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Thomas Maupin with Daniel Rothwell and Jay Bland: Old-Time Buck Dance

Posted Aug. 20, 2012, at 2:30 p.m.
Last modified Aug. 21, 2012, at 11:15 a.m.

Thomas Maupin of Murfreesboro, Tenn. is is one of America’s best known buck dancers. His many accomplishments can hardly be listed in one article. He is a recipient of the Tennessee State Governor’s Folklife Heritage Award, Old-Time Herald Heritage Award and the Uncle Dave Macon Days Trailblazer Award. Thomas has won more than 60 first place titles including the National Championship which he has won six times, as well as state championships in Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama, just to name a few.

Maupin, 73, began buck dancing at a very young age in Eagleville, Tenn., when he learned from his grandmother, who as an old lady danced barefoot on the wooden floor at home. He learned by trying to emulate her sound. Like any buck dancer, Maupin learned one step at a time and improvised to add or change steps to create new dances.

Music has long been in Maupin’s family. His father’s family often danced at weekend hoedowns or barn dances. And while his mother didn’t dance, according to Maupin she had rhythm thanks to a family of dancers.

“You play the tune with your feet,” Maupin told a reporter in 2009 when he won the Uncle Dave Macon Trailblazer Award. “When I am dancing I become a part of that tune. I become an instrument.”

Buck dancing is an old-time solo dance style relying heavily on the balls and heels of the foot. While it can be taught, Maupin says the style is very individualistic. It’s similar to clogging, except where cloggers involve aerobic moves and high kicks, buck dancers keep their feet low to the ground. It’s all about the ball and heel, and there are only so many moves; it’s all how the dancer keeps in time with the music and moves from one dance to the next.

Jay Bland, champion dancer, will dance with Maupin. Bland “represents the best and brightest of a new generation of traditional old-time musicians and dancers who are proudly reviving early American history.” Bland travels all year long throughout the U.S. leading and teaching dance demonstrations. Years of practice and learning from great folk masters have garnered him prestigious titles and first-place awards presented at national and regional championships spanning more than a decade of his tremendously successful career. His feet are a musical instrument and are a popular part in reviving America’s history in the old-time folk dance scene today.

Daniel Rothwell will play a rambunctious, clawhammer-style banjo. Rothwell was first introduced to the clawhammer style at age 2, and was enamored with the banjo from there on. Maupin, his grandfather, took him to old-time and bluegrass festivals when he was a boy, and he began playing the banjo at age 11. He’s self-taught, but has learned pointers from some of the best.

Danny Rothwell, Daniel’s dad, backs the group on guitar. He’s played since the 70s, and after putting his music career on hold to raise his family, he’s returned. Danny mostly plays rhythm and occasionally sings.

Jackie Case rounds out the group on bass. He’s also played since the 70s and has become a familiar face at bluegrass festivals. Like Danny, he took a break from music to raise his family, but he’s back in the business. He’s one of the few bass players who use the percussive “slap” technique. He’s played with everyone from The Rolin Holler Bluegrass Boys to The Summertime Bluegrass Reunion Band, and played many venues, including the Grand Ole Opry.

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