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Gamaliel Penn Interview

The son of Bishop Naomi Manning, the second Chief Overseer of the Church of the Living God, Jewell Dominion, and grandson of Bishop Lorenzo Harrison, the steel guitarist who prevailed in Jewell Dominion worship services for decades, guitarist Gamaliel Penn has deep roots in Jewell Dominion musical traditions.  As a boy and young man, he traveled in a custom bus with Chief Jewell, Bishop Harrison and their entourage as they conducted worship services, revivals and large assemblies throughout the geographic range of the church.  Following the Jewell Dominion tradition, Gamaliel plays guitar with picks on his thumb and index finger.  Ronnie Mozee, the top guitarist and steel guitarist in the Jewell Dominion today, served as his musical mentor.  Gamaliel Penn is a rich resource for insights into continuity and change in Jewell Dominion music.

– Robert L. Stone

Gamaliel Penn Interview

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  • The Robert Stone Sacred Steel Archive: Gamaliel Penn Interview 00:00
Interviewee: Gamaliel Penn 
Interviewer: Robert Stone
Date: 9/6/01
Location: 
Language: English

For the archive overview:
The Robert Stone Sacred Steel Archive

This is an interview originally recorded for research purposes. It is presented here in its raw state, unedited except to remove some irrelevant sections and blank spaces. All rights to the interview are reserved by the Arhoolie Foundation. Please do not use anything from this website without permission. info@arhoolie.org

Gamaliel Penn Interview Transcript:

Robert Stone:

So, let’s start with the real basic stuff like when and where were you born and your situation in the family as far as growing up in the church.

Gamaliel Penn:

My real name is Gamaliel Penn.

Robert Stone:

Right. Do you prefer to be called Gammy or how…

Gamaliel Penn:

Everybody calls me Gammy as a nickname but certainly for the book, we’ll put the real name in there.

Robert Stone:

Gamaliel. And is Penn with two N’s?

Gamaliel Penn:

Right. You spell Gamaliel, G-A-M-A-L-I-E-L.

Robert Stone:

Oh, G-A-M-A-L-I-E-L.

Gamaliel Penn:

And last name Penn, P-E-N-N.

Robert Stone:

Right.

Gamaliel Penn:

Now, I was born in Danville, Indiana.

Robert Stone:

Okay.

Gamaliel Penn:

In 1968.

Robert Stone:

What’s that date?

Gamaliel Penn:

December 21st, 1968.

Robert Stone:

12/21/68.

Robert Stone:

You know, I’m working on the album from the last Sacred Steel Convention, working on editing it and we recorded 16 tracks live and mixing it. And of course I’ve known Phil since ’96 or something. Man, us musicians know what he brings to that group.

Gamaliel Penn:

Yeah, I do.

Robert Stone:

He does a lot and they have a lot of good things to say for you. I love what Jay does too.

Gamaliel Penn:

Oh, yeah.

Robert Stone:

It’s a kind of funkier, simpler thing but as we musicians know, simple doesn’t mean easy.

Gamaliel Penn:

Sure, I hear you.

Robert Stone:

And you hear fellas saying, “Man, Jay is playing some stuff.”

Gamaliel Penn:

Right.

Robert Stone:

But your grandfather would be Lorenzo Harrison?

Gamaliel Penn:

Right, that’s my mother’s father.

Robert Stone:

Right. And do you remember him?

Gamaliel Penn:

Oh, yeah. He died when I was 17.

Robert Stone:

Uh-huh.

Gamaliel Penn:

Of kidney failure.

Robert Stone:

Uh-huh. And so what can you tell me about his music and how he played? And his instruments, too. I’ve heard that he had some interesting instruments made.

Gamaliel Penn:

Well he started with the bass years ago. That’s why he was so influential in bass and on the steel guitar.

Robert Stone:

He was a bass player?

Gamaliel Penn:

Yeah, he started on the bass.

Robert Stone:

Oh electric bass?

Gamaliel Penn:

Yeah.

Robert Stone:

Uh-huh.

Gamaliel Penn:

Started on the bass, then he moved to steel guitar and he just took it to a whole other level with his style of playing. He started out a fast picker and then as he got older he slowed down more into more single notes and was real smooth and he ran his own bassline to a company himself.

Robert Stone:

Right.

