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Transcriber’s Notes:Words or phrases in found brackets represent unclear or unintelligible portions of the recording. Brackets are also used to provide the reader with helpful background information about the recording. Underlined text within the transcription represents more than one person speaking at the same time.

Interviewer:Okay, this is Marynell Young, and I’m at Prestonsburg talking with David Sizemore, and I have some interview questions that pertain to his role as fiddler, and I think I am going to go down through the questions and see what kind of comments that David Sizemore has for us. Basically we are in four different categories here. And first we are going to talk about the role fiddling plays now, and the kind of fiddling you experienced earlier, and in your mid yours, and what kind of fiddling is coming up for you in the future. David, how much time do you devote to your fiddle playing now?

Sizemore:Well, I’ll usually play all day long. I’ll play I guess two hours. Sometimes I’ll play an hour up here of a night and sometimes longer than that.

Interviewer:Do you come up here with a certain list of tunes or do you just enjoy your music?

Sizemore:I just pick my fiddle up and start playing.

Interviewer:What kind of things then put you in the mood to play different kinds of tunes?

Sizemore:Boy I just like to play. I just like the music.

Interviewer:Um, are you still learning new tunes?

Sizemore:Ah yeah. I wouldn’t nothing just go ahead and play one old tune right over and over. I learn new ones every week.

Interviewer:And you play the fiddle. What other instruments do you play?

Sizemore:I play them all. [Both laugh]. I’ve got I think twenty fiddles; I’ve got some two hundred years old. I’ve got three [unintelligible] mandolins. I’ve got three five-string banjos. I’ve got three or four dulcimers lying around here.

Interviewer:Now did you make the dulcimers?

Sizemore:Yeah, yeah. Them’s all my work.

Interviewer:Did anyone teach you how?Sizemore:No, no sure enough, I just started making them. That’s how I done all the violins. Nobody never showed me nothing. I’ve showed a lot of fellers how to make violins and stuff, but they won’t never tell you that I am showed them anything.

Interviewer:Oh, and you’ve been making violins here too?

Sizemore:Long time. I’ve got my first one I ever built up in the back here.

Interviewer:About how many fiddles have you made?

Sizemore:I don’t know. I wouldn’t know how many I made. I’ve, I’ve not made oh probably twelve or fifteen because I make everything else, you know, and there’s more money in anything else than they are making fiddles.

Interviewer:So you’ve made mandolins?

Sizemore:Oh yeah, that’s, all my mandolins just very expensive.

Interviewer:And you’ve made banjos?Sizemore:I’ve made a whole lot of banjos.

Interviewer:Have you ever made a bass fiddle? [laughs]

Sizemore:Nope. I’ve made guitars though.

Interviewer:You’ve made guitars too?

Sizemore:Yeah, I’ve got actually got one my only guitar ever made. But there wasn’t no money in that. I let a feller down at Ashland have it. A dandy, but it’s too much material that goes in for the amount of money you get out of it. Dulcimers, more money in dulcimers than anything I fool with.

Interviewer:Umm, do you make dulcimers now?

Sizemore:Yeah, I make them and sell them. I don’t know how many I’ve sold. I’ve got a lot of them. I’ve got, there’s a band in California playing one of my F5 mandolins. And they’s a band they’re playing one of my hand made fiddles too.

Interviewer:So when you say handmade, do you--?Sizemore:My pocket knife job. [Both laugh]. That’s what I call that.

Interviewer:It plays very, very nicely.

Sizemore:That’s a very good violin right there. I don’t know. I’ve got some good ones there, but I just prefer that one.

Interviewer:How old were you when you first started trying to play music?

Sizemore:Well, I was, when I [unintelligible] I’ve carried this ole guitar all over the country, everywhere. That’s what I always played. I played with another band, you know. I always played with a guitar. But then in [unintelligible] when I settled down here all the time with no leads. We didn’t have nobody. The old fiddler that I played with all the years he died in forty-four. I think me and Harry looked him up on the cemetery. He died in forty four. And there’s no fiddlers, so I decided we had to have a fiddler, so I just took up fiddling. That’s probably, oh, forty years ago.

