When the Bands Played
As we approach the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War, North Carolina based songwriters and performers Russell Johnson and Barney Rogers offer their new CD "When the Bands Played". This unique album contains all original songs inspired by the emotion and spirit of the Civil War. Dynamic vocals, distinctive melodies, creative arrangements and solid performances make this CD a must for the Bluegrassers, Civil War enthusiasts as well as the casual listener. Join Rogers and Johnson as they musically reflect on "America's Greatest Tragedy and Triumph". More about Rogers and Johnson Barney Rogers is a traditional banjo player and songwriter from North Carolina. He was raised in the little community of Westover on the west of Raleigh beside the State Fairgrounds. One of the earliest memories Barney has is of the late 50's during the week of the North Carolina State Fair. His aunt Pauline fixed hair in those days and Ms. English, the woman in charge of the fair's folk festival would come to get her hair done. She would bring Bascam Lamar Lunsford known as the "Minstrel of the Appalachians" with her and he would play the banjo and sing in the parlor. This experience combined with the popularity of the Flatt & Scruggs TV shows of the day ensured that the banjo would be part of Barney's life. His dad got him a banjo when he was 13 and he began teaching himself to play. After graduating high school and attending college for a couple of years, Barney started work for the Wooten Company in Raleigh in 1975. There he met some folks and joined his first band. Barney started attending many of the area Blue Grass festivals in those days and became acquainted with many of the performers like Benny Martin and Josh Graves. In 1980, Barney began his career with the City of Raleigh and has been there ever since. For the last 18 years, Barney has been teaching students the basics of playing the 5 string banjo. He started teaching at Hoffman's Stringed Instruments in Raleigh. It was at Hoffman's that Barney got to know Russ. Barney has played in many local Blue Grass bands over the years including the Fat Men & Robin Band, in which Russ played the guitar. Barney has performed numerous times at the Governor's Mansion and once gave a "banjo lesson" to the one and only Jim Graham, the North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture. Governor Hunt wrote that Barney's music "...perfectly captured the feelings of September afternoons in North Carolina." Barney has two CD projects to his credit, "Opening Act" and "Pig Pickin' Picks", both which have sold well. He has had the opportunity to record and perform with some of Blue Grass music's finest musicians including Rob Ickes, Wayne Benson, Jason Moore, Bobby Hicks and Roland White. Barney's parents came to Raleigh from Cherokee County in western North Carolina. As a child many trips were made to the mountains to visit his Grandmother Rogers and Grandmother Dockery. Both grandmothers told the old stories of their grandfathers' and their times in the Civil War. As Barney grew older he spent much of his spare time researching family history and the Civil War service records of his ancestors. He has discovered three great great grandfathers fought for the south and three for the north, and they all came from Cherokee County, North Carolina and the adjoining Fannin County, Georgia. Barney has visited most of the major battlefields of the Civil War, and enjoys reading and studying about the war's great personalities such as Nathan Bedford Forrest and John Buford. Barney has had the pleasure of meeting noted Civil War historian and author Shelby Foote and enjoys attending the Raleigh Civil War Roundtable. Barney is a Raleigh native and an almost life long resident of Wake County. He works for the City for Raleigh and is finishing up a 28 year career in the Public Utilities Department as the Utility Development Manager. Barney makes his home in Cary. His two teenage sons Reid and Neil play the guitar and bass. Russell Johnson It was the fall of 1973 and a 10 year old boy stood outside his home mesmerized by the sound of the banjo and guitar. His older brother and his brother's college roommate were sitting on the family's picnic table playing and singing bluegrass songs. "It may have been the first live music I was ever exposed to." said Russell Johnson of Four Oaks, N.C. That Christmas Russell had a guitar under the tree and after his brother taught him the basic chords, he began his musical journey. At about the same time Russell developed an interest in the American Civil War. Both of his older brothers were in grade school during the War's Centennial and completed booklets about the war as classroom projects. The pamphlets had stories about the Merrimac and the Moniter, Pickett's Charge and Lee's surrender at Appomattox and provided his first exposure to Grant, Lee, "Stonewall" and Sherman, names he would read about countless times in the future. Almost 9 years later as a freshman at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill he got his first mandolin and started playing in local jam sessions. His first "official" show was in August of 1989 and he knew immediately that playing and singing would play a part in his life. Since then Russell has worn a lot of different hats in his twenty years in the music business. Singer, songwriter, producer, mandolinist, recording and sound engineer, band leader, record label and studio owner are just a few. Early on he knew he would need to be involved in every aspect of making music besides just singing someone else's songs and so he immersed himself in every facet of the industry. Now his songs have reached the top of the charts with ten of his original compositions landing on the Bluegrass Unlimited National Bluegrass Survey. (Including the #1 hit 'Bluegrass Man' in April and May of 2003 and Pill or Potion which reached #2 in October of 2007) The Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music in America nominated him for Songwriter of the year in 