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Skinhead Moonstomp: SYMARIP

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PUNK MEETS OLD-TIMEY IN THE RAW SPACE OF TENNESSEE

The Birchfield family of Carter, Tennessee learned old time mountain tunes and ballads that their father and uncles played as part of the local mountain culture. Joe and Creed were born in the early 1900s and raised on Roan Mountain in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Guitar-player Bill played the guitar upside down and backwards. Joe’s wife Ethel traveled with group telling Appalachian stories and singing ballads.

Roan Mountain Hilltoppers album cover

Creed and Ethel are gone now and Joe at 89 is no longer playing but, you can still see Bill and Janice. Bill is doing the fiddling now with Janice still on the washtub.

Janice remains nonplussed about the day the Sex Pistols spent at her family’s homestead in Roan Mountain, Tenn. She still feels that Johnny Rotten, the late Sid Vicious and company were just nice boys. (The same goes for Boy George, who, according to Birchfield, just showed up in the driveway one day.)

The above-mentioned flock of British bad boys became aware of the Roan Mountain Hilltoppers when punk icon Malcolm McLaren, the Sex Pistols’ infamous producer, sampled some of the mountain band’s music on his own 1982 hit, “Buffalo Girls.” (The song held fast on Billboard’s Top 10 list for months, and was even re-sampled by Eminem on his 2002 recording “Without You.”)

“We had a pig roast and a dance,” Birchfield remembers of the Sex Pistols’ visit to Roan Mountain. “They loved it. They wanted us to teach them how to dress like mountain people, with coonskin caps and so on.”



A FORGOTTEN VAMPIRE FROM YESTERYEAR

Back in the heyday of American punk, all kinds of guys & dolls & bands were out there trying to invent something weird and new. The Sex Pistols had kind of messed with everyone’s heads. But Count Viglione really pre-dated all that, but he was also a part of it as well, a kind of punk dracula.

You see, his whole act was to dress up as a version of Count Dracula and then go out on stage and be true to the garage spirit of things. I listened to the records he would send me a few times, and was always impressed by his punk persistence. I mean, I would NEVER NEVER be that persistent if I dressed up in cape and went out in front of hundreds of people in Boston and tried to impress them with made-up songs about weird things in my head that nobody really should know anything about. (He totally reminds me of Underdog woman, which is another story altogether.)

Anyway, Count Viglione had an act, and it was a good act, far ahead of its time.