Collected by James Ward Lee
and Ralph E. Roberts for
Mary Celestia Parler
Transcribed by Frances Majors
Conversation with Leander Witt,
Mrs. Leander Witt, their son,
Joan O'Bryant, Mary C. Parler.
July 19, 1958
Reel 240, Item 6
JO'B: Did you ever hear that one?
LW: Yes, but it wasn't like that— it wasn't the same tune.
MCP: Can you remember how the tune went the way you heard it?
LW: Now let me see "A-sinking in the lowlands, lonesome low,
When sinking in the lonesome sec."
I can't think of it. It's different altogether.
HOP: Is it altogether different?
LW: Yes, a different tune, a lot of different words.
HCP: How does yours start?
LW: I don't know that I can start the first of it.
HCP: Well can you remember any stanza, any piece of it?
LW: " . . . when it were so done,
. . . rosemary and thyme,
Come and get this cambric shirt,
Oh then he can be a true lover of mine."
MCP: That's real different, isn't it? But it's the same
song I think, don't you?
LW: It's the same song, but different words. Well, I don't
know a thing in the world about music. I just start in
to rattling away and just kep t on rattling away.
LW: That's the only way—
Mrs. LW: That's the way Uncle Henry done. He didn't have no
MCP: Did anybody show you how to get started?
LW: No sir.
Mrs LW: Well they didn't know.
LW: Now I'll tell you what's a fact— lots of people would have
got disgusted and quit. I'll bet it was over a year before
I could ever start a tune on that.
HOP: But you just kept picking at it?
LW: I just kept working at it.
MCP: (To Hr. Witt's son) Do you have a banjo?
Son: I don't play anything.
JL: I thought you was the one that did all the playing.
RR: That's what I understood.
Son: I haven't played any for twenty years. I used to play a lot.
MCP: I thought you were preaching me a sermon that I couldn't
learn unless I wanted to, and then you quit.
Son: I've got something else to do now.
Conversation with. Leander Witt (Cont'd)
Reel 240, Item 6
MCP: I finally found something I could play.
LW: I wish you had brought your fiddle (to his son).
Son: You know I looked in the case the other day, and that
gut that holds the tail piece had broke, and the strings
and bridge and everything was laying right up in the
front of the case. It was the first time I had looked
in the case for a long time.
JL: Your daddy tore that banjo off the wall, raked out the
cobwebs and one thing and another and just set down and
tore off on it.
LW: He can play that banjo some.
JL: Hand it over and let's get some of that.
LW: I'll tell you what he can do. He can play a mandolin.
And the fiddle, too.
MCP: Did you ever see an old home-made stringed instrument
that they used to call a dulcimer?
LW: No, I don't believe I ever seen one. I've heard my father
and mother talk about them.
MCP: That's what I mean. I know they used to have them in
North Carolina, but I never have got wind of any in—
LW: They used to have them in Kentucky, too.
MCP: Yes, but I just wondered if they ever used to make them
LW: I never have seen one.
MCP: Well, did you ever know people who made their own fiddles
and banjos and guitars? Or did they always buy them?
LW: No, my father made me a banjo. And I learned to play on it.
MCP: What was when you were a little boy?
LW: Oh, I were grown. He never would let me have one when
I was just a kid. I was supposed to have something else
MCP: What did he make it out of?
LW: Well, I don't— I think he made the neck of it out of cherry
wood. And he made the hoop, I believe, out of hickory.
And he got some kind of a cover and put on it. It was a
pretty good banjo.
MCP: Do you still have it?
LW: No. I let— didn't I let L. Haskins have that banjo?
Mrs. LW: I guess you did.
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