Friday, May 12, 2006

The Unbroken Circle

With all that is swirling about in my life and the many new wonderful milestones my kids and my nieces and nephews make each day, I do so miss my mother.

I'm not sure what she'd make of these troubled times. I know she would never believe Bush was elected to a second term. I can just imagine, sitting with her now at her kitchen table after everyone else was in bed, going on and on.

But then again, by this time, maybe we'd have had the music to share.

The thing I'll never know is just how much my mother knew about the stuff I'm learning now. I know that she loved banjo, and loved her guitar (which I cannot seem to find new tuning pegs for -- it's a 1931 Framus so if any lurkers out there have a clue, please email me). She used to sing a silly twangy song or two but also loved classical music. She and my dad both grew up in the hills near Pittsburgh, and as some of her family was from even further out, it's possible and even likely that she heard growing up any number of the songs I'm trying to get under my belt right now.

I wish she were here to share these things with me, to spend time with my children and all her grandchildren, to make us all laugh or roll our eyes one more time. Just say the word, "taxes," and you'd be stuck the rest of the night.

My great grandfather was actually born in Virginia. I'm not sure how old he was when he came up to Ohio. But I'm guessing he may have picked up a few mountain tunes in his subconscious. Some of those same songs were collected and passed along by another very famous Virginia family, the Carters.

Mother Maybelle Carter was married to Ezra Carter. A.P. Carter was her brother-in-law, who married her cousin, Sara. Together this trio not only formed the first major rural country singing group, but also forged a path in the collection and recording of hundreds of songs we now take for granted. Ezra and Maybelle had three daughters, one of them June, future wife to Johnny Cash. So, the man in black had some help from Country's first family. (No, I haven't seen the movie yet...)

Mother Maybelle was a multi-instrumentalist. She played banjo, auto-harp, and guitar, for which she developed a unique style of playing both melody and rhythm simultaneously. At the time she was a maverick. In 1970, the Carter Family became the first family inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

But back in the day, before country music even was, Maybelle and her inlaws were on to something. And that something is still with us today.

All our mothers leave something behind, with us, and with people we don't even know. Bits and pieces of legacy are strewn about in the universe and now and then we will bump into them. As much as I do miss my mother, those moments when I stumble across a song or a person or a story that has a piece of her in it may have gone unnoticed while she was still around.
Enjoy your mother's day, with your mother if you can, with things you shared wtih her if you can't.

Here an NPR story about The Carter Family here.

To learn more about The Carter Family and their musical legacy, click here.


At May 14, 2006 2:19 PM, Anonymous Fearless Heart said...

Without a doubt, if you need something for an old string instrument, contatc the wonderful folks at Elderly Instruments up in Lansing.

My dad's guitar playing was HEAVILY borrowed from the Carter family sound. he could never afford an L-5 gibson (sometimes called a "Mother Maybelle" so he bought a much less expensive L-48, which the folks at Elderly were able to rebuild:

At May 14, 2006 5:46 PM, Blogger Mando Mama said...

Hey Earl,
Is that the guitar A. is playing now? It's great to have that legacy to pass on. I think I may have emailed the folks at Elderly early on in the search for the pegs, but I could try 'em again. They were awful helpful when I bought my mando from them a few years back.

One of these days -- roadtrip!


At May 14, 2006 8:53 PM, Anonymous Fearless Heart said...

Yep, that's the one. Although lately she's just been playing tenor sax.

At May 14, 2006 11:31 PM, Blogger Darkneuro said...

Dig the Carter Family... There was a book written that I managed to find at a local bookstore a couple years ago... Terrific information on a fascinating family heritage.
"Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone? : The Carter Family & Their Legacy in American Music"
Peace, Mando...

At May 14, 2006 11:52 PM, Anonymous Fearless Heart said...


You can buy everything that the Carter Family recorded on a 12 CD set. The version from the Bear Family in Germany costs $270, but it includes a book and other information. Fortunately there is a cheap edition of the same recordings from JSP (that's what I have.)

Which I bought at a used music store in Ann Arbor when I went to see RT.

At May 15, 2006 5:40 AM, Blogger Mando Mama said...

Hey Neuro,
Thanks, that's been on my list but I haven't dived in yet. It is an interesting family, not at all your run-of-the-mill Joneses.

Fearless, I have a partial set, although even at $270, that's less than a buck a song, I think. So that's not bad! LOL!

At May 15, 2006 6:49 AM, Anonymous Fearless Heart said...

I purchased the second JSP boxed set, "The Carter Family, Volume 2, 1935-1941" and then bought Vol. 1 "The Carter Family, 1927-1934." The second set is really more interesting to lsten to, partly becuase the recordings are so much clearer.

I'm sure that the Bear Family edition is a ton better, but it's just not in my budget. Heck, I could buy Anita a brand new Kerry low D whistle by Phil Hardy for that much!


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