Interviewer:So you’d been hearing those tunes all the time. What was his name, the fiddler you played with?Sizemore:Tex Vanderpool. Walter was his name, but he went by name Tex. Now he’s got stuff up in the Library of Congress too.

Interviewer:I’ll look it up and see if we can’t find it.

Sizemore:Now that’s what I’ve been trying to get, I’d give anything if I could just hear him play one tune.

Interviewer:Is there any particular tune that Tex plays?Sizemore:There’s an old tune that we called it “Walloping Lou.” [Laughs.] But actually it’s “East Tennessee Blues.” But now when we was playing back in the late twenties and through there that name was “Walloping Lou” with us. And that’s the way I always knowed it by “Walloping Lou” till Harry, me and Harry was sitting here playing and I played it. I said, “That’s “Walloping Lou.” He said, “That’s “East Tennessee Blues.” [Laughs].

Interviewer:[Laughs]. Let’s see, you have some other double names for tunes that you know. You play “Turkey Buzzard.”

Sizemore:Well, them old things that though, and that tune that I think I’ve got it on that tape that you “Coo-Coo Nest?”

Interviewer:Oh that was a lovely tune.

Sizemore:Now he, he called it something else. There’s another name.

Interviewer:He? Tex Vanderpool? Harry did?Sizemore:Harry.

Interviewer:Harry Bickle the banjo player.

Sizemore:He called it, he’s something else but I called it “Coo-Coo’s Nest.” But that’s all I ever heared a call it. But that’s a fine fiddle tune, I just love, I love to play guitar a fellow playing that. But you can’t find nobody that plays it.

Interviewer:Well, we’ll do our best to learn it first chance we get.

Sizemore:It’s not much to it, you know. But it’s a fine, anything with an extra chord comes in, I like anything. Like if you just playing out A, put some extra stuff in them. Just like “Laughing Boy” in A, you put a lot of different stuff in the “Laughing Boy.” That’s, Buddy, I’ve got that where Buddy Thomas playing it.

Interviewer:And other, you talked about your mother playing.

Sizemore:My grandmother.

Interviewer:Your grandmother. What did she play that you remember?

Sizemore:Now she played all that “Getting up Stars,” and “Frosty Morning,” and she played all that old stuff. She tuned different fiddle up kindly like Senator Bird. I call it [unintelligible] style. [Both laugh].

Interviewer:What was her name?

Sizemore:Sal, Sally. She was a Jacobs I think. She from up around Caney, up there and around that school. That’s where her home was.

Interviewer:Is that here in Floyd County?

Sizemore:No, that’s up in, up in another county. Caney Creek College, you know? Knott County.

Interviewer:Knott County. So you’re people were over in Knott County?

Sizemore:Yeah that’s my people. All Sloans and them up in there. A lot of them works the college there. They’re all my people.

Interviewer:A lot of them play music too I bet.

Sizemore:Yeah, yeah. Sizemores, now there’s more Sizemores down around in Greenup then there are Smiths around here. You ever down in there get the phone book and see the Sizemores? [Laughs].

Interviewer:Sizemores and Sloans. I looked at the Sloan’s in the Hindman phone directory, and there were two and a half pages, and there’s only nine hundred people in the phone book. Let me ask you about a tune that [Hiram] Stamper played. He played a tune and he called it “The Last of Sizemore.” Do you, have you run across that tune?

Sizemore:I never did, he never did play it when I was up there.

Interviewer:Well, we’ll have to ask him about it the next time we see him.

Sizemore:I’m going up in a few days to see him, and I’ll make him get that. I never heared that one.

Interviewer:Uh-huh. He plays it after he plays “Last of Callahan.” He plays the “Last of Callahan,” and then if you ask he’ll play “The Last of Sizemore,” and he insists that both men were hung. [Both laugh].

Sizemore:Just like an old fiddler down in Greenup Reservoir down there in the Folk Festival. Uh, I’ve got him, I’ve got his picture up there somewheres. Me and him was playing under a big tree, and he played a tune he called it “Big Dog.” He played it out of G. Then he played another tune called “Little Cat.” He played it out of A. But they were both the same things that I could tell. Lee Triplet, you remember talk of him?Interviewer:I’ve heard the name of Lee Triplet.

