"Right here in San Diego we have a musician who paled round in New York City with the likes of Woody Guthrie, and Cisco Houston, and Pete Seeger, and Big Bill Broonzy in those good old hard old days of the McCarthy era. Fred's apartment was the place where everyone came to pick on a Saturday night and one of the prime pickers was Fred on the Leadbelly style 12 String Guitar. In the late 50's & early 60's Fred wandered out to San Diego and played in a few of those old San Diego coffee houses like The Upper Cellar or Circe's Cup. He'll be at The Adams Ave Street Fair on the Felton (Acoustic) Stage on Saturday at 2 p.m."
EveryThingElse 17th Annual Street Fair & Free Fall Festival September 26 & 27, 1998
"12 string guitar in the style of Huddie Ledbetter. Fred goes back to the era of the early 50's in New York city where he played and partied with the likes of Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Big Bill Broonzy & Gary Davis. He drifted out to California in the late 50's, played San Diego coffee houses in those early days and eventually settled here. Fred has been a more or less regular at Adams Ave. Festivals where his virtuoso guitar playing never fails to amaze."
The 26th Annual Adams Avenue Roots Festival May 1 & 2 1999 San Diego, California 1999 - List of Performers, Part 2
"Even more peculiar was Kottke's penchant for the acoustic 12-string guitar, an unwieldy beast of an instrument that at the time only a handful of players such as Pete Seeger, Dick Rosmini, and Fred Gerlach could wrestle into instrumental submission."
"Leo Kottke was born in Athens, Georgia in 1945. As a child he lived in Michigan, Missouri, Minnesota (where he now resides), Oklahoma, Wyoming, and Virginia. His early influences on the guitar include Burl Ives, Pete Seeger, Fred Gerlach, Mitch Greenhill, and Dick Rosmini."
20th Century Masters of Finger-Style Guitar
Jim Ohlschmidt in Acoustic Guitar, November/December 1992
"On my first Capitol record, Fred Gerlach loaned me his Roy Noble 12-string."
Leo Kottke Notes
"In due course I came to realize that there were some very good musicians operating on the fringes of the radical Rotarian singalongs: pickers and singers like Tom Paley, Dick Rosmini, and Fred Gerlach, who were playing music, cognate with early jazz, with a subtlety and directness that sinply blew me away."
Dave van Ronk's liner notes to "The Folkways Years 1959-61"
"Dave van Ronk learned 'Sweet Substitute' from Fred Gerlach. He and I, apparently, learned it from the Jellyroll Morton recording we start with, but I still play Rosmini's guitar part."
John Diebold: Trying to drive my blues away
"I first heard it ('Gallows Pole') on an old Folkways LP by Fred Gerlach, a 12-string player who was, I believe, the first white to play the instrument. I used his version as a basis and completely changed the arrangement."|
||Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin) on "Gallows Pole"
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').
"He [Taj Mahal] had met Jesse Lee Kincaid at Club 47. Jesse's uncle was Fred Gerlach, a well-known 12-string player who 'ran around with' Tiny Ledbetter [now Tiny Robinson], Leadbelly's niece, who turned Fred on to the 12-string guitar. 'The guitar had passed through the family to Jesse, who played the hell out of it."
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)
Fred Gerlach LPs
|title||label # / notes|
|1a||195?||Fred Gerlach and 12-String Guitar: Gallows Pole And Other Folk Songs|
- Gallows Pole
- Ham And Eggs
- De Kalb Blues
- Old Hannah
- Fannin Street
- This Little Light
- Little Girl
- Motherless Children
- Risin' Sun
- Boll Weevil
- Goin' Down Slow
Inc. A-V 102
Liner Notes (Audio-Video Productions Inc. A-V 102)
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.
Other recordings of interest from the AUDIO-VIDEO library of folk music:
This recording has been made and processed in accordance with the specifications of the standard RIAA curve.
A-V 101 FOLK BLUES (Vol. 1) sung and played by JERRY SILVERMAN
A-V 103 PASTURES OF PLENTY sung and played by THE HARVESTERS
For complete A-V catalogue of folk music, write to AUDIO-VIDEO PRODUCTIONS, Inc. 445 W. 49th Street, New York 19, N. Y. [out of business !!!]
Cover design: Lawrence Photo
|1b||1962||Twelve-String Guitar - Folk Songs and Blues Sung and Played by Fred Gerlach|
- Gallows Pole
- Ham And Eggs
- De Kalb Blues
- Old Hannah
- Fannin Street
- This Little Light
- Little Girl
- Motherless Children
- Risin' Sun
- Boll Weevil
- Goin' Down Slow
(Liner notes: "Originally
produced by George Ohye
and Jerry Silverman")
order Smithsonian Folkways
custom-made CD FG 3529
|2||197?||Fred Gerlach: Songs My Mother Never Sang|
- Get It, Got It, Had it (3:40)
From the Latin "Toneo, Tenebam, Tenueram."
- Mutatis, Mutandis (3:35)
Again from the Latin meaning "With the necessary changes."
- Mod Squat (2:35)
- The Cheese Grater (2:05)
Many years ago I used to frequent Peter Carboni's Guitar Shop in Greenwich Village. Pete always had some offbeat instrument for which I would play the guessing game. One time he hands me a square box resembling an autoharp with a myriad of strings all the same lenght and same diameter. It turns out to be a cheese grater. For spite, I play this starting with pound of Provolone until it wears out! In case you wondered, all 12 strings were tuned to the same note "B"!
- Eyrie (5:51)
An eagle's nest. This is the only overdub on the record - I laid down the guitar track first and the vibes over it. Of course, one can hear the final take-off and fight of the eagle.
- Memories (6:30)
- Cigani (4:55)
Means Jugoslav gypsies, pronounced "tsiganee."
- Banat (2:25)
Banat is a province in Jugoslavia that is infamous for its Kolo dance, influenced by oriental rhythms. Listen for the vocal.
- Slide (4:50)
This batch of songs was brewed on mine own living room. Two Magnecord #728's were used with two Electrovoice mikes #666 and two Electrovoice mikes #655C. About 400 hours of playing and editing over a 3 month period resulted in the chose 9.
re-released as cassette
on Fred Gerlach's own
EYRIE RECORDS label
Volume # 1
|3||199?||Fred Gerlach: Easy Rider|
- Easy Rider
1962, Circe's Cup Coffee House, San Diego, 6 String Guitar
- TB Blues
Circe's Cup, 12 String Guitar
- My Dream
1982, 12 String Slide
- I Am What I Am
- You Got Me Runnin'
1977, 6 String Guitar (accompanying Donna Nail, voc)
- Duncan & Brady
(accompanying Donna Nail, voc)
- Hobo (JL Hooker)
- House Of The Rising Sun
12 String Slide
- Black Gal
9 String Slide, 1970
EYRIE RECORDS Volume
# 2 (cassette)
Thanks for additional info to:
David, Fred and Nick Gerlach
Michael Brooks, "Wood: A Dialog with Richard Schneider and Fred Gerlach," Guitar Player Magazine, 5 (1971), p. 16-18
"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
Foto from back cover of Takoma C1028
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)
Jesse Kincaid's page at MP3s
Ooops, ... yet another Gerlach !
David Gerlach, San Diego
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
Please feel free
or to comment
Link to own page !!!