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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Frank Durham, September 10 and 17, 1979. Interview H-0067. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Playing guitar for the Chatham Rabbits

Durham also used music for recreation, and he played guitar in a band named the Chatham Rabbits. He explains how he learned to play and some of the radio exposure his band received. In later parts of the interview, he returns to this topic with some pride, listing songs they played, gigs they got and fan responses to them.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Frank Durham, September 10 and 17, 1979. Interview H-0067. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

DOUGLAS DENATALE:
You used to be in a band, didn't you?
FRANK DURHAM:
Yes, we had a string band here, the Chatham Rabbits.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
The Chatham Rabbits.
FRANK DURHAM:
Chatham Rabbits, that was the name of it. Yes, it used to be rabbit county, you know. I reckon there were more rabbits here than there were anywhere in the state. They was everywhere, but there come a disease in here and killed them out, and there never have been none. Aw, we had a good band. , but they really was good. We had two good fiddle players and a banjo player and a harp and a mandolin and two guitars.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
Who all was in the band?
FRANK DURHAM:
Mr. Farrel and Patterson Farrel Louise Farrel up here, her granddaddy and her daddy were the fiddle players. They were real good, too. Her granddaddy played the first fiddle, and her daddy played the second. And they were good. Then we had a banjo player that worked in the mill, David Baker. They're every one dead but me now; they're all gone. And Bob Clapp and I played the guitar. And now he's gone. And the harp blower was a real good harp blower, and he's dead, Talt Riggsbee. And Briggs Atwater played the mandolin, and he's gone. They'd get together, and it was good. There was no radio; there was nothing much, you know. When I first started playing, there wasn't nothing. You had to use phonographs and little old. . . . They were oldtimey. But that's the way I learned about all my songs; I had an old phonograph that you wind up, you know.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
How did you learn to play?
FRANK DURHAM:
There was a fellow in the village that I learned to play with, a McDaniel. He could play anything. And I just went and bought me a guitar. I bought it at a pawn shop in Durham. There come some fellows in here to the schoolhouse up here. They made some mighty pretty music, and I decided I was going to learn it somehow or another if I could; I thought I could. And then this guy moved in here from somewhere up in Burlington, McDaniel, and a whole musical family. They could play anything. That fellow could play anything. And he got up a band, and he wanted me to come in, and I said, "I don't know how ." But I could sing, you know, and he said, "You can carry a tune." So I learned pretty quick and picked it up pretty good. I went to Raleigh with them one time, but that was Hawaiian string, that Hawaiian outfit. We had a. . . . But these Chatham RabbitsWe was among the first that played on WPTF. [END OF TAPE 1, SIDE B] [TAPE 2, SIDE A] [START OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]
FRANK DURHAM:
. . .and want us to come to , a little country store over here.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
WPTF.
FRANK DURHAM:
"We Protect the Family." That's what they said.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
Where is that?
FRANK DURHAM:
In Raleigh. It's there now, WPTF. They'd call up here and want us to come down and play. But every one of them was married, and some wouldn't allow us. They went so much, they'd get tired of them going.
DOUGLAS DENATALE:
[Laughter]
FRANK DURHAM:
If they said yes, some would come with us. They was all young enough to get around a little; they had a pretty good time. But they got to where they didn't. . . . We went down there I think it was three or four times. But they had a pretty good audience down there. We got a lot of telegrams.