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CHAPTER 3 The Real Calling The decade of the 1920s finished the shaping of Lunsford Into a collector, performer and promoter of the folk arts, and It brought the call to service. He never knew for sure just what had started him on his unusual primary career as a singer, Instrumentalist, dancer, folklorist and festival promoter. He thought It might have been his mother, "a blue-eyed girl who sang as spontaneously as the mountain daisies bloom." His father undoubtedly had an Influence , for he was lover of fiddle music and would occasionally hum tunes and even break Into song, and he had certainly encouraged his children's early musical interest. Uncle Os Deaver was also a great Influence; the trips to the old fiddler's home made a strong Impression on little Bascom. He commented once that it was Uncle Os who had inspired him to play the fiddle. But just growing up In Madison and Buncombe Counties of Western North Carolina In the last years of the 19th century would have Influenced anyone with a yen for traditional music and related lore, for the woods were full of fine musicians , singers and common folk whose heads held ballads, songs, hymns, tales, rhymes, riddles and square dance figures. The common people around the turn of the century performed freely, as pointed out by Cecil Sharp, in contrast to later years when SOCially aspiring people began to take on what they thought to be more sophisticated ways. Once he was tuned into music and dance, and once he got the bug for performing , Bascom found many opportunities for learning new materials and techniques. His reminiscences are full of specific instances when he was able to enrich his repertory while he was going to school, doing routine chores, or pursuing one or the other of his various careers. He expected to find precious material wherever he went. "One man can walk through a garden and not see anything but bushes and weeds," he commented, "while another man can walk through the same garden early in the morning when the dew is still on the roses and see It all-see the whole world." At first, he was mainly interested in learning to play and sing as many songs as possible for his own satisfaction or for family entertainment. After he and Blackwell began playing for school programs, it was important for them to improve their repertory and to give some thought to the presentation of the material. Even as a young man, he appeared to have a feel for the worth of the traditional material he learned and the value also of performing It in ways traditional to the area where he found It. Later on he reported that he sometimes 27 tinkered with verses to make them suit his taste better, but he made It clear that he mainly stuck faithfully to the versions he had learned. Yet showmanship became Important to him from the time he surveyed the waxen remains of the stereoptican show In the school where he and Blackwell performed, and his ambition to entertain sprang up there full blown. He learned the traditional styles on fiddle and banjo and faithfully practiced them. Likewise, he learned th~ ballads and folk songs and made them part of himself. He had grown up with many of the ballads and songs and certainly with the hymns. Since he was as much a part of the culture as was the material he gathered, they were In harmony. His love for the culture and the music was so great that he always respected the Integrity of the songs which he collected. He made numerous references to the dances and parties that he attended as a boy and as a young man. The Appalachian style of square dancing was a natural skill for him, learned as a part of the process of growing up In Madison and Buncombe counties. It Is obvious that Bascom was a very bright young man, entertaining, witty and popular, and as such he was Invited to most of the parties and dances. He was never one to sit out the dances or decline to play or sing. Harold H. Martin described an older Bascom Lunsford as a man who "walks all reared back, as the saying Is ....When he stands, he stands all reared back, like a man of substance...wlth dignlty....he would not only sing loudly and wlllingly, ...he would do so the same...


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