- Special Sections
- Public Notices
A "VOICES OF THE TWIN COUNTIES" FEATURE
Still well remembered in music circles as a unique old time piano player, Haywood Blevins tells stories and tickles the keys in three CDs released by his daughter. Frances Moore, now of Wilkesboro, N.C., released the recordings as a tribute to her father, the well-respected musician who was born in Baywood in 1906.
Had Blevins obeyed the family rules, back when the community was known as Crossroads, he never would have depressed the piano keys at all. His father ordered the piano from somewhere up north, in Haywood's own words, preserved on the "Old Time Piano" CD, from an interview by Pete Hartman of Ferrum College.
When it arrived in Galax, it took a team of horses to haul it 12 miles home on a wagon. They unloaded it and knocked the box apart and set it out in the yard.
"I started tickling the fine keys," he says as a jingling on the recording sounds. "And he says, 'Get away from there, boy' — that was my daddy. 'Get away from that. I didn't buy this for the boys, I bought it for the girls. I don't want to catch you about that no more.'
"And so, when I'd catch them all gone from home, I'd get in the living room and play the thing… and got my good out of it while he was gone."
"It wasn't meant for a boy to be playing a piano back in those days," explained Robert Blevins, son of Haywood and brother to Fran.
Haywood also sounded like a maestro on the guitar, one of the best pickers his son ever heard.
Blevins' family didn't know he could play until he turned 12 and they learned from his music teacher, according to the interview with the musician.
The teacher wanted Blevins to take music lessons, and she went to his home to talk to his father about it. Blevins taught himself to play jigs at first as a boy. He'd try to get better by listening.
His method involved paying attention to tunes like his father played — songs like "Old Molly Hair" on the banjo — and then transposing the song to the keyboard.
Moore collected about 75 songs recorded by her father, including the gospel-themed "A Gift from God" and "From Now Until Tomorrow."
The latter title relates to Moore's memories of going to bed in the evening with her father and friends playing music together. They'd still be going at it when she got up the next morning. It happened that way a lot, she recalls.
Moore said her father, a man whom never acted ill with anyone, wouldn't refuse requests to make music at the piano — even it the request came from people who would stop over late at night or very early in the morning.
Musician and music preservationist Bobby Patterson of Woodlawn wanted Moore to archive her father's music for years. She mustered up the energy to do that within the last few years.
"I wanted to preserve Daddy's music and not let it be forgotten," Moore said. She gathered information from musicologist Joe Wilson, talked to people at Ferrum College's Blue Ridge Institute and called Rounder Records. Many of the recordings weren't high quality, but Moore found it a moving experience when Bill Ellis at Freedom Recordings at Millers Creek, N.C., queued up a reel-to-reel tape of her father.
She sat there all day and listened to her father talk and play and cried as Ellis helped her cull through the tapes. "He helped me get it together and we tried to clean it up as much as we could," Moore recalled.
She only expected to compile one, but gathered enough material for three CDs. There's probably enough left to put out one more, but she's not sure she has the energy to tackle that project.
Haywood could also tune, repair and build pianos from scratch. He would tune a church's piano and play at square dances, cake walks, suppers, funerals and revivals.
"It didn't matter if it was a black church or a holiness church," Moore said.
A memory persists of Heywood closing a revival by playing "God Be with You Until We Meet Again."
"The congregation began to shout, the preacher jumped off the stage and the house began to rock," says the liner notes to the gospel CD. "It was phenomenal and the revival was extended another week."
Blevins had a lot of fans and friends, Darrell Montgomery of Galax among them. He remembers hearing Blevins' "Fishers Horn Pipe" on the piano at the old Baywood Store, which also served as a combination post office and telephone switchboard office. That inspired Montgomery to become a musician.
Moore feels proud that her father inspired other musicians. "Gary Patton loved Daddy and he patterned his playing after Daddy."
At her father's encouragement, Moore took piano lessons for seven years. She said he learned to read music then to help get her lessons done.
Blevins mastered the piano so well he could cross his hands over the keyboard and play the bass with the right hand and the treble with the left on some songs, she said.
Moore never realized what a talent her father was until after she lost him to an aneurysm in 1980.
He made an impression on many people, as Moore learned on a visit to Wytheville one time. She and a friend were walking down the street looking for a yarn shop. They ducked into a barber shop to ask directions and started talking with the proprietor. After the man learned she was Haywood's daughter, the man went on and on about his memories of him, despite the many years that must have passed since her father would have played in Wytheville.
"Fred Jennings said at his funeral — and I thought that was so right — he worshipped the Lord through music," Moore remembered. "That was very touching and very true."
• Those who are interested in hearing the music and the interviews and learning more about Haywood Blevins can find out much by picking up the compact discs at Roy's Diamond Center in Galax and The Heritage Shoppe in Woodlawn.