Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas from The 1937 Flood

This is a special extended holiday issue of The 1937 Flood podcast. Christmas is a time of reunion and we were thrilled last night that Floodster Emeritus Jacob Scarr -- back in town on Christmas break from the college he attends in Colorado -- brought his guitar to sit in with us. He and Randy Hamilton and I were just getting started, when other friends started arriving to enjoy some time with Jacob. Along came Randy Brown with his big old Gibson L-5 and through the other door came blues harmonica great Jim Rumbaugh and his friend Karen Combs, a lady who knows a thing or two about the blues herself. Merry Christmas, folks. Our gift to you is a sampling of this very special evening!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

If You Lose Your Money

Nobody ever did the blues better than Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. Back in the late 1950s they recorded an incredible album for Smithsonian Folkways called "Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry Sing," which included a number of original compositions, including this one, a song we often use to open or close a rehearsal session, because it's just so much fun.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Musical Conversations

People play music for all kinds of reasons, in all kinds of places. For us, some of the best times come when we're just sitting around playing and listening to each other. It's a kind of musical conversation that sometimes reaches beyond mere words. Last night was a case in point. We hadn't seen each other for a few weeks, and it was good to just sit down and catch up. Want to eavesdrop? Here's a sample.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Remembering Ramblin' Boy Bob McCoy

Today's the birthday of one of our favorite people. Bob McCoy would have been 71 today, but we lost him -- gosh, could it be more than four years ago now? At last night's rehearsal, we paused for a Bob Moment, singing his favorite song. These days, we never do Tom Paxton's great "Ramblin' Boy" without thinking Bob McCoy's smile that lit up the room. Bob, here's to you, buddy.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Revisiting Peggy Day

"Peggy Day" is one of the stepchildren of Bob Dylan's great songbook. The tune's only claim to fame is that it was the B-side when Bob released "Lay, Lady, Lay" as a single in the summer of '69. Unlike a lot of Dylan lyrics, "Peggy Day" has no intriguing back story or legend that we've ever heard. Dylan probably just tossed it off as filler when he was finishing up the great "Nashville Skyline" album all those years ago. But the song has always been a favorite for The Flood, especially in recent years, as Michelle Lewis has been perfecting her wonderful vocal harmony part. Last night everybody took a turn on the tune in a particularly happy moment of the very happy rehearsal.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Remembering J.P.

The great fiddler J.P. Fraley died three years ago, but still is very much an influential part of our Appalachian world, and The Flood has always felt fortunate to have a direct connection to J.P. through Doug Chaffin. Doug played and traveled with J.P. and his wife Annadeen for decades and is a walking encyclopedia of J.P. tunes and stories. Doug played on J.P.'s 1998 twin fiddle CD with Betty Vornbrock, and at a quiet moment at last night's rehearsal, Doug took up his guitar to play this remembrance of a classic tune from that album, the beautiful "Ook-Pik Waltz."

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Three Tunes from the Woodlands Gig

Last weekend we had a ball playing at Woodlands, a wonderful retirement community on a hilltop overlooking our hometown of Huntington, West Virginia. Friday night the folks filled the hall, singing and laughing with us! Here are a few tunes from that evening, including some featured solos by our guest artists, Sherri Hamilton on piano and Paul Martin on mandolin. And we wrap up the podcast with a beautiful Michelle Lewis number. You'll even hear Michelle a little out of breath at the end, as a result of dancing with one of the residents during her performance. What a great night!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Momentos from "Tom Sawyer"

We made some excellent memories for ourselves earlier this month, playing the pre-show each night for Marshall University's wonderful theater production of "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer." Before we press these mementos into the big Flood scrapbook, we thought we'd share a couple of the moments with our podcast family. We thank our old friend Kevin Bannon, that tireless stage and sound technician at Marshall, for making this quick recording of the pre-show on the closing night of the play.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Michelle's Tune for "Tom Sawyer"

All this week, The Flood is on stage at Marshall University's Joan C. Edwards Playhouse, doing the pre-show for the university theater's magnificent staging of "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," and we're having a ball. It is an unadulterated delight to be around these bright, talented, energetic performers, watching them light up the house night after night. For our part in the show, we've selected old and new tunes in the folk tradition. Here's one that our Michelle Lewis brought to us just for this production. "Tom Sawyer" runs through Saturday night at Marshall's Joan C. Edwards Playhouse. The house opens at 7 each evening, and the Flood plays until the 7:30 curtain. Come out and see the show!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Flood Hits the Boards!

