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John James "Johnny"
1901 - 1974
Glen Williamson ~1991.
|John James Westbrook, Jr. was an
original--a genius: he was a musician, a philosopher, a naturalist, an
archaeologist and, above all, a gifted teacher. In point of fact, John
was a true Renaissance man.
To say that "Johnny"--that's what we all
called him, had an impact on thousands of people, is not an over-statement.
He was a self-taught musician; he played and taught the piano and the guitar;
he wrote and arranged hundreds, if not thousands, of songs over his lifetime.
He also played with Jimmie Rodgers in the late twenties.
Johnny loved Nature, he was the original
environmentalist--with all the good connotations. He could not tolerate
thoughtless people, people that trashed the landscape was his bane. His
knowledge of nature was only exceeded by his ability to infect you with
that knowledge and a respect for nature. He had patience beyond belief:
no question was ever a "dumb" question; and if he didn't know the answer--which
was rare, he would say so and find the answer making sure he passed it
He liked all people, but he especially liked
kids. He always had time for kids, in fact, he seemed to instinctively
know which kids most needed his attention. If I look for a common thread
to the kids that received his greatest attention, it was that they all,
myself included, had a troubled home-life. I guess that it may have helped
him handle the fact that he could not be with his own son, from his failed
marriage, how very sad.
|We lie to our kids when they are young,
we tell them that the world is a fair place, that it is soft and fuzzy,
we protect them from the, sometimes, harsh truth; in other words, we patronize
them. Johnny didn't do that, he neither lied to them nor did he beat them
up with the truth; he was honest without being brutal, and kids could sense
that about him, and they/we responded.
I first met Johnny in 1943 when I was six
years old, before I had started school. It was spring and he had come to
the neighborhood, and several of the older kids were going with him to
the woods to collect --um, well something, I don't remember exactly what.
But I do remember I wanted to go with him. I told him that I wanted to
go, and he said that we would have to get permission from my mother. Mom
was a bit apprehensive, to say the least: she asked the questions that
any parent who doesn't want her child to get hurt would ask. John was use
to apprehensive parents and knew the right words to use to calm their fears,
I went with him. I had great fun, and I was "Hooked!"
Over the years I collected butterflies at
Green Hill Cemetery, first using formaldehyde to kill the insects, and
later cyanide. John gave us butterfly nets of his design and manufacture:
it turns out that John made nets that worked better than a national manufacturer--Ward
Scientific of New York City. He claimed that "Store bought" nets were made
of a bright white netting with short handles. John had a local cabinet
maker, Mr. Allen, make the handle and hoop, and he would sew, or have sewn,
the nets out of bright white netting material. Then he would darken the
gaudy white netting in hot boiling tea. When he finished he had the perfect
net--one where the insect never knew what hit him...
Johnny had a great sense of humor, or more
correctly; a great sense of what was funny. His jokes were, for the most
part, originals; things that were funny to kids as well as adults, but
never at someone else's expense.
the ability to put things into prospective for an eight-year-old: "If a
farmer, who possesses great faith, just sits by his fallow fields and asks
God for a miracle, i.e., to grow corn for he and his family, that farmer
will sit there forever, no matter how much faith he has.
On the other hand, if that same farmer first
tills the soil and plants the seed, then God performs the real miracle--the
germination and the growing of the seed, "God truly helps those who help
tell the story of the devout believers, who, during a great drought, would
gather daily at the local country church, and pray for rain. Finally the
rains came, and the people were ecstatic. And there was the church, Empty--no
one had thought to return to give "thanks."
|Johnny used to take the kids in the neighborhood
hiking in the nearby woods where we would collect butterflies, plants,
snakes and any other collectibles. We not only collected butterflies but
johnny would teach each of us to mount them using special insect pins and
blotters, used by professionals, that he would give us. Imagine that: an
eight year old kid given the tools professionals use and taught how the
pros use them. Later, as I got older he trusted me and some of the other
kids with cyanide killing bottles (sold by Wards Scientific), used for
killing insects, and no one ever had a bad accident. In fact, over the
many years that Johnny did his thing, there were no serious accidents--ever.
