Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Mountain dance tunes

Saturday night in most rural mountain communities was time for cuttin' loose at the local dance.

In the late 1920s around Danville, Virginia they were dancing to the music of the Blue Ridge Highballers. Band leader, Charley La Prade was born on November 17, 1888 in Franklin County Virginia. After spending his first thirty years in Spray, North Carolina, he moved to Danville. La Prade had played stringed instruments most of his life. The Blue Ridge Highballers were Charley La Prade on fiddle, Lonnie Griffith on guitar and Arthur Wells on the banjo. In 1926 they cut 16 sides for Columbia, of which 14 were released.

If you are not familiar with the term, Highballer, listen up. Perhaps you've noticed the signal lights along railroad tracks. In the days of steam locomotives some railroads used a large red or orange ball on a pivoting arm to let the engineer know if the tracks ahead were clear. If another train was on the tracks, the ball would be at it's lowest point, warning the engineer to stop the train and wait for a clear signal. When the tracks ahead were clear, the ball was raised, letting the engineer know to put on the steam. "Highballing" became synonymous with pulling out the stops and cuttin' loose.

Blue Ridge Highballers - Flop Eared Mule.mp3

Blue Ridge Highballers - Fourteen Days In Georgia.mp3


Blogger Greg said...

Thanks for the great tunes and the explanation of "highballin'." Now, does that have anything to do with cocktails sometimes being referred to as highballs?

May 10, 2006 9:59 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

Good question, Greg.

I know about the train signals from all of the rail museums I've visited.

If only all the cocktails I've had counted as research!

Anyone else have an answer?

May 10, 2006 2:24 PM  

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