Sizemore:Well, I’ve got him. He’s up there on that somewhere. Me and him was a fiddling down under a big ole tree. He played, but I couldn’t, it was all the same to me. That tune right down, I’ll show it to you here.

Interviewer:All right. I see. Lee Triplet [Sizemore speaking in the background, words unintelligible].

Sizemore:Actually I said, with the fiddlers was there, I wouldn’t know how many fiddlers was there. Some very fine violins. But he had the sorriest looking fiddle in the crowd, and I wouldn’t give it for a half a dozen of the rest of them. It was no wood in it. But it was best tone fiddle I ever hear.

Interviewer:Is that right? Now where was Lee Triplet from?

Sizemore:West Virginia.

Interviewer:And you were up at Huntington?

Sizemore:We was over at the lake down at Greenup.

Interviewer:Oh, up at Greenup! Yeah, yeah that’s pretty up there.

Sizemore:Yeah, we’s under a big ole Oak tree way out in a field, and this fellow from Huntington, reporter from Huntington come along there and snapped our picture and that come out in Huntington paper and somebody sent it to me. [laughs].

Interviewer:So Lee Triplet was the----

Sizemore:Fine old time fiddler.

Interviewer:Fine fiddler.

Sizemore:Yeah, I’ve got some on tapes where he’s doing shows, and it tells what places. I believe I got a tape here where he, that was the twelfth day straight he’d been on the road playing day and night.

Interviewer:Is that right? You have some other tapes of fiddlers you said you had a nice collection. You have Alva Green, and you knew him?

Sizemore:Yeah, well.

Interviewer:Where did Alva Green live?

Sizemore:He lived out on Thirty Two between Grayson and Morehead. You know when you’re coming over on Seven?


Sizemore:You turn off on Seven, Thirty Two goes straight ahead. Now he lived right out in that section there just a little ways. That’s where he lived.

Interviewer:Um-hmm. Did you ever run across a fiddler named Sanford Kelly by any chance from Morgan County?Sizemore:No, I knowed of an old man, but he’d been dead a long time. Actually that was the only one that I ever knowed of in Morgan County. But he was always playing around there in the Sorghum Festival and everything. I seen in the paper, I should have cut the picture out, but I seen where he died.

Interviewer:I see a picture of there of Hiram Stamper on his porch. You visit with him some.

Sizemore:That’s where we was playing on the porch and we was, that’s when I was telling you about we was playing “Going to the Meetinghouse?”

Interviewer:[Laughs] Yeah.

Sizemore:And when he got done he said, “Boy!,” said, “We good ain’t we Dave?” [Laughs].

Interviewer:Yeah, we are. [Laughs].

Sizemore:Yeah, we good ain't we Dave.

Interviewer:Do you keep a list of tunes?


Interviewer:Do you keep a list of tunes that you play?

Sizemore:Yeah, I do, I have a lot in my, I have a double fiddle case there. I carry two fiddle. I like to tune one up and play em both [unintelligible]. I like to tune to natural D, and I carry two all the time. Well, a lot of time, you know, something a string will break a string or something. If you’re in a square dance or something you can lay one down and grab the other one. That’s the reason I carry two.

Interviewer:What’s your favorite tune now?


Interviewer:“Mockingbird,” huh. That’s the one you like to do.

Sizemore:I like the “Mockingbird.” I like to hear ole Arthur Smith play the “Mockingbird.”

Interviewer:That’s a good one. How did you get the first fiddle that was yours?

Sizemore:I believe Doctor Randalls, Doctor Marvin Randalls, I believe, give me the first fiddle I had of my own. He’s a fine fiddler, and his wife played piano. Back, well I couldn’t have bought me a hamburger you know, but they’d go out to these, have these big suppers, you know. Doc played the fiddle and his wife played piano, and he’d pay for my plate for me to go with him to play guitar. [Laughs].

Interviewer:Oh, nice trio there you had.

Sizemore: Yeah, I seen his, his daughter lives in, somewhere way off. I met her up here on the street the other day. I asked her did she have any tapes of him. And she didn’t make anything. Course I didn’t have anything to make a tape of either. So---

Interviewer:So you started your tape collection a few years ago?

