Featured Recording

Last Possum Up the Tree - George R. Gibson

Track Listing

  1. Last Gold Dollar
  2. Moonshiner
  3. A little About Myself
  4. Little Birdie
  5. East Virginia
  6. Colonel Jones Explains Moonshine
  7. Wild Bill Jones
  8. Playing Over the Telephone
  9. Cacklin' Hen
  10. One Morning in May
  11. A True Story of a Wife and Mule Swap
  12. Old Smokey
  13. HighTop Shoes
  14. Morphine
  15. Gen. Morgan Play a Stolen Fiddle
  16. Morgan's March
  17. Big John Henry
  18. Chigger Bill's Still
  19. Bell Conie Knob
  20. Pretty Polly
  21. Old German War Intro
  22. Old German War
  23. Old Reubin
  24. Cluck Old Hen

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The Possum CD contains some of the banjo songs and stories I learned as a boy in the Kentucky mountains ca. 1950. I was born in 1938 at Bath, in Knott County, Kentucky. Bath was a rural post office, now discontinued, on Little Carr Creek, which was known by local people as Burgey’s Creek. I learned to play and sing the old songs, in the old tunings, from my family and neighbors. I left Knott County in the 1960's, taking with me a Kay banjo and a Vega Whyte Laydie guitar banjo. I have been mostly a couch banjo player since leaving. I believe that continuing to play banjo was my way of holding on to a past that I glimpsed only briefly. That past is part of a world and time in Knott County that has vanished forever. As far as I know, I am the last person left playing the old Burgey’s Creek banjo music. I am the last possum up the tree.

A few academics and revival musicians from outside the mountains wrote the banjo out of existence in pre-Civil War Appalachia. This is one example of cultural strip mining that I thought should be reversed. Therefore, when I was afforded the opportunity to write the liner notes for the Possum CD, I included evidence of a banjo tradition in Kentucky prior to the Civil War.

Most of the banjo songs were played on a ca. 1907 Bacon ff Professional 5-string banjo. Tracks 7 and 20 were recorded playing a ca. 1924 Gibson GB-4 trap-door guitar banjo, which has a 14" head.

The words to the various songs on the Possum CD can be found on this web site. The Possum CD can be ordered by contacting us. The price is $17.00, which includes shipping in the continental United States. The money from the sale of this CD will be donated to WMMT-FM Radio and the Cowan Creek Mountain Music School. This CD can also be ordered from Appalshop or Elderly Instruments.

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