The articles included on this page have been selected from the Cotton Patch Rag (CPR) or contributed by members of the Houston Folklore & Folk Music Society.
                                The purpose of the inclusion of these articles is that they may be of continuing interest to the HFMS membership or our followers.


                                                                                 HISTORY OF THE HOUSTON FOLKLORE SOCIETY

We don’t have a lot of information on the founding of our folklore and folk music club.  Our written history consists of two pages from the June, 1966 issue of the ‘News Bulletin of the Society’ and several photocopies of newspaper articles about a 1952 concert. The 1966 issue of the newsletter was Volume 1, No. 1 of would later become the Cotton Patch Rag.  We are now in Volume 49, No. 12 (December, 2014) of that publication so I guess we have completed 48 years of newsletters.  I don't suppose that we have an unbroken string of issues, but it is still a pretty good record.  I found an article in that 1961 publication that said the Society was founded in 1951.  I have printed it below. (see link)  I would appreciate receiving any additional in-formation concerning the history of the Society.        
                                                           Link to John Lomax Jr's Article                                                                                            
-       Christine Hartman

                                                                                  MANDELL PARK MUSIC AT TWILIGHT  (from Nov 2015)

                                                                                                   By Carl Brainerd

During September and October, the Friends of Mandell Park sponsored a weekly "Music at Twilight" concert series on Wednesday evenings in Mandell Park in Montrose. Our Houston Folklore and Music Society was asked to provide a folk music concert on Wednesday 10, 14, so we did! The target time available was one hour, so we went with four performers at 15 minutes each- Carl Brainerd, Gayle Fallon, Jorge Palomarez, and a duet of Paul Cooper and Chris Hartman. The music started about sundown, and it turned out to be a fine, comfortable evening. We got to showcase folk music a little, and also introduced the audience of about 50 people to our organization. Paul brought the sound system that we use at the Second Saturday Concert, which did a fine job projecting the music to the open air crowd. Too bad we were competing with the Astros' final playoff game that evening, or we might have had even more folks come to listen. As it was, it was a fine evening and a good showcase of several styles of music and playing. The listeners seemed to enjoy the program. thanks to the performers, and we'll look forward to a possible repeat at some future date.


                                                                                MONROE MANDOLIN CAMP   (from Sept 2014 CPR)
The Monroe Mandolin Camp, directed by Mike Compton, is a 3 day, hands-on musical educational  event held just WEST of Nashville September 4-7. The mission of the Monroe Mandolin Camp is simple…to further the legacy left by the Father of Bluegrass Music, Bill Monroe. The goals for the camp are:
> to preserve the music created and recorded by Bill Monroe;
> to educate contemporary mandolin enthusiasts about the stylistic elements and backbone of this
art form;
> to present a curriculum that allows the players to come away with an understanding of the culture that created the music, and the techniques needed to apply this knowledge to their own musical endeavors.
Ability Level: All musical levels are taught at this camp, and Mike Compton has designed the class schedule to be inclusive of everyone. There will be slow jams (See Camp Song List under Camp Experience for a list of tunes and keys) to help you hone your repertoire. Classes will range from beginner to advanced levels, and individual instructor tutorials will be made available so you can have some one-on-one time with your favorite instructor. For more information see:

                             THE RULE OF 18 or “How Did That Fret Get Put There” (from Aug 2013 CPR)

When I first looked at a guitar, I wondered why the frets were unequally spaced.  Alas I was very young, and there were no personal computers or googling.  While researching the building of ‘cigar box’ instruments, I noticed that some of the makers of these were putting frets on their simple one and two strings instruments.   I looked out on the web and found the ‘Rule of 18’. While called ‘18’ the divisor constant is actually 17.817.   I will not attempt to comment on the derivation, but the computation is straight forward.   For a given scale length (nut to bridge), divide it by 17.817 for the distance to the first fret.  Next, subtract this distance from the scale length and repeat the division by 17.817 for the distance, nut to fret, of the second fret.  I have placed an excel file on our website that will do these calculations for you.  Also, I found a table of constants published by the experts so you can check my method. Note, in the excel file, the scale length, entry in cell ‘C2’ is the only input parameter.  All other values will vary in accordance with this value.
FRET CALCULATOR   and go to the bottom of the page for the ‘Fret Spacing’ link.


                              HCAMP'S WINTER ACOUSTIC MUSIC CAMP  (from Jan 2014 CPR)

A three-day acoustic music school and jam session for guitar, banjo, mountain dulcimer, fiddle, mandolin, bass, and voice will be held in Kerrville from Friday, January 10 (10 AM) to Sunday, January 12 (3:30 PM). The Camp is taught by professional musicians who are also outstanding teachers. This year the Hard Road Trio of Steve Smith, Chris Sanders and Ann Luna will also be leading jam sessions that allow students to work and play with the Hard Road band. The morning sessions are devoted to instrument specific classes and the afternoon classes are formal jam classes (different instruments, similar skill levels) led by the instructors where one can work on the techniques of playing with other instruments. The evenings are filled with informal playing and jams on campus. Lodging and RV spaces are available on campus. Kerrville has motels within 1 mile of campus. For more information and registration see Phone: 830-895-5700.  Email: 

Location: Mt.Wesley Conference Center, 610 Methodist Encampment Rd., Kerrville, Texas 78028. Phone: 830-459-2120.