Gamaliel Penn:

That’s basically what he’s known for.

Robert Stone:

I have heard, just over I think at Sonny Treadway’s and at Glenn Lee’s house, they played me a little bit, tapes that somebody had made just by having a tape recorder out in the church somewhere when Bishop Harrison was playing. And of course I know Sonny played very much that way, playing his own bass.

Gamaliel Penn:

Right.

Robert Stone:

Is that something that still goes on a lot?

Gamaliel Penn:

Not really now. The style has changed since he’s left. The Jewell Dominion has gotten more contemporary gospel.

Robert Stone:

Uh-huh.

Gamaliel Penn:

They may throw it in every now and then whereas when he was living, that was the main drive, but now it’s more contemporary.

Robert Stone:

So would you say Sonny’s playing was more similar to Lorenzo’s than say like Kim Love or Footie Covington?

Gamaliel Penn:

Oh, yes. They all mimic him and can play like him but Sonny Treadway’s style is the closest to the original.

Robert Stone:

Uh-huh, okay.

Gamaliel Penn:

As well as Ronnie Mozee but you never heard him play a steel.

Robert Stone:

Very little.

Gamaliel Penn:

You think heard him play the guitar?

Robert Stone:

I’ve heard him play… he was playing steel some at Glenn’s memorial service there, the night before the funeral.

Gamaliel Penn:

Right, exactly.

Robert Stone:

But I didn’t get to hear him too much. There was a lot going on there. Yeah, I hear all sorts of great things about Ronnie and I know that Chuck has been talking to you about that whole situation with… I’d love to document Ronnie and get his music out there before the public but for some reason, he’s not up for it. I kind of feel like it’s too bad but that’s his decision.

Gamaliel Penn:

Right.

Robert Stone:

And it’s been kind of strange for me because when I saw him down at Glenn’s, he seemed real glad to see me and all that and then I tried calling him when I get home and he doesn’t return my calls.

Gamaliel Penn:

Oh, is that right?

Robert Stone:

Yeah. So it’s like…

Gamaliel Penn:

Oh, okay.

Robert Stone:

And then I hear stuff through other people about, “Well, he doesn’t want to be exploited,” and stuff like that.

Gamaliel Penn:

Right.

Robert Stone:

My profession is I’m a folklorist and that means that I document a lot of traditional artists and this thing that I do with Arhoolie, it’s part of my profession but it’s like freelance work. My regular day job is working for the state folk life program but anyhow, I deal with that in different variations. I deal with a lot of different ethnic groups and different cultures and so I deal all the time with people that they don’t know what in the world it is that I’m doing and they’re afraid and they’ve been exploited all their life and they’re still being exploited.

Gamaliel Penn:

Right.

Robert Stone:

I deal with tomato pickers and everything that some of these Mexican guys, they think I’m from immigration.

Gamaliel Penn:

Right.

Robert Stone:

They run. So I just want to… I’m very sensitive to all that and I never try to push somebody. Anyhow, we’re getting a little off track but that’s interesting what you said about Sonny being close to Lorenzo Harrison because my observation is that the few Jewell players that I’ve seen, they don’t play like Sonny.

Gamaliel Penn:

Right.

Robert Stone:

They don’t do much of that bass stuff anymore. Every now and then they’ll throw in just a little but they’re up there on the top strings.

Gamaliel Penn:

Right, I hear you.

Robert Stone:

Now the wah pedal, that apparently was something that Bishop Harrison was big on, huh?

Gamaliel Penn:

Yeah, right. As a matter of fact, he was the first one to come out with it that I know of in that particular organization I think in the ’70s. It was a Morley wah with the high throttle.

Robert Stone:

Right.

Gamaliel Penn:

He used that to I guess… he initiated excitement during the service.

Robert Stone:

Right. And he used it, I would assume from what little I’ve heard, it seems like they got people today are using it in the same manner. They don’t use it so much for a wah effect as they do to just change what I call the tonal color.

Gamaliel Penn:

Right, okay.

Robert Stone:

Like an envelope filter or something just to give it that real vocal kind of intense sound. Something… Lord knows this will probably never be resolved and I’m not so sure it really matters is that Willie says that he taught the Harrisons.

Gamaliel Penn:

Well, he may have taught Harrison’s brothers but he didn’t teach Lorenzo.

