Music of Our Mountains: Red Wing

Mac Traynham's Music of Our Mountains

So the summer drags on without the festivals that usually are milestones of time in a normal summer. Staying home is routine now and is making for long weeks and long months here in 2020. Receiving news of another friend’s departure from this world seems to be routine too, unfortunately. This time it is Eddie Ogle, a left-handed musician and everybody’s friend who ever met him. He checked out suddenly, a victim of a stroke at about age 70. I had been thinking of him just before I heard the news because I had just completed a left-handed banjo using a beautiful piece of curly maple wood. I was anxious for him to try it out and get his opinion of its playability.  If he really liked it I was going to make him a deal on it. He once had another left-handed banjo that I made that was stolen and never recovered. 

Eddie Ogle

(BTW, this new left-handed banjo was thoroughly tested by a left-handed player but it still needs a home.)

Eddie was a fine harmonica player as well as a solid back-up guitar player in various string bands, many of which played for the Floyd Country Store’s Friday Night Jamboree in pre-COVID times. Eddie was known with his friends both in the US and the UK for always laughing and joking around. He was very proud of his West Virginia connections and spoke about out-of-the-way areas that I have never been to before in the southern coalfields. He lived and worked in the Roanoke area until he moved to Wythe County after retiring a few years ago. One tune that he played on harmonica was the old parlor song Red Wing whose melody became a standard at some point. I want to feature this classic song with this group this week.

Here is a recording of some Nashville studio musicians cutting up like Eddie would in an encounter with Mother Maybelle Carter as she plays Red Wing on her guitar. Someone plays a little harmonica if you listen close.

Red Wing by Mother Maybelle Carter

Comment from Trevor McKenzie

A lot of people may know this already, but for those that don’t, I’d like to add that Eddie was also a talented songwriter. I’ve attached a song he wrote called “Black Maria” which he recorded with Mountain Fling. The title refers to a wagon used to deliver miner’s bodies to the front porches of their homes in the coal camps after mining accidents. It is a dark, spooky, and powerful song that really shows off the skill Eddie had with words and music. The lyrics evoke scenes of families waiting on their porches and praying the wagon does not stop to visit them. It speaks to an experience that he understood from growing up over in the coalfields where that history was still pretty close. 

Going to miss having the opportunity to hang out and play music with Eddie. His harmonica could match fiddle tunes note-for-note which made for an awesome sound. He was also really encouraging of others’ creativity and learning music. Years ago at Mt. Airy he handed me an old fiddle repaired by Charlie Bird of Vinton, VA. I was just starting to “get serious” about fiddle playing at the time. After a couple of tunes, he told me to take the fiddle with me saying he thought it would help me along with music. I have never forgotten the thought behind that gift and keep that experience in mind when encouraging others who are getting into music. 

Black Maria by Eddie Ogle
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