Sizemore:Yeah, and here just like you now, see. Every fiddler I hear or everybody, I have people from all over United States will come here, you know. Some of them will play something and some of them won’t. But if they play anything that I put it on tape, have it on tape.

Interviewer:We’ll have to have the David Sizemore collection, won’t we?

Sizemore:Yeah that, there’s an old lady from out there around Washington, close to Washington. It’s close to Yackamore, Washington. I got a sister that lives in Yackamore, Washington. Now I don’t know where she ever heared of it at. But she come here. She was over at the lake and wanted to know if she could come over. She wanted to see me. Washington.

Interviewer:That’s a far hike, isn’t it?

Sizemore:California, just so many different states. Now where they get a hold of me I don’t know. I say, “Well, come on over. I’ll talk to you.”

Interviewer:Your popularity extends all the way to Pacific, doesn’t it?

Sizemore:And there was Boston, no not Boston. There’s several college, big colleges that’s been here. I’ve got tapes of them a talking, and they’ve got a lot of tapes of me a talking too from different places. In Massachusetts a fellow come here, and he must have laid around two or three days before he ever catch me. But he finally caught me. He said this will be in their collection up there, so. He wasn’t a musician. He just wanted talk to me about my life and my people and everything.

Interviewer:Well, is there anything else I should ask that you told him that you need to tell us?

Sizemore:Now he mostly wanted to know about my granddad and this big history about my granddad and my great granddad. He, they were thoroughbred Cherokee Indian. See I’m an Indian. He mostly wanted to know stuff like that. How he was, you know. I don’t know whether you’ve ever read any the history of [Talltaw, Clabe Jones, and Bill Hawk Sizemore?]

Interviewer:Um-hmm. And I know the Sizemore was one of the first names here in eastern Kentucky. They came up through Pound Gap.

Sizemore:Yeah, that’s where, that’s where ole, now Golden Hawk he first come to this country, he come to [unintelligible]. And the history says he stole his wife and left. And when he come back he had grandpa. And they call him Bill Hawk.

Interviewer:It was Bill Hawk after his father Golden Hawk.

Sizemore:Golden Hawk, and they call him Bill Hawk cause the Cherokee Indians that Hawk come in there. We all was, people will go by the name of Hawks. I don’t know why. A lot of them will call me Hawk.

Interviewer:Oh, Hawk Sizemore, huh? That kind of hangs on.

Sizemore:Grandpa, Clabe Jones, and Tallhaw supposed to been the three worst men they was in this country. Now [Tallhaw] they caught him, hung him in [Weis] Virginia. But now Clabe and grandpa died a natural death. And notice this, this big battle, Battle of Middle Creek right around here?


Sizemore:My granddaddy fought in that one.

Interviewer:He fought in that one.

Sizemore:I believe it’s called the Battle of Middle Creek. There’s a big thing up there on the highway somewhere that you.

Interviewer:You’re people have been right around here for the last four generations that you know of.


Interviewer:What was school like when you were a boy?

Sizemore:I wouldn’t care if they all burnt down. [Both laugh]. Name a school [I’ll wilt like a leaf].

Interviewer:I think that’s interesting. Every fiddler I’ve asked says boy, that was the worst thing. It was like being in prison.

Sizemore:Oh, it was the worst thing that ever happened to me. Name school, I just drop. [Laughs]. I never did like it.

Interviewer:Well, you learned to play music, and then you played for dances. You’ve always kind of been contributing member of your community as providing this music so that people could come together and enjoy being with each other. Was there ever a time when you didn’t play much?

Sizemore:Well yeah, it, there was one time that I didn’t, it went for a while that I didn’t play any. When the fifty seven flood come, see took everything we had. We didn’t have nothing.

Interviewer:Is that right?

Sizemore:Yeah. Put us about, oh, fifteen, twenty thousand dollars right down the drain. All my instruments, my fiddles, guitars, everything just was ruined. And I quit for, oh, it must have been ten or twelve years that I didn’t hardly pick one up. Good fiddles was ruined.

Interviewer:Let’s see, that was in fifty-seven. So at that time you were thrity seven, forty, [Interviewer talks in the background] middle age.

Sizemore:Financial and everything. We’s bad off. Took everything we had.