Robert Stone:

Uh-huh.

Gamaliel Penn:

I don’t think Willie Nelson taught Lorenzo how to play. He may have taught…

Robert Stone:

Willie Eason.

Gamaliel Penn:

Yeah, he may have taught Lorenzo Harrison’s brothers.

Robert Stone:

Right.

Gamaliel Penn:

But Bishop Harrison had two people in his life that were influential in helping him learn how to play and that was his first wife, Nettie Harrison, which is my grandmother. Nettie Harrison and a friend of his out in Los Angeles, California who is dead now. His name is Fred Neal, N-E-A-L.

Robert Stone:

And Nettie was a steel player?

Gamaliel Penn:

Nettie was a singer.

Robert Stone:

Uh-huh.

Gamaliel Penn:

But she was able I guess to sing the notes and he played on the steel, plus she was a piano player.

Robert Stone:

So she was aware of the structure of music?

Gamaliel Penn:

Right, exactly.

Robert Stone:

And helped him with that.

Gamaliel Penn:

They used to sing at the Apollo and everything. There was a group called the Jewell Gospel Trio and he was the steel guitar player and she was the piano player.

Robert Stone:

I’m familiar a little bit with the Jewell Gospel Trio but I didn’t know that he played steel with them.

Gamaliel Penn:

Right.

Robert Stone:

Really?

Gamaliel Penn:

Right.

Robert Stone:

Well that’s really interesting. As a matter of fact, I have a photo of them.

Gamaliel Penn:

Okay. You were talking about that guitar he had made?

Robert Stone:

Yeah.

Gamaliel Penn:

As a matter of fact, I still have it. It was in the early ’80s. He came out with what he called the Lorenzo Harp.

Robert Stone:

Uh-huh.

Gamaliel Penn:

And he had his name. And what he had was, it was an organ casing and he took out all the organ utensils or whatever you want to call it and he put a Fender Twin Reverb head in it, had two 15″ speakers in the front, he had a mixer underneath, a phase shifter, a Morley wah, and where the keys on the organ would be he set his eight string Sho-Bud in it.

Robert Stone:

Uh-huh. So it was a Sho-Bud non pedal that he had?

Gamaliel Penn:

Yeah, he didn’t play pedal.

Robert Stone:

Right, never. Yeah.

Gamaliel Penn:

It was Sho-Bud non pedal.

Robert Stone:

And you still have this?

Gamaliel Penn:

Yep.

Robert Stone:

Man, I would love to get a photo of that.

Gamaliel Penn:

I will get a picture of it as soon as I can.

Robert Stone:

Where is the guitar?

Gamaliel Penn:

It’s in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Robert Stone:

Uh-huh.

Gamaliel Penn:

But it’ll be transferred to Georgia.

Robert Stone:

Really?

Gamaliel Penn:

Yeah.

Robert Stone:

Whereabouts in Georgia?

Gamaliel Penn:

Probably at my mother’s home.

Robert Stone:

She lives in Georgia?

Gamaliel Penn:

Yes.

Robert Stone:

Where is that, Atlanta?

Gamaliel Penn:

No, she lives about an hour north of Atlanta.

Robert Stone:

Uh-huh.

Gamaliel Penn:

He traveled with that and he would sing from it because he had a microphone on it and he did his own personal recording right there from it.

Robert Stone:

Wow. And he of course, you say he had two 15 inch speakers?

Gamaliel Penn:

Two 15s and he had eights and the tweeters or whatever, you know.

Robert Stone:

So he used the cabinetry of the organ?

Gamaliel Penn:

Plus he had an extension speaker.

Robert Stone:

Uh-huh. Yeah, sure. Wow. That’s impressive.

Gamaliel Penn:

Yeah, it’s nice, man.

Robert Stone:

I bet. It’s still all in working order?

Gamaliel Penn:

Oh yeah.

Robert Stone:

Wow.

Gamaliel Penn:

It’s fine.

Robert Stone:

That’s really cool. Yeah, so is it correct to say that in the Jewell Dominion today, the steel guitar is almost totally non-pedal?

Gamaliel Penn:

Oh, it’s totally non-pedal.

Robert Stone:

Totally non-pedal.

Gamaliel Penn:

Yeah, the only pedal they use is Morley. It’s never been a pedal steel on our side. The only pedal they use is the Morley pedal.

