J.P. Nester & Norman Edmonds

The banjo and fiddle duo of J.P. Nester and Norman Edmonds had only two recordings released from the Bristol Sessions, but for many fans and critics the two sides represent the apogee of Appalachian stringband music. Train On The Island and Black-Eyed Susie summon up an earlier time when the fiddle and banjo constituted the customary stringband, before the guitar made its way to Appalachia. Train On The Island, especially, has become a favorite of stringbands in recent years, and has been repeatedly reissued since 1952, when compiler Harry Smith included it in the Anthology of American Folk Music.

John Preston Nester (November 26, 1876 – April 1967) was born in Laurel Fork, Carroll County, Virginia, and appears to have spent his entire life in Carroll County, chiefly farming, but around 1930, he was working as a switchboard operator. Norman Edmonds (February 9, 1889 – November 1976) was born in Wythe County, Virginia, and learned fiddle tunes and his fiddling style from his father, who in turn learned it from his father. In later years starting in 1970, Norman came out of retirement and performed as a guest at the Galax Old Fiddler’s Convention, where he proved that he still had a firm command of his distinctive repertoire and style. He later appeared on several Galax LPs, and had his own radio show (‘The Old Timers’), and recorded an LP for the independent Davis Unlimited label in 1970.

The other two sides recorded by Nester and Edmonds at Bristol, Georgia and John My Lover, were never released, and the masters no longer survive in the Victor vaults. Several months after the Bristol sessions, the duo received an offer for an expenses-paid trip to New York to make more recordings, but Nester refused to go.

Taken from the liner notes written by Ted Olson and Tony Russell of The Bristol Sessions: The Big Bang of Country Music – 1927-1928, box set published by Bear Family Records.

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