Blue Ridge Mountain Blues

Mac Traynham's Tune of the Week

In May of 2018 we took a 17 hour car trip to Lanesboro, Minnesota where Jenny and Hanna and I were part of an annual weekend festival gig called Bluff Country Gathering. The theme was OT music being passed through families to the younger generation, so some other parents that play old time style music had their musical offspring featured as well. 

Bell Spur String Band
Bell Spur String Band

The Bluff Country Gathering was started by the old time duo of Bob Bovee and Gail Heil back in 1999. We had a great time in a beautiful part of the upper Mississippi River area. Jenny and I drove through parts of seven states going and coming in our car.  Needless to say I was experiencing the Blue Ridge Mountain Blues after all that mid-west traveling!

Here’s a song/tune with those homesick sentiments called Blue Ridge Mountain Blues as played by 

the Belle Spur Stringband from the Blue Ridge area of Carroll County.  Recorded by Elbert Marshall at the home of one of the members in the 60s.  The banjo is played in a unique 3 finger back-up style where he gets some of the melody notes.   

Thanks and enjoy!

Blue Ridge Mountain Blues – The Belle Spur Stringband

Comment from Clay Shelor

Great song! Thank you for sharing.

I googled this because Bell Spur is just down Squirrel Spur Road from where my folks are from in Meadows of Dan. The Bell Spur String Band was Martin Marshall, Ernest Stanley (fiddle), Edgar Jessup (banjo) and Johnnie Jessup. I’m not sure what the other two played (Ernest’s son, Winford Stanley, married my aunt which is why I was interested). The article I linked below says they recorded this in 1965.

Comment from Gail Gillespie

Here are some photos I took on various visits Alice Gerrard and I made in order to record the music of Martin and Eula Marshall in the early-mid 90s. The recordings (reel to reel tapes!) that Alice made of the Marshalls are at SFC-UNC Chapel Hill. Martin had a homemade old-time 3 finger banjo style and Eula sang ballads, played autoharp and tambourine. Both knew lots of old songs. Eula kept a notebook of old ballads and her own poetry and always had a huge flower garden that took up much of the yard. They were dear people.

Comment from Steve Kruger

Thanks for the tune and the photos Mac and Gail! I love hearing stories from you folks who knew the musicians. Keep em coming! It’s really important and you don’t get it from just listening to the music. Those tapes have been digitized and are available in their unedited entirety online, along with tons of other fantastic recordings housed at the SFC. The link below is for all the recordings generously donated by Alice Gerrard. You have to scroll down or search on the page for the Marshalls and then click on the “audio” thumbnail.

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