The Carolina Tar Heels & Mr. Foster

Not too long ago I learned that there had actually been two guys in the band going by the name of G. Foster, both playing for the Carolina Tar Heels:
on the one hand it was Gwen Foster, a legendary harmonica genius being widely acclaimed for his distinctive style including stunningly fast tongue warbles combined with some real sweet upper octave playing
(Joe Filisko: "I think the player that I studied the hardest trying to imitate it was Gwen Foster.").

On the other hand, however, there was a way less popular guy named Garley Foster, who kind of took Gwen's place after he had left the group.
Now here's the exact story...

Since their foundation in 1925 it was Doc Walsh (banjo) and Gwen Foster (guitar & harp) who had originally formed the Carolina Tar Heels. Two years later in 1927, Garley Foster joined them, plus Clarence Ashley, who played guitar too. Shortly after that Gwen Foster left the band in order to make his own recordings, as for instance with the Blue Ridge Mountain Entertainers, with David Fletcher as the Carolina Twins as well as with Clarence Ashley forming the legendary folk duo Ashley and Foster.
Thus, as a matter of fact all the recordings of the Carolina Tar Heels from 1928 on do feature Garley instead of Gwen Foster, which in my opinion is often being widely misunderstood or just not mentioned at all.

The "new" Carolina Tar Heels: Doc Walsh, Drake Walsh and Garley Foster

Garley's harmonica playing appears to be pretty close to Gwen's, however there are some major differences. For instance did Garley very often employ a throaty "rrr" instead of Gwen's signature tongue warble.
Now here are all the sound samples I found of the Carolina Tar Heels - enjoy!

featuring Garley Foster
"Her Name was Hula Lou"
"Shanghai in China"
"Bring Me a Leaf from the Sea"

Gwen Foster and the Carolina Tar Heels
"Black Pine Waltz"
"Wilkes County Blues"
"Times Ain't Like They Used to Be"
"Back to Mexico"

furthermore there's Ashley and Foster
"Bay Rum Blues"
"Down at the Old Man's House"
"The Old Arm Chair"
"Frankie Silvers"
"My Sweet Farm Girl"
"Side Line Blues"
"Bull Dog Sal"
"Are You Going to Leave the Old Home, Jim"
"When I had but 50 Cents"
"I Love my Baby"

and the Carolina Twins
"When You Go a Courtin"
"The Boarding House Bells are Ringing"
"Off to War I'm Going"


Anonymous said...

Hi maz,
I am enoying your blog. something to clarify on this post re. Gwen and Garley Foster, the three tunes listed here as by Garley are actually also by Gwen, see http://victor.library.ucsb.edu/index.php . Thanks - AC

RobBob said...

What gives with the private youtube videos? I would love to be able to see/hear them.