Bill Livers
Indiana Fiddlers Gathering, Battle Ground, IN. Late '70s to early '80s.

Bill Livers with rapt audience. Indiana Fiddlers Gathering, Battle Ground, IN. Date unk (again, late '70s to early '80s).

This is the Bill Livers we knew and loved. Here he is filling some young noggins with some tall tale wonderment. One might think it'd be a bit tricky to transmit a mischievous twinkle from that one cotton eye Bill had, but he pulled it off with style. I'm thinking it was at the festival when this pic was snapped that we field recorded and Garry subsequently learned (read: "interpreted") his great tune "Old Virge."

He was a treasure. Kids naturally gravitated to him, as per this pic, and they were never disappointed with the encounter.

Photo by Tryggvi Emilsson.

Update-Addendum, 22 May, 2010

Here is a recently re-discovered aulde cassette tape of Bill rendering his great old tune, "Old Virge."

My "baby" brother Garry Harrison is a deeply experienced field collector of traditional American music and has recently worked up this great tune courtesy of Bill Livers. It's "Old Virge" as Garry has applied his "respectful guesswork" to it to piece together what ol' Bill was surely trying to get across. In some cases, the source for these rare old gem tunes were, to some degree, incapacitated by age, arthritis or injury and simply weren't able to render the tune as they could probably still hear it in their head. The greatest insult would be to play their tune with all the fumbles, sour notes and wandering astray excursions that are simply due to the ravages of time.

Whenever possible, Garry would play back for the oldtimer his (Garry's) rendition of the tune s/he had played for us, to gain their input and, hopefully, approval. Garry's batting average is stellar in gaining that beaming approval, and it's with every inclination that, were it possible, ol' Bill would cackle his approval of Garry's current interpretation of Old Virge, prolly with a good knee-slap to boot.

This offered here to verify that the tune was made and named by Bill's granddad, so it goes back in time way before ol' Bill was a pup. I recall him saying that Old Virge was a good ol' dawg, and the dog baying Bill does in the tune pretty much attests to that.

This was recorded "in the field" on a Cheap-o-Matic little portable cassette recorder through its own condenser mic, so the audio quality is horrible, not much above can-and-string. But it's bettern' nothing. Recorded late-late-laaaate at night at Battle Ground, IN "Fiddler's Gathering" in the late '70s or early '80s. Setting is a campgrounds open jam. Don't know who all is involved besides Bill, other than I can hear Gaye Harrison and myself at times, and Chirps was recognizable on the tune immediately preceding on the tape. Unknown 3-fingered banjo picker who had his own ideas as to what the tune might have needed, but that's the terrible beauty of an open jam.

That recording of it converted to an MP3 is Here. (Pretty rough field recording on a Cheap-O-Matic dime store portable cassette).

Garry plays it at a star-studded jam in the SandyDome in October, 2009. It has "cleaned up" and evolved nicely, we think. That's Here. Garry likewise recorded Bill playing this tune on a different occassion, probably either the year before or after this one, and most likely also at Battle Ground, and I'm guessing that accounts for the third part that's in the current version vs the two-parter Bill plays on my catch. Knowing ol' Bill, if there's another recording out there of him doing Old Virge, that could very well constitute yet another variant. Identifiable by style in this jam are Steve Harrison (me) on clawhammer banjo and John Bishop on guitar. Pickin' circle numbers varied between a half-dozen to around 1.5 dozen. Not miked well enough on this cut to ID anyone else.

"Heaven Hill, honey. That's all I drink!" is Here. Included on that tape, too, was the likewise often referenced knee-slapper where ol' Bill, his hearing being pretty compromised even back then, mistook the question asked him by Gaye Harrison -- twice! Do note that the laughter was shared, roaringly, by Bill once he caught what was actually being asked. In other words, the laughter was with ol' Bill, not at him. He was our friend.

 

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