The older fiddlers and rhythm guitar players don’t rely on sheet music, so their weekly jam sessions — now on hiatus — are critical to passing their technique to the next generation.
In an abandoned general store along a nearly deserted country road, Alvie Dooms, 90, and Gordon McCann, 89, played rhythm guitar. Nearly a dozen more musicians, many of them also older adults, joined in on fiddle, mandolin, banjo and upright bass. Their tunes had names like “Last Train Home,” “Pig Ankle Rag” and “Arkansas Traveler.”
The old-time dance music — merry and sweet, or slower and wistful — evoked the lively jigs and reels of the Scots-Irish pioneers who settled in these rugged hills generations ago. A precursor to bluegrass, their sound was unique to this particular corner of Missouri.
The McClurg jam, as the Monday night music and potluck fest was known, endured for decades, the last gathering of its kind in the rural Ozarks. But the coronavirus pandemic has silenced the instruments, at least temporarily. And the suspension has led to worry: What will become of this singular musical tradition?