Robert Stone:

Uh-huh, right. Actually, those old giant Morleys are still the thing in the Jewell dominion, aren’t they?

Gamaliel Penn:

Yeah.

Robert Stone:

That big rotary…

Gamaliel Penn:

Right.

Robert Stone:

Is there a name for that thing, an exact name?

Gamaliel Penn:

The only one I know is just the Morley wah with the rotary on it. That’s all I know.

Robert Stone:

Yeah, right. I think it might have been just called a rotary wah.

Gamaliel Penn:

Right.

Robert Stone:

Who else… what was the period that he was… what I’ve heard is, and it’s been mostly from Chuck, is that Bishop Harrison was the top steel player in the Jewell dominion plus he came to be the leader of the church.

Gamaliel Penn:

Well he came to be the assistant leader, so he never was the overseer. He was the assistant overseer.

Robert Stone:

Oh, really?

Gamaliel Penn:

Right. He never was the overseer.

Robert Stone:

Who was the overseer?

Gamaliel Penn:

The overseer was Bishop M. L. Jewell.

Robert Stone:

Okay.

Gamaliel Penn:

He was assistant to her.

Robert Stone:

Okay.

Gamaliel Penn:

He was her assistant overseer, so he became a great minister, teacher, and he would teach and then when we would switch to service he would play his steel guitar.

Robert Stone:

Uh-huh.

Gamaliel Penn:

Plus he was the bus driver of a custom stage coach.

Robert Stone:

Really? What was that like, the stage coach?

Gamaliel Penn:

The stage coach was a Prevost.

Robert Stone:

A what?

Gamaliel Penn:

A Prevost bus, that was the name of it, Prevost. That was the make and model.

Robert Stone:

P-R-E-V-O?

Gamaliel Penn:

S-T.

Robert Stone:

Okay.

Gamaliel Penn:

It would travel all around the country and it was basically built for him and Bishop Jewell’s liking [inaudible] and the kitchen and things-

Robert Stone:

Oh, that’s a great idea.

Gamaliel Penn:

Yeah. They’d travel all around the country. We’d normally tour for two months before we’d come back in.

Robert Stone:

You say we. You were traveling with them?

Gamaliel Penn:

Yeah, after… I went around when I was nine years old.

Robert Stone:

Uh-huh.

Gamaliel Penn:

Yeah, and we would travel to all the different weekly conventions and they had houses throughout the country where we stayed at, one in Mississippi, one in Detroit, North Carolina, Nashville, Tennessee.

Robert Stone:

Was that families or houses that the church owned and set up especially for the clergy?

Gamaliel Penn:

Specifically for Bishop Jewell and Bishop Harrison and the crew that traveled with them. They had a Prevost bus, they had a van, a customized truck followed them with trailers to haul all the equipment.

Robert Stone:

Wow. Is there any photos of this stuff, do you think?

Gamaliel Penn:

Yeah. I got photos of the last bus.

Robert Stone:

I’d love to include any and all of this stuff in the book.

Gamaliel Penn:

I just have to get the … [inaudible] to get the material.

Robert Stone:

Yeah, and you know the way I have… and matter of fact, I borrowed, I’ve got one photo of Bishop Harrison from your mother years ago when I did the very first album so I can either… of course, technology has increased so I can either borrow photos from people and scan them and all and return them or if somebody has the capability to do a good scan, they can do it that way and just send me a scan either way.

Gamaliel Penn:

That’s basically it as far as I know. Like I said, he died when I was 17.

Robert Stone:

Uh-huh.

Gamaliel Penn:

But he was just a great man.

Robert Stone:

Sure.

Gamaliel Penn:

One of the greatest musicians ever. We use the term in the Christian world, he was so anointed from some time doing conventions, and you can document this, he would sit down to tune his steel guitar and people would get happy.

Robert Stone:

Yeah, I can believe that.

Gamaliel Penn:

Just from his touch.

Robert Stone:

Yeah.

Gamaliel Penn:

He really didn’t have to go into a full progression or anything, just from his touch.

Robert Stone:

Uh-huh.

Gamaliel Penn:

He just had a special, a different touch.

