Sunday’s annual Friends of the Library meeting provided an entertaining afternoon of stories and songs for those in attendance.
The meeting began with installation of officers — President Kelli Johnston, Vice President Debbie Greene and Secretary/Treasurer Sallie Palmer.
Once group business was out of the way, the time was right for stories, music and laughter provided by guest speaker John Fowler who performed Appalachian stories and songs.
Fowler is a storyteller/musician from Western North Carolina with more than 30 years of national performing experience.
As he took the stage, Fowler addressed those in attendance with a “Howdy!” asking the crowd to respond with the best “Howdy!” they could muster.
Fowler began with a song entitled “Come On, Boys, Let’s Go Hunting.” Fowler held a harmonica in his left hand and bones in his right, also keeping rhythm with a unique style of dancing and tapping of his feet. The song featured a call-and-response pattern in which Fowler sang “Come on, boys, let’s go hunting,” and followed by howling the next line, “Dog in the woods and he done treed something.”
Fowler also told stories of his Granny, who was born in the mountains of Western North Carolina in 1898. He talked about the one train that ran through the mountains during the heyday of passenger trains, and also how residents used to flock to Spartanburg, the Hub City.
Fowler played the song “Cripple Creek” using a clawhammer-style banjo, a harmonica worn in a holder around his neck and tapping rhythm with a mountain dance. He explained to the audience that the banjo is an African instrument, which rose to popularity in the United States following the Civil War.
Fowler recalled his first telephone experience, mentioning that his Granny told him Ma Bell would be coming to install it. He proceeded to describe “Ma Bell,” who said drove an old truck, wore a beard and tool belt, and came in “gruntin’, spittin’, and chawin.’” He continued the story, which kept the entire audience in hysterics.
Fowler also talked to those in attendance about Appalachian ballads and performed two — one humorous and another dark. The first was called “Four Nights Drunk,” which he sang a cappella.
“It’s actually seven days drunk, but there are three verses I can’t sing in public,” Fowler said.
The next ballad — “Rose Connelly” — was about a murder, which was commonplace in the ballads of Appalachia.
Fowler had several CDs available at the event, two of which included residents of Buffalo.
One CD featured the music of the late Charles Sumner — a fiddle player who won a South Carolina Folk Heritage Award. Fowler said he spent many hours working with Sumner on the project.
Another CD — “Story, Song and Image: Celebrating the Roots and Ethnic Music of South Carolina” — featured Buffalo resident Freddie Vanderford, who is also a recipient of the South Carolina Folk Heritage Award. The CD is a result of a multimedia project in which Fowler partnered with artist Glen Miller to produce an audio recording and a 64-by-46-inch narrative oil painting of each of the featured artists.
Other CDs included Fowler’s own, “The Hairy Toe and Other Strange Stories with Mountain Music,” and a collection of fiddle performances called “Fiddle Traditions.”
Following his performance, Fowler talked with audience members and answered questions about his instruments and repertoire.
The Friends of the Union County Carnegie Library are members of the community who support, extend and promote the services of the library while enjoying themselves. Activities are held throughout the year which provide a great way to get to know the library, staff and other people in the community with similar interests.