Interviewer:And so then it was a period of time after that until you were able to get an instrument.

Sizemore:Yeah, yeah, till I took a notion. There’s a boy working on the police force wanted to see the policemen. And he’s a fine musician now, but he’s got a gospel bunch and he don’t play. But we fiddled together fourteen years. We played two fiddles together for fourteen years. And he joined the church, and every once in a while he’ll come by fiddle. He still plays fiddle tunes, but he don’t come around much any more. He’s got a gospel bunch. But he’s a fine musician.

Interviewer:What’s his name?Sizemore:Hack Thornberry. Jimmy Thornberry, he’s a [unintelligible]. Well that’s all he does. He’s from down in North Carolina now, and he tapes and everything by the name of Jim Beam. Jim Bean. He don’t, I said, well I was certain there wouldn’t have left my dad’s name out.

Interviewer:I wouldn’t have either.

Sizemore:But now that’s, I’ve got a, I’ve got one of this tapes here. And it’s Jim Beam. But Jim Thorn, Jimmy Thornberry is his name. Oh, he’s fine banjo player, guitar player. Well, he makes a living. That’s the way he makes his living. But on this tape he used to come here all the time, and on that tape I wouldn’t have hardly knowed him if I’d a met him out on the street. Hair way down, big ole hat strolled around on it, his beard down here. I don’t guess I’d a knowed him if I met him on the street. [Laughs].

Interviewer:He was in a disguise, huh? [Laughs].

Sizemore:Oh, he sure was. Didn’t even favor him airy bit.

Interviewer:Well, did playing the fiddle or playing music of any kind ever create any problems for you?

Sizemore:No. Only problems I have are just getting somebody to come around and play with me.

Interviewer:Well, I like to stop here myself. During the time you were earning a living, what did you do?

Sizemore:Well, I mined, the best part of my life was in the coalmines. Then I was a well operator for twenty-eight years for Inland Gas Company from Ashland.

Interviewer:Natural gas wells or?

Sizemore:Yeah, yeah. And I was, I was, they got a organization that I belong to out of Ashland, Quarter Century Club. And at Greenbo Lake they were having a meeting, having steaks and everything.


Sizemore:A fellow called me last night and wanted me, wanted me to go with him and ask him was I going, and I said, “No I’ve got some company coming in tomorrow. I can’t go.” I said I’d rather have the fiddling than have the steak.

Interviewer:[Laughing] So you forfeited a fiddle to let me interview today. Well I sure do appreciate. Um, I know that you play over at the Highland Festival at Jenny Wiley State Park. What was that like for you this year?

Sizemore:Well, we had a good time. Did [unintelligible] tell you about?

Interviewer:Just barely talked to him. I knew that he played, but. Did you play together?Sizemore:Oh yeah. That’s, he done all his picking with me, and then he called me out on the stage and I done, we done, “Saint Ann’s Reel” together. [unintelligible] he plays a good banjo too. And he done his show on the stage, and he wanted me to come out and play “Saint Ann’s Reel” with him so I went out and played. Course we done, he played all the square dances and stuff with me on Friday night and Saturday.

Interviewer:Uh-huh. So you played for the dance?

Sizemore:Oh yeah. We played for the----

Interviewer:Who called this year?

Sizemore:Well, this hillbilly square dancer from Elk Horn City was the feller that, the old man from, he had had a heart attack from, that plays every year. Winchester, he was from Winchester. I believe he was from Winchester. He had a heart attack, but his bunch was over there. And somebody else done the calling for them. But the hillbilly square dancers, there as good as Ralph Sloan and the Tennessee Travelers.

Interviewer:Oh, I am sure they are.

Sizemore:Oh, they are good. I play for theme very year. So he was, he was in on that. We played together.

Interviewer:Well, your name is so well known in Floyd County and Knott County and all through eastern Kentucky. Everybody that plays music, knows that, well, they tell me, they say, “Well, now you need to stop by and see David Sizemore in Prestonsburg.” So your name is well known. I’ve been gathering up some names up there at Magoffin County, and I want to call some out to you to establish whether or not you know them. Just out of kind of a little experiment here because they have, I also rounded up, I don’t know, I haven’t mentioned this name to you. His name is John [Sawyers]. He played, he’s been dead for twenty years, but he played up there. I am kind of flipping through my book here. Have you ever heard of John Wooten from over at Lesley County?

