Derrick Doty Interview Regarding Genre Music Selection
By: Thomas McGregor
Thomas McGregor: First, it’s lovely to talk with you again.
And thank you for taking the time to talk with me about this ever-interesting topic: Genre Selection by Musicians.
Derrick Doty: Sure why not! Thank you for asking me!
TM: Let me start by asking you some questions in regards to your musical history to give base knowledge for the readers.
TM: Regarding your genre interest, what percentage do you believe your upbringing, outside influences, and media had on your style selection?
DD: I would say that Old Timey music is the genre I enjoy the most. Traditional fiddle tunes with an open back frailling or clawhammer banjo, mandolin, guitar and a bass if we should be so lucky. But I do have interest in various other genres as well. I play trumpet in the community band, I’ve played in stringed quartets, so I do enjoy a variety of music. I think my biggest influence (although I don’t remember it) was the Flat and Scruggs theme on the Beverly Hillbillies. My mother tells me when I was a baby, as soon as I heard the music playing on the TV, I would run into the room from where ever I had been and would stand there until the music ended. Then I’d go about my business.
My grandfather always listened to classic country on the radio: Marty Robins, Mac Wiseman, and others. My Grandparents had a lot of eight tracks and records. I remember loving to listen to Roy Acuff, Flat and Scruggs, Sons of the Pioneers; I had all of those records memorized pretty well. I could sing all the different parts.
I’d say that my upbringing and the media greatly influenced my taste in music. We never listened to heavy metal or rap and I hate that music today.
TM: Is there a time in your childhood that you believe to be a pinnacle time in your development of your musical interest? Or was it a gradual exploration of music in general?
DD: It’s hard to say if I had a pinnacle of development in music. I feel like I’m always learning. I know for a fact I would have growth spurts and then reach a plateau. One thing I have noticed is I once was able to memorize tunes fairly quickly, now I have a very hard time memorizing pieces.
TM: Were your parents supportive of your interests in music early on?
DD: My parents definitely supported my music interests. They were the ones who bought my first instruments and put up with hours of me scratching around on the fiddle.
TM: What was/were your first instrument(s)?
DD: My first instrument that I took lessons on was the piano. My grandmother forced me to take lessons for many years and I hated most of it. But I’m glad it was done because now I can read music and understand it better. My parents bought me my first fiddle, later a mandolin, and I eventually bought my own banjo and did some trading and scrapping together to buy an upright bass.
TM: So, what was the main “spark” in your interest in music?
And would you say that has changed over time? And if so, in what way?
DD: I suppose what sparked my interest to play (particularly the fiddle) was the simple fact that I was a very old-fashioned boy living and working on the farm. I felt it only natural that I should sit on the porch in the evening and play the fiddle – which I did. Also, I think it was a challenge. I didn’t know anyone who played the fiddle, so I wanted to do it. Another thing that directed me to love old time music was the dancing. I grew up listening to my grandpa and family talk about the barn dances that they use to have at the farm, so I wanted to do that too. Unfortunately before I could ever realize this dream a storm took our barn in summer of 1999.
TM: Did you have instructors or teachers that maybe encouraged you to move
in the direction you did in regards to your genre choice? And who are/were they?
DD: I had only one teacher and that was Dorothy Shoop. She was very much into classical piano; she had one student (who was actually my first piano teacher) who was a brilliant pianist. Absolutely flawless! I think she expected each of her students to turn out just like him. Anyway, did I get encouragement from her to play the fiddle? Not really. She said it was good to learn various instruments but she was afraid I was throwing it all away by wanting to pursue the fiddle.
TM: Do you have family members that have specialized in this genre?
DD: My great-grandfather and one way way back in the family tree are the only ones that I am aware of that ever played the fiddle and were most likely into the genre that I enjoy. My great-grandfather Orville Varner used to play at the barn dances, and I guess that was another reason that I wanted to play. I wanted to carry on something of a tradition in the family.
TM: I’m very interested in knowing why you have picked the genre you have…
Was it a morph over time of the many genre you explored? Or was your direct interest
in this genre clear from the start?
DD: Why did I pick this genre? That is a hard question. I started out loving bluegrass, and I suppose I still enjoy playing it. I got a little burnt on bluegrass because i am very particular about how it’s done and I had a very difficult time finding the people who could execute it properly. So then I kind of drifted into old time music, which is where bluegrass has roots. I truly believe that to have a good understanding of bluegrass you must have a solid foundation in old time fiddle tunes. Irish, New England and Appalachian music, early blues and jug band music in particular. I have noticed with big name groups that have been well-known in the bluegrass world, a lot of them have ended up drifting into the old time music. I think old time music just has an appeal for everyone and it calls to you.