the war Johnny was given a 39 Ford station wagon
(A.K.A. the "Woody"), and we went everywhere. One day we would be
at the worlds largest tungsten mine in Townsville, North Carolina, collecting
mineral specimens; the next day we might be on Occoneechee Island at Clarksville,
Virginia, excavating Indian burial sights along side the archeologist from
the Smithsonian (this was as Kerr Lake was filling, A.K.A., Buggs Island),
or walking cornfields in the Stanton River flood plane in search of Indian
arrowheads. _Or in the mountains picking blueberries and looking for snakes;
walking the dark Country Club woods collecting Catocala moths; or night
time on a friend's farm with a portable gasoline generator and lights (that
I had "borrowed" from the National Cemetery's tool house) to catch moths;
going to an abandoned gold mine collecting minerals... And this went on
nonstop every day in the summer and every weekend the rest of the year.
smoked cigars and preached against cigarettes. He would ask if anyone wanted
a cigar, and would pass them around to the kids who wanted them. I do not
smoke today, I believe, because of that "freedom." His ideas on being addicted
to anything--be it tobacco, alcohol or drugs - was the thought of being:
slave to a big green leafy vegetable!" He thought, as
we all did, that allowing such a thing to happen to yourself was "pretty
|Good ver Evil
John used to talk about the human soul,
and how many people didn't believe that they even had a soul. He would
say how the two greatest principalities in the universe--Heaven and Hell--were
fighting over our immortal soul. And that if you didn't recognize that
you even had one, "You would surely lose it."
The Music School
Back in the twenties, John had a band that
used to tour the southern United States--he even played guitar with Jimmie
Rodgers in the late twenties. Later he established
a music school in Washington, DC. He hired lots of music teachers, and
had a thriving business. He tells the story of when he first moved into
his new offices, it seems that the school, which was on the second floor,
was over a bank, and John deduced that his private office--and more precisely
his desk and chair, were directly over the bank's vault. So he had the
sign on the front door changed to read: "Westbrook Music School, Ass sets
over a Million Dollars."
Up until the depression, John was prospering
in his music school, he had over a dozen instructors working for him and
had accumulated a tidy sum. Business dropped off as the depression got
worse, instead of letting his people go, he paid their salaries until all
his savings were gone. It would have never occurred to him
to do otherwise.
used to say that smoking could be dangerous, especially if you were absent
minded. "Why is that?" I asked. "You might throw the wrong butt out the
there was the time when he was dating a young lady and was getting ready
to light up: he asked her, "...do you mind if I smoke?" To which she replied,
"Frankly John, I don't care if you Burn!"
I was about seven years old when I first
started going with Westbrook on day hikes. Once, our first or second grade
class was hiking to Pumpkin Creek, and I had to "Do #2." I knew that John
carried toilet paper for just such situations, so I told him I need to
"do number two." He gave me the toilet paper and told me to go up the trail
to do my business, and that they would wait there until I finished. I did
my business and came back to where everybody was waiting, and we all proceeded
up the trail in the direction that I had done my business. To my
horror there in the middle of the trail was my business, I had done it
right in the middle of the trail, there for all the world to see. I felt
about an inch high, and on top of that I got a rather pointed lecture from
Mr. Westbrook about not "crapping" where everybody else has to walk! Forty
seven years later I can remember every horrifying detail, and the comments
from the other kids--especially the girls...
Upon a Star
John was a great musician, and would play
while Bill Hathaway drove. Once on a trip he was playing his bass ukulele
and taking requests; I said I'd like to hear "Wish Upon a Star," from Disney's
Pinocchio. So he set about slowly picking each chord through the song.
Then he played it through flawlessly--it was beautiful, I (and others)
was brought to tears. I was really impressed because I had recently seen,
on TV, Arthur Godfrey take 6 weeks to learn a much simpler song under the
tutelage of the show's lead guitarist. So I asked John when was the last
time he had played that particular song, he said that this was the first
time, that he had heard it before and was familiar with the song, but that
was the first time he had ever really played it.
