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A Look Back: Springville’s Roots in Music History

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By Jolene Hawkins

Looking back to music in our area, to the good ‘ole days, did you know that Springville was originally called Fiddler’s Green?  As early as 1815, there were fiddlers that played in a log tavern in town, which adjoined the “green” area. This tavern was a favorite resort for fiddlers who came to learn and practice the fiddles and the sound was carried upon the air for all the Villagers to listen to.

I am always amazed as I read through the old newspapers how many times through the years that we had people here in this area, who performed or were part of groups that sang for events in the town.  How many people remember Jack Yellen? Does the name ring a bell?  Well how about the song, “Happy Days are Here again”? Yep, he wrote it! Jack wrote that song and the lyrics for over 200 songs, including the songs that Sophie Tucker sang. (She was known as the Last of the Red Hot Mamas.) She said about Jack, “I could have done without a lot of things in my life… but, one of them is NOT Jack Yellen.  He’s the man who made me what I am, today, and yesterday.  I can sing a lot of songs, but without Jack Yellen’s songs, there would not be any Sophie Tucker.”

Living near the Yellen’s Farm was Archie Warner. He was widely known in Western New York as “Archie, the fiddler” and for over 50 years he played for rural dances, (at the Woodside) and other locations, along with barn raising, and anyone who wanted to have foot stomping music.  He directed the Archie Warner’s Old Fashioned Dance Orchestra, which got its start in pre – Civil War days, and which he joined as a boy. He never married, lived with his mother, and along with his brothers, filled people’s souls with music. We are fortunate enough to have his handwritten journals, where he wrote down how he lived his days, from butter churning on the front porch, to fiddling with his group at dances, even how much they made when they played those sweet sounds.

Judd Strunk’s mother lived in Springville.  Does the name ring a bell, but you just cannot place it?  Two of his songs were “I Give You a Daisy a Day” and “Who Stole the Maples from Nunweiler Hill.”  His band, the Coplin Kitchen Band would play in Springville whenever they were in our area.  Judd Strunk also toured with Glen Campbell and appeared on TV’s “Laugh In and Her Haw!”

In the 1840s,  if you wanted to take music lessons in school, they charged extra. Music books were being sold in stores, vocal lesson were being offered and glee clubs were forming, all for the joy of music.

By the 1880s, folks were having instruments in their homes and ads in the local newspaper showed where lessons were being offered to learn how to play the piano and organ at reasonable rates; sheet music was offered in most of the stores. The first internal horn phonograph, (Victrola) was marketed in 1906; by 1910, the Victor Talking Machine could bring to your home, the best comedians, singers, and bands, for $10 and up.   

In 1916, there were rooms inside the stores where you could get all that you needed for your Victrola, including records.

And then we cannot forget about the bands around us— cornet band, school bands, (Reminder— Pageant of High School band competition will be May 19 this year.)  Jazz bands, along with chorus, and we can still hear some good ‘ole foot stomping music at the Concord Mercantile every Tuesday and Thursday night, from 7-9 p.m., and at the Fiddler’s Green Park, every Thursday starting in June.

All around us, still we have music… whether it be in bands where we go to concerts, or auditoriums to hear school kids sing, in churches, parks or even in our own living rooms, music is as important to us as it was to our forefathers.   What story can you tell us of music in your family?  Pass it on!

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