Reportedly, Delaney has found some census records and other material that will soon shed light on the story behind it.

Also playing country fingerstyle were Lost Jim Ohlschmidt and Andy Cohen. Lost Jim played his tribute “Dear Daddy John.” An earlier recording is on the mp3 page. He recorded a whole album of MJH tunes. Cohen played a wide variety of fingerstyle music with a Hurt tune or two toward the end. A fellow named Donald Kincaid who has sung with the Jackson Southernaires also performed.

Super Chikan played some of his contemporary electric blues on his folk art painted guitars made from recycled objects. As announced at the festival and in this post on his agent Charley Burch‘s blog, Chikan will record some Mississippi John Hurt songs. On stage, he talked about hearing his father fiddle. I was intrigued. I have been curious about the huge role of African-Americans in country music and the enduring affection of many African-Americans for country music for a while, my latest focus being the Carolina Chocolate Drops. Between his sets, I asked Chikan about it. He never learned to fiddle. He said that somebody, I think his grandfather, played banjo. He lacked guitar skills at the time to second well and had only played along a little on his diddley bow. He could not remember any tunes they played. It was a disappointing part stuck in a terrific day.

I also spotted a few Mississippi folks, familiar and new. Lib and I talked to the Ellen and Jim Steeby, parents of a high school friend of hers. I found this post on, the blog of Robert Neill who lives near Avalon, that features one of his photographs of the festival. I also found this post from a fellow named David Rosen who must be spending the summer as an intern at the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life. I believe we toured the museum with him and his friend. I had a good talk about Mississippi roots with a newspaper reporter covering the festival, but I have not found her article yet. At the end of the day, a lady came to hand me a flier for a store. I had helped her adjust the arms of her chair at the beginning of the afternoon. I only recognized her at the end of the day. She runs the Little Big Store in the old Raymond train depot. Two people from the Mississippi Old Time Music Association sat down behind me. One I had played with on Sunday. The other had not been at the jam, but I remembered his name, Tim Avalon, from the society’s CD. He will publish a book on Mississippi fiddle music that I look forward to reading.

I talked to a man wearing a Carroll County t-shirt with fiddler Willie Narmour on it, trying my best to encourage him to follow his desire to take up fiddling. Harry Bolick designed the shirt. He also made an album about his ancestral home, Carroll County, Mississippi. I placed an order for the t-shirt and the CD. I have listened to snippets of the album, and now I want to hear the whole thing.

Musicians love to talk and play just a little more. After the festival, Andy Cohen and I traded a few fiddle tunes in the twilight. I played “Carroll County Blues” there within the eponymous territory. Art Browning and I traded a few MJH tunes along with Novalis. After a brief conversation earlier in the afternoon, I visited more with Phil “Delta Dan” Ratcliffe about the MJH book he is writing, swapping notes with him and Mary Wright and the lady from the Little Big Store. Mary invited us in, but it was past time. The light had gone from the sky.

Now that I am back from vacation, I have to watch myself. The trip so affected me that I will expound if I sense the opportunity and the denial is not too harsh. I quickly become animated. When I told Rebecca about my journey, she brought up Schultze Gets the Blues, recommended to her by her parents. This review of it mentions Genghis Blues. I am not much of a moviegoer. I never have belonged to Blockbuster or Netflix. These movies were small films in the American market. Somehow, I have seen both of them. A German friend in my old research group loaned me Schultze. I borrowed Genghis Blues from the library after stumbling across it while browsing. I do not know why I neglected to blog about them until now. Now I, too, have traveled an isolated rural path seeking the roots of the music I love. Fictional Schultze became entranced by zydeco and headed for the bayous. Paul Pena‘s love for throat singing led him to Tuva. I rode my passion to Avalon.

Update July 23: Jon Beech posted his reminiscence of the day.


Michael M. on July 10th 2007 in General, Live, Music


I blogged about the Carolina Chocolate Drops not too long ago. Roy Kasten, host of KDHX‘s Feel Like Going Home wrote this article in the Riverfront Times. It is worth a look. I still hope to see them next week.

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Michael M. on December 23rd 2006 in General, Live, Music

C, that’s the way to begin.

Just as nobody knows you better than your mother, nobody knows me better than my mother. I have been known to love me some chicken, as multiple posts attest. This one is a favorite. Earlier this week, the CD Cluck Old Hen: A Barnyard Serenade 1926-1940 from Old Hat Records arrived in the mail. I had not ordered it. Looking inside, I found that it was a surprise gift. My mother ordered it for me after reading “Collection of songs uses chickens as theme” by Scott Barretta in the Clarion-Ledger. Barretta is the main force behind Highway 61 Radio, a show on Mississippi Public Broadcasting and many Mississippi musical heritage projects.