Westbrook was loved by both my dogs, Duke
and Snoopy, and he loved them. John liked to tell of all the times--when
I was in school, he would get off the bus at the corner of Jefferson and
Lee streets, where he would meet up with Duke and they would head off for
the woods near Almagro and A & D cliff or the Pumpkin creek woods.
And at the end of the day, how they would part company at the same corner,
John going his way--getting on the bus, and Duke going his way, "Not a
at 100 Yards
When I was about 10 years old, Bobby Plott
and I rode our bikes to the Schoolfield woods. We had our nets and killing
bottles with us and were looking for Catocalas (moths that hide on trees).
After about an hour of pushing our bicycles through the woods, I stopped
dead in my tracks, sniffed the air and said," I smell Westbrook," to which
a voice replied: "Right you are." There standing about 75 yards down the
path was John, net in one hand, knapsack in the other, a big Blue Ribbon
cigar clinched in his teeth, and a big grin on his face. John had a certain
odor, unlike anybody else: a combination of cigar, cyanide from the killing
bottles and a musty smell of tannin or leafy smell from the woods.
One twilight eve we were going moth collecting
at a special sap tree that John knew about: "The moths swarmed like mad
at this tree." We were unloading the nets and a couple of cardboard boxes
filled with killing bottles out of the back of John's beat-up old 1939
Ford station wagon. About that time we saw a shadowy figure, carrying a
large cardboard box, come out of the woods and get into his car. As he
drove by us he slowed down and leaned out the window and hollered: "Juu
get uurn bud?" We figured out a little later that the local bootleggers
kept their "stash" of whisky in those woods until it was time to "run it."
The Grave Digger
One cold winter's day we were digging Indian
burials on Occoneechee Island where it was so cold the ground was frozen.
Each of us was digging in our own 3 foot deep pit, using trawl and brush,
and sometimes a shovel. Because the island was being used as a cow pasture
there were cow chips (dried or nearly dry cow pie) everywhere. Well, after
a half hour of digging, somebody--Johnny we think--tossed a cow chip at
one of the nearby pits, and of course, there was retaliation: the shit
was flying. Bobby Plott, whose pit opened onto Johnny's pit, ran out of
cow droppings and in frustration picked up the largest frozen clod of dirt
and heaved it at John. The big clod dropped into John's lap and broke open--exposing
the best preserved skull ever unearthed on the island.
Look down that
Arrow head hunting was a great example of
how you cannot see an object (arrow head or spear point) if your mind's
eye isn't use to seeing it... Many a newcomer would walk right over a perfect
arrowhead or spear point and never see it. John would always walk where
the novice had walked and find as much as if it were a virgin row. He would
make a point of showing the newcomer the find, in a way that didn't hurt
their feelings. In fact, it made them a more vigilant collector. After
some experience you could spot an artifact with only the minutest part
showing above the dirt.
We lived on junk food and "belly wash."
We rarely took any food or drink with us, we would stop at every country
store we could find and stock up on every weird sweet goodie we could find.
My specialty was finding exotic drinks: I discovered the original mountain
dew in the Roanoke valley, it was in a light green bottle shaped like a
little wine bottle - it was great tasting!
|--John would say: "Why, he's so dumb he
was twelve before he realized the Chamber of Commerce didn't have handles
--He was into recycling very early on, he
always talked about starting a business recycling toilet paper.
--Or if you answered his question on some
subject or other correctly: "You have just won a chocolate covered wristwatch."
--John would tell the story of how his grandfather
use to make home brew back during prohibition. The relatives thought it
was so good that they were constantly nagging him to get a patent on the
formula, to send it to the government and have it analyzed. So he sent
a sample to the Department of Agriculture. After about three months he
received an official looking letter from the U.S.D.A. He opened it and
read it to his excited family: " Dear sir, we are sorry to inform you that
your mule has diabetes."