We have another first for The Flood. The band has been asked to perform as part of a Marshall University theater production. Next week, Wednesday through Saturday nights at 7, we'll be doing the pre-show for a delightful production of "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer." The director has asked us to put together a selection of traditional and contemporary tunes that fix this classic Mark Twain story. At last night's rehearsal, we brushed off this beautiful Jean Ritchie composition to add to the mix. Remember, "Tom Sawyer" runs Oct. 8 through 11 at Marshall's Joan C. Edwards Playhouse. Come on out for a great show!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Busy Weekend!

The Flood has a busy weekend ahead, with back-to-back gigs. Friday night we're pleased to be invited to play at the pre-party at Heritage Station for the big 5th annual Huntington Music and Arts Festival. We start our 45-minute set at 7 p.m. Come downtown and party with us. And then on Saturday we're thrilled to be part of a celebration for one of our heroes. Former U.S. Congressman Ken Hechler is 100 years old this year, Huntington is turning out to honor this legendary legislator, and The Flood gets to provide the music for what promises to be a memorable afternoon. Joining us for the day is our old buddy, Floodster Emeritus Chuck Romine, on tenor banjo. Chuck and Ken go back a long way: Chuck was a student in Mr. Hechler's first class at Marshall University back in the 1950s. At last night's rehearsal, we begin making our selections for the shows, and we found Br'er Romine in fine form indeed. Check this out!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Bringing It Back Home with Paul Martin

We're set to play at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena this Friday night at the reception for the Ohio River Festival of Books -- "ORFOB," to its friends.  We're little short-handed on soloists for this gig, though, so our good buddy, the incomparable Paul Martin, is sitting in with us on mandolin and guitar. Now, The Flood's had lots of folks sit in over the years, but few fit in as well as Paul. He's not so much a guest artist as he is a long lost Flood brother. Whenever he sits down to play, it's like he's been with us all along and is just coming back home. Check out Paul's work on this tune that we're polishing for Friday night's show.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Way Downtown (Again)

It's funny how songs come in and out of our lives. Even before The Flood was formed 40 years ago, Dave Peyton and Charlie Bowen would get together on weekends to pick and sing, just the two of them, and among the tunes they would play was this one, "Way Downtown," which they probably learned from an old Doc Watson recording. After the band came together in the mid-'70s -- as Rog Samples, Joe Dobbs, Bill Hoke and Stewart Schneider joined us -- "Way Downtown" was a regular. Then the song just seemed to drift away for a couple of decades. But lately, it's come back, and the latest incarnation of The Flood likes how it fits, like a comfortable old shoe. So much so, in fact, that the song's likely to be on the set list for shows on our schedule this fall. Here's a take on the tune from last night's rehearsal.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Randy and Doug Trade Places

We've got a couple of interesting gigs coming up this fall, including one that requires us to switch up our instrumentation a little bit. We'll have more to say about these upcoming shows in the weeks ahead, but for now, know that Doug Chaffin, who usually plays guitar and mandolin for us these days, is moving back to the upright bass for a little while, and Randy Hamilton -- who usually plays his acoustic-electic bass for us -- is moving to lead guitar. Last night was our first practice session with this arrangement and it was fun to listen to Doug and Randy exploring these new lines. Take a listen to this run-through on the old standard, "Careless Love," from the very end of the evening.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Never Swat a Fly

Our band manager, Pamela Bowen, almost never makes pronouncements about the music we choose to play, but last night she made an exception. After hearing us play the following bit of fluff at the end of our 90-minute rehearsal session, she ruled that we may never play that song that late ever again. The reason? Well, it's something of an ear worm, a melody that you can't get out of your head, and not surprisingly, Pamela doesn't like to wake up throughout the night still hearing that damned song. So here it is: "Never Swat a Fly" from a highly forgettable 1930s movie called "Just Imagine." But remember Pamela's warning: Don't listen to it after dark or you may be just imagining it all night long.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Blues that Makes Doug Chaffin Smile

Doug Chaffin is the most even-tempered musician you'll ever meet. Day in and day out, he just delivered solid solos, and never complains, even when sometimes the rest of us -- beginning to feel the effects of those cups of strong black coffee -- start running away with the rhythm. But if you want to see Doug smile when the subject is the blues, keep that tempo down to a nice, steady heartbeat speed. Listen here to how Doug and his guitar just OWN this improvised blues we used to warm up at last night's rehearsal.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

All of Me ... and then some...

