with additional infoabout Nick Gerlach (aka Jesse Lee Kincaid)and David Gerlach
EveryThingElse 17th Annual Street Fair & Free Fall Festival September 26 & 27, 1998
The 26th Annual Adams Avenue Roots Festival May 1 & 2 1999 San Diego, California 1999 - List of Performers, Part 2
20th Century Masters of Finger-Style Guitar
Jim Ohlschmidt in Acoustic Guitar, November/December 1992
Leo Kottke Notes
Dave van Ronk's liner notes to "The Folkways Years 1959-61"
John Diebold: Trying to drive my blues away
Click here to listen to Led Zeppelin play a version of 'Gallis Pole'(from the Harry Lewman Music website).
Click here to read the lyrics of Led Zeppelin's 'Gallows Pole').
from Kruth, John: Taj Mahal: Roots And Blues Fuh Ya.- Sing Out! 31/3 (1985), p. 3
"He [Taj Mahal] is impressed by a 12-string guitar player who calls himself Jesse Lee Kincaid, with a technique so true, 'I knew he learned from someone good'. Kincaid learned, in fact, from his uncle, a West Coast player and teacher (and Folkways recording artist) named Fred Gerlach, whom Taj knows by reputation."
from Marc Kirkeby's liner notes to 'The Rising Sons featuring Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder' (Columbia/Legacy CD 52828) (1992)
from Marc Kirkeby's liner notes to 'The Rising Sons featuring Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder' (Columbia/Legacy CD 52828) (1992)
Audio-Video Productions Inc. A-V 102 (US 195?)
1. GALLOWS POLE - This is based on one of Leadbelly's songs, which itself has a long history dating back hundreds of years in England. The rythms and finger-picking styles have taken me four years to evolve. It is my favorite number, but it is so strenuous that I must perform regularly for a week before I'll attempt it.
2. HAM AND EGGS - A chain gang work song. The sliding bass note on the guitar could be a striking axe or hammer.
3. DE KALB BLUES - Again I borrow from Leadbelly. This song gets its name from a town in Texas where Leadbelly and Blind Lemon Jefferson used to play and sing.
4. OLD HANNAH - A well-known blues field-holler. This kind of worksong blues is probably the earliest forms of blues and has been sung in the Texas chain gangs for many years. "Old Hannah" is the hot sun.
5. FANNIN STREET - One of Leadbelly's most exciting instrumentals, a unique piece for displaying the 12-string in motion. I consider it a blues classic. With some rhythmic exceptions, I have maintained the
6. SAMSON - This song was taught to me by Blind Reverend Gary, who sings it to his Negro congregation
1. THIS LITTLE LIGHT - A rousing, handclapping, foot-stomping gospel
2. LITTLE GIRL - Originally titled "Black Girl", this version is a mixture of Leadbelly, Nick Thatcher and myself. The story I tell is my guess at the original story. At any rate, it is about the age-old battle between parent and child.
3. MOTHERLESS CHILDREN - The imagery contained here can be traced back directly to the older spirituals.
4. RISIN' SUN - A famous old blues. I have been singing this one for so many years, I don't even remember where I first heard it.
5. BOLL WEEVIL - This is the farmer's fight to kill the crop killer. The melody is my own and bears no resemblance to the original. I intended the "nervous" notes on the guitar to represent the boil weevil's feelers
"lookin' for a home".
6. GOIN' DOWN SLOW - I wrote this four years ago, in a rented Bowery loft across the street from the Salvation Army. I got to examining the cause of Bowery Bum's disintegration. Some of these men had been "well-to-do" citizens. I think all of us suffer to some extent the inequities of an imperfect society. A combination of circumstances might make the best of us start "goin' down slow".
In 1912 a man named Huddie Ledbetter, who was proficient on the 6-string guitar, the double-bass, the mandolin,
the accordion, the piano and the harmonica, wandered into a circus in Dallas. There he heard a man play the 12-string
guitar, and then he decided to give up his other instruments and master the difficult 12-stringer. His mastery was
complete, and in the next 37 years, until his death in New York in 1949, Leadbelly, as he was called, reigned alone as
the "King of the 12-String Guitar". He made countless appearances all over the country and hundreds of phonograph records, achieving immense popularity as a man and as a performer.
