Graphic: Kevin Kutz © 2009

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The Critton Hollow
String Band

The name Critton Hollow first appeared in 1974 as an entry in the band contest at the Galax Virginia Fiddlers Reunion.

In the Spring of 1975, Sam and I decided to take our music to the streets of Annapolis, Md just to see what might happen. We came home with enough money to make us proclaim, "This is better than picking apples!" The next October, instead of picking apples, we packed up our VW bus, picked up our new friend and mandolin player Robbie Gordon, and set out down the East coast to play music wherever we could. We played at street fairs and colleges. We played at camp grounds just to amuse ourselves and to sharpen our wits. We would pull into a town, find a phonebook and look up restaurants to find the local vegetarian/alternative establishment, give them a call and propose that we would come play if they would feed us and let us pass the hat. My recollection is that none refused the offer. We played our way all the way down to the end of the world at "sunset" in Key West Florida and home again by February of '76.

Sam and I decided to see if Coolfont, the local resort/restaurant, would be interested in having us play music there. David Adams, the manager at the time, seemed to be waiting for us. He hired us to play every Sunday for two hours and offered to pay us $75 plus dinner and beer. We called ourselves "The Critton Hollow Stringband". Although we were a duo at the time, we had intentions of expansion.

Somewhere around 1976-77. we met Michael Kline and became fast friends and musical companions and as Michael said "...just about wore out the 42 miles of road between us in our efforts to get together".

About the time Michael moved away, we started playing with Sam's brother Arnold who had been honing his chops for the past 6-7 years sitting in a jail cell in Hagerstown, Md.

When Arnold became eligible for weekend release, we would pick him up and practice music. When he was finally released in 1978 his first "job" was as a member of Critton Hollow. Eventually his wife and our friend, Patty, started playing bass with us. This was the quartet that recorded the first Critton Hollow LP "Poor Boy". The record was recorded in the Star Theater in Berkeley Springs, WV while the owners, Jack Soronen and Jeanne Mozier were away on vacation in January of 1979. Doug Dorschug of the Highwoods Stringband was the engineer. We made up the label "yodel-ay-hee" and gave it the number 108327 (ten, eighty-three, twenty-seven), Arnolds prison number.

Coincidently, about the same time (1981) Arnold and Patty decided to move to Annapolis, Md., Joe Fallon decided to move to Berkeley Springs. We immediately started playing with Joe. Joe enticed his friend Pete Gordon to move to Berkeley Springs to play with us and voila! - the next incarnation of Critton Hollow had formed. This was the quartet that recorded the second Critton Hollow LP, "Sweet Home", in 1983. Again we were able to use the Star Theater, and again Doug Dorschug was the engineer. We continued the "yodel-ay-hee" label with the number 002.

We recorded "By and By" at Bias Studio for the Flying Fish label in 1985. When Pete left the band in 1988 we decided to continue as a trio and recorded "Great Dreams" on the Flying Fish label in that year. Between 1994-96 Critton Hollow was joined by Paul Kovak and in 1995 we recorded "Cowboys and Indians" in our home as inspired by the recording work of Paul MacDonald for the in-house recordings he was doing in Cape Breton. Bassist Mark Schatz pruduced and played bass. We came back to the yodel-ay-hee label which by this time, thanks to my brother John, had grown to #019.

In 2001 "The Dulcimer Collection" was compiled of re-mastered recordings, again, engineered by Paul MacDonald.

Critton Hollow continues to be a trio to this day.

Joe Herrmann, 169 HRT, Paw Paw, WV 25434     304-947-7314