Liner Notes


VRCD 349

We've all heard the stories or met fiddlers who put down their instruments for 20, 30, 40 years, to work and raise their families. Lee Edwin Stripling is one such fiddler, and boy, are we glad he's taken it up again. Lee was born to a large, musical family in Northwest Alabama. He grew up absorbing hymns, secular songs, and lots of instrumental music, especially from his dad, renowned fiddler Charlie Stripling, and his uncle, Ira, who recorded extensively in the 1920s and 1930s as The Stripling Brothers. Lee & his older brother Robert took to the instruments and joined in with dad for many of his dances, contests, and performances, & also formed a brother duet.

As a teenager, Lee became interested in some of the newer musical developments - Western Swing and the popular music of the 1930s - and soon formed his own swing band while serving in the Civilian Conservation Corps. After World War II, Lee got married, settled down, raised a family, and mostly put his fiddle away until the 1980s when he began to meet a lot of younger folks from Seattle's large old-time music scene. The past couple of years have seen him playing much more and getting back his old skills - with a passion! A meeting last year with 99-year old Tennessee fiddler Bob Douglas, who had known Lee's dad well, inspired Lee to put together a band to play the music he loves. He has also come to more fully appreciate his dad's music which he learned so well early in life. He is now regaling audiences, dancers, and fellow musicians in the Seattle area with both his lyrical older pop and swing music as well as his personal legacy, the Stripling Family tradition. I've known Lee since 1984, and he seems to be getting better as the years progress, like a fine wine. These latest efforts, the songs, the tunes, bring me to tears - tears of joy. I hope they move you as much. - Kerry Blech, Seattle, WA, May 2000.

Lee's unique version of Rye Straw comes from the playing of his dad, Charlie, who learned it from Uncle Pleas Carroll. Lee also calls it Black my Boots and Go See the Widow since his dad used to sing these words to part of the tune while puttering around the house. Wolves A-Howling is one of Lee's and his brother Robert's three favorite tunes (along with Rye Straw and Lost Child) from their dad's repertoire. Lee plays Wolves here on one of the fiddles Charlie recorded with, tuned to AEAE. California Blues is one of Lee's dad's compositions. Charlie had never been to California, and when asked once about the name, he simply said, "Well, you've got to call it something." The medley Soldier's Joy, Raggedy Ann, and Chicken Reel has unique versions of three standards that Lee plays pretty much as his dad did. Leather Britches and Devil's Dream are two more of these, as is Black Eyed Susie which Lee heard from both his dad and Pleas Carroll. Chicken Reel is very popular and always got a standing ovation when Charlie and his sons played it at school auditoriums and other gigs. Charlie heard Horseshoe Bend on one of his many trips around the state and came home playing it, and played it most of the night until he had it right. Since he didn't know the name, he called it after the bend in the South Alabama River near where he learned the tune. Get Off Your Money, Big Four, Possum Hollow, and Pallet on the Floor are all tunes Charlie played that Lee knows nothing else about. Whiskers is another one of those that Lee remembers backing up for a lot of dances with his dad. Down on the L&N is a tune that Charlie heard one time down on the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, which passed near the Stripling home town of Kennedy, Alabama. Charlie didn't get the name so he named it this. Lost John was one of Charlie's popular recordings and Lee's never heard anyone else playing it. The Wang Wang Blues was a very popular number that Charlie and lots of others people played; Charlie recorded it as The Newborn Blues. Lee's dad never recorded Hogs Picking Up Acorns but he played it often, and it's proved to be a popular tune as Lee's played it around Seattle. It's joined here with another of Charlie's tunes, Mayflower.

Lee heard Heel Fly from the playing of Gary Lee Moore, who got it from Dale Morris with the longer name Get Out of the Way of the Heelfly.

I Told Them All About You was heard a lot just before the war and is a family favorite; the duet has been sung by Lee's sisters, Lee and his brother Robert, and Lee's daughters. The other four duets sung on this record were all worked out by Lee and Robert while in their teens, and performed with their dad accompanying them on fiddle. I Only Want a Buddy Not a Sweetheart and Somebody Else is Taking My Place are both songs that the boys learned and taught Charlie, while The Waltz You Saved For Me and The Wednesday Night Waltz were tunes that Charlie played that his sons found words to and learned.

Just after the war Lee heard That's How Much I love You from a band that played on the back of a loud-speaker truck, traveling around the state with Big Jim Folsom in his successful campaign for governor of Alabama. Lee's known Let Me Call You Sweetheart all his life, including the rarely heard second part. The joys of playing in B-flat were first discovered by Lee when he learned Flaming Mamie while serving in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) when he was at the peak of his fiddling, and it remains one of his personal favorites. It has words, but they are a bit off color and Lee doesn't sing them. 40 Years Ago Waltz was learned down in Alabama after the war and was played all around during that time. Old Fashioned Love was first heard from the Mills Brothers before the war. Washington & Lee Swing is a college marching band tune Lee heard in his youth and decided to try out on the fiddle during the last year. Lee picked up the very similar Twinkle Twinkle during the CCC years from some of the other musicians there, and recently thought of adding the stop breaks.

Clarinet Polka was one of the Lee's favorite big band tunes during the wartime, and Lee and his wife Lucille danced to Ain't Misbehaving back in the 1940s when they were first married. Who's Sorry Now is another oldie from the big band era, and Lee recalls Limehouse Blues as "a popular tune that was played in all grades of bands from big band to hillbilly back in the late '30s and early '40s."

Recorded April 13- 21, 2000 at Voyager Recordings, Seattle, WA

Live selections recorded April 30, 2000 at Phil and Vivian's House

Recording Engineer: Phil Williams
Produced & Mixed by: W. B. Reid
Edited by: Phil Williams & W.B. Reid
Photos by: Catherine Alexander & Betsy Brown

Thanks to Vivian Williams for help, encouragement, food, and listening. Thanks also to Bonnie Zahnow and Doug Yule.

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