--He would tell how his father had gone hunting
and had killed a Moose, an Elk, and wounded a Mason."
--He might ask someone "Just how much would
you charge to haunt a house?"
--He might play some piece of music no one
had ever heard before, and title it: "When Lightning Struck the Outhouse--second
--Referring to his 39 ford station wagon,
"The Crate," and driving up mountain sides so often, he claimed he was
going to write a book: "Round the World in Second Gear."
--If somebody passed us on the road in a
hurry and somewhat recklessly, he would say "Hurry bud, you gotta get home
before your beer gets warm."
|Before John got wheels, we went everywhere
on the bus... Then Came the "Crate."
|39 Ford station wagon
(1).. John's beat-up 39 Ford ("Woody") station
wagon, the "Crate," ended it's over
400 thousand mile life in a
|After the Crate
retired, John was given a 46 Ford station wagon which he dubbed the "Gad
Back in 1953 we were out in the middle of
hurricane Hazel, when a severe hail storm hit us denting the Crate and
putting holes in its cloth covered wooden slat roof, resulting in many
a wet ride after that. When it would rain Westbrook use to say it was dryer
outside of the car.
Scearce use to
keep the Crate
image of John:
Westbrook, chomping down on an long-since-extinguished
stub of a cigar, pontificating on some subject or other, while meticulously
scrubbing a rock or pottery shard with a toothbrush under running water
in the sink of his work area located in one corner of his tiny museum.
|Our overnight trip to Little
Bill Hathaway, Johnny, Durwood Orrell, Billy
Norman, Bobby Plott, myself and several more--who's names escape me--went
on an overnight trip to the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina.
We all piled into Bill's brand new Suburban;
going from quarry to quarry and an occasional gem shop looking for mineral
specimens for Bill's 'Nature Specimens Unlimited' enterprise. We ended
up in Little Switzerland, North Carolina--just off the Sky Line Drive.
It was the height of the tourest season,
and we were mingling with some pretty well-to-do folks, some of whom were
in evening cloths and headed for a jewelry auction. We did feel a little
out of place...
After eating supper we all went to the local
Hotel where we occupied several rooms that Bill had reserved for us.
Here we were: young kids, away from home,
in a hotel room "unsupervised"--you get the idea.
The most vivid memory of that trip: one group
of kids--Billy Norman, Bobby Plott, myself and one or two others were negotiating
the extra bunk beds with little room to move around; when there came a
knock on the door. I climbed over several beds and people, and opened the
door--expecting the manager with eviction orders.
There stood Johnny. He was waring only his
flowered boxer shorts, a sleeveless undershirt, his white legs--briefly
exposed but for the garters holding up his dark socks, his hiking brogans,
a stump of a cigar in his mouth, and on his head he was holding a large
painted wooden fruit bowl--upside down like a coolie hat--asking some silly
Our reaction was enormous and uncontrolled!!
Up until that point in my life I don't think
I had ever experienced anything as Funny! Ever!
It broke the tension, to say the least; and
with out saying so--we felt less out of place. We kind-a owned the
place from there on out.
M i s
During the war when sugar was rationed and
candy was very scarce, Johnny was somehow able to get his hands on candy
and bubble gum and would distribute it among the kids at the various schools.
Apparently he had talked the local candy distributor, K.L. Baruddy, into
donating the goodies to the kids of Danville.
|Snoopy's Close Encounter
of the Skunk Kind:
Snoopy--my globe trotting dog--encountered
a skunk at a feldspar quarry near Bedford, Virginia. He smelled so bad
that I seriously thought of leaving him there. During the trip home he
kept nuzzling me for comfort--ugg!
The End of an Era: 1901
The last years of his life Johnny lived with
Bill and Mildred Hathaway on Sutherlin Avenue and
Green Street. He taught music at Leedís Music Center in Nordan Shopping
Center, Danville, VA.
In 1974, Johnny died in his sleep at the
age of 72. He had been fighting the flu.
Six months before Johnís death the three
of us were together in the Green Swamp in South Eastern North Carolina.
