Canotes to bring vast library of old-time music to Juneau

Seattle twin brothers will perform fiddle tunes this weekend

Posted: Thursday, November 08, 2007

Seattle twin brothers Greg and Jere Canote have been mining novelty tunes from the old-time fiddling catalog since the 1970s.

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Along the way, they've amassed quite a lot of sheet music.

"One song, 'Foolish Questions,' I have a piece of sheet music from 1890, and then I have another one that's from 1912," Greg said. "It's the same song, and basically the same words, but it has totally different author credits on it."

The Canotes will bring their extensive library of tunes to town this weekend for an 8 p.m. Friday concert at Resurrection Lutheran Church, a 7:30 p.m. Saturday barn dance at St. Ann's Parish Hall, and two workshops.

The Alaska Folk Festival and Juneau Contradancers are sponsoring the events. Longtime Juneau musician Albert McDonnell will join the brothers on bass on Friday and Saturday night.

The Canotes last visited Juneau in 1998, on their way back to Seattle from the Anchorage Folk Festival. They also played here a few times in the 1980s with dance caller, singer and radio host Sandy Bradley.

This weekend's appearance came together after the Canotes ran into Juneau folk dance organizer Sally Donaldson this summer at the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes in Port Townsend, Wash.

"We still have a lot of friends up there," Greg said.

The Canotes were born in Stockton, Calif., and grew up in nearby Sacramento. They picked up their appreciation for vintage songs from their father, Bob, a self-taught pianist.

In their 20s, they gravitated toward old-time and novelty songs.

"Those are our two loves," Greg said. "Old-time was the first thing, and that got us into playing for dances. We started finding lots of novelty gems through the old-time catalog."

Jere, an accomplished banjo-builder, became obsessed with the instrument in 1975 while living in San Francisco. The brothers moved to Seattle in 1980.

From 1983 to 1996, they spent 13 years as the sidekicks on the Seattle National Public Radio program "Sandy Bradley's Potluck."

"One of the great things about doing the radio show for so many years was we had to come up with new material every week," Greg said.

"We started mining the vintage jazz stuff and found a lot of novelty numbers," he said. "The more you look, the more you find, so we started adding in more stuff that we like. Our concerts are pretty much all novelty kind of stuff with a sprinkling of old-time stuff."

Some of those classics include: "A Chicken Ain't Nothing But A Bird," "I Heard The Voice of a Porkchop" and "What Did I Do With That Thinga-ma-jig."

In 2003, the brothers recorded a collection of early 20th-century fiddle tunes, "Bing Bang Boys," with Bad Livers bass player Mark Rubin and banjo-guitarist W.B. Reid.

Two years ago, the Canotes released "Calico Pie: Fiddletunes in the Key of Calico," fiddle tunes based on the A-E-A-C-sharp tuning.

"It's a really archaic sound," Greg said. "You pick up the fiddle and you automatically go back 100 years.

"Every fiddler knows one or two songs in that tuning," he said. "I just started researching and found hundreds."

• Contact Korry Keeker at 523-2268 or

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