‘Memaw’ looks forward to bringing Squirrel Chasers to Hot Springs – Hot Springs Sentinel | Start Classified

Among the artists set to perform for Arts & The Park on Saturday is a Mountain View-based old time band, Memaw & The Squirrel Chasers, sure to get the crowds getting up and dancing.

Crystal McCool, the group’s memaw, recently spoke to The Sentinel-Record about her band and her excitement at bringing her daughter to Spa City.

“So we’re only bringing old time to this event, so we’re not going to be playing bluegrass. We play old time and we also play bluegrass, but Memaw, this group specializes in old time. Of course we have the Old Time State Fiddle Champion Mary Parker, so she’s great,” McCool said.

“And then we have my daughter, Lillyanne, who — well, she’s won the state so many times that they kicked her out and made her judge — and then she also won the National Old Time Banjo Championship, so is.” “They’re going to play the old Clawhammer frailing banjo style, and then my husband (Jackie) will play rhythm guitar, and then myself on a double bass, and we’ll do a lot of dance styles,” she said.

The band will be joined by Keith Symanowitz, who will give dance lessons prior to the band’s performance, and then viewers will be able to test what they learned during the band’s performance.

Old Time is a music genre that predates more modern genres like rock, rap, and country, and predated the recording industry. McCool said her group plays songs from the “late 1800s, early 1900s, some of them going back to the 1500s. There’s a song Lillyanne does that came out the same year as the King James Version of the Bible.”

“There will be some really old tunes. That’s pretty much what we specialize in, is the old stuff,” she said, noting that her daughter was the reason she and her husband first became interested in old time music.

“Oddly, she’s in a Music Roots program, so she started banjo when she was in fourth grade,” McCool said. “She brings her banjo home from class and my husband, who plays a three-finger banjo, says, ‘Hey, where’s the rest of your banjo?’ and she says, ‘That’s all they gave me,’ and he says, ‘Well, you tell them we didn’t lose that resonator, you know, we’re not going to pay for that.'”

It was “an old-time banjo” and “so we got into it because she started playing it and it was a real introduction to that realm for us. I fell in love with the old-time fiddle, I also play the violin and I just loved it,” she said.

“We hope that this weekend everyone else will fall in love with him. If they haven’t heard Old Time, maybe they’ll be like me, and when they hear it, they’ll be like, ‘Oh, I got more of that,'” she said.

“I’m glad you have this kind of music in Hot Springs. In our edge of the woods, Old Times is (is) a pretty common thing, you know, it’s pretty common. I know having lived (in Hot Springs) it’s not nearly as common down there, so I’m hoping everyone else will just love it,” she said.

For McCool, the appeal of the genre lies in the lyrics, she said. “These are real experiences. It’s not, and there’s a lot of history to be taught just through the lyrics of old time music and as a history buff, that’s always fascinating to me.”

She said the music’s beat was appealing, noting, “It’s just so danceable.”

McCool said she’s grateful to be able to play with her family.

“Oh, we love it,” she said. “Our whole family, my husband’s family, was musical, they all played. I grew up in a traveling family band, so we’ve been doing this our whole lives, and when our kids showed up it was never, you know, ‘Are you wanna play an instrument?’ It was just, “What instrument are you going to play, what do you want to play, and what do we need in the band? We already have one, so, hey, would you like to play the banjo?” .”

Playing with family also inspired the group’s memorable band name.

“I coached my daughter’s band, Twang, an all-girl spring band, for years. They’ve won all sorts of national awards. They started the Music Roots program when they were in fourth grade and they stuck it out until the end, my daughter is now a freshman in college but the year before that two of the bandmates graduated , so they made it all the way to 2020,” McCool said, noting, “They’re like sisters.”

Mary Parker, the violinist at Memaw’s, was also in the group along with “two other girls.”

“They were all in fifth grade and then became teenage girls and I couldn’t tell who was worse. Fourth grade girls just giggling about everything, or teenage girls constantly talking about boys and everything,” McCool said.

“We had band rehearsals,” she said, “and every time I tried to get a song to work, they would say ‘Oh,’ and then they would move on to something else. And a couple of parents like that, one in particular, he called them The Squirrel Chasers, because every time I tried to get them to focus on something, they were busy with something else, and he said they were going to be squirrels again to hunt .”

McCool was “the old woman of the group because I was the only one who wasn’t in elementary school and that’s why they called me Memaw, they used to pick on me because I was old, so it was born.” She said.

“We played a gig under that name and then it just stuck, after that everyone started calling us Memaw and the Squirrel Chasers,” she said.

This will also be a homecoming for McCool.

“I was born in Hot Springs, my mother’s entire family is from Hot Springs. They lived over at Woodlawn, across from the racetrack, and they used to have a big farm on old Highway 5 toward Benton,” she said.

“My mom graduated from Fountain Lake, so I’m very knowledgeable there,” McCool said, noting that she spent every summer in the city growing up.

“I’m looking forward to taking my daughter there because she doesn’t get to enjoy it as much as I do,” she said.

“She didn’t get a chance to get as familiar with the things I grew up with as I used to go to Central America and Magic Springs every stinky summer before Crystal Springs was even a thought, all those things that I grew up – go to Bathhouse Row. She never had to do that,” McCool said.

“She’s hoping to do some of that this summer. I don’t think we’re going to get that many chances to do it while we’re there this weekend,” McCool said, because her daughter has to get home quickly to uni.

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