Friday, August 6, 2010

Two Gun Terry, talking . . .

Note: I’m Martha Woodroof, editor of WMRA’s "Civic Soapbox". And since it’s both summertime and very hot, I decided to let someone who’s simply fun to hear talk hop up on the Civic Soapbox and hold forth for our listening pleasure. 

Incidentally, legendary Shenandoah string player, Wilbur Terry, says the name most of us know him by know him comes from the funny papers and was given to him by colleagues years ago. The following is transcript of part of conversation we had one hot, summer afternoon, out in his music shop. 

Even better than reading  this, is listening to Two Gun say it . . .

They call me Two-gun Terry . And I am 68 years old. It comes natural for me since I was 8-9 years old.

I grew up a mile west of Lacey Spring. We had a farm there. Sixty acres. I grew up on farms, you see. We always had guitar and banjo and other instruments around the house when I grew up. Had a lot of people on my Dad’s side of the family who played music. Got a fiddle for Christmas one year when I was about 9 years old. It come natural to me ’cause I had an ability for it. A natural ability for it.

I’ve talked a whole lot about this over the years. Basically right here in the Shenandoah Valley, it was Bluegrass. Now we got what we call Bluegrass and Old-Time music, which is a lot of the same material presented in different ways.

Old-Time music goes back to old-timey playing styles. It’s always has been here. It’s just kind of a closet thing or in somebody’s kitchen. It’s a thing musicians like to do. It’s a sociable kind of thing. Musicians love to sit down and play because they play together. Bluegrass musicians they don’t they got their band and they don’t want to play with anybody else. They just want to do their thing. That’s difference between lot of blue grass bands and old time bands. Old-Time bands, the more the merrier.

I played tuba when I was in high school, also, because we didn’t have strings. So I was educated in tuba a little bit. But I studied 2 years of violin when I was like 30-years old. Over the years you acquire stacks of books, and if you can’t read music there no good to you. So I learned to read music so I could learn what I want to learn. Everything from fiddle tunes to light classical.

I think I read fifty-two books last year. Psychology. Religion. Jewish history, Egyptian history, Greek history, Greek philosophers. All kind of stuff. I think people who don’t read are not very smart. Well, I don’t care to be stupid. There’s plenty of those people walking around. Dead people. The walking dead. The sad thing about it is they don’t know anything and don’t really care that they don’t know anything. Don’t want to know anything and don’t care.

Happy all my life? Well, mostly. Although I grumble a lot about things. . .

Give you advice. How old are you? Sixty-three! Well you shouldn’t need any advice if you’re that old.


  1. Reading not only helps prevent you from being stupid, but recognizing you can use advice at any age is a sign you are indeed reading.

  2. I took fiddle lessons from Wilbur in 1982. The lessons cost $1 each. They lasted one hour, and after the hour was up, Wilbur's amazing wife Elsie (sp?) fed his students dinner and dessert for free. She taught me how to card wool and sew a quilt. She left an Old Order Mennonite life to marry the wild truck driver. I hope she gets at least a chapter in his biography.

  3. I disagree with TG that all bluegrass pickers/bands are closed to playing with others in a jam. That is certainly a generalization. He should continue to read books and learn not generalize about people or groups.

  4. I love you, Two Gun Terry. God Bless Elsie for putting up with you all these years.
    Your Worst Music Student Ever,
    Pat Board