Sizemore:Nope, hmm-umm. I didn’t ever hear.

Interviewer:Well he played, I have a list of tunes that someone gave me. He was born in 1875. He died in 1979. One hundred and four years old. He played right up until the end, and nobody taped him.

Sizemore:Gosh, gee.

Interviewer:[Laughs] Nobody, so, you know what you’re doing is,

Sizemore:No, that’s a shame.

Interviewer:Well, it is a shame. His, some members of his family talk about what he played, and I found a nephew of his that says he’ll let me come down and visit him. But I got a list of people here.

Sizemore:And they didn’t have any fiddling of him?Interviewer:Not, none. Do you happen to know [Leck Reisner] from Magoffin County?

Sizemore:He must have been an old timer. He [unintelligible].

Interviewer:[Hassle Helton?]


Interviewer:Or [Beecher Patrick?]

Sizemore:I don’t know none of them. I know I’ve been with all the good musicians and I’ve played with all of them. [Sal Sowers] and all them fellers.

Interviewer:Oh, Sal Sowers.

Sizemore:[Ralph Patton and Sal Sowers] he used to be with Bill Monroe, Sal did.

Interviewer:Oh, I didn’t know that. Someone had mentioned his name [Sizemore speaks in the background, words unintelligible]. Oh is that right? How old a fellow is he?

Sizemore:Oh, he’s not an old man. He’s probably fifty years old.

Interviewer:How about [Dingus, Bill Dingus? Or Franklin, Frank Dingus?] Do those names? See this is one thing that I just wanted to establish because they, they are home-style players. They maybe haven’t played out at dances, you know. And it would be interesting to me to see what tunes they are playing since they haven’t been out in the other counties around mingling in and mixing tunes. You kind of see what I was saying there?


Interviewer:So it’s interesting to me. So if you don’t know them we might, we might infer that [Hiram Stamper] has a mixed in with them because he’s tucked over there in Knott County.

Sizemore:Yeah, yeah.

Interviewer:I didn’t think to ask him while I was there.

Sizemore:Now this, a lot of, you know, it’s funny that maybe sometime I’ll play with somebody a whole lot. But then I won’t ask them their name. So I don’t know who was that was. Yeah, I just wanted to hear him pick some. I didn’t care about his name. [Laughs].

Interviewer:[Laughs] Do you know [Dewey Shepard?]

Sizemore:Yeah I know Dewey.

Interviewer:He has a gourd fiddle some of the time.


Interviewer:How about [Winfield Hutchinson?]

Sizemore:Duke/Doug Hutchinson is the only one that I know of. He’s a fine musician. He was from, do bass for Bill Monroe. He comes here all the time.

Interviewer:Oh, is that right? Duke Hutchinson? I wonder if he’s any---

Sizemore:Doug Hutchinson.

Interviewer:I wonder if he’s any relation to Winfield. Would you ask him the next time he’s here?

Sizemore:Oh, I’ll probably see him, I’m in Appalachia Days, supposed to be Saturday.

Interviewer:Oh, I---

Sizemore:That’s Saturday.

Interviewer:We’re going to miss that this year. I want to come next year. How about [Manyon Campbell] now he is from, or Lee Boy Sexson?

Sizemore:Now Lee Boy, I know of Lee Boy Sexton now. But, I am not personally, but I may be if I can see him I could know more about, but you meet so many----

Interviewer:Oh, I haven’t met them yet. These are just names that have been mentioned to me.

Sizemore:Now I know about Sexton, now. I know of him. There’s a feller called Snake Chapman that still be fiddling five o’clock in the morning.

Interviewer:Now, I’d sure like to be here sometime when Art Stamper and Snake Chapman and David Sizemore are all there together.

Sizemore:Well, now I tell you, Snake he’s there about every year when Melman has his bluegrass festival over here. They’ll fiddle sometime it’ll be five o’clock in the morning. [Laughs].

Interviewer:Well, does the name George Newsome, do you know that fellow?