Robert Stone:

As far as the music itself, I can tell you some of my observations and maybe you can add or subtract. First of all, the classic Henry Nelson praise music of the Keith Dominion, it’s pretty much just one chord and drive. He starts out at a tempo and pretty much keeps that tempo.

Gamaliel Penn:

Right.

Robert Stone:

He might increase a little bit.

Gamaliel Penn:

Sure.

Robert Stone:

But my observation in Jewell is that first of all, overall the tempos are slower.

Gamaliel Penn:

Right. They slowed down over the course of time. These fast tempos back in the ’60s…

Robert Stone:

Is that right?

Gamaliel Penn:

Yeah, and it slowed down over the course of time.

Robert Stone:

Why do you think that was?

Gamaliel Penn:

I don’t know if it was because he got older, smoother, or what. And I also think people got tired of dancing to such a fast pace.

Robert Stone:

I hear you. For what it’s worth, I’ve observed similar things in some secular dance traditions. There are some… I was involved for a long time in Cajun music. Some of the better musicians that get the dancers most excited, they don’t play the fastest. What you realize is that certain musicians can really move a crowd at a slower tempo.

Gamaliel Penn:

Right.

Robert Stone:

And sometimes you might even think they actually can do it better, so yeah. I can understand that. Yeah, could have been something that he came to realize. And the other thing that I’ve noticed, for instance, I’ve kind of just noticed this across the board and of course we have it, you can see on the record we did of Sonny Treadway, every tune accelerates in tempo.

Gamaliel Penn:

Right, okay.

Robert Stone:

It starts off and then picks up speed. When he plays some of those things, six minutes or so if you fast forward from the beginning to the end, the tempo’s picked up a whole lot, but it’s deliberate. How about the rest of the band? Did the Jewell Dominion use keyboards much or basses?

Gamaliel Penn:

No, really he had through the course of time that I was living in the ’70s, his guitar player was Roosevelt Stanford.

Robert Stone:

Where was he from?

Gamaliel Penn:

He was from Indiana, from Indianapolis, Indiana.

Robert Stone:

Uh-huh.

Gamaliel Penn:

And then in the late ’70s, Ronnie Mozee was the guitar player.

Robert Stone:

Right.

Gamaliel Penn:

And then in the late ’70s and early ’80s all through the course of time that I was the guitar player and Bishop Harrison was suffering from illness with his kidneys so he pretty much mentored Ronnie into a steel guitar player and then Ronnie was the main musician as well as himself. He would play basically whenever he felt like it in the last days of his life.

Robert Stone:

Right. So is Ronnie still sort of the top guy?

Gamaliel Penn:

Now Ronnie’s the top guy. Steel guitar player.

Robert Stone:

He is? Uh-huh. Now, I know that your mother is a good singer and songwriter and is pretty prolific at all that. Do you think that’s affecting the steel guitar tradition in the church at all, that you think it might be sort of diminishing it? It’s not as important as it was?

Gamaliel Penn:

I don’t think it’s as important as it was because her style is more contemporary gospel.

Robert Stone:

Right, exactly.

Gamaliel Penn:

Yeah. They added a really aggressive keyboard player, Glenn Lee, you know, who died.

Robert Stone:

Right.

Gamaliel Penn:

He was the keyboard player. Now it’s a guy named Curtis Chambers.

Robert Stone:

Curtis Chambers.

Gamaliel Penn:

He’s the keyboard player and I wouldn’t say that the steel is totally over with but it’s role is not as important.

Robert Stone:

It’s diminished, uh-huh.

Gamaliel Penn:

Not as effective as it was during the days of Lorenzo Harrison. I wouldn’t say it’s dying out because in turn, what they’re doing is taking the steel guitar and bringing it to more of a contemporary level of playing.

Robert Stone:

And how are they doing that? Is there any way you can describe that?

Gamaliel Penn:

More of… I’m trying to see how I want to say it. It’s not as traditional as it was. More of the picking is… basically all I can say is it’s more contemporary. You have less bass action out of it. They just took the steel guitar player to a more modern level if that’s a proper word. But every now and then they will revert back to the Harrison style, now. It’s not gone. The Harrison style just is not matching with what they’re doing now.

Robert Stone:

Uh-huh. That’s kind of what I was… it is hard to describe a bit more contemporary thing. I think one thing we hit on is they’re not doing so much of that bassing.