Old Hat Records is a wonderful label, and I previously blogged about Good for What Ails You. Given the 24 tracks, I am not the only one with such an affection for the magical bird. I can only fault the omission of “Old Hen Cackle” by Coleman and Harper, also known as Two Poor Boys. Grab it from the Internet Archive. In Old Hat’s defense, the label had already put out the recording on Down in the Basement: Joe Bussard’s Treasure Trove of Vintage 78s from the collection of blogged Joe Bussard. In researching it, I found this video on YouTube of Hubby Jenkins with the favorite Carolina Chocolate Drops just tearing it up.

This American Life had several Poultry Slam episodes in the past, the most recent in 2011. I will contact the show about this marvelous collection.

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Michael M. on February 23rd 2013 in General, Music, Recorded


I managed to attend multiple days, if barely, of LouFest in Central Field of beloved Forest Park. It drew in multiple excellent acts with an overall indie rock approach.

Broken Social Scene put on a great show. For the most part, they just had guitar after guitar crunching it out on stage. Just when I was getting bored with so many guitars on stage, they started playing horns. The music was both catchy and rocking. The crowd loved it, and I count myself among them.

The  blogged Carolina Chocolate Drops played Sunday afternoon. Running late, I caught just a little of “Old Corn Liquor,” a tune I play.  Three times blogged Dom Flemons invoked blogged throat singing cowboy  Arthur Miles. I made my way into the background of a photograph in LouFest 2010 Sunday, August 29: In Pictures on the KDHX Blog. I was not as miserable as I look there, but the sun was brutal. After the show, I tracked down Dom Flemons and asked him about throat singing. Sure enough, he had come to it as I had through blogged Genghis Blues and Arthur Miles. I messaged him later about blogged The Quest for Tannu Tuva / Last Journey of a Genius with a link to the video. I stopped by the STL Style tent and showed off my St. Lunatics t-shirt. If you see me, ask to see this wonder of design and production by me and H.

Soon after, I had to ditch the rest of the show for call night at work. Although I was disappointed at missing so much of the festival, I did manage to catch a good chunk of it. I hope it was sufficiently successful to make it an annual event.

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Michael M. on October 22nd 2010 in General, Live, Music

Ryan Spearman CD release

H and I tried to see the blogged Carolina Chocolate Drops a few Friday nights ago at the Saint Louis Art Museum, but it was too packed. The museum picked a small gallery rather than the auditorium, probably due to construction. Even after expanding to two shows, there was not enough space.

The plan had been to head to the Focal Point for blogged Ryan Spearman‘s CD release party after the Chocolate Drops. I have learned a lot from Ryan at the often blogged Folk School, and he has let me play the three times blogged Atomic Cowboy Open Mic, lauded by the Riverfront Times. Unable to see the Chocolate Drops, we went ahead. Ryan packed the place and put on a great show. The promoted CD is certainly worth your dollars. A studio album is in the pipeline.

My schedule is opening up a little for the next few weeks. I look forward to hearing a little more music and to playing more myself. I hope to revisit the Atomic Cowboy Open Mic to catch Ryan and other friends performing and to sing, pick and saw a little myself. Come out!

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Michael M. on March 23rd 2010 in General, Live, Music, Recorded

Stagger Lee

The Folk School Student Showcase was last night at the Schlafly Tap Room. I love the Folk School, and the showcase is a great night every time.

The Beginning of the End, my Old-Time Ensemble class, closed the show. We opened with the recently bloggedOld Corn Liquor” from the playing of Joe Thompson. As mentioned before, he mentors the blogged Carolina Chocolate Drops. Our “Cotton Eyed Joe” comes from the Volo Bogtrotters. The last number is a favorite topic and a Saint Louis classic. I sang lyrics from personal favorite Mississippi John Hurt over string band music based on Foghorn‘s version, and they felt right.

Old Corn Liquor

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Cotton Eyed Joe

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Stagger Lee

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Michael M. on March 27th 2008 in General, Live, Mine, Movies, Music, Recorded

Banjos & Joe Thompson

Tuesday night in my Folk School class, Old-time Ensemble II, we learned Joe Thompson‘s “Old Corn Liquor.” Our teacher told us about the Tennessee Banjo Institute where he had first encountered Joe and Odell Thompson. This panoramic photograph shows the 1992 attendees. Thanks to creativity and the slowness of the camera, both ends feature Pete Seeger and Béla Fleck.

