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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, June 25, 2009

Triple decker weekend for music

By Saranac Hale Spencer

ALTAMONT — The Double Decker Stringband will revive old-time music for the Old Songs Festival this weekend.

The band plays a lot of music that people don’t know, said member John Beam, since it has been culled from friends along the way and includes obscure songs from Joe Bussard’s basement in Maryland.

Bussard collects old 78s, Beam said.  He is meticulous about maintaining and organizing his record collection.  “He’s very fastidious.  He keeps notebooks,” said Beam.

For 50 cents a tune, Bussard will make a recording, which is how the band learned many of its songs.

In old-time music circles, songs are “passed on, hand to hand, ear to ear,” Beam said.

It’s a durable sound, he said, explaining that its popularity ebbs and flows.  “We were riding a crest for a while,” he said, recalling the late 1970s and early 1980s, when The Double Decker Stringband formed.

Beam had recently gotten out of the Army and met a friend who “got me swept up in it and said, ‘Why don’t you join a band?’”

Bruce Hutton, Susie Robbins, Bill Schmidt, and John Beam, then formed the stringband — Craig Johnson is now also a member of the band.  “With various degrees of frequency, we’ve been playing under that banner since 1977,” said Hutton.


The festival will be held at the Altamont fairgrounds from June 26 to 28 with tickets ranging in price from $30 for a single evening’s attendance to $115 for an all-weekend pass with camping.

Other bands on the schedule include:

— Peter and Mary Alice Amidon, who perform traditional song, dance, and storytelling;

—         Bua, a traditional Irish music ensemble;

—         The Flying Garbanzos, a contra band that plays original, contemporary, and traditional music of Irish, French-Canadian, and Appalachian origin;

—         Galitcha, which performs Indian folk music influenced by jazz, world, and North American folk;

—         Elizabeth LaPrelle and the Fruit Dodgers, singing Appalachian ballads;

—         Nanne and Ankie and the Hudson Crew, singing songs about Henry Hudson’s voyage on the Half Moon;

—         Paul Rosenberg, a dance caller;

—         Toby Walker, who plays blues, rag, and folk music; and

—         The Vanaver Caravan, which will perform traditional music and dance.

Many other musicians will be performing and there is a full schedule of classes and workshops.

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