Gamaliel Penn:

No.

Robert Stone:

And how about the band? Has the basic band changed?

Gamaliel Penn:

Yeah, the band has changed. I’m no longer there. I was also a chief musician-

Robert Stone:

Could I ask you to hang on just a minute while I change tapes? Appreciate it. So you were saying that you were a chief musician?

Gamaliel Penn:

As far as the original band when I was growing up, the main musicians were Ronnie Mozee, myself, Lorenzo Harrison, and the drummer, Carl Burns.

Robert Stone:

Uh-huh.

Gamaliel Penn:

And his son, Laban, L-A-B-A-N Burns.

Robert Stone:

Right. He’s the guy that was on when I recorded Treadway in church.

Gamaliel Penn:

Okay.

Robert Stone:

On our first album.

Gamaliel Penn:

It was mainly us. Now like I said, Bishop Harrison used to incorporate a keyboard during that time but it didn’t have a major role. It was a lady out of Philadelphia named Faye Coney, she was also part of the band.

Robert Stone:

Right, I met her.

Gamaliel Penn:

Okay. In the later years of his life, like I said, it just became Ronnie and I, [inaudible] Ronnie and I [inaudible] and he would just fill in whenever he felt like it, he could do to himself. But after he died, then my mother became the overseer. The band pretty much remained the same. Ronnie, myself, and Carl Burns. Now Carl Burns is still living, Ronnie is still living, and I’m still living, but Carl Burns and Gamaliel Penn are no longer part of the band. We can still play if we choose to but we no longer have that comradery where we were all together all the time, we traveled up and down road where it was that type of thing. Carl Burns still travels but he doesn’t leave his room. He still is one of the drivers. Now Ronnie is the only musician that is still functioning at every assembly. That is still his job.

Robert Stone:

And he has that direct connection of that continuous thread with Bishop Harrison. He came up right under him.

Gamaliel Penn:

Right, that was his mentor.

Robert Stone:

Uh-huh. That’s great. And man, he’s a fine guitar player too.

Gamaliel Penn:

He is. He’s awesome the guitar.

Robert Stone:

Yeah. And the little that I heard him play-

Gamaliel Penn:

Matter of fact, Ronnie Mozee was and is my mentor.

Robert Stone:

Is that right?

Gamaliel Penn:

On the guitar. So I don’t know if you want to put that in there.

Robert Stone:

That’s fine, absolutely. So does that mean that you play with your fingers rather than a pick?

Gamaliel Penn:

Right.

Robert Stone:

Uh-huh. Let’s talk about the Jewell Dominion guitar style. What I’ve noticed is finger picking.

Gamaliel Penn:

Right, we never play with a flat pick. Our style is more in the line of Wes Montgomery. Just finger and thumb.

Robert Stone:

Uh-huh. And I know Ronnie sometimes does the alternating bass thing with his thumb, what some people call thumb picking where you keep the rhythm with your thumb.

Gamaliel Penn:

We all do that.

Robert Stone:

And he also, it seems like I’ve seen more Jewell Dominion players use a capo more often.

Gamaliel Penn:

Right.

Robert Stone:

Are there favorite…

Gamaliel Penn:

They’re not using the capo as much now due to the more contemporary style of playing.

Robert Stone:

Right.

Gamaliel Penn:

But back in the day, they would use the capo.

Robert Stone:

And when they were using… of course the reason a person will use a capo is to play out of one key position and what would that position be that they were using? Or was there a couple of favorites?

Gamaliel Penn:

Well it was a couple of favorites. Mainly it was A and B.

Robert Stone:

A and D?

Gamaliel Penn:

B, like boy.

Robert Stone:

B, like boy.

Gamaliel Penn:

Right.

Robert Stone:

So it would be a A capo’d up to B?

Gamaliel Penn:

No, it would be a A capo to just play right out of the A position.

Robert Stone:

Uh-huh. But what’s a B position? B, boy position.

Gamaliel Penn:

Right.

Robert Stone:

I don’t really get you there because…

Gamaliel Penn:

Like if they wanted to change keys, they would do the same thing in E at the end of the neck, they would just put the capo at the…

Robert Stone:

7th fret?

Gamaliel Penn:

The 5th fret for A and do the same thing.