Leadbelly's identification with the beguiling sound of the 12-string guitar was so complete that he seemed almost to
discourage any others who would play it. And after Leadbelly's death there was no one to carry on, until the
emergence of Fred Gerlach, who is undoubtedly the finest 12-string guitar player today. Fred was born of immigrant
Yugoslav parents in Detroit in 1925. He fought in Germany and the Philippines as a GI, and after the war he settled in New York City's civilian life as a top-flight draftsman . . and a boogie-woogie and blues pianist, with a powerful left hand rolling out the bass runs. Caught up in the vast post-war revival of interest in American folk music, Fred heard somewhere the sound of a 12-stringer and, like Leadbelly almost four decades before him, gave up everything else to master the instrument. With a respect bordering on reverence, he is now carying on the rich, full traditon of Leadbelly, meanwhile adding new technical dimensions to the instrument.
The transition from boogie-woogie piano to 12-string guitar is a logical one. The rolling bass possible on the lower guitar strings is strikingly reminiscent of key, board instruments. In fact, the double-string octave tuning arrangement gives the 12-stringer a quality decidedly like the harpsichord. There is an apt description of the 12-string guitar in the book Folk Blues, by Jerry Silverman: "In size it is somewhat larger than the familiar 6-string guitar; its twelve strings . . six pairs tuned in octaves and unisons . . are proportionately longer and heavier, and are generally tunes lower in absolute pitch, though maintaining the same general intervallic arrangement between strings as on the "six". The reinforced vibrations by the double strings, their greater length and heaviness, and larger sounding box all give the 12-string guitar a richer, more complex, louder and more resonant quality than its 6-string cousin."
A 12-string guitar is hard to come by, Fred Gerlach wrote recently: "I went into one of the largest musical instrument stores in the country, and the manager assured me that no such instrument existed. On another occasion a maker of fine 12-string lutes (nylon strings) pictured for me a nightmare of explosive force required to hold twelve steel strings in proper tension. He envisioned bits of guitar and guitarist flying asunder. I have combed New York City pawnshops and music stores and have received a variety of comments ranging' from 'Sorry, we're out of them now. Won't a six-string guitar do? to 'Have you got rocks in your head, buddy?' In fact, it took me about a year after I had first decided to play a twelve-string before I found one. It wasn't a concentrated search, but it nevertheless indicates the general unavailability of the instrument."
In discussing the songs on this record, Fred expressed his profound indebtedness to the music of the Negro people:
" . . . Now we come upon a larger truth . . the music of the Negro people. It is my attempt to perform this music and,
of course, to alter it to conform to my own condition of expression. Not all these songs are blues, as there are other
musical influences in my life. In any case, my aim is to examine the world we live in . . to grasp reality".
AUDIO-VIDEO PRODUCTIONS is especialy proud to present this recording of FRED GERLACH and
his 12-STRING GUITAR. It marks the first time this instrument has been given the benefit of modern, studio recording techniques, producing a remarkable sound. We feel that this fact alone would suffice to make GALLOWS POLE a vitally important addition to the record library of every folklorist, musicologist and just plain folk-song enthusiast.
This recording has been made and processed in accordance with the specifications of the standard RIAA curve.
Cover design: Lawrence Photo
"Folkways Records and Service Corp., 43 W. 61th St." // "165 W. 46 St." // "121 W. 47th N.Y.C."
"Folkways Records and Service Corp., 701 Seventh Ave, N.Y.C." Folkways FG 3529 (US 1962)
= Smithsonian Folkways custom-made CD FG 3529
= Smithsonian Folkways Archival CD FG 3529 (US 2007)
Takoma C1028 (original test pressings from the personal estate of Fred Gerlach, here coupled w/ a factory jacket, alternate cover from the one typically seen; sources: 2015 resp. 2017 eBay auctions)
Takoma C1028 (US 1968)
re-released on Fred Gerlach's own EYRIE RECORDS labelVolume # 1 (cassette) (US 1993)
Takoma Records discography
notes by Fred Gerlach EYRIE RECORDS Volume # 2 (cassette) (US 1993)
Folkways FD 5581 (US 1957)
Joker SM 3005 track sequence:
- Finger Buster Blues - Dick Rosmini
- Russian Meadows - Fred Gerlach
- Hoot Blues - Mason Williams
- 12 Strings Guitar Rag - Bob Gibson
