Christmas Time’s a Coming Along the Mtn Music Trail

Hackensaw Brothers

The most popular Christmas Carol of all times is Silent Night (see time.com/3613551/christmas-song/ ) . That page also has an interactive graphic of the most recorded Christmas songs since 1978. ) Silent Night was written 1814-16. The most popular Bluegrass Christmas song, Christmas Time’s a Coming (youtube.com/watch?v=EXfBYXElPII), was written in 1962 by a fiddle player who also earned a PhD in engineering from MIT and was a researcher at Bell Labs. Benjamin Franklin “Tex” Logan learned to play the fiddle from his fiddlin’ father.  While he was a PhD student at MIT, just across the Charles River from Boston, Benjamin Franklin Logan hooked up with three Bluegrass pickers from the Coal River section of Raleigh County WV who had recently moved to Boston to pave the way for bluegrass in New England: Bothers Everett (Mandolin) and “Bea” (Guitar) Lilly and their friend Don Stover (Banjo). The band, originally called the ‘Confederate Mountaineers” and wearing campaign hats and riding pants like Bill Monroe’s early look, soon renamed themselves The Lilly Brothers. They played in a bar called The Hillbilly Ranch in Boston’s “Combat Zone”, a seedy neighborhood near the bus station which sported multiple strip clubs and dive bars. Tex wrote this song while he was a member of the Lilly Brothers. It goes kind of like this:

Christmas time’s a comin’, Christmas time’s a comin’
Christmas time’s a comin’ and I know I’m going home

Snowflakes are falling, my old home’s a calling
Tall pines are humming, Christmas time’s a coming
Can’t you hear them bells ringing, ringing joy, joy hear them singing
When it’s snowing I’ll be going back to my country home

Christmas time’s a comin’, Christmas time’s a comin’
Christmas time’s a comin’ and I know I’m going home

Holly’s in the window, home’s where the wind blows
Can’t walk for running, Christmas time’s a comin’
Can’t you hear them bells ringing, ringing joy, joy them singing
When it’s snowing I’ll be going back to my country home

Christmas time’s a comin’, Christmas time’s a comin’
Christmas time’s a comin’ and I know I’m going home

White candles burning, my old heart’s a yearning
For the folks at home when Christmas time’s a coming
Can’t you hear them bells ringing, ringing joy, joy hear them singing
When it’s snowing I’ll be going back to my country home

Christmas time’s a comin’, Christmas time’s a comin’
Christmas time’s a comin’ and I know I’m going home.

Santa Bill Monroe and Ricky Skaggs

Christmas time’s a comin’ has been recorded many times, first and most notably by Bill Monroe. Listen to Bill and he Bluegrass Boys play it on Grand Ole Opry announcer Ralph Emery’s TV show: youtube.com/watch?v=EXfBYXElPII. Of course it was first and always Tex Logan’s song.  To hear him play it at his 85th birthday party, go to youtube.com/watch?v=bRL5hTWidk4 And for a more modern version, check out Ricky Skaggs playing it at The Grand Old Opry: youtube.com/watch?v=-4Rg84r1n1s. It’s my personal favorite Bluegrass Christmas tune. And no version captures the joy of the season more than Dolly Parton’s: youtube.com/watch?v=4wd574YQXag 

Musical events along the Mountain Music Trail this December include:

Saturday and Sunday Dec. 1 & 2 – new singer songwriter Caroline Cotter comes to the Purple Fiddle in Thomas. youtube.com/watch?v=WslrH0A8oDs

Friday, Dec. 7 Augusta Heritage Center December Square Dance, 8pm – 10pm (Beginners’ Workshop at 7:45pm) D&E Campus, Myles Center for the Arts, Creative Commons (former Pit Dance Studio). Dance to live old-time music by Josh Wanstreet & Friends with calling by Taylor Runner! All dances are beginner and family friendly, and participants don’t need to bring a dance partner, Saturday Dec. 8 – Mtn Music Trail member Long Point String Band plays at The Grove in Fayetteville (and at Melody’s in Beckley Saturday the 15th)  

Thursday, Dec. 13Carnegie Hall in Lewisburg presents that wonderful Cowboy/Musical/Comedy act Riders in the Sky with their show “A Cowboy Christmas”. Read the interview w/ Riders in the Sky on page 8 of the December 2018 issue.

Friday, December 14 The Hefner Family of Mill Point, Pocahontas County will sing at Cooktown Community Church, located  right on US 219 between Mill Point and Cooktown, for their 7PM Christmas program.

On the last week of the year, The Purple Fiddle in Thomas closes out 2018 with a bang! Friday, December 23 –mandolinist Jack Dunlap with a Christmas show. jacksmandolin.com. Wednesday, December 26 –West Virginia’s own Hillbilly Gypsies from Morgantown. youtube.com/watch?v=zUCQb-Y1N_M. Sunday December 30The Hackensaw Boys – For almost two decades, the Hackensaw Boys have plowed the asphalt bringing their raw, gritty American vernacular sounds to the music halls and streets across the world. The music began in 1999 when four friends from Virginia’s beautiful Shenandoah Valley found their collective ways to the roots music hub of Charlottesville. As with the folk and punk traditions which form the foundation of their sound, they’ve always operated more as a collective than a band. All said, twenty-eight members have cycled through the group—you never quite know who might sit in as a guest on any given night. youtube.com/watch?v=Jh8Mv1DAT4A 

And, wrapping up 2018 on New Year’s Eve, Pocahontas County’s own Juanita Fireball & the Continental Drifters will play at the Brazenhead Inn in  Mingo, just north of the Pocahontas/Randolph line on  US 219.

Happy Holidays from the MMT – give yourself a great Christmas present – go out and hear some music – preferably Live and Local- or best of all – make music yourself!

-Gibbs Kinderman. HashtagWV #108. December 2018.

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