Momma Don't 'Low is a newsletter to support home-made and roots-based music in general, as well as the readers of,, and

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Momma Don't 'Low™ is a newsletter to support acoustic and traditional music, as well as the folks who follow our music articles on various web pages, including Creek Don't Rise™, Classic Train Songs™. Riverboat Music, and
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In this Issue - March, 2018

When comic book authors run out of plot ideas and decide they need an excuse for reusing all of their old plots, they have a "reboot." Well, welcome to the "Rebooted" Momma Don't Low™ Newsletter. If you're getting this you either

  • Signed up within the last few months,

  • Were were a previous subscriber and you re-subscribed when I gave you the opportunity or,

  • Are an acquaintance I signed up because I thought you might be interested, or

  • Are a fellow musician whose newsletters I get, and I figure turnabout is fair play. :-)

And when I say "signed up," I mean that you chose to receive this newsletter. You can choose NOT to at any time, of course - just follow the unsubscribe instructions in teh

Paul Race with his GoodTime Classic Special banjo, dressed for an historical reenactment.By the way, this is Paul Race - songwriter, folksinger, teacher, and writer - speaking. When I say "I," that's who is speaking. When I say "we," I'm including other folks who help with or contribute to my web pages. I hope that makes sense.

I stress that this is an "opt-in" only newsletter, because a lot of folks in the past have signed up for one or more of my newsletters, then forgotten what they signed up for. And when one shows up in their in-box, they're wondering why I would "spam" them with banjo articles or whatever.

If you're wondering the same thing, please feel free to use the Unsubscribe link a few inches above this line. No hard feelings, really. My newsletter mailing system actually works better when I keep it down to legitimate subscribers.

Based on reader feedback, my biggest audience by far consists of people interested in acoustic instruments and traditional or Folk-inspired music. That's also the kind of music I've been focusing on for the last several years (though I still write and record Gospel music from time to time). So we'll be using this newsletter to address content and reader questions related to the following music sites.

Heartland-inspired music, history, and acoustic instrument tips.
Acoustic instruments, traditional music, Heartland history and culture
A page devoted to some of Paul's own music endeavors.
My own music page, with links to songs I'm working on, memoirs, musings about music, and more.
Best-loved railroad songs and the stories behind them.
Songs about trains and the people who wrote and sang them
Look to Riverboat Music buyers' guide for descriptions of musical instruments by people who play musical instruments.
Reorganized answers to reader's questions about instrument choices, with way more information than anyone else will give you.

So please consider this fair warning. If you elect to stay on this list, you will see updates about articles I'm writing, about songwriting, about setting up acoustic instruments, about playing acoustic instruments, about songs I'm working on or releasing, and much, much more.

If that's not what you think you signed up for, simply click the "Unsubscribe" link near the top of this page. You won't hurt my feelings. After being a professional writer for almost forty years, I have skin like an elephant's.

In This Issue

This issue is actually coming out several months later than I intended, so there's a certain amount of "catch up" in the content. As things settle down, and I get more subscribers to the new format, I'll try to stay a little more caught up.

More 6-String Banjo News - As most of you know by now, several years ago I published an article about the history of the six-string banjo, explaining that it has always been a real instrument, not a crutch for guitar players who wanted to "play banjo" with out actually, er, playing banjo.

In that article I reported that the Reverend Gary Davis had been known to play one, something that another 6-string banjo fan once reported. What you probably don't know is that two blues guitarists reamed me out for making such a wild claim. And since I had trouble verifying my friend's account, I took that part back out of the article.

So last year, after Deering introduced their first metal-stringed Goodtime 6-string banjo (a runaway success, by the way), they asked my permission to post excerpts from my article on their blog page. Of course I obliged, even though they wanted to include the derogatory nomenclature "banjitar" in the title, because a lot of people search for that term.

Since the article was published, several people had commented on it, but I hadn't seen their comments because they weren't being forwarded to me. Then, after several months, the comments started coming through. So I went back to the article and saw the comments, including one from none other than Taj Mahal. Not only did he approve of what I wrote, but he also gave me the information I needed to track down at least one recording of Rev. Gary Davis playing the 6-string banjo.Taj Mahal with his Deering Deluxe banjo, taken at a New Orleans Jam in 2011.