- Guitar Ramblin' - Tommy Tedesco
- Saints Soul Song - James McGuinn
- Color Him Folky - Howard Roberts
- My Little Maggie - Joe Maphis
- Good Old Blues - Frank Hamilton
- Get The Bird Flyin' - Glenn Campbell
- Blues Wail - Billy Strange
- Love That's Careless - Jim Helms
Horizon WP 1626 (US 1963)
= Joker SM 3005 (It 1963) "The Guitar Greats Vol. 1"
Joker SM 3011 track sequence:
- Walkin' Gospel - Dick Rosmini
- Tell Him I Was Flyin' - Tommy Tedesco
- Alabama Bound - Frank Hamilton
- Six by Twelve - Joe Maphis
- Honey Miss Me When I'm Gone - Mason Williams
- Midnight Train - Jim Helms
- Cottonfields - Howard Roberts
- Ramblin' On - James McGuinn
- Bulldurem - Glen Campbell
- Nashville Blues Ramble - Billy Strange
- Twelfth Night - Fred Gerlach
- Loco Twelve String - Jim Helms
Horizon WP 1635 (US 1963)
= Joker SM 3011 (It 1963) "The Guitar Greats Vol. 2"
Everest Records / Archive of Folk & Jazz Music FS-243
Karussell 635158 (Germany 1986) ("Die bekanntesten Western-Gitarristen mit 12 berühmten Evergreens")
Fantasy (Takoma) TAKCD-8906-2 (US 1997)
Tompkins Square 1424 (US 2006)
"Many years ago (60's) I began building guitars... on a trip to LA I was wandering around a place called 'Rare Woods'.. and bumped into a character known as Fred Gerlach. At the time I was living in Monterey, Cal and Fred was living in Venice...his principal occupation at that time was cutting and selling rosewood to instrument makers. Shortly after that first encounter Fred would take period trips north in his caddilac with a trunk full of rosewood 'sets'...$8.00-$11.00 for East Indian...about twice that for Brazilian!!!...He would generally bring a guitar..usually a 12 string and we'd hang out and play a bit..powerful 12 string player.. On one of these trips he brought a very large very heavy 12 string guitar with a gold and silver horseman of the apocolypse inlaid into the head stock..
Fred made this guitar...and others...(he was an advocate of mass and epoxy glue) I bought this guitar and played it for years..only parted with it for cash to buy a house.(forgive me Fred)...Fred also named my dog 'keesha' which apparently meant rain in Yugoslavian, (dog was wet when he named it)
Went down to his digs in Venice a couple times..that's where I got his albums..He was also friends with John Fahey and the did some recording work together...
Lost track of Fred in the 70's though I heard he turned his hand to supplying ivory (legal then) and got into making pistol grips... He also owned an old German motor-sailor with I believe a Mercedes one lunger...
Guess now I'm gonna hafta call Fred.. he's definitely 'one-of-a-kind..' ask him about the airplane he built in his attic next time you run into him."
Jeff Hildreth 01/10/00 in Stefan Grossman's Woodshed
Fred Gerlach's nephew, (Stephen Nicholas) Nick Gerlach, who learned guitar from his uncle, is better known as Jesse Lee Kincaid, member of The Rising Sons (1964 - 66)
Composed 'She Sang Hymns Out of Tune' Harry Nilsson covered on his 1967 LP 'Pandemonium Shadow Show' (RCA LPM-3874/LSP-3874)
own 45rpm: 'Baby You Come Rollin' ... Capitol
The Rising Sons played J. L. Kincaid compositions: '11th Street Overcrossing', 'The Girl With Green Eyes', 'Sunny's Dream', 'Spanish Lace Blues', 'Flyin' So High', 'I Got A Little'
The Rising Son's 45rpm 'Candy Man' / 'The Devil's Got My Woman' also on compilation album 'Mindrocker Vol.7' (Line OLLP 5222 AS) 1983
'Candy Man' also on compilation album 'Beautiful People' (???)
"I used to play with this guy whose twelve-string guitar-playing uncle taught him how to play. I met him up in Boston. A guy named Nick Gearlock and his uncle was Fred Gearlock. Those guys are still around, but Nick changed his name to Jesse Lee Kincade and he was in The Rising Suns. He came from California. He used to talk about this guy Ry. I was listening to a lot of people who would tell me they'd taken lessons for 7 years from Reverend Gary Davis and it still sounded like "plinkety-plunkety". And then he came along and I'm saying, "Man, who taught you how to play, 'cause you playing guitar in real different way?. And he said, "Well, my uncle hung out a lot with Leadbelly and I used to date Leadbelly's niece Tiny [Ledbetter/Robinson]."(excerpt from a Chris Douridas interview with Taj Mahal)
read the whole interview
Jesse Lee Kincaid and Taj Mahal at the 47 (1964) (picture from Eric von Schmidt & Jim Rooney: 'Baby, Let Me Follow You Down', p. 215; photo Manny Greenhill)
Obviously a much younger one, Fred's son David Gerlach, playing (and building) 6- and 12-string guitars and publishing a CD called "Songs My Mother Never Sang" on (Fred Gerlach's) Eyrie label
click here to visit his page at MP3s.com