Paul Stickley, acoustic guitar and banjo player for The Back Porch Players, has been a performing musician since the early 1960’s. His career started as many musical careers do, playing popular tunes that made folks want to dance. In 1963 in El Paso, TX James Brown opened for Stickley’s band, The Saxons, on a local TV show. It seems that James Brown and his band had to beat feet to play a gig in Phoenix, AZ that evening so they decided to play first.
Fast forward to 2002, Stickley and his family make a pact to spend one night a week together to play music and sing and you have the earliest beginnings of The Back Porch Players. Things began to move quickly after they played folk music at a Habitat for Humanity event in Springfield, MO. In 2005 Stickley actively began searching for gigs that were folk music related. He also began doing historical research on the songs that they performed and realized that a lot of the music was from the 17 and 1800’s. This led to bookings at Civil War events in 2006 and by 2008 the band was playing close to 32 weekends a year.
The Back Porch Players are Paul, Carol, Barb, and Kaylin Stickley. The group also includes guest performances by Carissa Gilbert, Elizabeth Coons, and Steve & Lori Allen.
The Back Porch Players- Back Row: Steve Allen, Reth Allen, Greg Stickley, Paul Stickley, Elizabeth Coons. Front Row: Lori Allen, Barb Stickley, Kaylin Stickley, Carol Stickley, Carissa Gilbert. The Back Porch Players will be performing Civil War era music at Old Settlers Day in Waynesville, MO., July 30 & 31, 2016.
Some of the songs that they play include “Battle Cry of Freedom”, “Battle of Shiloh Hill”, “Dixie”, “Goober Peas”, “Hard Times”, “I’m Gonna Die On The Battlefield”, “Rose of Alabamy”, “Shelby’s Mule”, “Shenandoah”, “Southern Soldier Boy”, and “The Cruel War”. One song, “Follow the Drinking Gourd”, is believed to have its beginnings as a tool to teach slaves how to escape from Alabama and Mississippi to the North by using the Big Dipper constellation as a guide.
Partnered dances often accompanied these Civil War era tunes. Victorian balls were often opened by The Grand March. Other popular dances were Paddy Cake Polka, Broom Stick Polka, Virginia Reel, Quadrille, and Schottische.
When asked about finding music from the Civil War era Stickley remarked that “Finding it is easy. The hard part is performing it in a style that is not modern”. He added that Appalachian style music is the most similar to what was performed in that time period. The Back Porch Players arrange the songs to fit their instrumentation to fit the era.
It’s no surprise that The Back Porch Players believe in passing down the musical heritage of the Civil War era. “Music is an expression of the times and how life was affected during this time period,” said Stickley. “We hope to help keep alive a love of the melodies, lyrics, and history of these songs.” Some of those lyrics have a blood connection to The Back Porch Players. An ancestor of Carol Geddes Stickley, General James L. Geddes, penned the Union’s answer to “The Bonnie Blue Flag” while a prisoner of war. Sung to the tune of “The Irish Jaunting Car”, Gen. Geddes lyrics include this verse:
And when this war is over, we’ll each resume our home
And treat you still as brothers where ever you may roam.
We’ll pledge the hand of friendship, and think no more of wars,
But dwell in peace beneath the flag that bears the Stripes and Stars!
The Back Porch Players now only perform nine weekends a year. Fortunately, you can find them at Old Settlers Day & Civil War Battle Reenectments July 30 & 31 in Waynesville, MO.