Saturday, September 4, 2010

Butler County . . . Blues on the Green

Up above the Green River in Woodbury, Kentucky.

Since it was such a beautiful day on Saturday, Dudeboy and I decided to get out and about. First we drove to Woodbury and the Green River Museum. It is a nice little museum that occupies the old headquarters for Green River navigation which overlooks the river itself. Exhibits pertain to Butler County history, with an emphasis on the river. On the way out of Woodbury, we stopped by the location of the birthplace Thomas H. Hines.

"The most dangerous man of the Confederacy."

We then proceeded on to Morgantown and its African-American cemetery. Located here is a monument dedicated to Arnold Shultz. He is buried somewhere in the cemetery, but there are so many grave-sites that are just field stones that it would be impossible to locate the exact spot. I dare say that if Arnold Shultz had made any recordings, his name might be as revered as Robert Johnson. Apart from the disparity in recognition, their lives parallel quite a bit. Both men were itinerant musicians. Mythology states that both men died of poison. Johnson was reportedly killed by a disgruntled husband, while Shultz was done in by "jealous white musicians" (I talked with a local historian who has viewed the death certificate for Shultz. He said that the cause of death given actually had to do with heart problems). But the most enduring legacy of Johnson and Shultz is their huge and lasting influences on music. While even the most pedestrian of music lovers know about Johnson, the influence that Shultz made can not be downplayed. He taught his style of playing the guitar called fingerpicking (also known as thumb-picking, or Travis picking) to many of the white musicians of the area, who then passed it on to people like Merle Travis and Ike Everly (father of the Everly Brothers). And Bill Monroe not only played with Shultz early in his career, but he was admittedly highly influenced by him. Monroe was quoted as saying, "There’s things in my music, you know, that come from Arnold Shultz . . . nobody in the world could play blues with that man."

Shultz has been rightly described as "the man who put the blues in bluegrass."

We also stopped by the Butler County courthouse. Here is one of the only two monuments in Kentucky that honors those who served on both sides. While Kentucky provided many more troops to the Union, there are far more Confederate monuments in the state. Go figure. It has been said that "Kentucky didn't join the Confederates until after the war!"

Our final stop was a historical marker for Granville Allen. He was the first Union soldier killed in the western part of state during the Civil War. But what we really want to see is a monument marking the spot where he killed. It is on private property, but I have a name of the owner, so hopefully we'll be able to report back on this unusual monument. I say it is unusual, because it a stone marker set flush into a natural rock-face. Follow this link to see an old photograph of the place.

1 comment:

Aunt Pee & Uncle Charlie Dog said...

Never heard of Arnold Shultz.