“Birdie in the Cage!”: Appalachian Dance Traditions and the Turner Tapes

This blog post was originally published on May 21, 2020.

The mountains of North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia have long been noted for their dance traditions. Dance halls and venues such as The Alleghany Jubilee in Sparta, North Carolina, The Carter Family Fold in Hiltons, Virginia, and The Floyd Country Store in Floyd, Virginia are some current examples of places where these traditions are on full display weekly. Such venues provide the floor space, book the bands, cook the hot dogs, make the coffee, etc., all to create a space where dancers come to show off their steps well into an evening.

The William R. and John W. Turner Concert and Dance Videos are a window into the history of Appalachian dance halls and music festivals. Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, the Turners and their video camera travelled from dance hall to dance hall, festival to festival capturing the sights and sounds of regional dancers and musicians. One frequently visited venue was The Mountain Music Jamboree in Glendale Springs, North Carolina, a popular spot for dancers living in northwestern North Carolina and southwestern Virginia. Here is a square dance at the Jamboree, circa 2000: https://archive.org/details/1025_VT13_171_0001  Front and center on the dance floor, dancing and grinning in the first frames of the footage, is John Turner himself!

Still image of John Turner (left) and the Old Time Tradition band in the background.
Photo caption: John Turner on the dance floor (left). Click here to go to the complete Turner video collection, hosted online courtesy of the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center.

The caller is Arvill Scott, who organized and hosted the dance. The band is “Old Time Tradition,” featuring Eddie Bond (fiddle), Dee Dee Price (banjo), Jesse Lovell (guitar, right), JoAnn Redd (autoharp), and Jamie Edwards (bass).

“Old Time Tradition,” made up of members from both sides of the Carolina-Virginia line, performed regularly for the Jamboree. Here is another incarnation of the group playing at Jamboree in 1997: https://archive.org/details/1025_VT9_119_0001

This lineup features Eddie Bond (fiddle), Ray Chatfield (banjo), Jesse Lovell (guitar), and Jamie Edwards (bass).

After 24 years and several changes in location, the Jamboree closed its doors in 2011. The closing of the Jamboree very much represented the end of an era, constituting the loss of a popular satellite for Appalachian dancers. Fortunately, the Turners visited the Jamboree frequently and footage from the venue will appear in future blogs about the Turner tapes as well as in Appalachian State Special Collections Research Center’s “Wednesday Afternoon Dance Party” Twitter posts.

PS: If anyone can identify the mandolin and guitar player on the right in the first clip, please do let us know in the comments section!

PPS: For those that like to geek out on square dance calls, you can hear the dance call “Birdie in the Cage” (alongside a host of others) hollered by Arvill Scott at about 1hour, 34 minutes, and 23 seconds in the first posted link.

Published: Jul 14, 2020 11:41am