                                                  So What Is DADGAD?  (from May 2014 CPR)
Last month Paul Cooper sponsored a DADGAD workshop in his home given by Hans York. DADGAD is the note assignment to an open guitar tuning, and Hans York, among other things, is a master of this style of playing. There were eleven participants who were spellbound by Hans’s teaching style. He taught us the basic chords of this tuning, and he led us through exercises with these. Moreover, he spoke philosophically of his ideas on playing music and accompanying others. For example, he spoke at length about his approach to ending a song. Also, he played a number of songs for us which demonstrated his techniques. A few days later, he distributed a document through email which documented a generous amount of chords which one can use to pursue this style. This document will be a part of a book he is writing. For more about Hans York you can look at: Hans York . com .

                                                                                                THE MINSTREL AND THE TROUBADOUR

By Andy Longo


We all have a notion of the minstrel and the troubadour.   Recently, I saw a reference as to the origin minstrel.  The name literally means ‘little servant’.  In medieval times, there were many among the staff of a castle.  Their jobs included playing an instrument, singing, reciting poems and juggling, but were not limited to these roles.   They were not well educated. As more educated individuals took over the roles of court musicians and poets, the minstrels were force out into the community.  Once on the street, their role would go through many changes.   They continued with the songs, poems and juggling, and they became involved in the community life.  They wrote songs and poem about those things of interest to the community.  These wandering poets spread through Europe as is indicated by the many names that were given them.   The Celtic people called them bards. The Irish called them scops.  The Scandinavian called them skalds, and the French called them troubadours (meaning ‘to find or to invent’).  These troubadours celebrated in song and poems the notion of romantic love.   In their time, marriage was a practical union for the purpose of convenience or duty.  The troubadour tradition celebrated women for their hearts and minds.  Rarely did they sing of external factors such as beauty. ”… Unlike the unmarried fair maidens we think of, when imagining wooing a lady, oftentimes the woman was married to someone else. The physical act of adultery rarely took place, as it was more an act of winning the lady’s heart, rather than her bed…   While this may seem confusing to us at present, it may make more sense if we could understand the manner in which women were treated even by noblemen.   It was the case that women were beaten more often than the children in a household.   The effect of raising the concept of romantic love had a positive effect on the noblemen in reminding them of their honor and duty to their wives.



Review by Eric Johnson 

John Prine has shown in recent years that he's not only a good songwriter, but a great duet partner and interpreter of contemporary country and pop standards.  His latest CD, a collaboration with bluegrass and country legend Mac Wiseman, is a testament to this. The collection covers a broad spectrum, from honky tonk to hymns to the last selection, a cover of Bing Crosby's radio program theme, "Where the Blue of the Night."  I was not aware that Crosby had a hand in writing this song until I saw him listed on the credits.  There is also a cover of the Patti Page classic, "Old Cape Cod."  I remember hearing "The Old Rugged Cross" and "In The Garden" on a Tennessee Ernie Ford recording when I was young.  Wiseman and Prine's renditions of these two hymns brought back a lot of memories. The country music genre is represented on most of the CD.  It ranges from "Pistol Packin' Mama," "Blue-Eyed Elaine", and "I Love You Because" to more contemporary classics like "Saginaw, Michigan," "Watermelon Wine," "The Blue Side of Lonesome," and "Just the Other Side of Nowhere." What is impressive about this collection is its complete tranquility mixed with sheer professional quality.  Wiseman and Prine show themselves with a great ease and mastery in interpretation.  You can feel they're really having a wonderful time singing these classics.  They are backed by several great musicians as well, such as Tim O'Brien, Stuart Duncan, and Jack Clement, just to mention a few.  If you're looking for a CD to calm your nerves after a hard day's work and all the rain we've been having lately, give this CD a listen.  It's as soothing as old dogs, children (well-behaved, of course), and watermelon wine.

By Pallab Ghosh, Science correspondent, BBC News

Scientists in Germany have published details of flutes dating back to the time that modern humans began colonizing Europe, 35,000 years ago.

The flutes are the oldest musical instruments found to date. The researchers say in the Journal Nature that music was widespread in pre-historic times. Music, they suggest, may have been one of a suite of behaviours displayed by our own species which helped give them an edge over the Neanderthals. The team from Tubingen University have published details of three flutes found in the Hohle Fels cavern in southwest Germany. The cavern is already well known as a site for signs of early human efforts; in May, members of the same team unveiled a Hohle Fels find that could be the world's oldest Venus figure. The most well-preserved of the flutes is made from a vulture's wing bone, measuring 20cm long with five finger holes and two "V"-shaped notches on one end of the instrument into which the researchers assume the player blew. The archaeologists also found fragments of two other flutes carved from ivory that they believe was taken from the tusks of mammoths.


                                                                      Legends Never Die, They Get Shot. The Legend of Blaze Foley

                                                                                       By Judy Ortiz       Photo: Niles Fuller

Blaze Foley was a unique character - a transient, homeless musician who frequented the 70s & 80s Austin Folk/Country scene as a fan of the music and as a self taught musician. His adulthood consisted of living in a tree house at one point as well as couch surfing and lots of traveling to Atlanta, Alabama, but mostly Texas. He was jobless and homeless, free spirit whose lyrics were earnest and with good reason, stood up for the underdog and disenfranchised. Blaze was known for his heartfelt songs and brazen attitude toward political issues, personal relationships and his views on fame and the music industry. He had brushes with fame and success in his career. This was all a part of a life which consisted of many ups and downs and which ended when Blaze was shot in a friend's living room on February of 1989. Although he is virtually unknown he managed to capture the attention of musicians who respected his songwriting skills and the heart and sentiment behind them. Willie Nelson, Townes Van Zandt, Merle Haggard, John Prine, Kings of Leon and Lyle Lovett have all sang a Blaze Foley tune in their career. Longtime friend, Lucinda Williams wrote her song, "Drunken Angel" in his memory.

                                   Clay pigeons

                                                                        If I could only fly:

                                                                        Duct Tape Messiah