Interviewer: I don’t know whether he knows Snake or not, but both of those names have been mentioned to me in Pike County.

Sizemore:Where would he be?

Interviewer:Pike County.

Sizemore:Oh, Pike County.

Interviewer:But I haven’t been able to get over to Pike County yet.

Sizemore:Kentucky Slim, now do you know Kentucky Slim?


Sizemore:Well, he’s a, he’s one of the oldest musicians I guess, a big ole. I’ve done a lot of square dances with him playing. He plays, he’s a fine bass player; he plays a fine guitar. He sings all these old songs.

Interviewer:Where’s he live?

Sizemore:He lives up in Pike County.

Interviewer:Okay. Plays bass and guitar?

Sizemore:Yeah, he plays bass and guitar too.

Interviewer:What’s his real name?

Sizemore:Kentucky Slim is all I know [laughs].

Interviewer:Does he list himself in the phonebook?

Sizemore:No, I wouldn’t know. It’s Kentucky Slim only thing I know.

Interviewer:How about Jimmy Wheeler. Did you ever meet him? He’s up at Portsmouth.

Sizemore:No, no. Yeah, I do. He’s, the last time I seen him he’d a had two little strokes, but he was a getting better. But he was, I tell you, he was a fiddler kindly like Kenny Baker. He played Kenny Baker style fiddle. Just about as good, well now he said he had showed Kenny Baker a lot of what he’s playing now he had showed it to him.

Interviewer:Is that right?

Sizemore:But he had had two little strokes he said.

Interviewer:Uh-huh. Did it impair his playing?

Sizemore:Yeah, but he said he was getting better last time down there at Grayson Folk Festival that’s the last time I seen him. We’s down there. And whose that old feller used to be over that folk festival down there?

Interviewer:Alva Green? Buddy Thomas?

Sizemore:No, this was, he played a guitar and sang with Alfred Bailey a whole lot. I’ve got his last letter. I’ve got it here. He wrote me a letter. I forget what his name is now. Rogers something.

Interviewer:Roger, [pause] Breese! Breese?

Sizemore:Roger, his first name was Roger.

Interviewer:Was it Breese?

Sizemore:He sang a good, old, he sang old songs and played the guitar with Alfred Bailey most of the time. But now I’ve seen, this fiddler was there. And Lonso and Oscar. I’ve done shows with them there.


Sizemore:Yeah, and Oscar.

Interviewer:And Oscar. Two different people?

Sizemore:Two people, yeah.

Interviewer:Was was their names?

Sizemore:That, they play for the Grand Ole Opry.

Interviewer:Oh, oh, oh! I see. I thought they were going to be from [Ellington]County.

Sizemore:[Laughs] No, they was from the Grand Old Opry.

Interviewer:[Laughs] And they brought them in to show how to do it, didn’t they?

Sizemore:And we played, done a lot of shows with them there. Boy they are, they are good though. One plays the mandolin. Lonzo plays the mandolin. Boy he’s a mandolin player. Well, both of them were good. This ole boy was with me, he can get a chord where every note on anything you playing. We’s out jamming on and Oscar looked up at this feller. He’s getting plum to the bottom a going up. He said, “Boy,” Said, “Lookey there.” Said, “I just know five chords.” [Laughs]. But this old feller with me, he lives in the lower end of town here, and he can just about get a chord for every note that you play.

Interviewer:Is that right?

Sizemore: Yeah, that barring, you know, barring.


Sizemore:Yeah. I don’t like that type of guitar player. I like a feller that we play it here. Get something out of it, [both laugh, interviewer speaks in the background]. Yeah, that’s right. That’s, I don’t see any much guitar playing in that. But they’s a lot of them tunes now that that feller down there was playing fit right in with his playing. But now Buddy Ratliff, he plays a lot of stuff that this guitar goes right along with. Buddy, Buddy is a fine, he’s the best old-time fiddler in that outfit.

Interviewer:Uh-huh. Oh, he’s a fine musician. He moves right on through.

Sizemore:Well, he’s the best old-time fiddler of the outfit. You know Angie plays. You know her?

Interviewer:Oh yeah, I do.