2004 and as a producer he has 4 Top 10 CD's to his credit. As the emcee and front man of the 90's group, New Vintage and his current band, The Grass Cats he has performed throughout much of the United States and Canada. Bluegrass Unlimited magazine said that his voice "has got that 'lonesome' quality that makes even a just written tune sound a hundred years old." and placed him in 'the first ranks of contemporary bluegrass.' In 2002, after his father's death Russell moved back to his childhood home in Four Oaks. During renovations of the house he found a box of newspaper clippings in the attic written by a local historian. Many of the articles were about his ancestors and this kindled his interest in identifying if any were Civil War veterans. During this same time Russell was playing music with Barney in a side band and discovered that Barney had an interest in the War too. As it turned out, Barney and Russell's ancestors of the 25th and 24th North Carolina regiments were brigaded together for much of the war and fought in the battles of Malvern Hill, Sharpsburg, Fredricksburg and around Petersburg and Five Forks at the war's close. Russell and his wife Kandis live on the family farm where he grew up. He enjoys cooking, reading about the Civil War, playing music and looking after their six cats. The Songs THE TATHAM BOYS Six brothers hailing from the mountainous Cherokee County in the westernmost tip of North Carolina chose to go with their State and fight for the Confederacy. The youngest of "the Tatham Boys" was just sixteen years old. It was not uncommon for all the military-aged men in a family to join the army, leaving a terrible burden on the women and children left behind. It is estimated that eighty-percent of eligible Southern men served the Confederacy. Joining the 25th North Carolina Infantry Regiment and Thomas' Legion of Indians and Highlanders, the Tatham Boys saw action in some of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. Two gave their lives for "the Cause;" one was killed in the fighting around Richmond and the other died from wounds he had received there. Listen as we "tell you about them Tatham Boys." HOLD THE LINE The ability of a Civil War officer to understand terrain and align his soldiers on "good ground" often determined a battle's outcome. Higher elevations were typically preferred because they served as good observation posts and offered the best fields of fire. "Hold the Line" tells the story of a regiment racing to reach the high ground and set up defensive works in preparation for an imminent attack. As the enemy soldiers advance, their bayonets glistening in the sun, the regiment's colonel steps up to the firing line. With sword in hand, he exhorts his men to "Hold the line, boys! Hold the line!" If his regiment fails to hold, the whole army would be imperiled. Civil War soldiers performed a litany of valiant defenses in the face of intense enemy attack. Two of the more famous instances of holding the line occurred at Gettysburg and at Fredricksburg. The center of the Union line on Cemetery Ridge endured Pickett's charge at Gettysburg, and the Army of Northern Virginia withstood several desperate Union charges against the stone wall at Fredricksburg. WHEN THE BANDS PLAYED The rough and rocky ground of the Stones River National Battlefield Park near Murfreesboro, Tennessee is the site of one of the most moving scenes of the American Civil War. The battle was fought during the dreary days between Christmas 1862 and the first few days of 1863. The cold, homesick soldiers of the two armies camped so close together that they could hear the enemy regimental bands playing. The soldiers from both armies were entertained, first by a Union band and then by a Confederate band. The trading of tunes went on until one band played "Home Sweet Home." At that point all bands joined in with thousands of soldiers from both sides singing in unison and momentarily forming one huge American choir. Everyone longs for home. FURLOUGH This rollicking instrumental captures the feeling of joy that a Civil War soldier typically felt when he received a furlough. Furloughs were given by commanding officers to soldiers for many reasons. Soldiers were allowed to go home to recuperate from sickness or wounds or to plant or harvest crops. Some veterans were given extended furloughs as an incentive to re-enlist. Papers carried by the soldiers gave the name, unit, destination, and duration of the furlough. Some soldiers never returned from their furlough, especially later in the war, choosing instead to become deserters. History shows that Civil War soldiers were furloughed more often than soldiers from previous times; but to a man missing home, no leave is long enough. MISS ANNE'S COTILLION "May I have the honor of a dance?" are the words this young Confederate Cavalry officer anticipates asking Miss Anne as he is preparing to attend a ball in Richmond later that night. Dancing was extremely popular during Civil War times, and dances were a major social event. Rich and poor, old and young, Northerner and Southerner, all enjoyed dancing and were expected to know the latest dances; and many young men learned their left from right while learning dance steps. Some dances were private, invitation-only affairs, while others were public and required purchasing a ticket with the proceeds going to benefit the troops. These dances brought welcome relief from the ravages of the War. "Rosin up the bows; it's time for the Virginia Reel!" WISHING Fear, bewilderment, dread, and confusion were all emotions experienced by soldiers in battle. Most of the farmers, mechanics, shopkeepers, and teamsters that made up the mostly volunteer armies had never experienced anything like it and referred to battle as "seeing the elephant." Troops tried to make sense of the chaos in any way possible to help them understand war and soldiering. As soldiers drilled and experienced battle, they became more familiar with the art of war and were able to perform their duties with a more detached outlook. As they