For some reason I asked John, "looking back over your life, what do you
regret having done the most?" He thought a few seconds and said, "I canít
think of anything I did that I regret, but I can think of a lot of things
I regret having Not Done."
James Westbrook, Jr.
My Apologies to those left off the List;
gray matter is getting grayer.
PLEASE, let me know if your name is not
on the List; Or if you would like to add your address and other info.
anyone has stories (long or short), photos, articles--anything they want
to contribute to Johnny's Page, Please send them along:
Glen A. Williamson
372 Norwood Drive
Danville, VA 24540 --Please
NOTE: All contributions will be Returned!
William Taylor Ham
1923 - 2009
story about Johnny is complete without including Bill Hathaway.
I donít remember when and how Bill and Johnny
got together, but they became fast friends and remained so until Johnnyís
death in 1974. They were both decent and gentle men, and bigger than life!
I recall my meeting him for the first time--1946 (8 or 9
years old), it was a school hike on the wooded cliffs above the
Dan River on the Schoolfield side, above the power plant. I had heard of
Billówar hero and all, and upon meeting him, I was not disappointed. That
hike I recall him rummaging around in his knapsack and pulling out bandage
materials and patching up a kid's scratched leg.
was born July 7, 1923, in Norfolk, Virginia. He moved
to Danville, Va. in 1939 and attended George Washington High School, when
GW was on Holbrook near the family home, on the corner of Holbrook and
Green Street. In 1941 he attended Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham,
VA. Where he was graduated in June 1942. Shortly afterward he joined the
Marine Corps as a four-year regular serving in the Pacific Theater, including
the Soloman Islands during World War II. After his four-year hitch, in
June 1946, he attended VPI Extension in Danville.
February 1948, he again joined the Marines for another four-year hitch
serving later in the Korean [War] . He received an honorable discharge
in November 1951. In 1952 he married Mildred New, and they had two daughters,
Kitty and Peni. A good part of their lives the family lived in the Perry
house on Sutherlin Avenue and Green Street (a hundred yards from his ancestral
In 1956 he began teaching
in the Pittsylvania County Schools. He taught English and General Science
at Dan River High. Later he taught Biology and Chemistry at Whitmell Farm
Life School and then Tunstall High School. In 1965 he worked in the Chemistry
Lab at the Danville Memorial Hospital. He also attended Averett
He was an avid naturalist and devoted
most of his life to the study of nature and science. He was always eager
to share his knowledge with others through his writings in Natureís Niche
and other newspaper columns, the various local museums to which he contributed,
and field trips that many former students still remember. He taught at
Dan River, Whitmell, Tunstall, and The Govenorís School.
had also taught in the Regional Governor's School every year since its
beginning. Ever since his classes started in 1956, he has taken many students
on hikes along trails built near the individual schools. His interest in
natural history seemed to be a major part of his local enthusiasm. He transported
special students interested in "the great outdoors" on weekends and holidays.
Johnny Westbrook helped and inspired him in his work and his nature studies.
year or so later, he returned to Pittsylvania County to work in the Planetarium
at Chatham. He also helped build the Hiawatha Trail in the White Oak Mountain
area of the county. For several years he escorted hundreds of elementary
school students over the Hiawatha Trail. These students were brought by
school buses to the trail. The gas crunch finally brought a stop to this
school-bus-trail program. He continued to teach special programs for gifted
students in the school system.
A Springtime Hike
Bill with Avery Wyatt and her class from the Pittsylvania
County Public Schools, at the White Oak Mountain Wildlife Management Area.
over 600 35mm color slides of various specimens photographed as early as
1960. A few of these slides were included in Mr.
Hathaway's Virtual Trail Project.
as Resident Naturalist Emeritus for the Pittsylvania County School System.
Bill touched many lives with his love of nature and he will always be remembered
as the teacher from the 'University of Outdoors,' "It is much more interesting
to apply trigonometry measuring the height of a tree than solving equations
in the classroom."
