47th Annual University of Chicago Folk Festival Artists

Pine Leaf Boys

Pine Leaf Boys

The Pine Leaf Boys perform Cajun and Creole music. They are made up of Wilson Savoy, Drew Simon, Blake Miller, and Jon Bertrand.

Wilson Savoy plays accordion and grew up in Savoy, Louisiana. As a boy, he whistled Cajun songs with intricate melodies as he jumped on the trampoline with his brother and sisters. He is inspired by Amede Ardoin, Iry LeJeune, Lawrence Walker, and his father, Marc Savoy, but enjoys and continues to be influenced by old and modern Cajun, Soul, and Blues.
Cedric Watson performs on fiddle and has studied les veilles styles of Canray Fontenot and Bebe Carriere. Also the leader of the Creole Cowboys, he lives, breathes, and eats Cajun, Creole, and Zydeco music. He studies ancient French and ballads of Blind Uncle Gaspard and Edius Naquin to produce masterful new arrangements and original songs to the group.
Drew Simon on drums and accordion, was raised in Lafayette, Louisiana and has played Cajun music since he was little. He also plays guitar, is a fantastic vocalist and has been influenced greatly by Phillip Alleman, the Balfa Brothers, and Lawrence Walker. He is currently a student at UL in Louisiana Tourism.
Blake Miller, on guitar, bass and second-fiddle, began playing accordion at a young age and became fluent on it, then shifted focus and "practiced fiddle for hours a day while his accordion sat on the shelf," according to his dad, Bruno. Now, equipped with the holy trinity of Cajun instruments, Blake is a rhythm machine, solid as a Sherman tank.
Jon Bertrand plays guitar and was raised in the thriving hub of Jeff Davis Parish that is Pine Island or Crapeauville where he began life as a cowboy. He began playing guitar and quickly became a rhythm machine, playing with Dexter Ardoin, Cory McCauley, and the Lost Bayou Ramblers. Jon's major influences are Cory McCauley, Harry Choates, the Hackberry Ramblers, Iry LeJeune, Austin Pitre, and Sonny Meaux. Jon completed his studies at UL in French and today lives with the rest of the Pine Leaf Boys in Lafayette, LA. Jon is a rocker, and he is influenced by many groups, not just Cajun.

Interested? You can learn more at their website.

Veretski Pass

Veretski Pass

In exotic Eastern Europe, the roots of World Music go back centuries. Jews, Christians, and Moslems, Rumanians, Ukrainians, and Roma played music together in an atmosphere of sharing, in a multicultural area where professional musicians had to know as many musical styles as the diverse languages of the people with whom they lived and worked.

Confidently crossing the border between mature mastery and village madness, Veretski Pass, an ensemble of veteran klezmer artists Cookie Segelstein, Stuart Brotman and Joshua Horowitz, plays Old Country Music; melodies from Medieval Poland, dances from Bessarabia, Ruthenia, and Bukovina, music with origins in the Ottoman Empire, lands once fabled as the borderlands of the East and the West.

This virtuosic group of musical eccentrics synthesizes raw energy and polished musicianship to produce music of unusual depth and power, with fire and finesse, warmth and wonder, in a variety of traditional sonorities. A full palette of complementary tone colours pours from expertly played violin, viola, bass viol, button accordion, bass drum, and tsimbl. See full bios of band members and detailed information at:  www.veretskipass.com

Vesta Johnson and Steve Hall

Vesta Johnson

Vesta Johnson is one of Missouri's foremost fiddlers. She’s a former Missouri State Fiddle Champion and plays many tunes in the Ozark style, which is characterized by intricate energetic bowing, lending a strongly rhythmic and driving quality to the music.

Vesta grew up in rural Missouri but lives now in the St. Louis area. Born to a family of fiddlers, she has been playing fiddle for over 70 years and has gathered a repertoire of common Missouri tunes as well as some rarely heard gems.

Tony DeMarco

Tony DeMarco with Anna Colliton

“Tony DeMarco is one of America’s finest folk fiddlers.

A Brooklyn native of Irish and Italian descent, he is among the world’s leading exponents of the sophisticated County Sligo style of Irish fiddling. Tony’s playing has all the characteristics of great Sligo fiddling- swinging rhythmic drive, a wealth of bowed and finger ornamentation, and a high degree of improvised melodic variation.

Sligo fiddling has been closely associated with the New York Irish musical tradition for many years. Immigrant Sligo fiddlers in New York, notably the great Michael Coleman, James Morrison and Paddy Killoran, made hundreds of classic recordings in “the Big Apple” during the 78-rpm era. The influence of these discs back in Ireland made the Sligo style, as played in New York City, the de facto national standard for decades thereafter.

In the early 1970’s, following a musical apprenticeship in American folk fiddling, Tony immersed himself in Sligo fiddling. In addition to listening intensively to the old 78’s, he absorbed tunes and techniques from leading Sligo style fiddlers in both the U.S. and Ireland. Paddy Reynolds, a County Longford-born New York fiddler and a protégé of the late Sligo fiddle great James “Lad” Obeirne, was a major influence on Tony’s music. He also learned a great deal from playing with and listening to the late Martyn Wynn, John Vesey and Johnny McGreevy.

Tony spent the summer of 1976 in Co, Sligo, playing with local musicians on their home ground. Back in New York, he developed a musical partnership with Bronx fiddle standout Brian Conway, a collaboration that led to the 1981 recording “The Apple in Winter” a landmark album of fiddle duets.

