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Asheville's Summer Festival Returns



6/27/2008 - Asheville's Summer Festival Returns

As Asheville grows in leaps and bounds, the role of Shindig on the Green stays wonderfully the same: preserving mountain heritage, sharing the dance and music, staging family entertainment and providing a place for mountain musicians to learn, network and jam.

Through most of Shindigs 42-year history, the Stoney Creek Boys have been there as the house band. The lineup has changed some, and Shindig has grown itself (some 3,000-5,000 fans turn out each week). But dont let the numbers fool you; its a small town mountain hoedown at heart.

Clyde Cable (the original Stoney Creek Boys fiddler) and Arvil Freeman (current fiddler with the band) share some thoughts on this much-loved event.

Question: How did you start playing Shindig?

Clyde Cable: I won the fiddle contest at the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival in 1968 and met Jackie Ward (the festival director). I went back in 69 and Jackie talked me into coming to play at this new event she was trying to organize downtown. I told her Id round up a few friends and come to play.

Q: Do you remember the first Shindig?

Cable: There werent many spectators. We used to jam at Westgate (shopping center) but it got bad with drugs and alcohol and I think that is why they wanted to start something new. There was just a little temporary stage low to the ground, facing the courthouse. There wasnt a regular band at first and they didnt have clogging the first summer. It wasnt very long before they built a dance stage and started having street dances with audience participation and started having it every Saturday night through Labor Day.

Q: When did the Stoney Creek Boys start?

Cable: We formed our group in 69, with me on fiddle, Boyd Black (current bass player) on bass, Ervin Penland on banjo, Bill Scroggs on guitar. Ervin gave the group its name; he loved a fiddle tune called Stoney Creek.

Q: How did you become the house band for the Shindig and Mountain Dance and Folk Festival?

Cable: It was the summer of 1974. The clogging teams complained that the music wasnt standardized and gave some teams an unfair advantage in competitions. When we won best band in 1973 at the (Mountain Dance and Folk Festival) and Jackie asked us if we would be a house band in 74. There were two house bands that first year, we played for clogging teams and Johnny Rhymer, of Fairview, played for smooth dancers. After that, we played for all the teams. Our banjo player, Ervin, was an auxiliary deputy sheriff and he was killed in a car wreck in February of 1974. Tom McKinney took his place a short while, then Bucky Hanks. The long runs been with George Banks on banjo and Leonard Hollifield on guitar, Boyd on bass, since around 75, 76 maybe? I think I left in 94 (after 25 years as fiddler). Mack Snodderly played two years and then Arvil Freeman.

Q: What was Shindig like in 96?

Arvil Freeman: It hasnt changed that much, just different people come. The crowds are bigger; we have thousands who come. There are still a lot of people playing and jamming, but there are a lot of duos and trios playing as opposed to full bands.

Q: You won Western Carolina Universitys heritage award in 2007 for preserving (mountain) music. Will it continue?

Freeman: Definitely so, especially the fiddle, I see people taking up the fiddle more than anything else. Back in the early days of the Shindig you didnt see many young fiddle players, 12 or 14 years old. Now they are all over the place at Shindig. At one time, everybody had a banjo and a guitar in their house and they seem to have dwindled down a bit.

Q: Why are there fewer bands?

Freeman: I think people are too busy. Its harder to keep five people together in a band than two or three. When I started, everybody came as a full band or made one up there, there werent many solos and duos.

Q: Is the Shindig important to mountain music?

Freeman: It is the most important thing weve got as far as holding the traditions together. Everything from the old days is slipping away from us but the Shindig is holding it together.

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