Clarence “Tom” Ashley iTunes Tracks

Clarence “Tom” Ashley

+ {Ashley and Greene}

Born Clarence Earl McCurry, September 29, 1895, Bristol, Tennessee, ASHLEY took his surname from his maternal grandfather, who raised the boy. Taught banjo and songs by his two aged aunts, Clarence joined a medicine show in 1913, while a year later he wed and settled as a farm-hand in nearby Shouns. Always moonlighting with various Appalachian string bands during the late 20s (The Carolina Tar Heels and Byrd Moore & His Hot Shots among them), the claw-hammer banjoist recorded some demos for Victor and Columbia Records; the latter distributed three country-blues classics, `The Coo Coo Bird’ (b/w `Dark Holler Blues’), `Little Sadie’ (b/w `Naomi Wise’) and `Old John Hardy’ (b/w `The House Carpenter’). Further 78s came by way of 1932’s `Washington And Lee Swing’ by The Blue Ridge Mountain Entertainers (alongside fiddler/singer Clarence Greene, fellow guitarists Gwin Foster and Walter Davis, and autoharpist Will Abernathy); ASHLEY would also work with both Greene and Foster, respectively, on a handful of shellacs.
A period of musical inactivity from 1934 to the 50s resulted in ASHLEY finding other work as a transport hauler with his son J.D.; however, folklorists/collectors Ralph Rinzler and Eugene Earle coaxed the man back into the limelight after a worthy comeback at the Union Grove Old Time Fiddlers Convention in 1960. With the likes of guitar man DOC WATSON, Clint Howard, fiddler Fred Price et al (and a session with fiddler Tex Isley), ASHLEY performed at various festival and clubs, and even laid down tracks for Folkways Records: CLARENCE TOM ASHLEY AND TEX ISLEY PLAY AND SING AMERICAN FOLK MUSIC (1963) {*6} and OLD TIME MUSIC AT CLARENCE ASHLEY’S (1963) {*6}. BOB DYLAN was a mighty big fan, country music man Roy Acuff was another. Sadly, ASHLEY’s resurgence was curtailed when he died of cancer on June 2, 1967.
© MC Strong 2010/GFD // rev-up MCS Oct2016

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