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musicians at clifftop

Old-time musicians from near and far are drawn to the annual festival at Camp Washington-Carver, near Clifftop in Fayette County. Fiddlers Brad Leftwich (center) and Bruce Molsky share a tune in front of the historic Chestnut Lodge. Linda Higgenbotham joins in on the banjo-ukelele.
Photo by Michael Keller


Appalachian String Band Festival

by Danny Williams

It was some time after 3:00 a.m. Saturday morning when I crawled into the truck and slid into my sleeping bag. A few of us had been sitting under a beech tree playing guitars and singing, listening to other knots of musicians hidden behind the fog, and time sort of got away from us. As I zipped my bag against the surprising August chill, I figured I would probably sleep till noon.

But about eight o'clock, I heard my next-truck neighbor ease down his tailgate. A minute later came the clatter of a camp stove, followed by the smell of coffee. When the fellow started tuning up a mandolin, I grabbed my banjo and my cup and went out to introduce myself. Another day at the Appalachian String Band Festival was off to a fine start.

My neighbor turned out to be Steve, a delivery driver from Kentucky who has been coming to this festival for about four years. He had plenty of coffee, and we played "Old Jake Gillie." Steve learned this tune during his first trip here, in a free workshop by West Virginia fiddling master Glen Smith [see "'I've Always Loved Music': Champion Fiddler Glen Smith," by Jacqueline G. Goodwin; Summer 1990]. The experience hooked him on the festival.

"You've got musicians here from all over the country - professionals, beginners, whatever - and you've got these great old-timers who know the way the tunes are really supposed to sound, and everybody's just learning everything and having a great time. There's nothing like it."

A lot of musicians agree with Steve. They have quickly made "Clifftop," as most call the festival, one of their favorite annual happenings.

You can read the rest of this article in the Summer 1999 issue of Goldenseal, available in bookstores, libraries or direct from Goldenseal.

Check out the full schedule of events, including the String Band Festival, at Camp Washington-Carver.