TM: Tell me more about why you love this genre…. Where/are there distinct concerts, performers,
or literature that keep/kept you interested through time?
DD: There are groups that every time I hear them I say “I want to play like that!” Some of them are not strictly old time but are great all the same. Some examples are: Uncle Earl, The Carolina Chocolate Drops, Second South Carolina Boys, Fog Horn, Two Man Gentlemen, Stairwell Sisters, Norman Blake, Prairie Acre, Starry Crown. I also enjoy a lot of musicians from the 20s and 30s such as Gid Tanner and the Skillet Likers, Doc Boggs, Bascom Lamar, etc.
TM: Who is one of your main influences in this genre for you?
DD: I’m not sure who my main influence is, most of those listed previously. I think I am more influenced by the tune rather than the one who plays it.
TM: Have you encountered conflict among fellow musicians and artists in reference
to your love of the genre you curate? Or has most of your chronologically endowed musical
life flowed with ease when playing with other artisans?
DD: I can’t think of any conflicts I’ve had concerning the genre and those I play with. We are usually on the same page. I suppose the only thing resembling a conflict is the geographic differences one finds in tunes. Marmaduke’s Hornpipe in Missouri is not the same as the one played in Oregon. Chord progressions may be different from region to region, but generally not enough to create animosity.
TM: I think it’s important to note that you live in a simple manner compared to the hustle and bustle world of today.
Do you believe that this genre of music encompassed your mind set and your life style?
DD: Most definitely. In old time music you are not tied down with microphones and amplifiers. Just whip it out and commence playing. It is down-to-heath music.
TM: Because music is a very large part of your lifestyle and your local community, how would you say you have [through your devotion to this genre] enriched or influenced your community around you?
DD: I would say that through my music I have made a pretty good impact on my community. I give lessons, so there are younger people that are learning to carry this on. Also, we have a jam on the last Tuesday of every month in front of the barber shop. Folks come from all over to play and listen. They bring their lawn chairs and sit on the sidewalk to listen. It has breathed life into down town in the evening. It is something that the community looks forward to every month, and they never get tired of hearing the same tunes over and over.
TM: Has this influencing, do you think [unnecessary], made a vaster impact on the world at large? Or do you think that what defines this genre and its personality is by nature its simpleness and down to “earth-ness” that appeals to the local community persons?
DD: I’m not sure if it impacts the world at large. There are those who will never expose themselves to it because they think it is less intellectual or maybe even corny. I think the locals enjoy it because it reminds them of when they were young and that kind of music was all they had. Folks had to make their own music.
TM: Seeing these changes over time. How do you plan to convey what you have learned with this style of music to your children and future family members?
DD: I guess the only thing I can do is to teach them the music I have learned; teach them to read music so that they can play whatever they want.
TM: How would you encourage your children musically?
DD: Well, Emmett is only 3 1/2 months so the best we can do to encourage him is play music for him and take him to jams. He seems to enjoy being around the music. We do have a 1/2 size violin that we will get him started on when he is big enough.
TM: What are you future plans in the genre? Expansion in your own knowledge? Or are you currently comfortable where you stand on things?
DD: I am always trying to find new tunes. And by “new” I mean to me. I am usually drawn to the older music. 19th and 18th century dance tunes. I enjoy the Skye Collection of Irish, Scottish and English tunes.
TM: Are there currently outstanding concerts or workshops you would like to attend in the future?
DD: I really want to go to the Charlie Poole festival in North Carolina. They had some great performers this year and I missed it.
TM: What would you like a first-time music enthusiast to know about why you love the music you play, and why they should consider looking into it?
DD: I think that a newbee should look into this music because I believe it is the foundation to all other genres. It can be simple or challenging. There is so much you can do with it. And as far as instruments go, I recommend the fiddle because it is such a versatile instrument that fits in with any genre.
TM: One last question: What is your last memory of interest in music, or playing a musical instrument?
DD: Last played musical instrument. I believe the last thing I played was General Grant’s Grand March on my old pump organ. It is piece of sheet music I got off Ebay. I am currently trying to put together a music program for the Historic Society, which offers a taste of music in Morris County through the past 150 years or so.
TM: I would like to thank you for your time, diligence, and honesty throughout this interview.
I hope to have the chance to do this again, and I wish you all the best in your future musical
DD: It was my pleasure!
Derrick is currently working on finishing up a CD and music book of all of his original tunes. The work is entitled “Barber’s Rant: A Collection of Flint Hills Fiddle Tunes.” The work ranges from simple to complex, lots of stories and entertaining anecdotes, and photographs. He plans to have it ready for Christmas of this year; ready for stockings and under Christmas trees!
You can contact Derrick at: firstname.lastname@example.org for your copy today!
By: Thomas McGregor
Samantha Jean Sanders, Editor