Walnut Valley Festival, Winfield, Kansas
September 1721, 2014
“Close your hand while holding the two bones, back to back, with your middle finger between them. Keep the bone edges in the center of the heel of your palm. The bone closest to your thumb should be held firmly ...” This is the start of the “How To Play Barry’s Bones” brochure. That bones player is none other than Barry Patton, the master of the bones. Now if you stop and talk with Barry, you are liable to get a history lesson on the bones. Let’s listen in!
“As a musical instrument, bones go way back to 1600 B.C. in Egypt. Bones as rhythm instruments were popular in Ireland where Celtic music makers used them for rhythm instruments. The 1800’s minstrel shows had bones “rattlin” around and the 1920’s jazz players sometimes employed bones for a different rhythm sound.”
So much for the history lesson; how about the Master himself? He was seven or eight years old the first time he heard the bones played. That was by a friend of his grandparents, Cecil Hiatt, the Grand Master of the bones. Cecil played guitar and bones while his grandfather, Lue Berline played the fiddle. He received his first set of bones while attending the Walnut Valley Festival as a young boy. He was back stage listening to the music being performed by his uncle, Byron Berline, Country Gazette and his grandfather, Cecil on the bones. His grandfather accidentally shut Barry’s fingers in a car door and he felt so bad about that incident that he gave Barry a pair of oak bones, and one short lesson. From then on, he practiced, and practiced, and practiced, broken fingers and all. And the rest is history, as Barry has become one of the premier bones players throughout the world.
His “Bones Playing” has taken him to more places and has introduced him too more new friends than he had ever dreamed. Barry has played with the likes of Royce and Pat Campbell, California (he even make a record with them), Mason Williams, Walnut Valley Friends, The Tulsa Symphony, The Oklahoma City Symphony, The Louisville Philharmonic Orchestra, Ricky Skaggs, The Whites, Riders in the Sky, Jana Jae and recently with Walnut Valley Festival favorite, Beppe Gambetta. Patton says his biggest highlight was to appear on national TV on “Nashville Now” with Jana Jae.
Not only can Patton play the bones with either hand, he can play the bones with both hands, and at the same time. This unique style of bones playing is called “double-fisted” playing. He is one of the very few “two fisted bone rattlers” in the world. Traditionally bones were made out of cattle ribs, but Barry prefers to make his own out of Osage wood, commonly called hedge wood. He likes the sound of wood better. Maybe they should be called “woods” instead of “bones.” “No,” says Barry, “it’s the sound, not the means to the sound that is being referenced.”
So, if you want to tackle a new instrument and if you have your bones in hand, and if you see Barry Patton at the Festival, you’ll not only get a history lesson but you’ll get a lesson on bone playing by one of the “Masters” of the art!
|Walnut Valley Festival
Post Office Box 245, 918 Main
Winfield, Kansas 67156
|WV office hours are:
9 am Noon; 1 5 pm