News Column

Musical couple tells story to Hamilton audience

July 11, 2013


July 11--HAMILTON -- By special request, Oxford's musical couple Warren and Judy Waldron not only told their story, but gave the audience a lesson in musical styles this week at Miami Hamilton Downtown's "What's Your Story?" series.

The series, according to host Shaun Higgins, is designed to let local "ordinary people tell extraordinary stories," but first he asked the couple for clarification on the difference between traditional, old-time and bluegrass music.

"'Traditional' I would describe as anything that comes from the community as it existed, music that is handed down from generation to generation," Warren Waldron said.

"It's the same thing I would describe as 'old-time' music," Judy added. "It goes way back to the people who moved here -- the Scottish, the Irish, the African. And that evolved into bluegrass."

"People have been referring to 'old-time' music for a long time," Warren said. "Anything is modern in its day. Some of the music we play was written centuries ago, but some of it was written recently and just sounds old."

He said that folk music travels with the people, that the tunes weren't waiting in the mountains for people to come and get it. In fact, because of the isolation of the Appalachian mountains, British musicologists have traveled to those regions to get a sense of what the folk music across the pond might have sounded like having been removed from outside influences for more than a century.

both of them came from families that had a deep interest in music. Warren said he got interested in traditional music when he inherited a banjo and went on a journey to learn how to play it, and he gave a demonstration of the different styles of banjo playing, from the original African style to the modern style as developed by Earl Scruggs and others.

Originally from the Cleveland area, he said he came to Oxford as a young man to go to Miami University, and as soon as he hit town began scouring the town for like-minded musicians.

Judy was among those who would gather with Warren under the water tower in Oxford for impromptu jam sessions. Out of those sessions, they formed a band they called "the Water Tower Wobblers." They also hooked up with a square dance caller and began playing square dances for free. With another couple, they began playing at Cedar Point amusement park in the summers, which they did from 1977 to 1980, but the last year they played by themselves to see whether the traditional music they loved could be adequately played by a duo.

That final year, they said the learned a lot of music because they were given free reign to create their own shows.

After that, they returned to Oxford, both got jobs with Miami University, and concentrated on becoming "community musicians."

Through the years, they've played both as a duo and as part of a number of other groups, including the Pine Ridge Partners, the Rabbit Hash String Band and the Jericho Old-Time Band.


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