(Sounds of crickets, fade up on a field filled with cows at dawn. Montage of shots of landscape, dwellings, day to day activities).
[Music: Levee Camp Blues]
Lyrics: Oh, going to get up in the morning,
Going to wash my face in a brand new pan
Whoa, captain, whoa captain, whoa captain, and it won’t be long
When I’m going to get up in the morning,
Whoa with the rising sun.
Whoa, how can I drive it,
Oh, babe, I done broke my line.
Whoa, captain, captain,
Whoa, I done broke my line… whoaaa.
How can I drive him, how can I drive him,
Whoa, captain, I done broke my line.
Whoa, my wheel mule crippled
Whoa, my lead mule blind.
(Addresses the horse, throws a saddle over it).
Whoa, I’m going down baby,
Oh, captain, with the rising sun.
[Time code: 1:30]
(Addresses the horse. Mounts up, rides toward camera).
[Music: Long Train Traveling though the Land]
(He slashes the branches off a thin tree).
OTHAR TURNER v/o: I was born east of Canton, east of Jackson and Canton, Mississippi. That's where I was born at. And I was brought here in my mother’s arms.
(Mounts horse with a number of staves).
A little bitty suckling baby. Then after then, I got so I could crawl around and walk. And I been right around from Free Springs Church, Water Valley, Oxford, Holly Springs, Chulahoma, Looxahoma, Senatobia, Thyatira, Como, and Sardis.
I can dance, I can sing, ride horses, chop cotton, and plow, whoop and holler, cut somersets. Do all that stuff.
(Begins whittling the staves).
I come up the hard way. Been on the farm all my days. Never been in no trouble. Never been arrested and carried and locked up in jail in my life. My mother taught me from a baby, until I got big enough to know to get out on my own, just treat everybody right. Treat people like you wish to be treated. I want friends I wants good behind me when I’m dead and gone, I want somewhere for my flowers, for people to speak well of me. And I work for that affection, raised all of my family. I like to meet everybody with a smiling face. That’s the way I live. That’s the way I hope I go, that way.
[Time code: 3:35]
(He heats a metal stick in a bucket with fire, then uses it to finish his fife, clearing out the middle, making stops. Interspersed are sounds of pipe blowing).
[Music: Shimmy She Wobble]
OTHAR TURNER v/o: Well I started making a cane, blowing a cane, when I was thirteen years old. I just kept a tuning, and tuning, and blowing and tuning. The more you do a thing, the more perfect it come to you. Just like playing a guitar, you can start playing a guitar. One piece, if you ever learn one, just keep on tuning and tuning till another one come, you'll learn that. That’s the way I learned how to blow a cane.
(Shot of him playing the fife, much like a flute. Cut to shot of back of a pickup truck, the band in the back, driving).
[Music: Sitting on Top of the World]
OTHAR TURNER v/o: So, they was old drum players, and after they was playing drum, well peoples, you know, just learnt… It was more learnt just like I seen them, and I figured I could do it. Well I got me a band and started and I learned to, playing drums. When I was a kid, I would stand out and look at them. I said I wished I could do that.
Well the feeling in me say, "well look what you see somebody else do. Don't nothing make a failing but a try.
If you think you can do that, and believe you can do it, try! And I said, “Well, I believe I can do that, now I'll try doing it.” The more I tried, the better it come to me. And so I tried, and tried, and I learnt it. And that’s my make. Don't nobody train me nothing, and taken that for myself. I learned that.
[Time code: 5:18]
(The car pulls up to a gathering, playing in where they are sitting. Then shots of them playing in the yard, people reacting).
Then I gets my drums and starts my drum to playin’, cane to blowing, that draws the people farther and nearer. And people all came to that place where the drum’s playin’ and the cane is blowing. That’s the picnic. Then we operates that and we plays the drums and blow the cane, and so forth. And people laughing and talking and all that, till twelve o’clock. And then that’s the end of the picnic.
(Montage, band playing, people doing chores, enjoying themselves. Establishes rhythm of daily life).
[Time code: 7:13]
(This montage builds in intensity as music continues. Finally returns to band playing).
OTHAR TURNER v/o: Laughing and talking, just associating with one another. Just fun. Little kids go out and dance behind the drums. We haves all of that. Really what you call a good time. That's for enjoyment. Just to keep from being at home lonesome, just goes out for an enjoyment, that’s the way we do. We all meets there, white people come there just like colored, right there sit down, laugh, and talk. The law even come out and have us to play the drum. It's just enjoyment. That’s for peace. He have that for peace. No clowning, cusing, hootin’ and hollering, no guns, no cutting and shooting.. Everybody be loving and peacable, we all is one there. Just an enjoyment. That’s the way we have.
[Music: My Babe]
We plays the blues, and we plays church songs. Our closing song, we always play, I don’t care what we play, our closing song we plays a church song. We play “When the Saints go Marching In,” “Glory Hallelujah…” that’s it.
[Music: Glory, Glory, Halleluyah”]
[Time code: 9:16]
(Rides horse down dirt road as he sings).
Lyrics: Glory, Glory, Halleluyah,
When I lay my burden down.
Burden down, lord.
Burden down, lord,
When I lay my burden down.
(Sound of fife again, when he pulls in with his horse, cut to him playing it, freeze frame).
Text: OTHAR TURNER, FIFE MAKER, MUSICIAN,
OWNS HIS FARM IN THE GRAVEL SPRINGS
COMMUNITY IN NORTHWEST MISSISSIPPI.
THE RHYTHMICAL MUSIC HE AND HIS FRIENDS
PLAY IS CALLED “FIFE AND DRUM.”
Credits: FLIMED BY BILL FERRIS
RECORDED BY DAVID EVANS
EDITED BY JUDY PEISER
WITH SPECIAL APPRECIATION TO THE
GRAVEL SPRINGS COMMUNITY FOR THEIR
COOPERATION IN MAKING THIS FILM.
PRODUCED WITH SUPPORT FROM THE
WENNER GREN FOUNDATION FOR
“LEVEE CAMP BLUES”
VOCAL SOLO BY OTHAR TURNER
“LONG TRAIN TRAVELLING THROUGH THE LAND”
HARMONICA SOLO BY NAPOLEON STRICKLAND
“SHIMMY SHE WOBBLE”
FIFE SOLO BY OTHER TURNER
“SITTING ON TOP OF THE WORLD”
NAPOLEON STRICKLAND FIFE, OTHAR TURNER BASS
OTHAR TURNER BASS, NAPOLEON STRICKLAND FIFE
“GLORY GLORY HALLELUYAH”
VOCAL AND FIFE SOLO BY OTHAR TURNER
FIFE AND DRUM
C. 1971 BILL FERRIS DAVID EVANS JUDY PEISER
(Fade out. End of film).
[Time code: 10:28]
Permalink (Permanent link to this page.)