In gedachten zie ik ons nog zitten. Met z’n vieren in een rustige hotellobby in Nieuwe Pekela. In de vier voorgaande delen van deze reeks spraken Bill Clifton, Bert Nobbe, Kees Jansen en ik voornamelijk over de Carter Family Conference die twee jaar eerder – in 2002 – door de University of London werd georganiseerd. In dit deeltje gaat Bill Clifton het wat meer hebben over de personen en invloeden die voor zijn eigen carrière van groot belang zijn geweest…

John Lair, 78’s, and A.P. Carter


He was the guy behind the Coon Creek Girls as well, wasn’t he? Yeah, oh yeah. John Lair was behind a lot of things. He was also behind the WLS Barn Dance in Chicago and he introduced a lot of things into music. Really, he’s probably one of the unsung heroes of the early years of radio because he did a lot of work early on. Bradley Kincaid is another unsung hero. Whether you like Bradley’s singing or not he was somebody who was a great collector of songs. And he did sing well, whether you liked that kind of high singing or not. You know, he had a high voice and it doesn’t appeal to everybody. I mean, he always sang on key, he’s a high-pitched singer. This didn’t appeal to me very much. But on the other hand: his songs always appealed. He always had good songs.

Dit knipsel vond ik ik – net als de foto van John Lair – op Internet. Het artikeltje maakt duidelijk dat de bijdrage van John Lair aanzienlijk is geweest.

I always like to compare him a little bit to Cisco Houston. Yeah, but Cisco never was that high- pitched. I mean, Cisco was more of the same pitch as Woody (Guthrie). He’d sing tenor to Woody but they were really pretty much the same pitch. Bradley was always a little bit higher, like Burl Ives. If you like Burl Ives…

A mountain voice basically. Yeah. I never John Lair and I never met Bradley either. I have some of Bradley’s song books, which were given to me. And I was glad to receive them from a friend who has recently died out in Missouri. He called himself ‘Barefoot Bob Kinney’ and Bob Kinney used to be on radio in his hometown in New York State and then he moved out to Missouri. On his way out he stopped at my place in Charlottesville and left me a couple of Bradley Kincaid songbooks which I have always treasured. They have some wonderful songs in them like one of the songs I did on a recording called ‘Somebody’s Waiting For You’. (Bill Clifton sings part of the song.) For me that’s a Bradley Kincaid song. Now, where he got that from, I don’t know. But he collected it from somebody and well, that’s the only that I guess that… Well, ‘Methodist Pie’, is another one [that] he used to sing that I always liked to sing. Nobody else ever did that to my knowledge except two other people (Hylo Brown also recorded the song on ‘Hylo Brown’s Country Gospel Songs’). Grandpa Jones got his name from Bradley. I mean, he was Louis Jones, Louis Marshall Jones, until he worked with Bradley. And when he worked with Bradley he practically said: ‘You’re just like an old grandpa, I’m gonna call you ‘Grandpa’ from now on’. That stuck! Grandpa used to sing a lot of songs he got from Bradley too. So he would do ‘Methodist Pie’ and things like that.

Opname van Bradley Kincaid’s ‘Methodist pie’ uit 1928
Uit m’n eigen verzameling…

You were talking about songbooks. What surprised us was that when we were at the conference, both of us have been heavily influenced by your music and directed towards the Carter’s, but we found out that was… Like, your songbook, which contained these Carter Family songs, played a vital part, basically in Europe. Did you get any of that [Information] during the conference? Well, I don’t know. I mean, I know that over the years… First of all: The Carter Family has always been my main influence. Not only because of the way they sang and played but because of the songs they chose to sing and play. When I first started buying records as a teenager, whenever I had 78 cents (which was what a 78 record cost, or 79 cents maybe it was) and I could go to a record shop (I lived way out in the country so I didn’t get to go to a record shop very often) but if I was allowed to go to a place where I could get a record I would buy whatever I could get by The Carter Family. There were a couple of other artists that I really liked at the time, very much as well. But I always wanted The Carter Family records. I guess over the years they’ve always been my strongest influence and A.P. has been, for the last ten years of his life, a wonderful friend and a person who offered me all kinds of insight into playing music. How you deal with yourself as a musician and the audience as the audience. Just little things that he would say to me. I probably told a lot of these things to the people who wrote the book. Mark Zwonitzer, who wrote that book ‘Will You Miss Me’. Mark and I never got together personally until at the conference. We had never met each other until then. He kept trying to see me and I was always gone when he wanted to come. So we never got to meet in Mendota, where he was coming down to interview other people in the valley. He just wanted me too. So we did everything on the phone. I told him a lot of stories about A.P. and he put several of them, I know, in the book. Sometimes he mentioned me as the source, other times he would say: ‘one friend of A.P. tells this story’.

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