Robert Stone:

Okay, so they were playing out of an E hand position but capo’d up to either the 5th or 7th fret?

Gamaliel Penn:

Right.

Robert Stone:

Yeah, okay. I got you. That’s what I thought.

Gamaliel Penn:

Okay. And then sometimes they would capo at C, in the C position, but those were the main keys.

Robert Stone:

The fourth fret, yeah.

Gamaliel Penn:

Right.

Robert Stone:

Okay. But their fingering was an E type of fingering that they were capo-ing?

Gamaliel Penn:

Right.

Robert Stone:

Okay, that’s what I was getting to. That’s what I thought, that I see Jay kind of plays that way.

Gamaliel Penn:

But now it’s much more contemporary. Like now, myself, I don’t think I’ve used a capo in 10 years.

Robert Stone:

Uh-huh. Is there any sort of brand, certain instruments that are favorites?

Gamaliel Penn:

As far as myself?

Robert Stone:

Among guitar players and steel players.

Gamaliel Penn:

Well, the steel players in that organization for years it was always the Sho-Bud.

Robert Stone:

Sho-Bud. Uh-huh.

Gamaliel Penn:

And the guitars were always Gibson or Ibanez.

Robert Stone:

Uh-huh. What kind of Gibson? Like a 335?

Gamaliel Penn:

A 335, that’s exactly what I had, 335, an ES-135, an L-5, an L-4.

Robert Stone:

But it seems like there’s quite a few of those Fender steels out there, the eight string deluxe.

Gamaliel Penn:

Yeah. Now, Reverend Harrison never played one of those.

Robert Stone:

Is that right?

Gamaliel Penn:

No. Not that I know of. He basically just had all the Sho-Buds.

Robert Stone:

Uh-huh. And there’s that photo I have shows him on a triple neck Gibson.

Gamaliel Penn:

Okay, right.

Robert Stone:

Console Gibson, triple eight. He’d always play an eight string neck?

Gamaliel Penn:

Yep.

Robert Stone:

Do you know what his tuning was, by any chance?

Gamaliel Penn:

Hold on. Darick! Excuse me. What tuning did Rev use? What tuning did Jewell Dominion use on the Hawaiian? An E Major. I’ll hum the notes to you… (singing)

Robert Stone:

So just a major triad over and over with an E on top.

Gamaliel Penn:

Right.

Robert Stone:

Okay. That’s what I was thinking. And I know some of these guys, it seems like some of their bass strings are doubled because my perception of it is on an eight string steel, once you get to the sixth string that bottom E is like the bottom E on your guitar and that’s a pretty heavy string.

Gamaliel Penn:

Right.

Robert Stone:

You can’t keep going because your strings just get too heavy.

Gamaliel Penn:

Right, I hear you.

Robert Stone:

So they just double them up.

Gamaliel Penn:

That there is basically it. If I can think of anything else, I’ll- Like I said, he died in 1986, December 26th. He had preached a sermon. As a matter of fact, we’ll back up. The night before, Ronnie and I were playing and his last words to me before he died were, “Don’t let nothing or nobody come between you and your music.” He died the next day.

Robert Stone:

Wow.

Gamaliel Penn:

He preached the 26th, that day. His last sermon was on love, the first Corinthians, the 13th chapter, and then he had a massive heart attack on his dialysis that he had in his home.

Robert Stone:

Wow. So he must have been quite a guy.

Gamaliel Penn:

Yeah, he was quite a guy.

Robert Stone:

I wish I had met him. I was just a little too late.

Gamaliel Penn:

Well I certainly enjoyed it. Bob, I look forward to [inaudible]

Robert Stone:

Yeah, I just want to let you know and if you can spread the word that I would love to be able to further document Jewell musicians. I think you guys have a great thing going and I’d love to learn more about it.

Gamaliel Penn:

Well, I’ll help you as much as I can.

Robert Stone:

I appreciate it and Chuck talked about the possibility of maybe someday in the not too distant future, they might be able to record one of your events and I would be… I could probably with any luck be able to travel to wherever it is and be there and take photos and all and meet people. I’d love to do that. And actually, I’ve been trying to get to some of this for the last three or four years, especially… I had talked to your mom at least once and when they were going to have some kind of assembly or convention in Nashville and I just couldn’t make it.

