Bath County, Kentucky
Musicians and Poets
George Lee Hawkins
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George Lee Hawkins b:10-10-1904 d:2-8-1991 buried in Longview Cemetery, Bath County, Kentucky
I don't know if this is appropriate to place any place in the web, this is a poem that my grandfather wrote years after his wife died. She died in childbirth at a young age. He never remarried, but became skilled at his fiddle and recorded music that is in the Library of Congress in 1946, with Martus Moser, they sent me the recordings on a cd. He also recorded music that is now sold by Rounder Records, Traditional Fiddle Music of Kentucky: Up the Ohio and Licking Rivers, Volume 1. He is also mentioned in the Old Time Herald, He is George Lee Hawkins. Very few people could play his style of music, it was Scottish Irish. The article: George Lee Hawkins was another great fiddler, from Bath County, who had some renown outside his own community, having recorded in 1946 for Artus Moser, discs that went into the AFS collection at the Library of Congress. George's fiddling may be my favorite of all the players on this set. His "Humphrey's Jig" is one of the all-time mind-blowing performances, even more so if one can visualize his dancing left arm driving the bowing intricacies in this showpiece. (In fact, John Harrod did capture Mr. Hawkins doing just this on videotape at a small festival held at Morehead State University.) He was known as a "hornpipe" fiddler; he actually did play mountain hornpipes in that old dotted rhythm rather than turning them into driving reels, as most southern fiddlers do. Listening to him bow and phrase is an advanced lesson in the finer intricacies of old-time fiddling. He also obviously enjoyed his art. His introduction to a piece he learned from one of his mentors, the black sharecropper Bill Trumbo, sets the tone: "'Rat's Gone To Rest' . . . with D-Con!" And we also have some fine lyrics from him for "Boatin' Up Sandy"-"Way down yonder boating up Sandy/Red top boots and a quart of good brandy/Some like chicken foot, I likes the liver/I loves the pretty girl who lives on the river/Sometimes drunk, sometimes boozy/Old Johnny Huckleberry a-hugging his Susie." Now that is poetry! One of George's mentors was the legendary Tom Riley (some home recordings of Riley are said to have survived) who later moved to Marion, IN, where he would be an influence on John Summers. Summers sometimes would accompany Riley on visits back to Bath County. It is interesting to compare Summers' versions of tunes to those of Hawkins. Information taken from artickle in the Old Times Herald. "Jackie Huller 2-3-2005"
Poem Written By George Lee Hawkins
Early in the month of June
with fiddle to chin I played a tune
As the music filled the air
it caught half on a maiden so fair
Her bright red cheeks and dark curly hair
Her brown eyes sparkled as she played the guitar
I listened carefully with an artistic ear
to the songs she'd sing seemed to draw us near
The Day was bright a Sunday in June
the lilac bush was in bloom
It's sweet fragments filled the air
Blended with music and a true love affair
This courtship started in the month of June
in 1920 by a silver moon.
We played sweet music as time went by
for in 1923 she became my bride
the memory of lilacs under a golden moon
remind me of an old fiddle tune
the one I played that Sunday in June.
Many years have passed since that Sunday in June
where two hearts met under lilacs of blue
She sleeps now beneath the sod in a silent cemetery
Her name Jennie C. ingraved on a tombstone
for a memory in the year of 1920
A Sunday afternoon in June a true love
was united that Death could only part
the homestead is gone and the lilac bush
so is the fair maiden I love so true....By: George Lee Hawkins Paris, Ky Nov. 27, 1957
NOTE: Papaw had Tuberculosis and went to the TB Sanitorium in Paris, KY I believe this was when he wrote the poem. His wife was Jennie Crouch Emmons, died giving birth to a son, they both died, she was the daughter of James Wallace and Mary Hannah Perry, Emmons. They are buried at Longview Cemetery, Bath County, Bethel Ky. George Lee Hawkins was the son of James Monroe and Nannie Butler, Hawkins. They are buried not far from each other in the Longview Cemetery, Bethel, KY. Jennie also played the organ, piano, guitar, fiddle and banjo. The old organ is still in the family, with their youngest daughter until she passed away, this summer. I remember it well, my aunt had to pump up air into the huge organ. It was a beautiful organ and sure wished I had pictures of it. I have my grandfathers fiddle that he bought from Sears and Roebuck when he and my grandmother went to housekeeping. Jennie also played the organ, piano, guitar, fiddle and banjo. The old organ is still in the family, with their youngest daughter until she passed away, this summer. I remember it well, my aunt had to pump up air into the huge organ. It was a beautiful organ and sure wished I had pictures of it. I have my grandfathers fiddle that he bought from Sears and Roebuck when he and my grandmother went to housekeeping. "Jackie Huller 2-3-2005"
George Lee Hawkins
The newspaper article of Papaw under the tree, with his fiddle was taken at his daughter's house outside of Bethel, Ky. This is the picture that the festival at Morehead used on their billboards.
In the Field-An Interview with Mark Wilson By Kerry Blech
Tell me about George Hawkins.
I think it's great that you appreciate what a truly wonderful musician he was. I always remember George with a tinge of sadness, although I don't know if that's the proper emotion to feel. Objectively, some of the circumstances of his life were quite unhappy: his wife died of TB when she was quite young and the disease almost killed George in the '50s. He mainly worked as a
farm-hand and occasionally experienced a little trouble with the bottle. Nonetheless, George possessed this fantastic determination to excel at the fiddle, following Tom Riley and the other "northern fiddlers" that he admired. So he paid an enormous amount of attention to controlled bow work - he would do little exercises where he would purposefully bow tunes with a backwards stroke to heighten his control, as well as cycling "Fisher's Hornpipe" through a series of difficult keys. Although there was once a circle of excellent fiddlers in Bath County who appreciated George's music, Roger Cooper tells me that George almost "improved" himself out of the fiddle contests they used to have in Vanceburg and Maysville. The other fiddlers would work up outlandish versions of "Orange Blossom Special" while George would prepare a virtuoso version of "Good for the Tongue" in Bb. You see, George followed essentially 19th century paradigms for what "quality fiddling" should be like and, by damn, he wasn't going to degrade his instrument by playing lesser fare. I found his intense concern with self-betterment rather noble.
Source: The Old-Time Herald Volume 7, Number 6
See the entire story at http://www.oldtimeherald.org/archive/back_issues/volume-7/7-6/mark_wilson.html
This article was included with permision from Gail Gillespie, editor, Old Time Herald