One of the good things about rehearsing each week is that ensemble work gets tighter and fresher all the time. For instance, on this track from last night's practice session, listen to Joe's intricate, imaginative fills behind Michelle's vocal on this 1930's jazz standard. It's no wonder that for decades now, singers have wanted Joe Dobbs to back them up -- his fiddle is like a second voice! Then listen to how the whole mood and color of the tune changes as the ensemble brings it down to back up Doug's sweet mandolin solo in the middle of things. Then after that, the dynamic changes again as Charlie and Randy kick it up a notch to support Michelle's rousing final chorus.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Sherri Hamilton Sits In on Keyboard

The Hamiltons are a talented couple. Randy Hamilton has been playing bass and singing high harmony with us for a few years now. Meanwhile, we've known all along that Randy's wife, Sherri, is a gifted keyboard player and singer in her own right, and we've been after her to come and sit in with us some time. Last night she did and we rocked all evening. Our hope is to work up a few tunes to play in concert that will feature Sherri Hamilton as a guest artist on piano. Here's our starting point, a sassy little number from last night. Oh, and we had a few other friends sitting in last night. That's the great Jim Rumbaugh on harmonica and the incomparable Chuck Romine on tenor banjo.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Catch The Flood at Charleston's Taylor Books This Friday Night!

The Flood is in Charleston this Friday night at one of our all-time favorite venues, the wonderful Taylor Books on Capitol Street. Last night, in prepping for the gig, we trotted out some appropriate numbers, including what is perhaps the ultimate party tune, from 1926, "Crazy Words, Crazy Tune." Remember, if you're in Charleston Friday night, come by Taylor Books, for fun with The Flood from 7:30 to 9:30 at 226 Capitol Street.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Flood is Honored as One of the 55 Good Things about West Virginia!

It's been an interesting week for the Family Flood. We learned on Monday when The State Journal announced its list of "55 Good Things About West Virginia" that The 1937 Flood is among those good things. We are so honored to be the first string band ever included in the newspaper's annual list of Mountain State treasures. Writer Tiffney Henson has written a lovely story about the band, and we have a link to it on our website, Meanwhile, as you'd expect, this week's regular Wednesday night rehearsal attracted a lot of friends and neighbors who wanted to drop in and celebrate with us. Joe Dobbs' joyous rendition of "Blackberry Blossom" from last night's practice beautifully sums up our mood these days.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Randy Sings Lead

The newest Floodster, Randy Hamilton, is already a hit with Flood regulars for his solid bass playing and his high vocal harmonies, but we've been looking for a song on which we could feature him on lead vocals, and we think we've found it. We've started working on a moody version of "Wayfarin' Stranger" with Randy singing the story. We're only just begun crafting the tune -- we're still hashing out our harmonies to support Randy's lead; Charlie's still looking for something to add to Michelle's wonderful wispy melodies -- but we like to use the podcast to share works in progress, and this is one. It's interesting, too, how the instrumentation is coming together. Check out the solo work by Doug and Sam and especially listen to Dave's first-rate Autoharp work, adding great accents that chime throughout the song. Stay tuned -- we'll keep you posted as this piece evolves.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Serenading The American Queen

Royalty is visiting us this week. After years of absence, The American Queen riverboat is back on the Ohio River and is stopping at our town of Huntington, WV, today as she goes upriver and again on Monday, as she heads back downstream. The town is hoping folks will turn out big time both days to celebrate. If you're listening to this on Thursday, June 26, be sure to drop by Harris Riverfront Park this afternoon and hear our friend Dale Jones and his Backyard Dixie Jazz Stompers. Then mark Monday, June 30, on your calendar -- that's when we in The Flood will be on the riverfront for our turn to serenade the boat crowd. We'll play from 3 to 5 p.m. Figuring nothing says "party" like a ringing banjo, we've invited our old buddy, former Floodster Chuck Romine, to sit in with us for the boat gig. Here's a tune we've been working on for the show.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Slippin' and Slidin' with Jimmy and Bob

Like any other family, the members of The Flood miss each other when they're separated for any length of time. For various reasons, we had to cancel the previous two rehearsal sessions, so when we finally got back together last night, it was joyous, turning a practice into a party. And you could hear in the music, starting with this very first song, our take on an old Jimmy Reed tune. As we serve it up, it's a blues sandwich -- with a smattering of Bob Dylan right in the middle.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Down By the Willow Garden

