Gentlemen reissue – let’s go to the archives

Earlier this week, our eagle-eyed British correspondent, Richard Thompson, wrote a piece about the erroneous performance credits in the recent Folkways CD reissue of the Country Gentlemen’s live album from 1973, Going Back To The Blue Ridge Mountains. Richard noted that the CD notes show indicate that the recording was from the “classic Country Gentlemen,” with Tom Gray on bass, when it fact the recording was from a later edition of the band, with Ed Ferris on upright.

We wondered at the time whether any readers might have a copy of the original LP, and could let us know how the band is listed there. No luck there, but Richard found the original Bluegrass Unlimited review of Going Back To The Blue Ridge Mountains, and BU editor Sharon McGraw has graciously agreed to allow us to repost it here.

It shows that Ferris is on bass, and I think that modern readers will get a kick out od reading the 1973 review, written by George B. McCeney.

The Country Gentlemen - Going back To The Blue Ridge Mountains (original LP cover)THE COUNTRY GENTLEMEN VOL. 4 – GOING BACK TO THE BLUE RIDGE MOUNTAINS
(Rechanneled stereo)

Going Back To The Blue Ridge Mountains/Going To the races/Dark As A Dungeon/Copper Kettle/Billy In The Low Ground/I Saw The Light/Tom Dooley #2/Brown Mountain Light/Electricity/Daybreak In Dixie/Mary Dear/Sad And Lonesome/Cripple Creek/Don’t This Road Look Rough And Rocky/Muleskinner Blues

Charlie Waller-guitar; John Duffey-mandolin; Eddie Adcock-banjo; Ed Ferris-bass

Today in a time when numerous bluegrass bands are launching out in various directions to establish their uniqueness, it is interesting to reconsider what the Country Gentlemen were during the mid 1960’s, almost ten years ago. This latest Folkways album, and probably the last in a series, gives us some idea. From simply perusing the titles of the songs presented here, one might surmise, if he did not already know the Country Gentlemen, that they were a very traditional bluegrass group. And of course in some respects he would be right, at least as far as the selection of material is concerned. But it is the treatment of the material that sets off the Country Gentlemen from other groups of their day. (Now as well as then.) The instrumental work of John Duffey on “Billy In The Low Ground” or Eddie Adcock on “Azzuro Campana (Blue Bell) could hardly be characterised as “traditional” even though the material is in many cases old. What the Country Gentlemen managed to do rather successfully ten years ago was to take strong traditional material, draw out the essence of its appeal, and then present it to a new bluegrass audience in a form that they could understand. In short they managed to capture the best of both worlds, excellent material presented through flawless instrumental and vocal execution. This “live performance” (there must be a more definitive expression) from sometime in 1964 or 1965 at a folk club attests to what the Country Gentlemen were able to achieve, an accomplishment almost now forgotten in the rush of folk-rock crush at some recent festivals. the Country Gentlemen had a great deal to tell us about the spread of good bluegrass, but it might be distilled down to playing the best material better than anyone else. (Folkways Records, 701 7th Avenue, New York, New York 10036) GBMcC

Review by George B. McCeney Reprinted by permission Bluegrass Unlimited Magazine, Inc. All rights reserved. Copyright September 1973. 1-800-BLU-GRAS.

UPDATE 6/17: Richard Thompson asked us to point out that it was Tom Gray who mentioned to him that he was wrongly credited on the CD reissue, and also that Joe Ross had located the BU review and sent him a copy. We send our thanks to them all.

UPDATE II 6/17: We received the following from a reader, Keith Edwards, who has a copy of the original LP:

I have the original Folkways album that has been discussed for release on CD. The album does not list the band members per se but has the following written on the bottom right hand corner:

“THE COUNTRY GENTLEMEN: Winner of the bulk of the 1972 Muleskinne News Bluegrass Awards, including: Band of the Year, Best Bluegras Singer (Charlie Waller), Best Vocal Group, Best Album of the Year. Folkways presents the original group with Charlie Waller, John Duffey, & Tom Gray (now members of the Seldom Scene), Eddie Adcock (now member of 2nd Generation), and Pete Roberts.”

To me, this explains the error in credits on the CD as information was probably used from the back of the original album cover to create the credits for the reissue.

Share this:

About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.