became more seasoned, their confidence grew and they were able to perform their work under fire. Stories are common of men laughing, joking, cursing, and yelling as the battles raged. Realizing that his daydreaming and wishing to return to the sights, smells, sounds, and tastes of home may not help him in the heat of battle, this Georgia soldier accepts that "this wishing's all I got." MANDY PLAY YOUR MANDOLIN This song is of a wounded cavalry trooper who has been brought home to die. A scene similar to this was played out many times during the course of the war. As his last few hours slip away, he recalls to his wife stories of his service under General Forrest. He tells her that even in the heat of battle, the memory of her music was always with him. As his strength fades and death is taking him away from her, he calls to her to play one more song, one more time. Appropriately, the tune she chooses to play is an ancient one, "The Girl I Left Behind Me." ANGEL IN GRAY A wounded soldier recalls the horrific and surreal events he witnessed December 13th and 14th, 1862. Fourteen Union attacks were hurled against the Confederate-defended stone wall, along the sunken road below Marye's Heights during the Battle of Fredricksburg. By day's end, seven thousand dead and wounded Union soldiers lay on the field without one having reached the wall. South Carolinian Richard Kirkland listened to the pitiful cries of the wounded throughout the night. Finally he received permission to carry water to the wounded enemy soldiers. With canteens filled, he jumped the wall and darted to the nearest wounded man, and then to the next, expecting at any moment to be killed by a sharpshooter. Soon both sides realized what he was doing and cheered him on in his mission of mercy. Richard Kirkand became known as the "Angel of Mayre's Heights." In this song, he is the "Angel in Gray." Richard Kirkland was killed at Chickamauga the following year. ARMY OF THE LORD A spiritual awakening swept through both Northern and Southern armies during the Civil War. The most significant revivals occurred in the winter and spring of 1863. The tribulations of war, constant threat of death, and concern for loved ones were foremost in the soldiers' minds. The realization that they had little control over these matters moved men to new spiritual heights and convinced them to put their trust in God. It is estimated that over 100,000 Confederates and 200,000 Union troops made professions of faith during the Civil War - roughly ten percent of the men engaged. This soldier knows he's on the winning side, no matter the battle's outcome; he's in the Army of the Lord. NIGHTS ON THE TENNESSEE When a Civil War soldier marched off to face the enemy, he often left behind a wife or sweetheart. Much of his time was spent thinking of her as he posted a lonely picket, set up camp, fought, or marched to the next battlefield. Since many of the soldiers were young and away from home for the first time, homesickness was common. In addition, they often received letters from home describing the hardships their families were enduring, leaving them feeling helpless, unable to relieve their families' suffering. On top of that frustration was the fear that things would never be like they were before the war began. "Nights on the Tennessee" describes a soldier on an unusually quiet night at the front, in a reflective moment, hoping to return to his wife, homestead, and the life he had left behind. SHARPSHOOTER'S BLUES Ten shots in a ten-inch circle at two hundred yards -- that's the mark prospective Union recruits had to hit to become one of Berdan's Sharpshooters, the most documented marksmen of the Civil War. Sharpshooters were most often used as skirmishers providing flank security though both sides used them for long-range precision fire against high-priority targets such as officers, artillery crews and horses, color-bearers, and pickets. While directing artillery fire at the battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse, Major General John Sedgewick was killed by a sharpshooter's bullet from over five hundred yards away. His last words were, "Don't worry, boys. They couldn't hit an elephant at this dis..." A sharpshooter had just earned his pay. This tongue-in-cheek look at the dangerous and sometimes detested life of a sharpshooter proves that if they could see you, they could hit you. BRANDY STATION This instrumental is named for the largest cavalry battle of the Civil War. On June 9th 1863, over 17,000 troopers clashed in a twelve-hour battle in which fortunes changed repeatedly with charge and countercharge. The surprise attack at dawn of Major General Alfred Pleasanton's Union Calvary caught Major General J.E.B. Stuart's Confederates off-guard. Stuart had not expected to be harassed by the enemy, and his cavalry rested after two full field reviews given on June 5th and on June 8th for General Lee. June 9th was to be a day of maneuver as General Lee planned to use the cavalry to screen the movement of the infantry into the Shenandoah Valley. At 4:30 in the morning, those plans changed when Brigadier General John Buford's fifty-five hundred Union horsemen splashed across the Rappahannock River and started the battle at Brandy Station. HEADIN' SOUTH North Carolina troops proudly claimed "first at Bethel, farthest at Gettysburg, and last at Appomattox," even though their "Cause" was ultimately lost. Mixed emotions surely enveloped these toughened veterans as they said goodbye to their Brothers in Gray, now connected forever by the hardships and horrors they had endured over the last four years of war. Forty-thousand of the 125,000 North Carolinians who served the Confederacy would not return home. But these good men were going home, home to their wives, home to their children, home to their families. Home. So come walk this long dusty road with a weary veteran. Though tired, he still has a little spring in his step as he leaves Ol' Virginia because he's "headin' south to North Carolina, to that little girl he left there a-crying."