January-February 2010

Old Time Grindhouse

-- Fiddle Lesson #9
Alonzo Janes

By David Bragger

david bragger fiddling

One of my favorite fiddle tunes is Alonzo Janes. It's been that way since I started playing fiddle. There's something about its cyclical, repetitive and primitive attitude that grabs me in that "special" way. Edden Hammons' Digging Potaotoes and L.N. Porter's Blackjack Grove do the same thing for me. Alonzo Janes was one of the first tunes I heard played by a living old-timer so it really resonates with me. Before getting a primer in bowing via lessons and long distance travels to fiddler homes, I started attending a Sunday jam session at Highland Grounds in Hollywood. When Illinois fiddler Mel Durham, who lived in Orange County, was present, he started just about every tune. It rubbed some of the non-OT musicians the wrong way, but most of us loved hearing old tunes from the Durham family repertoire. I especially loved to see the elder fiddler lead the way. One of his tunes was Alonzo Janes. The Durham family learned it from an ex-slave named Alonzo Janes. Enjoy.

"Alonzo Janes" - GDGD tuning (medium tempo)

"Alonzo Janes" - GDGD tuning (slow tempo with bowing)

David Bragger is a Los Angeles-based instructor and player of old time fiddle and banjo music. He also photographs, films, and collects the lore of traditional artists, from puppeteers in Myanmar to fiddlers of Appalachia. www.myspace.com/davidbragger


All Columns by David Bragger