Jack Webster’s playing style | Bowing Down Home
JW – Jackie Webster
CW – Carl Webster
MQ – Merlin Quinn
KP – Curator Ken Perlman
KP: One of you mentioned that that Jack Webster only played with three fingers.
JW: He got this finger hurt [the first finger], eh, he hit it with the axe, eh. He learnt with these [holds up the 2nd, 3rd and 4th fingers]. Well he already could play some, but he learnt with these three. But he was right young when he had the four fingers; he learned to play with the four, but when he cut that he cancelled that.
MQ: He could move his little finger. It was half, all knuckles. He could put it up and play that note and get back and play…
CW: It was short, something like mine.
KP: So his little finger was short?
JW: Yeah, and when he was going. He only had the three anyway, and he’d slide the little finger up [to get the B-note on the first string], see and never miss a note.
CW: He could fill in for the first finger with the other three.
KP: And in order to get up to the little finger position he’d have to slide?
MQ: He did slide, yeah. Nothin’ to it, once you get on to it.
KP: Was there anything else that was unique about how he approached the instrument
MQ: Well, his bowing was perfect. When he took the bow in his hand, and his fiddle was on a 45-degree, and his hand was down. And [he used] this finger and thumb, is that right? And sometimes he's let his little finger touch it [the bow] an odd time. But mostly with the thumb and first finger. That’s why he got the name master of the bow. That’s the way he done it. That’s why he got the name because he was so good. He could put the time [to it]. He could take a song – I was just tellin’ Jackie. When we’d go to the dances – any little old song: Jingle Bells, anything, the time he put on it, we couldn't help but dance. Cause he'd time it that we could dance to it. Now you don't see fiddlers that many today. They're more apt to go the other way and you can't dance to it. He'd take a song and put the time on it.
CW: [He played] Maple Sugar, Redwing,. all them
MQ: Way Down Yonder for Swingin’ All Round. Oh the time he put on that! Once he started playin some of them tunes, they didn't have to be fast. As a natter of fact he didn't have to play much reels cause he could take a song and put the time to it. And it was good for dancin to.
CW: Well, big sets too it'd be easier to play something, you'd couldn't play reels too long, wear yourself out. But he went on a lot of those he picked up, that were easier to play and easy on him.
Female Spectator: Most of the dances went till 1:00 AM too.
CW: See, he started 8 o'clock till 12:30, one o'clock in the morning. So he had to watch out, he'd wear out.
MQ: He must have played pretty near every night of the week in the summertime.
CW: A lot of summers he did. He always played five [nights] for years, then he went every night but Sunday.
MQ: There wouldn’t be many dances Saturday night.
CW: The Beaver Club, Montague.
MQ: The Beaver Club, would they go till one o’clock?
CW: Yeah, just about one. And the school houseas and all the little halls around the country.
KP: So he played not only at some of the larger dances, but at the local dances too.
CW: See when school would close, they’d want to make some money for the school. So they’d hire him for two months to play the fiddle. And the proceeds went to that and to pay him and his guitar player, and the rest went to the school.