© 1994-1998 Lee Ruth

Jim Ruth - Banjo
Lee Ruth - Mandolin
Dr. Howard Marshall - Fiddle
  MP3 Sample of Lee's Original


Song Lyrics:
Lee's Lyrics:
Instrumental Instrumental
Artists on the Tune:
Lee on the Tune:

Howard Marshall on the tune:

It was great fun playing "Mondolina" with Lee and Jim on the project. This is a superb instrumental tune, with lots of room for personal expression.

Jim Ruth on "Mondolina":

I'd heard Lee play "Mondolina" over the years but had never played it myself until we began rehearsing for the recording. The piece fits nicely into the mold of the fiddle and banjo pieces I am used to playing, so it was not too much of a stretch. We like how the three instruments blend yet remain distinct. I played a nylon-stringed banjo to differentiate it more from the mandolin.
Lee, Rusty (now Howard, in his old age), and I played bluegrass together around 1969-1970. We had a lot of trouble controlling tempo and darned if it wasn't déjà vu all over again thirty years later! "Mondolina" is a delicate piece but with some bouncy sections that we tended to speed up. Eventually we got tired of messing it up and managed to marshal our concentration enough for a good take.

Between 1992 and 1998, I played a weekly gig Wednesday nights at the Hartsburg Hitching Post in Hartsburg, Missouri. At some point during the course of a typical Wednesday evening, I would find myself at a loss for what to play next, and frequently my solution would be to pick up an instrument and start noodling. "Mondolina" evolved out of just such noodling--a riff or motif on the mandolin that I remembered from one week to the next. Over a period of many months, it evolved into a tune with three parts, which I liked well enough to keep in my active repertoire. When this project got underway, I wanted to get my brother involved, and playing a tune with him seemed to be the most likely way to achieve that. Since I had several original mandolin instrumentals, we decided on a banjo-mandolin duet, which we then decided to expand into a melody trio by adding our friend Howard "Rusty" Marshall on fiddle, and we picked this tune as the one we wanted to do.
Artists on Lee Ruth:
Lee on the Artists:

I've known Lee since the 1960s. We met around 1967, when I was back in school at the University of Missouri after being in the Marine Corps. We did a lot of jamming with various pickers in McAlester Park on South 9th Street next to the J-School, including Jim Ruth when Jim was at Hickman High and working out his elaborate melodic banjo tunes.

We hung out at the old Ivanhoe Restaurant, where we played on a regular basis in the late 1960s in a number of different acoustic bands. Lee, Jim, and I played together there, and at the Chez Coffeehouse, and formed a band and played a number of gigs at Max's Shakespeare's Pizza) and other places around Mid-Mo. Lee and I also played in another band about that time, with an engineering grad student who played great Scruggs-style banjo, Doug DeMaire, and that trio played a lot of gigs around Columbia in about 1968. I remember some lovely evenings picking music at Lee's house, and enjoying his immense collection of vintage recordings and tapes (which he tended to archive in frozen pizza

Lee and I also traveled to some memorable places and events together, including the Bean Blossom Bluegrass Festival in Indiana (where Lee played backup guitar for the great bluegrass fiddler Kenny Baker), and several trips to the Ozarks Folk Festival (Mountain View) and to visit with fiddlers and pickers in Springfield MO. At that time, I played mostly mandolin and guitar and sang tenor, and we did a lot of bluegrass as well as country songs we stole from Merle Haggard and George Jones. I learned a
lot about guitar playing from hanging out with Lee and from our performances together. He remains the "super picker's super picker" in my book, and beyond that, Lee Ruth is a fine human being. It is a great privilege to be part of this project to honor Lee.
Howard Marshall

My big brother Lee introduced me to the kind of music where you get to play it your own way. When he brought home a five-string banjo sometime around 1964 I was transfixed by the thing and haven't been able to get banjos out of my life since! Lee taught me a basic frailing style which evolved into my present way of playing.
In addition, Lee was (and is) an advocate for my musical interests. He took me to many folk and bluegrass festivals, fiddle contests, and other events. He was always ready to play guitar backup for some new tune I wanted to try out.

Lee knew what was behind the folk revival and had a record collection containing some of the best examples of country blues, bluegrass, and old-time music. I might never have been exposed to this intense, compelling music otherwise. After all, there was no KOPN back then!
Though our music has taken different directions, we place the same value on individual style in our musical endeavors.
dJim Ruth

Jim Ruth

I think it's safe to say that Jim is the person on this album that I have known the longest--since the day after Christmas 1950, when he was one day old. Even though I'm ten years older than he is, in a way he started picking before I did, as one of our sister Peggy's friends gave him a cracked ukulele to fool around with several months before I got my first guitar. He was five years old, and I must say that he got some interesting sounds out of it. He really didn't get seriously playing fretted instruments until his early teen years when I left my banjo (which had a small rip in the head) at the house for a year or so. I'd come by the house and plunk on it a bit, and he'd say, "What are you doing? It looks like your hand is just going up and down but I'm hearing all these melody notes along with the chords." So, I'd slow down the hand and finger motion of double thumbing while frailing and he'd say, "Aha!" Two weeks later I would come by and he'd be frailing the tar out of my poor old broken-headed banjo--playing it better even then, I dare say, than I am now, some forty years later. With his sure hands and gifted ear, it didn't take him long to be a good picker on a variety of instruments, and not too much longer to be a great player on some of them.

Over the years he has found his musical niche and I mine, and we don't seem to find as much time to play together as we once did, but I always enjoy doing so, and I consider it an honor that I had a chance to play with him on this tune.

Howard "Rusty" Marshall

I probably met Rusty around 1966 or so, perhaps through Keith Cunningham or Dan Peek. We found opportunities to play together around Columbia and down in Mountain View, Arkansas, and in the fall of l968 we put together a little bluegrass band called "The Sixtyniner String Band" in Columbia, which hung together for the school year and recorded two songs for an album called "Joint Effort" at the Chez Coffeehouse in Columbia. When the banjo player graduated from school and left town, we changed the name of the band to the "Strung-out String Band" and got my brother to play banjo with us. Rusty followed his academic and musical Muse to a life in other places for fifteen or twenty years before he returned to Columbia to settle in for the long haul. It seemed only natural to get him to add his Missouri style fiddling to "Mondolina".

Producer's Notes:
Recording Credits:
After we finally got Jim and Lee to determine which song they were going to record, the next step was finding a good time to get them into the studio. We started with a setup in the studio that had them spread a good distance apart and baffled to isolate the instruments. We quickly determined that was not going to work. They just never play that way together. So we gathered Jim, Lee, and Howard in chairs all around one microphone and let them have at it. After a few practice run throughs to make sure we had it all, we rolled tape on this sweet instrumental.

Recorded at Pete Szkolka's Studio

Record Date: 6/25/03

Recorded live to two-track


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