Toe Tappin', Hands Clappin' Music Makers

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The audience's toes tap in time with the music when the old tyme fiddlers get together to jam at the Pine Cultural Center each month.

"Payson's Prize," one of the song they play is at least 65 years old and maybe much older.

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Fiddlers, guitarists and other musicians meet every month at the Pine Community Center to put on a free show.

"Arvid, Barbara and I have kept the song alive," Chuck Casey said.

Fuller learned the song from a man who rode into Payson on a mule from Show Low and would play in exchange for chickens, gear and things like that, Casey said.

Whether or not the mule rider wrote the song is a mystery but it was played at dances where whoever won the dancing prize would leave with a cake, he added.

The jam sessions originated about seven years ago when octogenarian Stan Fuller, and fellow fiddle players (who have since moved away) Bob Corse and Arvid Thompson got together to play.

It was a natural fit for the cultural center in Pine.

When Barb and Chuck Casey sat in on a session six years ago, they never sat out.

Though its called fiddler's in the title, guitar, dobro, bass and harmonica add to the jams.

One might see three or all of current core of musicians at a jam. They are fiddlers Barb Casey, Arvid Thompson, and Kathy Johnson. Joined by guitarist Frank Allen, dobro and harmonica player Gary Lust, with Chuck Casey on bass.

There is also a couple who comes in to sing gospel.

"Arvid almost always plays the melody and Barbara, because she gets bored with the melodies, plays counterpoint with all kinds of classical filigrees around what he is doing and it really comes out nice," Casey said.

One might think November's music was Thanksgiving-themed, as Thompson made jokes about "Turkey in the Straw" while the musicians tuned their instruments.

"I had to walk six miles uphill and it was 28 degrees when I got here and turned the heat on," he said.

The tuning continued as several dozen listeners began to fill the chairs. The hall seemed warmer for their presence.

Then "Down Younger" begins and the world outside simply retreated.

"It harkens back to an older time," Casey said. "When two fiddles get to squallin' together, you can tell why orchestras were created."

Conversation is now limited to the rapport between the musicians and the audience as they discover there is time in the busy rush of daily life to stop and enjoy the music.

They play "Margie" and the music seems to ask "Do you know Margie? She is like a bright summer day."

Chuck usually calls out the tunes according to the mood he feels from the audience, alternating between fast and snappy such as "Flop-Eared Mule," a folk ballad by Bob Dylan, another toe tapper then maybe the "Tennessee Waltz."

Chuck switches to his acoustic guitar for "Ghost Riders in the Sky." His vocals are backed by the ghostly wails of Barb and Arvid.

"Hey! Hey! good lookin' what you got cooking? How's about cookin' something up with me?" Frank Allen sings as he plays his guitar.

As the rest of the musicians join his tune, a few audience members softly sing along.

Later, extra voices can be heard on "Kansas City Here I Come" and Lust sets aside his dombra for his harmonica.

Summer audiences tend to be larger than winter. Young adults from the group home come to sing and dance along with the music.

The hall has been filled to 150 chairs plus standing room, but usually it's between 30 and 60 people.

"I love the way they had fun together," said first-time visitor Beatrice Jamieson.

It is great for the community said Joe and Ginger Oravek who have been coming to listen for a couple of years.

Locals might be business people from town on their lunch hours or seniors who have walked over from lunch next door.

The fiddler's jam is possibly the longest running item on the state event calendar and as a result draws tourists driving through the Rim Country.

The comic banter between musicians, especially Barbara and Arvid, continued throughout the hour and made the audience laugh again and again. (At one point, she taped his mouth shut.)

"Ladies Purse" is a song harkening back to the Civil War.

"Ragtime Annie" is meant to close the afternoon, but there is a spontaneous encore of another fast tune before "Amazing Grace" sends audience members back out into the world.

The Olde Tyme Fiddlers jam next on Dec. 20.

They will incorporate some holiday tunes into the mix.

Say you can't wait to hear a fiddle played?

The Caseys are known as Trouble In Paradise and play frequent gigs around the area.

They are also part of the Payson Jazz Quartet.

Friday evenings they can be found at the Strawberry Lodge, often joined by Allen and Lust.

Thompson is a professional violin maker.

He and the Casey also give music lessons.

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