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Family and Community

Home  >  Family and Community  >  Family Collections  >  Kerr
'Dance All Night' - What Drives the Guitar Player
By Jim Kerr

Though it is the dialogue, harmony and technical aspects that fascinate many musicians, what drove me to become a musician was dancing. That is why I talked Denise and Amanda into playing "Dance all Night." This is not one of those dialogue tunes. This music just makes you want to move. It wakes up the primal dance force. Next thing you know everyone is tapping toes and stomping feet and swaying to the music. We even inspired a couple to do some clog dancing in broad daylight.

There has always been this little dancer inside of me. I remember dancing around to Elvis Presley when I was 4 years old. By the time I was 12 years old I was begging to go to the teen dances. My folks said I was too young. I talked my older sister, Dorothy, and older niece, Cookie, into saying they would keep an eye on me. I would dance up a sweat. When I got home I would still be so wired I couldn't sleep for two or three hours.

Jim Kerr
It was the guitar, bass and drums. The backup players pushed the dancers. I loved that beat. If I could have gotten a drum set back then I think I would be a full-time drummer right now. Alas, I grew up in a very small house so my musical career started at the age of 13 with a cheap acoustic guitar that wouldn't tune and evolved with electric bass, upright bass and electric guitar. By the time I was in college I studied classical guitar. I started playing mandolin after college for contra and square dances. Denise, who had never played an instrument, got so good that I could not keep up with her. I took up backup acoustic guitar in order to compliment her awesome playing. It was then I discovered how to delight the dancer in me -- by playing backup guitar with Denise, various bands and eventually my daughter, Amanda. At the age of 26 I had finally found my musical niche and the music I was meant to play.

Now after 20 years of playing the same genre and instrument, I have learned a small vocabulary of chords, rhythms and bass runs. The more I learn, the more I discover there is to learn. Every style of music has a dialect and I seem to be learning more dialects. I find new dialects in movement as well. Dancers, jugglers, actors and people of different cultures move differently -- even to the same music sometimes. I like learning dialects -- whether they are sounds or movements. I like the flexibility they afford to my expression and I understand more when listening and watching.

"Midnight on the Water" - The last Waltz

I reckon that old Socrates might not agree with me completely. He felt that dialogue should be with spoken words. I personally am inclined to extend that concept to music, or any sound -- and especially silence for that matter. Expression should also include movement and stillness. Sometimes, when communicating, words work best. Then, sometimes music works even better.

Now it is late in the day and that last tune just about tuckered me out. We decide to play a last waltz -- "Midnight on the Water." A couple of our dancing friends waltz. So, in the same way we end a dance, we end another day at the Saturday Market.

-- spring 2002

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»
The Kerr Family: Musical Story-Telling
»
'Cattle in the Cane' - The Father-Daughter Texas Fiddle Connection
»
'The Cherry Tree' - A Story Without Words
»
My Fiddle and the Places It Takes Me
»
'Billy in the Lowground' - Family Repertoire


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