Sizemore:But now Buddy is a fine old time fiddler. When you get him down, now he comes here, he’ll fiddle. I’ll say a name. “Oh Lord, hadn’t thought of that in thirty years.” But soon Buddy he’s playing it right on. Good old time fiddler. Now the rest of them don’t play good old-time fiddle.

Interviewer:No, they play a modern

Sizemore:More classical, yeah.

Interviewer:A modern Nashville country bluegrass.

Sizemore:But now Buddy ever comes around, get him to do some of them old fiddle tunes.


Sizemore:He can do it.

Interviewer:All right, We’ll work on the old stuff.

Sizemore:Well, he’s, he’s a violinist too. He can sit down and play with an orchestra or.

Interviewer:We were talking a little bit earlier about some of the older tunes, some of the tunes that your grandmother played. Do you want to list through some of those we mentioned?

Sizemore:Now that I couldn’t, now them three tunes is about, course I guess she played about everything, but them three tunes always stood out in my mind more than anything. “Frosty Morning,” “Getting Upstairs,” and “Brushy Fork of [unintelligible] Creek.” But they didn’t stay with me. I’d like to hear them, especially “Getting Upstairs” and “Frosty Morning.”

Interviewer:And you’d like to hear them. If we could order from the Library of Congress there in Washington DC, what would that be like for you?

Sizemore:Oh yeah, that’d be fine. See, yeah. That would be fine. She played with, she tuned her fiddle up just like [central bird]. You drop two down, you play in G and you run two up and you play in A, you know. But she, ever which one she done she, we called it [mule, unintelligible].

Interviewer:Do you have any idea who she learned to play from?

Sizemore:No. She was from up there in Knott County [unintelligible] plenty of them old time banjo, most of the banjo pickers back then though. I used to [play] banj---square dances with an old [cow hide] banjo. I guess I was over twelve or thirteen years old.

Interviewer:So twelve or thirteen years old you were playing banjo.

Sizemore:Yeah, I couldn’t play. But I could play enough they didn’t care about. They’d get out and square dance.

Interviewer:Play parties? Did you call them square dances or did you call them Play Parties?

Sizemore:Well, they’d mostly be, mostly [bean stringing] and such as that there. You know these people used to raise everything you eat. And I’ve seen piles of beans up that high plum to a wall where they’d be people gathering. And they’d string beans a while and then they’d square dance a while. [laughs].

Interviewer:I want to change the subject. I just thought of something here a minute. You’ve been in Prestonsburg since when? When did you move here?

Sizemore:Ah, we’ve been right around here all my life. Well, I’ve been in Prestonsburg for oh, probably twenty years old when we settled back down in a little holler over from town here.

Interviewer:A few years ago a school bus ran off the highway and went into the river. Did that affect you in any way?

Sizemore:There was none of our people. I knowed most of them. I knowed them, but they wasn’t any of our people on either side, was they? [speaks to woman in the background]

Other Voice: What?

Sizemore:The school bus.

Other Voice:No.

Sizemore:Wasn’t none of our people. But we knowed a lot of the people.

Other Voice:Well, we knew most all of them. But wasn’t nobody in our family there.

Sizemore:That was pitiful.

Interviewer:I’ve read about that, and just thought I’d mention it since I am talking to a resident of Prestonsburg.

Sizemore:It kindly reminds me of that earthquake they had, you know. There, why, was down there in that bus, and you couldn’t do down there and get them. It was for a long time before they ever got the bus out enough to get the bodies out. But you know they was down there. See that’s the way over there in Mexico where that earthquake. So many people.

Interviewer:Yeah, it’s an agonizing thing for us to know about.

Sizemore:Yeah, you are down there and you can’t get out.

Interviewer:Well, David, is there any last thing that we need to say on our interview about your, your long time contribution to the music of eastern Kentucky? I think you have an impressive record here of the times you’ve been playing, and you are valuable to us as an instrument maker and as a tune collector and a tape collector of music. Is there anything you would like to add?

Other Voice:[unintelligible] Nothing about his music or anything. Only when he sells it and he gives me some money.

Sizemore:It’s like the old taxi drivers said, “I’ll take you anywhere you want to go and tell you anything you want to know.” [Laughs].

Interviewer:[Laughs] We’ll leave it with that then.

[ 1:00End of recording.]