Tony has recorded and performed with The Flying Cloud , the Kips Bay Cieli Band, Celtic Thunder and Black 47. He’s played for the Smithsonian Institute’s Folklife Festival and co-authored a fiddle tutor “ A Trip To Sligo.” He has been a featured performer at leading Irish music festivals in the U.S. and Europe and can be seen at Paddy Reilly’s Pub in N.Y.C. weekly.”

–Don Meade N.Y.C.

For more information, check out his webpage

Geraldine Gay with Gregory Donald Gay

Geraldine Gay

Geraldine Gay is most notably recognized as a member of The Gay Sisters Trio that recorded for Dolphin and Savoy Records in the late forties and early fifties. The Trio, which included Geraldine and her sisters Evelyn and Mildred, performed at New York’s Apollo Theater, Carnegie Hall, the Astrodome, and the Bicentennial Celebration of the United States on the Washington Mall. In addition, the sisters sang at churches around the country, and have performed or recorded with some of the most influential artists of the 20th century, including Mahalia Jackson, Elvis Presley, Sam Cooke, Dr. Thomas Dorsey, Clara Ward, Pops Staples, and many others.

In his book “The Gospel Sound,” Anthony Heilbut referred to Geraldine Gay as the “Errol Garner of gospel”.

Pastor Gregory Donald Gay is the co-founder of Prayer Center Church of God in Christ, and younger brother of The Gay Sisters Trio. At six years of age, Pastor Gay appeared at Carnegie Hall with his sisters. His singing continues the Gay family gospel tradition.

The Gay family was honored by the Smithsonian Institute for their contributions and advancement of gospel music in America.

Geraldine and Donald recorded on “In the Right Hands – Chicago Gospel Keyboard Pioneers” for The Sirens Records; They are currently working on a new recording for The Sirens Records. These recordings will expose the next generation of listeners to their exceptional talent.

L.V. BANKS with the Billy Flynn Band

L.V. Banks

L.V. Banks has probably played every blues club and bar in the greater Chicago area.

Born in Stringtown, Mississippi in 1932, he began playing music on a homemade string instrument as a child. After a stint in the military, he headed north and dedicated himself to the electric music of Chicago’s South Side.

Influenced by B.B. King, Little Milton and Howlin’ Wolf, L.V. developed his own distinctive way to “bend” his guitar strings.

Banks is joined in this engagement by ace Twin Cities blues guitarist Billy Flynn, great blues drummer Willie Smith, and a small ensemble.

Rich in Tradition

Rich In Tradition

Rich In Tradition is a Bluegrass band with members from Surry County, North Carolina and Collinsville, Virginia. They play in the "hard-driving-mountain-music-lonesome-singing style" of Ralph Stanley (but also draw from the sweet sounds of Flatt & Scruggs).

The band features Mickey Galyean on guitar, lead, tenor and high baritone vocals. Mickey is the son of the great Bluegrass banjo player and singer, Cullen Galyean. Their family has been involved in old time music for several generations; Mickey’s great grandfather was an old time fiddler, his grandfather played old time fiddle and his grandmother played clawhammer banjo.

The other members are Jay Adams on banjo and baritone and bass vocals; Greg Jones on mandolin, lead vocals, baritone, tenor and high baritone; Brad Hiatt on bass fiddle, lead vocals, tenor and baritone; and Tim Martin on fiddle, lead vocals, and baritone.

Rich In Tradition took first place at the Old Fiddlers Convention Galax in 2006 and before that they were awarded first place at the 2006 Granite Quarry Fiddlers Convention (where Timmy Martin also took first in Bluegrass Fiddle), first place at the 2006 Sparta Fiddlers Convention (where Jay Adams took first in Bluegrass Banjo), second place at the Mt. Airy Fiddlers Convention, N.C. and first place at the Yadkinville Fiddlers Convention.

This is Rich in Tradition's first time playing in Chicago, and we are delighted to have them playing for us this year.

Elkins String Ticklers

The Elkins String Ticklers are Jimmy Triplett on fiddle, Bob Smakula on guitar, and Andy Fitzgibbon on banjo. They are deeply immersed in the older West Virginia mountain style of playing, which includes dance music as well as beautiful solo fiddle tunes.

West Virginia's tunes are distinct from the usual fare because they incorporate crooked rhythms, alternate fiddle and banjo tunings, and lonesome modal sounds from the older West Virginia styles. The Elkins String Ticklers have absorbed the music of many traditional West Virginia fiddlers, including various members of the legendary Hammons family of Pocahontas County, Ernie Carpenter, and Melvin Wine.

Members of the Elkins String Ticklers have won awards in banjo and fiddle at the Appalachian String Band Festival at Clifftop, WV and in 2001 the band won second place in the traditional band contest. All members have also taught various classes at the Augusta Heritage Center in Elkins.

Jimmy Triplett spent numerous years in West Virginia learning fiddle from elder musicians and field recordings, and worked for several years at the Augusta Heritage Center in Elkins. In 2001 he co-produced a two-CD compilation of the fiddling of Ernie Carpenter, and in 2004 he co-produced the CD-Rom/DVD "One More Time: The Life and Music of Melvin Wine." He has become an in-demand fiddle teacher.

Bob Smakula is a well-known instrument repairman as well as a musician, operating Smakula Fretted Instruments in Elkins, West Virginia. He writes regularly for the "Workshop" column of the Old Time Herald. He teaches classes at Augusta regularly, both in music and instrument repair.

Andy FitzGibbon works as a banjo repairman at Smakula Fretted Instruments in Elkins, WV. He teaches instrument repair at Augusta with Bob Smakula each summer, and has also taught fiddle at Augusta. His playing has been shaped by time spent with many traditional players from central West Virginia, including Melvin Wine, Lester McCumbers, John Hannah, and Murrell Hamrick.


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This program is partially sponsored by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council