Taj's note is below:

    I have a Deering Deluxe 6-string banjo!

    I've been thrilled with it since the day it arrived at my home and I started playing it! My 1st introduction to it being played "live" was a Reverend Gary Davis concert! The Reverend played 3 or 4 tunes on the instrument! "Devil's Dream" and "Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag! "Those were the 2 tunes that I remember! Then I also bought 2 or 3 of his "holy blues" albums which also had the titles I mentioned above and others!

    The 6-string banjo when set up correctly makes a very versatile instrument for strumming, chording, finger-picking, rhythmic backbeats, and comping with any kind of music!!

    Taj Mahal

Rev. Gary Davis playing guitar and holding his 6-string on his lap.Of course I googled the recordings Taj mentioned. I could only find one in my initial search, but it was enough to prove my friend's original assertion - that Reverend Gary Davis HAD played the 6-string banjo at least once. And done a very nice job on it, if my opinion is worth anything. Here's a YouTube link to "West Coast Blues" that I was able to track down.

If you want to see the Deering article, please click the following link:

Here's the link to my original article on the page:

'Nother Banjo Clinic Past - In August, 2017, I hauled a car-load full of banjos to a regional, home-grown music festival and did a clinic on all the different kinds. It was the second time for me and was lots of fun for all - according to the festival planner. The basic theme of each clinic was "What Kind of Banjo Do You Need For Each Kind of Music"?

Here's an article that tells about two tenor banjos I prepped for clinics, and how things went at the first clinic.

The graphic below (if you're viewing online) is an example of a handout I used at the clinics. If you click on the graphic or the link below, you'll see a full-page PDF of the same page, so you don't have to ruin your eyesight.

My handy chart to help people decide what kind of banjo they needed for what kinds of  music.  Click for a full-page PDF of this graphic.

I won't be doing another banjo clinic this year - I sold too many of my oddball banjos. But I might be doing an autoharp clinic. Here's the link to this year's festival, regardless. If you live anywhere near Springfield, Ohio, or west Columbus, it's WELL worth a drive over.

Paul Race and Tess Hoffman singing hoedown songs at the Clark County/Springfield Historical Society in March, 2017

It's History Now - This past Memorial Day marked the fourth time I have been part of a project from the Clark County/Springfield Historical Society. Twice, now, my sister Tess Hoffman and I participated in the Society's "Night at the Museum," dressed in period clothing and singing folk songs. Once last fall, I brought my banjo into a seminar on the Underground Railroad and led a singalong of "Follow the Drinkin' Gourd."

Then a few weeks before the 2017 Memorial Day parade, I got a crazy request - play banjo on the Society's float - a big model of the Society's home building, completely covered in corn kernels.

Paul Race playing banjo for the Springfield Memorial Day Parade, 2017.  Click for bigger photo.As it turned out, there wasn't room for anybody to sit on the float, but there was room for me to sit in the back of the pickup truck pulling it. Yes, I felt a little like one of the Darling family. But it's fun to know that over 2,000 people heard me that day, even if nobody but my family and a few friends realized it was me. Macy's, here I come. Well, not really. But it was fun to do, and it was especially fun to support one of the most active county historical societies in the state.

Sadly, I don't have a photo or video of me in the truck picking, but the photo at the right shows me standing in front of the float before the parade started.

This April 14 (2018), sister Tess Hoffman and I will be playing for the Historical Society's "Night at the Museum" again, possibly with nephew Jesse Hoffman.

Click the following link to learn more about this event.

Autoharp Frenzy - Here's an irony: when I wrote the Autoharp page on, I was just trying to "fill in the gaps" for people would couldn't find a good overview of the things elsewhere on the Internet. As it turned out, it quickly became one of the Internet's most popular articles on the things. And questions from readers drove me to write several more articles. In some cases, I found myself trying to explain stuff that other internet sites didn't explain very well. In other cases, I found myself doing original research because the existing sites were vague or contradictory.

An Oscar Schmidt autoharp and its Zimmerman predecessor.  Click for bigger photo.Either way, to do the research, I wound up buying WAY too many beat up old autoharps. The one on the left is probably between 126 and 130 years old, and could still be played if I dared to tighten the strings all the way.

