CHAPTER 5
Ozark and Appalachian Folk Music

The folk music found in the Ozarks would seem to indicate that, culturally speaking, the area is Appalachia West. In matters of repertoire and instrumentation, the folk traditions of the two mountain regions are very similar. Even the methods of instrument-playing are alike. For example, one of the prominent guitar-playing techniques in the Ozarks is known as "Carter style," after Maybelle Carter, the Appalachian country musician who was its most influential proponent. In this approach, the guitarist picks a melody line with the thumb of the right hand while brushing the index finger of the right hand across the strings to sound the harmonic accompaniment. In both regions this method of guitar playing has been overshadowed in recent years by the "Travis style," in which a guitarist picks out a melody line with the fingers of the right hand while using the thumb of the right hand to strike the bass notes. Although very popular in Appalachia and the Ozarks, this style actually originated in western Kentucky.

Because there are so many similarities between Appalachian and Ozark folk music and song, most authorities have assumed they are exactly the same. During the past two decades, a few observers have noted that there are some differences as well, though some of these do not hold up under investigation. One observation is that Ozark folk music has been more isolated from popular music influences--jazz, vaudeville, and Tin Pan Alley--than has the folk music of other regions of the United States. But any brief search through an Ozark collection such as Vance Randolph 's Ozark Folksongs will easily disprove this statement. Although there are many Child ballads and similar items of some antiquity, there are also songs such as Gussie L. Davis's "The Fatal Wedding," George "Honey Boy" Evans's "Down in Arkansaw," Hoyt "Slim" Bryant's "Mother, the Queen of My Heart," and Billy Hill's "Little Box of Pine on the 7:29" that are taken from Tin Pan Alley or commercial country music sources. Their presence provides ample evidence that Ozark folk musicians did not live in a world shut off from the influence of popular

-97-

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Ozark Country
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • FOLKLIFE IN THE SOUTH SERIES ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • Introduction xiii
  • Chapter 1 Historical Overview 1
  • Chapter Family Ties 17
  • Chapter 3 at Work 51
  • Chapter 4 Folk Customs 75
  • Chapter 5 Ozark and Appalachian Folk Music 97
  • Chapter 6 Games and Entertainment 131
  • Chapter 7 Folk Narratives 151
  • Appendix 167
  • Notes 173
  • Bibliographical Essay 181
  • Bibliography 185
  • Index 189
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