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The Tennessee Chocolate Drops

Updated: Feb 3, 2022

Martin, Bogan and Armstrong and the revival of String Band Music in America

Just a footnote on Black Fiddlers, a last minute tribute to the originals.

From the Top of my Head - About a year ago I came before an image of four black members of a string band in the mid-twenties. Second from the right on that photograph was Howard Armstrong holding his fiddle. Mr. Armstrong lived a long life that ended at 94 in 2003. The image came my way through the generosity Marshal Wyatt, music historian from Raleigh, NC who collaborated in the production of Black Fiddlers, currently undergoing final touches of post-production and legal work before its debut on the festival circuit.

Martin, Bogan, and Armstrong - “In Performance at Wolf Trap” 1974

“Mr. Armstrong played 22 instruments although he was best known as a fiddle and mandolin player. He performed with a virtuoso's panache, pleasing audiences with fast fingers and a droll stage presence. His repertory included blues, standards, country tunes, rags, work songs, jigs, reels, polkas, spirituals, Hawaiian songs and international songs in the seven languages he spoke.”

NYT August 2, 2003.

The man was unique, the NYT Obituary revealed much of the essence of Mr Armstrong, but what I was most impressed with, was his ability to maintain a close connection with his band-mates Ted Bogan and Carl Martin which as the Tennessee Chocolate Drops entertained America for decades, from the a time in which it went from being the black and white episodic fiction of the Untouchables (Mr. Armstrong recalled playing for Al Capone), to the Flower Power generation that witnessed the revival of String Band Music in a Woodstock-like festival spirit.

More on BLACK FIDDLERS before Christmas.

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