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Fresh Prince of the Big Easy
Davell Crawford's long-term mission is to restore the prominence of the grand piano in popular performance. His website calls him "the Prince of New Orleans," a title bestowed by a former Big Easy mayor that resonates with both his R&B lineage (his grandfather James "Sugarboy" Crawford wrote the quintessential Mardi Gras ditty, "Iko Iko") and his stake on the legacy of the late, legendary Big Easy keyboardist "Prince" James Booker.
A performer from the age of 7, Crawford grew up on stage, boiling up a classic Crescent City gumbo of syncopation, soul, gospel, funk and blues into a blend simultaneously familiar, individual and appealing. — Peter McElhinney
- Gregg Kimball/Library of Virginia
- Trophy-winning fiddler Charles Perkins, circa 1920’s.
The Virginia Folklife Stage
Before America was even a nation, Virginians were participating in Americana.
The very first historical mention of country music in the United States was recorded in the Richmond area in 1736. That's when The Virginia Gazette reported that, among other competitions in dancing, wrestling and "foot-ball play," there would be a fiddling contest at a St. Andrews Day festival in Hanover County. The prize? "A fine Cremona fiddle."
At the 1737 festival, the rules of the fiddling contest were published in the Gazette: "That a violin be played for by 20 fiddlers, and to be given to him that shall be adjudged to play the best. No person to have the Liberty of playing unless he brings a fiddle with him. After the prize is won, they are all to play together, and each a different tune; and to be treated by the company."
At this year's Richmond Folk Festival, the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities will pay tribute to the rich tradition of community contests by showcasing competitions in fiddling, flat-foot dancing, banjo playing, carnival costume making, hot-dog eating, turkey calling and quilt making, among others. Highlights on the Richmond Times-Dispatch Virginia Folklife Stage will include a guitar picking competition with a grand prize instrument made by ace craftsman Wayne Henderson (Saturday at 3 p.m.). This will be followed by a rematch of last year's heated shucking battle between Northern Neck oyster openers (and sisters) Deborah Pratt and Clementine Moore.
For perspective on the tradition of old-time musical contests, Lovell Coleman, Jimmie Delozier and Danny Nicely will meet on Sunday at 1 p.m. for a workshop about competitions in the '40s and '50s. The great Washington banjo player and fiddler Speedy Tolliver will, unfortunately, be unable to participate for health reasons. — Don Harrison
Richmond Times-Dispatch Virginia Folklife Stage