I've seen at least one very old picture of the Carter Family with the one in the middle, the model 2 3/4 "Favorite" being played lap position. That was probably at least a decade before Mother Maybelle and a few other pre-Bluegrass "Mountain Music" players started playing the more common Model 73 (at the right) and holding it upright, like most people do today.

So for someone who isn't even a serious autoharp player, I've accumulated a surprising number of autoharps. And autoharp articles. If you want to see my original autoharp page, which now includes links to other articles, click the following link:

I want to restore a few of the more interesting models, and hopefully record a song or two using one, so the next few months may bring a few more autoharp articles than you might ordinarily expect. But that doesn't mean I'm writing an autoharp newsletter, or have given up on banjo, or guitar, or songwriting or anything else. It's just that I'm trying to "fill gaps" and publish the answers to frequent and repeated reader questions. Next year it might be songwriting. Or Appalachian or hammered dulcimers - two other instruments I own and enjoy but barely play. :-)

More to Come

If you've spent any time on any of our music sites, you know that we have a lot of topics to share about.

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In the meantime, if you want to see December, 2016's newsletter (our most recent "normal" newsletter, not counting some transitional ones that mostly describe logistics), please click the following link:

Paul Race playing a banjo. Click to go to Paul's music home page.Whatever else you get out of our pages, I hope you enjoy your music and figure out how to make enjoyable music for those around you as well.

And please stay in touch!

- Paul Click to see Paul's music home page Click to contact Paul through this page. Click to see Paul's music page on Facebook Click to see Paul's music blog page Click to hear Paul's music on SoundCloud. Click to sign up for this discussion forum. Click to learn about our Momma Don't Low Newsletter. Click to see Paul's YouTube Channel. Click to see Paul's Twitter Page

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Visit our other pages:
- Music -
Heartland-inspired music, history, and acoustic instrument tips.
Best-loved railroad songs and the stories behind them.
Visit musings about music on our sister site, School of the Rock With a few tools and an hour or two of work, you can make your guitar, banjo, or mandolin much more responsive.  Instruments with movable bridges can have better-than-new intonation as well. The Independent Christian Musician. Check out our article on finding good used guitars.
Carols of many countries, including music, lyrics, and the story behind the songs. X and Y-generation Christians take Contemporary Christian music, including worship, for granted, but the first generation of Contemporary Christian musicians faced strong, and often bitter resistance. Different kinds of music call for different kinds of banjos.  Just trying to steer you in the right direction. New, used, or vintage - tips for whatever your needs and preferences. Wax recordings from the early 1900s, mostly collected by George Nelson.  Download them all for a 'period' album. Explains the various kinds of acoustic guitar and what to look for in each.
Look to Riverboat Music buyers' guide for descriptions of musical instruments by people who play musical instruments. Learn 5-string banjo at your own speed, with many examples and user-friendly explanations. Explains the various kinds of banjos and what each is good for. Learn more about our newsletter for roots-based and acoustic music. Folks with Bb or Eb instruments can contribute to worship services, but the WAY they do depends on the way the worship leader approaches the music. A page devoted to some of Paul's own music endeavors.
- Trains and Hobbies -
Free building projects for your vintage railroad or Christmas village.
Visit Lionel Trains. Click to see Thomas Kinkaded-inspired Holiday Trains and Villages. Big Christmas Train Primer: Choosing and using model trains with holiday themes Building temporary and permanent railroads with big model trains Click to see HO scale trains with your favorite team's colors.
- Christmas Memories and Collectibles -
Visit the FamilyChristmasOnline site. Visit Howard Lamey's glitterhouse gallery, with free project plans, graphics, and instructions. Click to return to the Old Christmas Tree Lights Table of Contents Page Click to sign up for Maria Cudequest's craft and collectibles blog.
Click to visit Fred's Noel-Kat store.
Visit the largest and most complete cardboard Christmas 'Putz' house resource on the Internet.
- Family Activities and Crafts -
Click to see reviews of our favorite family-friendly Christmas movies. Free, Family-Friendly Christmas Stories Decorate your tree the old-fashioned way with these kid-friendly projects. Free plans and instructions for starting a hobby building vintage-style cardboard Christmas houses. Click to find free, family-friendly Christmas poems and - in some cases - their stories. Traditional Home-Made Ornaments