Here's a track that really captures the informal nature of Wednesday nights around here. For a warmup, we kick off a tune we don't play very often. In fact, you can hear Charlie Bowen and Dave Peyton discussing chords during Doug Chaffin's solo on the mandolin. You can also hear us greeting Joe Dobbs as he arrives. Joe quickly unpacks his fiddle and takes his solo while still standing behind Charlie in the doorway. It was some of Joe's prettiest playing of the night!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Remembrance of Things Past

In the room where we rehearse each week is a bookcase where we've begun to display photos of some of the dear friends who have passed away over the years. Looking into their smiling faces as we play is a real joy, especially in those relatively rare quiet moments -- like this beautiful impromptu duet by Doug Chaffin and Joe Dobbs on a haunting rendition of a Irish melody, "Star of the County Down." You know, on this Memorial Day weekend, it's comforting to thinking about how old friends live on in our memories.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Chuck Brings a New Toy

We invited former Floodster Chuck Romine to sit in with us at a gig this week, knowing his ever-lively tenor banjo would really please the crowd. But at the rehearsal the night before the job, Chuck showed up not with his banjo, but with a new prize: a sweet Martin tenor guitar he had just bought. You can hear him with it on two solos on this take of a David Peyton classic that's also featured on our new CD, a tune he learned from Aunt Jenny Wilson called, "Georgie Buck." Kick it off, Dave.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Perfect Warm-up Tune

We're always looking for tunes that helps the band warm up for an evening's practice or performance. The ideal warmup number has an easy rhythm, some lyrics for the singers to stretch out on and opportunities for everyone to take a solo or two. "Trouble in Mind," that classic eight-bar blues written by jazz pianist Richard M. Jones back in the 1920s, fits the bill perfectly.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Everything We Do Is Carefully Planned. Not.

In "A Shot in the Dark," Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau says, "Everything I do is carefully planned, madam." Well, we in The Flood can't really say that. Some of the best times at our weekly rehearsals just grow out of the moment. Here's a case in point from last night's get-together. Joe Dobbs was joking with our good friend Rose Riter. You can hear her lovely infectious laugh at the beginning of the track. Meanwhile, Doug Chaffin starts nodding with the Gershwin tune, "Lady Be Good." Right away, Randy Hamilton and Charlie Bowen join in. Quickly then, visiting Floodster Emeritus Chuck Romine jumps in with his tenor banjo. That catches the attention of Dave Peyton who hops on board and by the time the chorus comes around again, Joe picks up his fiddle, ready to lay down a strong statement of the melody, and we are off the the races.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Bye Bye Blues Revisited

On a CD more than a decade ago, The Flood recorded "Bye Bye Blues," but that was before Michelle Walker was a regular member of the band. Our original instrumental version was fine as far as it went, but now, as you'll hear, the Chick Singer's big, bright vocal puts new mileage on the great old 1930s jazz standard.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Happy Birthday, Norman Davis!

We were so pleased that our good friend Norman Davis came to spend his 86th birthday evening with us last night. Of course, we're lucky because Norman -- a renaissance man if ever there was one, with stories that could fill a night all by themselves -- shares most Wednesdays with us. Now, as we've mentioned before, The Flood doesn't play the traditional "Happy Birthday" song. Instead, we celebrate nativities with Tampa Red's jug band classic, "You Can't Get That Stuff No More," led by our chief birthday elf, David Peyton. Here's the version Brother Dave brought to the table at last night's get-together. Oh, and be sure to continue listening after the last chord is played, because you'll want to catch Norman's editorial comment! Happy birthday, old friend!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Confronting the Ravages of Time...

We're not saying we're getting old, but we are saying that The Flood is getting a bit forgetful. (Guess that can be expected from a band that's been around for 40 years.) We've noticed that tunes we used to play a lot have lately drifted out of our collective consciousness.  So to counteract the ravages of time, we've been using some of our Wednesday night rehearsal time of late to reach back to arrangements that have been on the endangered list. Last night, Michelle Walker brought us back to this Duke Ellington composition that we recorded more than 10 years ago, and just listen to how Joe Dobbs and Sam St. Clair really connect with it.

Friday, March 28, 2014

We're at Woodlands Friday Night!

