Appalachian rural musician George Landers, was featured on musicologist John Cohen’s acclaimed 1965 album High Atmosphere, a compilation of appalachian music from North Carolina and Virginia. In 1970, Cohen followed up with the 27 minute film The End of an Old Song”, filmed in the mountains of North Carolina and revisiting the region where folklorist Cecil Sharp had collected British ballads in the early 1900s and focusing on the ballad singer Dillard Chandler. Within the film, Landers is featured, singing The Scotland Man while playing in his unique two-finger clawhammer banjo style.
Besides his appearance on High Atmosphere, The End of an Old Song and a 45 second field recording of him playing Old Joe Clark, little else is known about George Landers.
Here are some quotes about Landers from John Cohen:
“George Lander’s sense of time and phrasing can’t be imitated, it can only be wondered at and admired.”
“George Landers employs a two finger style of picking, quite common in the mountains around North Carolina, where the melody is plucked by the index finger, and the thumb drones on the fifth string, or moves to secondary notes of the melody. Landers brushes them them up and down [!] with his index finger to acheive his sound.”
“In 1963, when Peter Gott first met him, Landers wasn’t playing music. Peter encouraged him to play and from then on, every time Peter passed George’s cabin, he was sitting and playing his banjo. When he was finally sent away to the old folks home, he took his banjo with him, playing it from his wheel chair up until the day he died.”