Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A few old favorites: Lee Highway Blues

The songs of G.B. Grayson and Henry Whitter are amongst the most widely known of the Old Time genre and some of my favorites.

I’ve featured Grayson & Whitter in the past so I won’t go into the incredible influence these two had on American music (see the original post here). One song in particular has long been one of my all time favorite tunes. G.B. Grayson was a champion fiddler and this fun little tune showcases his mastery. Grayson & Whiiter called this little ditty Going Down The Lee High Way, but it has come to be known as Lee Highway Blues. I don’t know why it has acquired the “Blues” moniker; I see it as more of a late 1920s cruisin’ tune. Henry Whitter says on their recording "Right on down the Lee Highway" To which Grayson replies "I’m makin’ a sixty".

Lee Highway Blues is one of my all-time favorite tunes. I don't recommend holding back. It may cause bodily injury to sit still while this song is playing! So, set that toe to tapping and let go!

Fiddlers in these parts still play this tune as a showcase for their artistry and skill. One of the most heart-felt new versions of Lee Highway Blues that I have heard is played by Eddie Bond of the New Ballards Branch Bogtrotters. The New Bogtrotters have taken their name in honor of the great Ballards Branch Bogtrotters that were favorites at the Old Fiddlers Convention in Galax, Virginia in the 1930s. I have searched for a source for the New Ballards Branch Bogtrotters CDs and tried to contact them. All I have been able to find is a couple of earlier CDs at County Sales. This cut is from my autographed copy of The Old Green Truck. I'm sure I will run into the Bogtrotters sometime during the spring festival season, I'll post an address where their CDs can be purchased then.

Grayson & Whitter - Going Down The Lee High Way.mp3

Hazel Dickens & Alice Gerrard - Lee Highway Blues.mp3

New Ballards Branch Bogtrotters - Lee Highway Blues.mp3

Just an observation: David Bromberg has titled his website "The New Lee Super Highway".


Anonymous john said...

Could it be possible that this was originally titled "Goin' Down The Lehigh Way"? A reference to the Lehigh Valley Railroad (The Black Diamond Route)which hauled coal in NY and PA ?

March 29, 2007 10:13 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

Not likely. Grayson & Whitter were both from southwest Virginia. The Lee Highway was designated as such by the Virginia General Assembly in the early 1920s. It was a major road before the Interstates and runs from Washington DC to Bristol, VA/TN, and on through Knoxville and Chattanooga. Today most of that route is now US Hwy 11.
Many of the highways in VA are named for Confederate generals. I live off of Jefferson Davis Blvd, which runs south from Richmond, through Petersburg.

March 29, 2007 10:58 AM  
Anonymous john said...

I see.
Now, don't expect to hear any fiddle tunes from us Chicago area folks titled "Goin' Down the Old Dan Ryan". In keeping with good ol' Chicago machine politics, the expressway was named for Dan Ryan, Jr., the President of the Cook County Board of Commissioners. His cousins probably got the cement contract!
Come to think of it, that's not a bad title for a tune.

March 29, 2007 4:55 PM  
Blogger lynne said...

Why is the info in left pane crossed out?

April 01, 2007 10:46 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

Lynne, If you are referring to the music links in past posts:
I only leave the music files up for one week. After that I remove the files and strike through the links.

April 01, 2007 12:43 PM  

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