Tuesday, August 11, 2009

John Putnam's band

John Putnam (c. 1818-1895) was an escaped slave, and a barber in Greenfield Massachusetts. He played the fiddle left-handed, and called square dances, and his dance orchestra (2 violins, corent, 2 clarinets, trombone, and bass) was the most popular in the Connecticut and Deerfield River valleys. Prior to 1865, his home was the local stop for the Underground Railroad, and he maintained a hidden basement where escaped slaves could hide en route to Canada. He played for blacks and whites throughout Western Massachusetts and, probably, southern Vermont, for at least 50 years.

I wish I could have known him.

And I wish I could have heard his band.

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