We're playing Woodlands this Friday night starting at 6 o'clock. If you're listening to this in Huntington, come on up to the show -- you're more than welcome. Now, the last time we played there, our old friend and former Floodster Chuck Romine -- Doctor Jazz himself -- was in the audience, but when we asked him to come up and sit in on a few tunes, darned if he hadn't forgotten to bring his tenor banjo. Well, heck, THAT won't again. Chuck and his banjo will on hand for the show this time. In fact, Chuck dropped by the rehearsal this week and we just wore him out. Here's a sample.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

This Week's Freebie from The 1937 Flood

After a seemingly endless winter that thwarted many of our Wednesday night get-togethers, spring has stumbled into the Ohio Valley. And to celebrate, The Flood finally got a quorum for a rehearsal. Since we hadn't seen each other much so far this year, we found ourselves quickly getting a bit nostalgic, digging back for tunes we'd not played in some time. For instance, we'd darn near forgotten this great old Jelly Roll Morton song until we checked the song list of a CD we released 10 years ago. Her, then, is a revisit with "Whinin' Boy."

Thursday, February 13, 2014

This Weekl's Freebie from The 1937 Flood

Thirty years ago, our dear friends David Holbrook, Bill Hoke and Susan Lewis formed the core of our favorite local string band called The Kentucky Foothill Ramblers and, Lord, but they taught us a slew of wonderful tunes. The group used to sing this Utah Philips tune at nearly every show and we never got tired of it. Sadly, The Ramblers are no longer around, but we've got home recordings of most of the band's repertoire, and we've just started working on our own variation of "Green Rolling Hills of West Virginia." Oh, we're not ready to roll it out on our set list for shows yet, but we're sharing here with the podcast family. Think of it as a work in progress.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Introducing The Ice Jam Trio

Ice, snow and illness kept more than half of the band away last night, but as we always say, where two or more gather in its name, it is The Flood. So last night we were three. Sam St. Clair, with son James in tow, came in from the cold with his box of hot harmonicas. Randy Hamilton came slipping and sliding down from his Ohio hilltop, bringing his bass and his sweet harmonies, and we devoted the evening to exploring the prospects of The Ice-Jam Trio. A highlight of the evening was rediscovering this wonderful old Jean Ritchie composition, whose mournfulness seemed somehow fit for a long winter's night. It even has a reference to "February snow."

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

R.I.P., Pete Seeger

We're doing the podcast a little early this week, because this morning we learned of the death of one of our heroes. Maybe the hero. As you've surely heard by now, the great Pete Seeger passed away peacefully in his sleep. He was 94. Folk musicians often talk about those who went before who influenced them. But they don't talk about Pete so much because his impact on them is just a given. This music -- folk music, roots music, acoustic music, whatever you want to call it -- is what it is today in large part because of the work and the stewardship of Pete Seeger. And it's not only his music. His attitude, his optimism, his inclusiveness and boundless enthusiasm for all kinds of music provided a very fertile field for America's music not just to survive but to thrive. In The Flood, "Uncle Pete" has always in been in the back of our minds. Why, just a few weeks ago, when Chuck Romine dropped by with his banjo, we found ourselves singing "Goodnight, Irene," the song Pete learned from Leadbelly. It was… well, more joyful than it was listenable, and by popular decree, we'll keep that particular track deep in the private collection. However, thinking about how Pete Seeger's influence reaches all the way back to the very beginning of our band, I remembered a concert we were playing 35 years ago, in the first years of The Flood. I remember a pause in the show and suddenly Dave Peyton filled the silence with a beautiful solo on his Autoharp. It was a song I will always associate with Pete, because it was on one of his records that I first heard it, the Shaker tune, "Simple Gifts." Here's that moment.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Remembering Our Dear Companion, Nancy McClellan

If we had had a rehearsal this week -- we didn't because, hey, we're all snowed in here in the Ohio Valley right now -- we surely would have taken a moment to think about our old friend, Nancy McClellan. Nancy, who would have been 81 last Sunday, was a great friend of The Flood. She was even there at those rowdy music parties when then band was born 40 years ago. We've dedicated our latest CD to Nancy McClellan, and here's a track from the new disc, one of Nancy's favorite tunes, which we sang at her graveside last October, Jean Ritchie's "My Dear Companion." Incidentally, visit our website,, for information about the new CD. There's even a link to order it online.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Chuck Romine Helps Us Plug the New CD!

Our old friend Chuck Romine dropped by to jam with us last night on the eve of his 78th birthday. As long-time members of the Family Flood know, Chuck played that fiery tenor banjo with the band for six years and, as a Floodster emeritus, he's always welcome back. On this track, Chuck's wailing on tune called "I Got Mine" which is featured on our brand new CD. Oh, and speaking of that new CD, called "Cleanup & Recovery," you can now buy it online. Just go to our website, and follow the link at the top of the front page.