The documentary The Life & Times of Joe Thompson is available streaming from UNC-TV‘s North Carolina Visions. The Kennedy Center Millennium Stage page on him also links to a video. I just enjoyed watching both. Thompson is the primary mentor to the blogged Carolina Chocolate Drops.

Searching for more information about the Tennessee Banjo Institute, I found this video on YouTube of a fellow talking about the origins of the banjo. Scott Didlake brought back the gourd banjo. He grew up in Crystal Springs. I wish I had met him.

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Michael M. on February 7th 2008 in General, Music, Recorded

CCD on News and Notes

The Carolina Chocolate Drops, whom I have mentioned several times, were featured on the Monday edition of NPR‘s News and Notes. I streamed it yesterday. It is worth a quick listen. The group is out on tour, mostly in the neighborhood of North Carolina. Check them out if they come your way.

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Michael M. on February 14th 2007 in General, Live, Music, Recorded


The Carolina Chocolate Drops, whom I eagerly anticipated and then enjoyed hearing, were featured on NPR‘s Weekend Edition Sunday. The segment includes interviews with Bill Ferris and Taj Mahal. Both of them came up in my last post about the Chocolate Drops. While there are enough clear similarities for them to go together, NPR should hire me or at least send me some of those public radio royalties.

In related news, I received my quills last weekend. I found maker Edmond Badoux of Chaskinakuy through Carolina Chocolate Drop Dom Flemons. So far, I have picked my way roughly through “Bull Doze Blues” and “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.” If I make some progress learning to play, I will get and modify a harmonica neck holder. The home string band, though bigger, is now a little less of a string band.

Update January 31: Writing about another story about hip-hop on subway cars on Weekend Edition Sunday, Jesse Thorn mentioned the CCD radio piece in letter to NPR on his blog for The Sound of Young America. He posted again about the response he received. I found out about the exchange via this post on previously mentioned John Hodgman‘s blog for The Areas of My Expertise. Hodgman offered his own take in comments on Thorn’s posts and in his own post.

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Michael M. on January 31st 2007 in General, Live, Music, Recorded

Traditions revived and grown

I saw the highly anticipated Carolina Chocolate Drops at the Monday Club for their Childgrove Country Dancers performance. Rhiannon Giddens did not make it due to illness. I wish I had seen her with the full band at their BB’s concerts. Dom Flemons and Justin Robinson put on a great two man show in her absence. John Hotze has videos and photographs from their visit on

They convered a variety of styles rooted in African-American traditions. The biggest were straight fiddle and banjo tunes. They adapted fife and drum music to fiddle and drum. Flemons played a “Buck Dancer’s Choice” on guitar while Robinson did a buck dance. Robinson sang us an unaccompanied ballad. Flemons played “Charming Betsy,” a Henry Thomas tune, on resonator guitar and quills.

I blogged about Henry Thomas and the quills a while back. I felt really excited when I saw them come out at the concert. After the show, I went up to buy their album Dona Got a Ramblin’ Mind released on Music Maker and asked about them. Flemons found his quills through Mike Seeger whom he described as “not human” in his musical ability and knowledge. Seeger got his from Edmond Badoux and recommended him to Flemons who recommended him to me. Badoux plays in the Andean music group Chaskinakuy and also makes and sells quills. I mailed my check yesterday.

Forming a referential loop, Flemons has this YouTube video of Taj Mahal performing “Ain’t That a Lot of Love” on his MySpace page. The song is terrific Stax Memphis soul, and this version does right by it. Taj Mahal’s signature song is Henry Thomas’ “Fishing Blues.” Thomas’ original features, of course, a terrific melody on the quills.

I found the short film Gravel Springs Fife and Drum available for free download while searching for fife and drum music. William Ferris, formerly of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture and then the National Endowment for the Humanities, made it. Folkstreams features has many films available including several more of Ferris’ films, but not the one I saw at ciné16. Gravel Springs Fife and Drum features fife wizard Othar Turner and his Rising Star family band.

The concert left me inspired to learn the banjo. I had thought about buying a banjo or a mandolin for a while. After the show, I headed to Music Folk and bought my banjo. I used Christmas money to by a Deering Goodtime, the basic open back beginner banjo, and Clawhammer Banjo from Scratch: A Guide for the Claw-less! by Dan Levenson. Mel Bay, publisher of this and many other music instruction books, is located in Pacific, Missouri, near Saint Louis. I have been trying to frail using the book and free video lessons by Patrick Costello made in conjunction with his book The How and Tao of Old Time Banjo from Pik-Ware Publishing. In the techno-folk spirit, The How and Tao of Old Time Banjo is licensed through Creative Commons and freely available.

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Michael M. on January 18th 2007 in General, Live, Music, Recorded

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States.