159 Original Georgia Fiddle Tunes
|Composed by Frank Maloy
Played by Casey Driscoll & Jon Grisham
|Frank Maloy was born in Milan, Georgia on January
2, 1927 into a family in which nearly everyone played string instruments.
As a youngster, he started off playing fiddle with a bow haired with sewing
thread. From the Sears Roebuck catalog, Frank ordered the book 1000 Fiddle
Tunes, published by M.M. Cole, and completed the "U.S. School of Music"
correspondence course in music theory. Frank and Joe's older brother Grooms
Maloy, already a well-known and accomplished musician, went into the service
in World War II and, tragically, was killed in action in the Philippines.
So Frank, along with his younger brother Joe on guitar, started out on their
own, playing for theaters, parties, and square dances around rural South
Georgia. By 1946, the Maloy Brothers were playing over radio station WBHB
in Fitzgerald, Georgia with Charlie Dowdy and the Prairie Boys, the music
a mix of country, western swing, and current popular numbers. Over time,
Frank expanded his horizons, becoming proficient on guitar, mandolin, bass,
saxophone and clarinet, in addition to the fiddle. In 1950, Frank and Joe
moved to Macon, Georgia, and Frank began a ten-year stint on TV and radio
with Gene Stripling's band "Uncle Ned and the Hayloft Jamboree."
After Stripling's death in 1960, Frank and Joe organized The Swingmasters,
a dance band that kept up a busy pace in South and Central Georgia for several
decades. In the 1980s, the brothers migrated to the Outer Banks area of
North Carolina, playing "beach music" and '50s rock and roll.
Subsequently returning to Georgia, they played swing, jazz, and popular
music with the Dave Mercer Band for much of the 1980's and 1990's. In 1999,
they reorganized the Swingmasters and continued playing the South Georgia
dance circuit until Joe's passing in 2005. A fine example of Frank and Joe's
collaboration on swing fiddle and flattop guitar was recorded in 1999, mentioned
above. During their long career, Joe and Frank Maloy accrued a wealth of
accolades, including the Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame's Hall of Honor
award (1993) and Education Award (2002), and from the Atlanta Society of
Entertainers, the Ray Melton Music Man Award (2004) and for
Frank, the Songwriter of the Year Award (2007) and the Fiddlin
John Carson Award, from Phyllis and John L. Carson of Fiddlin' John
Carson Productions Group (2010), among others.
Along with his brother Joe, Frank organized the annual Old-Time Fiddlers' Jamboree at the acclaimed Georgia Agrirama agricultural history museum in Tifton, earning the Agrirama's Award Plaque for Dedication and Service (2005).
For something like sixty-five years, Frank and Joe Maloy were mainstay instrumentalists in the prominent country, swing and jazz bands and orchestras in Georgia and the Carolinas. In each group they joined, the job of writing the band arrangements would invariably fall to Frank. Over the years, Frank compiled several huge overstuffed binders full of thousands of band arrangements Frank has written. These include beautifully handwritten melody and harmony arrangements in standard notation, and thousands of pages of single-spaced jazz chord charts, several to a page - just about every song or tune from the twentieth century's output of popular, swing, and jazz music. (Frank, do you have the chords for Smoke Gets In Your Eyes? That would be in the Red Book, on page 468 ). Playing through each chord chart is like taking a tour of the best creative ideas of the finest musicians in the field, distilled and synthesized by Frank into each arrangement. You might encounter some particularly exquisite progression, and Frank would say something like, Now that progression there, with the E-flat nine flat-five, where that came from is when me and brother Joe went to see the movie (fill in the movie title here) back in 1946. Halfway through, you see the band playing, and during the bridge the guitar player went up to the seventh fret and got that flat five note with his little finger Frank's absolutely perfect memory for music is truly the eighth wonder of the world, and never fails to astonish. Frank continues to this day to be an ongoing supplier of melody and chord arrangements to a wide circle of admiring musicians.
As a teacher, Frank shows a remarkable degree of patience, great confidence that even a rank beginner can learn to play, a willingness to meet a student at whatever skill level they may start from, and an intuitive feel for building from simple skills to more complex. Vicki and I can personally attest to Frank's tireless dedication in mentoring our own fledgling musical efforts, spending countless hours teaching us elegant fiddle and guitar arrangements, somehow always willing to try to make silk purses out of sows' ears.
Frank Maloy is the quintessential musician's musician. Comfortable with genres as diverse as classical violin, jazz, swing, old-time and bluegrass fiddling, and everything in between, Frank Maloy has spent a lifetime absorbing, transcribing, teaching, and performing American music. For several decades, Frank Maloy's transcriptions of American fiddle tunes were regularly published in The Devil's Box, a scholarly journal devoted to preserving traditional American fiddle music. The process of transcribing into standard musical notation the recorded output of great legendary fiddlers such as Howdy Forrester and Kenny Baker requires an uncannily keen ear, as well as skills in writing music notation which are possessed by very few fiddlers.
To this day, Frank remains a vital and influential force in the Georgia music scene. At 83 years young, he continues to play dances in Central and South Georgia several times a month, playing electric bass in a dance band that includes jazz guitar virtuoso Boudleaux Allen, who started out decades ago as Frank and Joe Maloy's protégé.
Which brings us to this fiddle tune project. After the death of his brother Joe, Frank found himself at home, going through his daily routine with a mandolin in his hands, composing one original fiddle tune after another. Frank jokes about how he wrote many of these tunes in the bathroom! After naming some tunes for friends and fellow musicians, Frank hit upon the idea of paying tribute to the longstanding fiddle tradition in his home state of Georgia by writing and naming an original fiddle tune for each of Georgia's 159 counties. He executed this plan at an astonishing pace, composing a wide repertoire of breakdowns, reels, and hornpipes in the space of a few short months. Frank's elegant hand-written musical notations, as well as his comments on this project, are included here.
Talented young fiddler Casey Driscoll skillfully and beautifully plays each of Frank's tunes directly from the notations included here, accompanied on guitar by Jonathan Grisham. As a youngster, Casey won a number of fiddling contests in his home state of Washington. After moving to Nashville as a teenager, he studied classical violin while continuing to play traditional fiddle styles. Tom Mindte discovered Casey at the Grand Master's Fiddle Contest and offered him a chance to record. Casey recorded his debut CD, Texas Style Fiddling (Patuxent CD-166) while a senior in high school. After Tom introduced the young fiddler to Frank Maloy, Frank asked Casey if he would record these 159 fiddle compositions for this project. Casey and Jonathan recorded the tunes in December 2007 at Patuxent Music studios in Rockville, Maryland. Casey, who also plays classical guitar and piano, currently studies commercial music at Belmont University in Nashville.
Jack Leiderman, May, 2010