Liner Notes


VRCD 361

Floyd Engstrom was born in Bremerton in 1918, and spent his childhood in various locations in Western Washington including Seattle, Renton, Enumclaw, Monroe, and a “stump ranch” outside of Duvall. His mother’s family was Norwegian and ran a boarding house in Ballard. His Swedish-born father was a mill-worker. When he was eight his uncle gave him a violin, and Floyd started taking lessons until his folks could no longer afford it because of the Depression. An old time fiddler named Tom Somers, originally from Iowa, taught him to play fiddle tunes by ear. Among the first tunes he learned were “Turkey in the Straw” and “Buffalo Gals.”

Floyd soon was playing waltzes, foxtrots, square dances, schottisches, and polkas in a band which often included guitar, trumpet, and piano. In the 1930’s they played at the former Cherry Gardens school near Duvall, and at house parties in the area. Floyd recalls “They’d get rid of the rug and stomp around in the living room.” Often someone would be selling home made whiskey from the trunk of a car. “I didn’t have to be very good, all those drunken bums up there, they couldn’t tell the difference, whether it was good music or not.” They often played until 2 a.m., and the dancers sometimes took up a collection to get the band to play longer.

After he graduated from high school work was hard to find, so in 1938 he did some gold mining in southern Oregon. His mining companions played mandolin, guitar, and banjo, and he played fiddle with them almost every evening around the campfire. In 1939 he joined the CCC and did soil conservation work near Yakima, Washington.

Floyd was married to Alice Roedell in 1942, went into the army in 1944, and then worked in the Bremerton shipyard until 1973. During this time “the fiddle was put in the closet and forgotten.” In 1978 a friend invited him to a Washington Old Time Fiddlers Association show in Bremerton, which inspired him to dust off the fiddle and revive some of the old tunes he used to play. Since then he has learned many more tunes from other fiddlers at contests, jam sessions, workshops, and other fiddle events as well as from his extensive collection of recordings.

The backup musicians on this recording are also regulars in the local old time fiddling scene. The Lawson brothers and their wives currently live in Shelton, Washington and they all came from families who played old time music in Missouri. Jammer Lawson was born in Missouri in 1923. When he was six years old he started playing “tater bug” mandolin for dances, and later learned to play fiddle and guitar. Teal Lawson learned to chord on the guitar at age eleven. She and Jammer were married in 1941. Verl and Lucille Lawson were married in 1945. Their band, the “Kings Valley Kids,” entertained on the radio in Missouri and Oklahoma in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s.

Bob Olsen is originally from Orcas Island and currently lives in Allyn, Washington. He has played banjo since the 1980’s, and started four bands: the Olga Symphony, the Home Brew Band, Kitsap Konnection, and the JBJ. He plays a long-neck 5-string banjo finger style, and also composes ditties. His wife Valerie is the inspiration for his latest, Valerie’s Waltz.

1. Monona County
2. Dry and Dusty
3. Mexican Waltz (Harold Allen)
4. South Missouri
5. Lumberjack Special (Ned Landry)
6. Echoes of the Ozarks
7. Spanish Two Step (Bob Wills)
8. Walking in My Sleep
9. Paris Waltz (Arthur Smith)
10. Road to Columbus (Bill Monroe)
11. He Touched Me (W. J. Gaither)
12. Lost Indian
13. Silver Lake Blues
14. Twilight Waltz
15. Cricket on the Hearth
16. Weeping Heart (Howdy Forrester)
17. Nervous Breakdown
18. High Country (Kenny Baker)
19. Mississippi Waltz (Bill Monroe)
20. Little Bitty Acorn in a Great Big Tree
21. Still on the Hill
22. Tulsa Waltz
23. When They Ring the Golden Bells
(Dion De Marbelle)
24. Crapshooters Rag
25. Dusty’s Hornpipe (Kenny Baker)
26. Death Valley Waltz (J. Daugherty)
27. Buckshot
28. Smith’s Rag (Arthur Smith)
29. Hollow Poplar

Windell (Jammer) Lawson and Martha (Teal) Lawson, guitars. Verl (Pink) Lawson, electric bass. Lucille (Ceil) Lawson, piano. Robert (Bob) Olson, banjo. Recorded June 2003 at Shelton, Washington by Phil Williams. Quotations from interview courtesy of Brid Nowlan, Stuart Williams, and the Washington Traditional Fiddlers Project. Photo by Doug Plummer.

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