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String Band Pulls In Large Crowd At Warner Library

TARRYTOWN, N.Y. – Henrique Prince picked up his fiddle and was about to play when he stood up to address the large crowd before him.

“If you want to get up and dance, go right ahead,” he said.

More than 100 people came to Warner Library to hear the Ebony Hillbillies perform. The Hillbillies are a black string band based in New York City. Every chair in the house was taken, so some patrons who came a little late had to stand up in the back.

Just before the concert began, Kinny Landrum of the Friends of Warner Library told the packed room that he was shocked at how many people showed up. “Woah,” he said. “I don't know if I've ever seen this many people in this room. It's really great.”

String music began in the early 20th century, Prince told the audience. It combines elements of jazz, blues, bluegrass, rockabilly, country and rock and roll.

The musicians performed on a variety of instruments, with some being slightly out of the ordinary: Henrique Prince on violin, Norris Bennett on banjo, William "Salty Bill" Salter on acoustic bass, Newman Taylor Baker on washboard (with shotgun shells) and Gloria Thomas Gassaway on bones.

Baker had to get up during a lull in the concert to retrieve a bag of shotgun shells so he could play the washboard just right in an upcoming song. Baker would stick his fingers into the shells and secure them with tape so he could rap on the metal board and some cymbals.

Gassaway took two pieces of bone in each finger to rattle them together and keep a beat going.

Prince told the audience string music began with single fiddle players and single banjo players.

“Somehow it gets up to this,” he said.

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