Jesse Jarnow

“eighth of january” – the kentucky colonels with scotty stoneman

“Eighth of January” – The Kentucky Colonels with Scott Stoneman (download) (buy)

(file expires February 27th)

Thanks to Rev for turning me onto this recording of Scott Stoneman and the Kentucky Colonels performing “Eighth of January” at the Ash Grove in Los Angeles in 1965. In the audience that night was Jerry Garcia.

I get my improvisational approach from Scotty Stoneman, the fiddle player. [He's] the guy who first set me on fire — where I just stood there and I don’t remember breathing. He was just an incredible fiddler. He was a total alcoholic wreck by the time I heard him, in his early thirties, playing with the Kentucky Colonels… They did a medium-tempo fiddle tune like ‘Eighth of January’ and it’s going along, and pretty soon Scotty starts taking these longer and longer phrases — ten bars, fourteen bars, seventeen bars — and the guys in the band are just watching him! They’re barely playing — going ding, ding, ding — while he’s burning. The place was transfixed. They played this tune for like twenty minutes, which is unheard of in bluegrass. I’d never heard anything like it. I asked him later, ‘How do you do that?’ and he said, ‘Man, I just play lonesome.’ (Garcia, c. 1985, via Blair Jackson’s Garcia: An American Life)

By the time the music made it to tape — which is to say, in reality — it was five and a third minutes, proving Garcia’s memory to be about as blown as any Deadhead’s. He’s not wrong either, though. (See also “Cleo’s Back” for the further secret history of the Grateful Dead.)

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