(1:11:45; 160MB; CD04-24)
Recorded on May 30, 2004 by the Florida Folklife Program at the 2004 Florida Folk Festival in White Springs, Florida
Welcome back to the Florida Folklife Collection podcast series from the State Library and Archives of Florida.
Over the years The Florida Folk Festival has certainly drawn its share of nationally renowned talent. Frequently these artists have had some connection to the state of Florida, few however have received the sort of homecoming extended to Vassar Clements. In his early years Clements was tagged with the nickname “The Kissimmee Kid” after the town in which he was raised and first took up the fiddle at the age of seven. By his teens he had formed a string band with his cousins Red and Gerald, become a staple on local radio stations and at 14 had drawn the attention of Bill Monroe. Vassar spent seven years with Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys before leaving in 1957 to join Jim & Jesse McReynolds who were then based in Live Oak. Throughout his life Vassar pursued an interest in many forms of music eventually melding country and bluegrass with the jazz and swing sounds he heard on the radio forming his own unique style, Hillbilly Jazz. It was this diversity and musical curiosity that landed him a spot among other country and bluegrass legends on The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s Will the Circle Be Unbroken album and exposed his talent to a wider and younger audience. Vassar was soon in demand as a studio musician, eventually appearing on over 2000 recordings from artists as wide ranging as Stephane Grappelli, The Monkees, and The Grateful Dead. From 1997 to 2004 Vassar returned to the Florida Folk Festival where he frequently appeared with a pick-up band consisting of other festival participants providing them with a rare and memorable opportunity to share the stage with one of the world’s most accomplished and versatile fiddle players.
The performance we’ve selected for this month’s podcast was recorded on May 30th at the 2004 Florida Folk Festival. It was Vassar’s last appearance at the festival; he passed away the following year at age 77. Let’s join the Father of Hillbilly Jazz accompanied here by Wayne Martin, Josh Pinkham, Alan Dalton, Carroll Clements and Jane Royal. Thanks again for listening.