Way down along the Harpeth River...
What is the jam about? How did it get started?
The Pegram Jam began when a group of folks (mostly fiddle students) started playing Old Time String Band music together at Kirk Pickering's home in Pegram, Tennessee back in 2001. As students, our teachers emphasized the need to play with other musicians. To that end, Kirk decided to offer his home to host a weekly old-time fiddle jam. Folks kept showing up every Tuesday, much to his complete amazement. We played together practically every week until December 2007 when the jam was discontinued. After seven years and over 300 sessions, the jam simply became too large for its own good. The time and energy required to keep it going every week eventually was re-directed to other neglected priorities. The jam lives on today as a private session with a few friends who get together on an ad-hoc basis. Our love for the music still burns brightly.
Was this jam only for fiddle players?
The Pegram Jam was attented by musicians from many backgrounds and styles. There were fiddles, mandolins, clawhammer banjos and acoustic guitars at every session. Mostly made up of intermediate level players, we were lucky to be graced by a few professional level players who shared their tunes and experience with us. There was always a lot of learning going on -- some folks were learning a second instrument (or third, in some cases.) It was not uncommon for someone to walk in with an exotic item, like Dave Sebring's small ten-stringed mandolin-like instrument called a tiple (pronounced teeple) or Lisa Horngren's magnificent nyckelharpa. Nashville attracts a lot of fine musicians. Lucky for us, some of them like traditional music. Our players could always be counted on to bring new tunes to share. Our primary teacher Jim Wood provided the initial core repertoire. Many of the regulars such as Julia Mavity and Eddy Hudson, Ron Ault, and Alan OBryant supplied a never-ending stream of interesting tunes to explore.
Why the website?
The jam began as a collection of students, and we were all learning from each other. With new tunes appearing every week, it was difficult to keep up with all of the new material as a group. Since Kirk was already running web servers professionally, he decided to create a place to share tunes and chord charts. Before long, the chord chart book and web site took on a life of their own. Susie came along a few lears later and took the web site up several notches. PegramJam.com is an audio tune reference. Besides making practice tunes available for our jam members, we felt that it would be in the spirit of traditional music to open this collection up to acoustic music teachers and students everywhere. This website could be considered a modern delivery method of an ancient and respected tradition... the passing on of tunes from one musician to another.
Who would you consider to be the jam's greatest musical influences?
Well, now, that's a mighty big list. Jim Wood was a strong influence, as many Pegram Jam "charter members" were students of Jim. The music of James Bryan and Norman Blake has had a large impact, as has Doc Watson. Erynn Marshall is a perennial favorite around here. Other influential artists include Alan Jabbour and Ken Perlman, John Hartford, Art Stamper, Rayna Gellert, Mike Compton, and Tim O'Brien.
Who came to the jam?
Though we have many folks who keep coming back throughout the years, the people we've seen most often are Alan O'Bryant (mandolin, banjo, bass), Eddy Hudson (fiddle and bodhran) and Julia Mavity-Hudson (clawhammer banjo, pennywhistle, flute, guitar, vocals), Tim Roberts (tenor guitar, guitar), Ron Ault (fiddle, mandolin, clawhammer banjo, tenor banjo, guitar), Gretchen Priest-May (fiddle), Kurt Anderson (fiddle, mandolin, guitar), Lilly Hsu (fiddle), Michael Fox (fiddle), Ron Whitlow (mandolin), Chris Spiegl (guitar), and hosts Kirk Pickering (fiddle, mandolin, tenor banjo, guitar, bass) and Susie Coleman (guitar, ukelele, clawhammer banjo, vocals).
We have many more friends that stop by to pick with us when they can, including Roland White, Carl Jones, Nancy Blake, Ken Perlman, Stephen Seifert , James Bryan, Adam Olmstead, Dave Sebring, John Hedgecoth, Martin Cerjan, Rebekah Weiler, Drew Fedak, Art Malmin, David Lege, and a score of others who come by from time to time.
Did people sing at your jams?
Not very much. Vocal tunes are somewhat rare at our jam, though if you listen carefully, you can hear Julie on Cluck Old Hen and a few other good 'uns. Every now and then Ed or Susie sings an old folk song. When Drew Fedak comes, we'll beg him to sing, 'cause he always does the coolest Old Time tunes. But for the most part, we just like playing fiddle tunes the best. One time we had a guy stop by who could whistle tunes really well -- does that count?
Were there "rules" for attending your jam?
There never were any rules, but we did ask for good manners. And since some folks have different ideas about what constitutes good musical manners for ensemble-style music, we made a list of Pegram Jam Etiquette suggestions. Perhaps this information will be useful to others hosting or attending old time jams.
Do you ever perform these tunes in public?
Every now and then, we hold a public jam at a regional historical site such as Donelson's Buchannan House or the Cumberland Furnace Iron Museum. We also held a Tuesday night jam at the NashCamp site for two years to demonstrate to all those bluegrass pickers just exactly where their favorite music came from. The jam used to collectively perform for area Contra dances but the group simply got to be too large. In 2005, several of us formed the Small Time String Band, made up of jam members who represent the overall group in public and play contra dances and other events. The personnel varies a little depending on who's available and how many pieces are needed for a gig. We're always looking for opportunities to remind the world of this great music, in either a large or small setting.
How can I listen to your recordings?
Our jam recordings are all in .mp3 format. You can click on the name of a tune to play it directly in your web browser. You can also right-click on the tune to download (save) the tune to your desktop.
You will need a user name and password to access the download features of this site. This is simply for the security of our server and is not complicated to obtain. Email Kirk to get a user name and password.
How do I use your online scores?
Written scores of our standard arrangements are available for a growing number of songs. The scores are available in the "Tunes With Scores" section of the site. The scores are standard PNG image files and readable in any standard web browser.
Why do you do this?
We have personally invested thousands of hours in this project, from recording the tunes and creating the Chord Chart Book to writing scores. Creating scores and chord charts has taught us how fiddle tune progressions are put together. We have both learned a surprising number of tunes by ear. We've developed the ability to hear chord changes quickly, and to communicate the changes to other players. The Pegram Jam has made us better musicians. That said, we mostly do this because we just love playing these tunes, and we believe that you will too.
Can I attend when I'm in the Nashville area?
The weekly public jam session was discontinued in December 2007. After six straight years of hosting over 300 jam sessions, the attendance had simply grown too large for its own good. The Pegram Jam lives on today with occasional private sessions held at our home, but we no longer host a regular public jam. Fortunately, there are other venues around Middle Tennessee which have started hosting public old time jam sessions. For starters, we suggest checking out the Nashville Old Time String Band Association at this link.
Can I help out somehow?
Yes, indeed, thank you for asking. As you can imagine, we've invested a great deal of effort creating this set of educational tools. We consider it a privilege to share our efforts with you. If you wish to help support our work, your donation will be accepted with our sincerest gratitude. You contribution will help us to cover our web server and bandwidth bills. We plan to keep bringing you new material to enjoy. THIS WAY TO THE TIP JAR >>>