Taylor Hathaway, Naturalist Emeritus, and Rickey W. Parker, Assistant Superintendent
for Information Technology
1923 - 2009
WILLIAM TAYLOR HATHAWAY
FOR A LIFETIME OF DEDICATION
SERVICE TO PITTSILVANIA COUNTY
SCHOOLS, ITS STUDENTS, TEACHERS
AND COMMUNITY. THE TITLE OF
NATURALIST EMERITUS IS HEARBY
WILLIAM TAYLOR HATHAWAY
NOVEMBER 12, 2002
A lot of the above was 'lifted' from Bill's Obituary
written by his grandson, Jonathan T. Decker, also Mr.
Hathaway's Virtual Trail, and several photos from the Henry Mitchell
family's wonderful web site. http://www.pittpaths.com/
Very Own Hero
in the early 1950s, at the outbreak of Korean [War] Bill had alredy gone
back into the Marine Corps as a "gunnery" Sergeant. (He was a retread from
WWII having fought in the Solomon Islands in the Pacific Theater of Operation.)
|Marine Sergeant William Taylor "Bill" Hathaway of Danville, VA,
is seen patrolling South of Soul, South Korea.
A local weekly newspaper, the Commercial
Appeal, had on their front page a full page photo of a marine in silhouette
with a Thompson submachine gun slung over his shoulder, while walking along
RR tracks near Soul, South Korea.
It turned out to be our-very-own, William
Taylor "Bill" Hathaway. Wow! As a thirteen year old, I and Johnny's Ďgang,í
were duly Impressed. Man, here was our hero in the thick of battle, looking
for "Commies" to kill!
Months later when Bill was stateside, we
showed him the picture. He laughed and told us how he was actually looking
for specimens of a particular snail indigenous to Korea and typically found
along railroad tracks. He was still our hero, but we had discovered that
our hero was not only brave, but he was also modest.
summer when he was between teaching jobs, needing money to carry he and
his young wife and two small daughters over till the start of school, he
undertook a demolition job for the Memorial Hospital.
|Danville Memorial Hospital's steam plant smokestack
The job was demolishing a big old smokestack
that was over 120 feet tall and large enough to park a pickup truck inside
at the base, and it was built from large terra-cotta brick and lined with
There he was, every morning climbing to the
top, straddling the lip of the smokestack, using a 3 pound mineral hammer,
he would work his way around--backing in circles, single-handedly brick
by brick, he tore down that entire smokestack, and all before the Fall
I came to write this
years I--along with everyone else who knew Johnny, hoped that a real
professional writer would take pen in hand and chronicle the life of this
Magnificent Soul. I make no secret that I'm disappointed that one of the
most gifted writers that I've had the pleasure of reading, over the years,
has turned it down. Without mentioning his name--if Henry had known
it would be a different story!
Five or six years ago (~1990)
with no thought to Political Correctness, I sat down and started putting
down my recollections of John and the Crud
Crew. I thought that I would not remember enough to make the effort
worthwhile; but to my amazement, no sooner did I get one thought down,
three others would come "flooding in," out running my ability to get it
all down. To that point, I never finished fleshing-out all of the stories
who's titles appear at the end.
About a year ago I discovered the perfect
home for my recollections of John--the WWW. I had it in the back of my
mind that this would be ideal for a Collection of Remembrances of Johnny.
Recently a good friend, Mike
King of Apex, NC--died at an early age. At the wake, I promised his
father that I would write to him about my recollections of his son. I wanted
his parents to view their son through the eyes of his contemporaries. I
wanted them to know how well respected and loved their son was by his friends
As I started writing, I realized since it
had been several years since I had seen Mike, that I was at a disadvantage,
and needed help. So I created a Web Page and solicited contributions in
the form of stories and photographs from all of his friends. --Johnny
would have really liked this guy!
Anyway, all of this is by way of saying:
Your help with Johnny's
If anyone has stories (long or short), photos, articles--anything
they want to contribute to Johnny's Page, please send them:
U.S. Mail: Glen A. Williamson
372 Norwood Drive
Danville, VA 24540
NOTE: All contributions will be Returned!