Gamaliel Penn:

Like I said, this style of playing now is a little bit different from when Bishop Harrison was living but…

Robert Stone:

Well, things change.

Gamaliel Penn:

If they know they’re going to be recording and all that, then they may go back.

Robert Stone:

Also, I’m interested in all of it. In my business, we recognize that things change and we never try to get anybody to go back to the old ways if it’s not something they want to do. And in fact, working for Arhoolie on these records as a freelancer, and I’m sure Chuck has probably told you about some of this, that for the Arhoolie buying audience is more interested in the older sounds so the way I’ve put it when I’m dealing with that situation is that I tell the musicians, I say, “Look, this kind of, some more contemporary things aren’t going to go over as well with this label. There’s nothing wrong with the music, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that for this label, they’re not looking for that.”

Robert Stone:

But for instance, what Footie’s done, like when Footie played at the convention, right now our plan, and I don’t think it’s going to change, he did his 15 minutes as a medley. He never stopped playing his showcase. We’re including the whole thing, every note. So if that’s an indication, Footie is just fine. No way is that too contemporary for us so there’s no problem there.

Gamaliel Penn:

Okay.

Robert Stone:

Of course we would love to get Ronnie documented because I’ve heard so many good things about him and he’s such a good guitar player and like you were saying about people would get happy just hearing Bishop Harrison tuning up, just a few notes I’ve heard Ronnie play at Glenn’s memorial there, he’s got a touch.

Gamaliel Penn:

Right.

Robert Stone:

As a musician, you can tell when somebody just in the first few moments when they touch an instrument, you can tell a lot about how good they are before they even really start playing.

Gamaliel Penn:

Well you know, Rob, I’m going to say this and I’m going to have to go but I think me and… Ronnie and I have been friends since I was nine or ten years old. We more or less grew up together in the same house. He’s very devoted to the Church of the Living God. That’s his first thing. He’s very devoted to that and I think one of the main things with him not wanting to get involved, I don’t know anything about the things that you heard but I know that one thing is it would probably… if he had to start doing gigs and stuff, which as good as he is, somebody is going to want to hear him, I think that would be a schedule conflict and he would not put going and doing a gig before going to play with the organization.

Robert Stone:

Well there’s no pressure like that.

Gamaliel Penn:

Right.

Robert Stone:

I know you’re visiting there with the Campbells and they have chosen on their own to do what they’re doing.

Gamaliel Penn:

Right, okay.

Robert Stone:

In fact, we’ve never pressured them. Naturally, a record label, if one of the ways especially… well, whether the label is small or large, if they really want to sell more records, the musicians go on the road as much as they can and the Campbells are able to do it on the weekends but there’s never any pressure. Naturally, it’s desirable but no, I want you to know there’s never any pressure and as a professional folklorist, I absolutely totally respect that and understand it.

Robert Stone:

You know, Ghent has had that problem all along and actually it’s sort of double for him because not only is he devoted to the church, he’s now got… he’s a minister. He’s got his own church, so he’s always had that conflict.

Gamaliel Penn:

Right.

Robert Stone:

Even with his own musicians. I know Brundidge used to say, “Hey man, do you want to do gigs or what?” He’d say, “I’ve got to go to church.”

Gamaliel Penn:

Bob, I will talk to Ron again. Like I say, he and I are pretty close.

Robert Stone:

Yeah, great.

Gamaliel Penn:

I’ll see what can be done from a standpoint of him doing an album with me because he’s about the closest thing to Lorenzo Harrison now.

Robert Stone:

Yeah.

Gamaliel Penn:

He can do it and he’s just not going to the gig area part of it.

Robert Stone:

Yeah, that’s no problem.

Gamaliel Penn:

Well, it was a pleasure talking with you, Bob.

Robert Stone:

Likewise. And we’ll meet again soon, I’m sure.

Gamaliel Penn:

Likewise.

Robert Stone:

And I appreciate anything, you can talk to Ronnie.

Gamaliel Penn:

I sure will. I appreciate your call.

Robert Stone:

Oh, my pleasure and enjoy yourself. You’re among great folks, as you know. The Campbells are some of my favorite people.

Gamaliel Penn:

Yes, they are.

Robert Stone:

Say hi to Darick.

Gamaliel Penn:

All right, Bob.

Robert Stone:

Alrighty, take care.

 

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