Debby McClatchy
Frailed-banjo player & old-time singer
November 22, 2015
3:00 PM

Though Debby McClatchy lived most of her adult life near Roaring Spring, Pennsylvania, in the Appalachian Mountains, she was born in San Francisco in 1945. Her father's great grandfather came from Ulster during the famine, was a 49er in the gold rush, and founded northern California's leading newspaper, The Sacramento Bee. It is said that her early years in San Francisco have had a great influence on the way she lives her life, and on her music. One of the songs on her album "Homemade Goodies" is all about the way she remembers the San Francisco of her childhood, and how its early character was ruined in the pursuit of money.

Debby's mother came from the Smoky Mountains, near Knoxville, Tennessee, belonging to a family going back seven generations to Thomas Jefferson's sister. Her mom sang Carter family songs as lullabies, music hall songs for fun, and might yodel after a little creme de menthe.

Growing up amongst such a sense of history and diverse musical heritage solidly underpins McClatchy's deep knowledge and respect for the origins of the music she makes. Her powerful songwriting and occasional use of contemporary material are directly related to and rooted in her ingrained sense of the traditional forms of the music.

In San Francisco, back in the 1960s, McClatchy was being paid for playing in ceilidh and old-time string bands. Going solo, she became a full-time, professional touring musician, first going to Britain and Europe in 1968. During 1999 she made her 25th visit to Britain.

Debby McClatchy is an expert entertainer with wit and imagination. While she plays a variety of acoustic instruments, when touring she just totes her 1907 Bacon 'FF Professional' banjo and maybe a fiddle. She is recognized as one of the finest frailed-banjo players in the accompanying style and is much valued for her banjo and singing workshops. Her combination of goodtime, old-time banjo, glorious singing- with occasional outbreaks of mountain fiddling and freestyle Appalachian stepping - has made her a favorite in clubs and at festivals.

“This album's stashed full of authentic down-home intimacy and warmth, honesty and simplicity; heartwarming and profoundly nostalgic, yet never emptily or falsely sentimental, and invigorating as a breath of fresh, pure Appalachian mountain air. Absolutely addictive too!” —'til the Good Times Come Trails End CD 098 Rock 'n' Reel (UK) Issue 32, Spring 1999

“Yet another fine set of songs for voice, frailed banjo and ever, the choice of material is impeccable...treated with respect but not reverence...old-timey and vaudeville music as it should be played.” —Folk Roots (UK) No. 193, July 1999

“McClatchy has no difficulty turning back the clock and turning on the charm of old-timey music.” —The Washington Post (USA) October 16, 1998

“Debby McClatchy certainly knows how to sing old-time music. Her rich, expressive voice envelops each selection on this CD, making even familiar songs distinctly her own. She is one of the best old-time banjo players around; something that people who admire her singing often overlook.” —The Old Time Herald (USA) Vol. 6 No. 7 € Spring 1999

“Debby McClatchy has shown herself to be one of our most indefatigable collectors and flawless interpreters of American traditional music. There's a way McClatchy wraps her resonant alto voice around a song that brings a real warmth and presence to this material. She's a treasure.” —Sing Out! (USA) Fall 1998 € Vol. 43 #2

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