Footage of Vess Ossman playing a banjo medley while two blackface entertainers do a dance routine arrived this weekend. The footage is pretty incredible, with Ossman’s incredible left hand very visable for any hardcore banjoists who want to study up on some of his best work. Unfortunately there is no sound with this footage. Regardless we will find a way to include it in the film as Ossman was a central figure in the history of the banjo that preceded Charlie Poole.

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This blurb about Ossman comes from the Songwriters Hall of Fame:

Vess L. Ossman, “The King of the Banjo”, was born Sylvester Louis Ossman on August 21, 1868.

The foremost recorded ragtime musician of the original ragtime era, recorded more ragtime during the music’s heyday than any other musician, carefully transcribing for his own instrument (banjo) music that had been written originally for piano. During its heyday, ragtime—as performed by solo pianists—was almost never recorded since little of the instrument’s rich sound could be captured by the acoustic recording technology. The medium was kinder to banjos and brass bands, so companies turned to banjoists such as Ossman.

Ossman was responsible for nearly 30 top ten recordings including the #1 hits “Yankee Doodle” (1894), “Coconut Dance” (1895) and “A Hot Time On the Levee” (duet with Len Spencer, (1896).

Vess Ossman died on December 8, 1923.

Norman Woodlieff, Charlie Poole’s guitarist on his first four records, was also a visual artist. He painted signs, made advertisements, created album art, and drew some comic strips. One of his comics about the North Carolina Ramblers is below.

Norman was the guitarist on Poole’s biggest selling record, “Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down/Let me Sleep in Your Barn Tonight Mister,” which landed over 100,000 sales.

We’ll be using comic art in “North Carolina Rambler” to help bring to life some of the more outrageous stories from Poole’s life. Stay tuned for more on how we’ll make this happen…

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The Twelfth Annual Charlie Poole Music Festival is scheduled for June 8-10, 2007 at the Eden Fairgrounds on Oakland Avenue/Old Hwy 87 in Eden, North Carolina. Friday evening’s concert features the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Uncle Earl, No Speed Limit, Skyline Drive and others.

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Competitions are scheduled all day Saturday, with Wayne Henderson in concert in the evening. Contests include Junior and Senior divisions vying for $5000 in cash prizes and ribbons in old-time and bluegrass fiddle, flatpick and fingerstyle guitar, clawhammer and bluegrass banjo, bluegrass and old-time band, best rendition of a Charlie Poole song, duet singing, and $500 grand prize for old-time three-finger banjo.

On Sunday, there will be guided tours of Charlie Poole’s hometown, historic Eden.

Campers and RVs welcome. Food and other vendors.

For further information go to Charlie Poole Music Festival call 336-623-3128 or 336-627-0375.

Van Eps Footage Arrives

April 3, 2007

Rich Remsberg, the Image Researcher for “North Carolina Rambler,” made me a happy director when a screener of a five minute segment of the Fred Van Eps Trio showed at my front door. Fred Van Eps was one of the great banjoists on early recordings and one of Charlie Poole’s heroes and primary influences.

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In 1921 the Van Eps Trio was the subject of the earliest known filmed popular music performance with synchronized sound, the short subject “A Bit of Jazz” made by talking picture pioneer O.T. Kellum. Plan to see plenty of this amazing footage in the finished documentary about Poole.

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After much talk and consternation, we’ve finally started a blog about the making of North Carolina Rambler: The Legend of Charlie Poole. Here we plan to post updates, funny (and possibly not-so-funny) production stories, accounts of bizarre historical finds, and tales that detail the joy and woe of making a film. Stay tuned….