Musician Freddie Vanderford — a Buffalo resident — was chosen to be a part of a multi-media project, which celebrates the broad musical heritage of South Carolina. The project is titled "Story, Song, and Image: Celebrating the Roots and Ethnic Music of South Carolina." Vanderford is one of 10 SC musicians featured in the project, which is a collaboration of a cd recording, a 64-by-46-inch narrative oil painting of each musician, and lots of research.
The entire project is based on the research of South Carolina roots music by Glen Miller and John Fowler. Fowler – who is a musican/storyteller/music collector — has produced several recordings, and conducted a number of documentaries for SCETV. He contributed the audio portion of the project. Miller — who is an artist/musician — is a native of northeast Tennessee and has taught art in South Carolina since 1979, currently teaching drawing and painting at Converse College. He contributed all the paintings.
In a way, the project began in Buffalo.
"Freddie was the first musician I spent time with for the project," said Miller, "and each painting is a story about the musician."
Miller visited Vanderford in his hometown for the day. "We met at the Buffalo Mill towers and cruised around Buffalo. He wanted to see the bridge (on Riley Road) I used to go practice under as a kid," said Vanderford. The two talked and played music together, and even squeezed in lunch at Shady’s.
The show opened at the Pickens County Museum on Dec. 12, 2009 and will continue through Feb. 12 of this year. The show takes up an entire floor of the museum, with paintings and historical information, complemented by the Story, Song and Image audio cd playing through the sound system while patrons enjoy the display.
"I was amazed," said Vanderford. "It was huge, and he included every detail: The mill towers, the bridge, my dogs and even a plate of chicken wings."
"I’ve known of Freddie for many years, and his connection with Peg Leg Sam connects him to Piedmont blues and makes him a valuable resource," said Fowler.
Vanderford started playing guitar around age 10, and started to pick up the harmonica during junior high school. In 1969, when he was in tenth grade, he heard a rumor that legendary medicine show blues performer Peg Leg Sam was living in Jonesville. Vanderford sought out Peg Leg Sam — whose real name was Arthur Jackson — and asked to be taught to play the blues. Vanderford started driving the bluesman where he needed to go and learning everything he could, making the harmonica his instrument.
"I really had to work hard on guitar to learn the notes and play them. I had to work hard on harmonica, too, but if I could think it, I could play it on harmonica," said Vanderford. "I learned how to express my feelings with the harmonica."
The project covers South Carolina roots genres including gospel, bluegrass, Gullah, Native-American, and Piedmont blues.
Miller and Fowler hope to travel the show around the state for at least three or four years. It is already confirmed for the Burroughs-Chapin Art Museum in Myrtle Beach for 2011.