Trivia Question of the day: What is 2290-J
Johnny believed that the TOOLS
used by the American Indians for making arrow heads, spear points, arrow
shafts, etc., consisted of a finite number of Basic Tool Shapes. He spent
many years amassing evidence that indicated these basic shapes had been
passed down and improved over the generations of Tool Makers, that
is, the tools which were crude in the beginning--had, over ensuing generations--
steadily improved in quality and utility. To make his point, he would lay
out "sets" of similar shaped tools which clearly illustrated their evolution.
In the area around Milton, NC, there were
many great locations for collecting artifacts. Most were tobacco fields
which afforded the best collecting; ones that had been freshly plowed and
recently rained on. --The plow would inevitably "turn-up" hidden artifacts
while the rain would wash off the top layer of dirt exposing the latest
At one such field we were drawn there by
the beautiful dark blue Amethyst quartz crystals. Some times we would find
good specimens of the crystals, but many promising specimens would have
a flaw--a gouge or badly abraded spot. Though collected by many of us as
mineral specimens, Johnny believed these were tools--pure and simple; that
the Indians only saw "our pretty blue crystals" as highly prized tough
material for making their badly needed TOOLS.
Book on the Guitar
To "fulfill a life long dream," John set
about writing a Book on the Guitar. Over a span of three years, he spent
all his spare time--and more, writing this treatise.
In the end, a publisher thought it good enough
to publish if John would "pare it down" to a single volume. At the time
it would have required 3 volumes. To my knowledge, Johnny never finished
the revised single volume. It's my guess, that his dream had been fulfilled,
and he was less interested in its final publication. I don't think he saw
it as a revenue source. I know that's not why he wrote it!
The value in this particular work--according
to Johnny: it was a catalog of--as well as, a method for discovering --"Guitar
Cords." Apparently, up until that time, there were a limited number of
known ways of making popular chords,
fingering frets, strumming, etc. The larger the repertoire of ways
of making certain chords a musician has, the better their performance.
That is, it is how smoothly and how fast a Guitarist can TRANSITION from
one chord to the next that affects the quality of their performance. In
fact, Johnny pointed out that one of the reasons for the success of many
renown Guitarists was their secret collection of ways
of making Chords, and that it was not unusual for them to take
chords to their graves.
played with Jimmie Rodgers in the late twenties.
Anthony Lis' Excellent article on
John (.pdf pp 17 - 21)
There is a CD Reissue:
Jimmie Rodgers, "The Early Years" (Rounder CD 1057, 1991) available
Dickey Betts - "Waiting For a Train" (Jimmie Rodgers) Original recording:
Oct 22, 1928, Peachtree Road, Atlanta, GA (with Dean Bryan, guitar; C.
L. Hutchison, cornet; John Westbrook, steel guitar; James Rikard,
clarinet; George MacMillan, string bass) (matrix BVE 47223-4) Reissued
on "The Early Years" (Rounder CD 1057, 1991)
to Russ Brackman for the info!
Corrine Cortina, by The Too Bad Boys
"That same year (1929), Paramount
Records released a version of "Corrine Corrina" by The Too Bad Boys, a
white group that usually recorded under the name Westbrook Conservatory
Entertainers, (The group was named after its leader, the steel guitar player
John Westbrook, who accompanied Jimmie Rodgers on several of his earliest
recordings.) This rendition, recorded in New York City, is basically a
straight cover of Chatmon's 1928 recording, with a lugubrious bottleneck
slide guitar substituted for Lonnie Chatmon's fiddle. Although all the
other items performed by Westbrook and his colleagues during this recording
session were categorized and promoted by Paramount as "hillbilly" songs,
company executives apparently decided to try a crossover gambit with "Corrine
Cortina," creating a pseudonym for the band, and releasing the song in
their race record series." Corrine_Cortina.mp3
to Fred Hawkins
|A former Student of Johnny's, Steve Eckels
On Solo Acoustic Guitar
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