Erskine Morris (1913 – 1997)

Erskine Morris (1913 – 1997)

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Remembering Anthony Drody (October 9, 1932 - December 26, 2019)

Anthony Drody. 2012 Douglastown Irish Week
I'm writing this post in memory of Anthony Drody who passed away the other week. Anthony was the son of Joe Drody Sr. who, as many readers will know, was Erskine Morris' fiddle mentor back in the 1920s and early 30s. Fiddling was just kind of ubiquitous in the house - I never got the sense that it was something that any of the Drody's set out to work, to sit down and practice hours on end. But it was always there. I remember Anthony telling me the way it usually worked: no one would play for weeks but whenever one of his siblings picked up the fiddle, they would all be fighting over it.

Anthony was one of the last links to the living memory of the old Gaspesian fiddle music before the influence of fiddle styles began reaching Gaspé from afar in the 1940s through radio, vinyl, and later, cassette. As such, he was a great help to Brian Morris, Laura Risk, and me in our work. Anthony gave us lots insight into who the older fiddlers were, what made their style unique, and stories about their lives and music. His specialty perhaps was in supplying alternate tune titles. For example: he noted that the original name of the "Bois-Brulé Jig" among many old-timers was "The Spruce Knot"; similarly, Anthony provided such obscure and outlandish titles like "The Tune that Connie Maloney Danced On" (for "Joe Drody's Jig") and "Piss and Keep the Hair Dry" (for "Reggie Rooney's Tune").

Like many others, Anthony left the Coast with his wife Connie Ingrouville (of Barachois) for work decades ago, eventually ending up in Old Bridge, New Jersey where they raised their family and he was an ironworker. Still, Anthony and Connie generally made the trip back to Gaspé in the summers. Anthony played an eclectic repertoire of tunes learned from many sources over the years: In addition to the tunes he kept up from his father and uncle Charlie, he learned from radio fiddlers like Don Messer while also keeping up many of the old tunes he learned from his father and other Gaspé players; I even heard Anthony play southern old-time tunes he picked up from friends in New Jersey. It was always a joy to be around him at Pembroke or Gaspé when one of the old Gaspé tunes would come back to him, sometimes after five decades of not having played or even heard it.

Like many of the Drodys, Anthony had a calm and generous disposition and was as happy to sit back and listen to you or anyone else play fiddle as he was to play music himself at a gathering. In typical Drody style, time always had an unhurried quality when I was around Anthony. Simple things like chatting over toast and coffee at Pembroke, or stopping for a visit at his summer home in Gaspé - I always left feeling more at-ease in the world and like Anthony had some kind of secret to everyday happiness for the modern world.

You can read his official obituary from the family here.

I recently uploaded a series of videos to our project's YouTube Channel, and below I've shared some of the highlights that feature Anthony's fiddling. The footage was supplied to me by his niece Linda Drody. She made this home movie during a 1990 Family Reunion that took place in Haldimand and L'Anse-à-Brillant. I love these videos because they show the bigger picture as it were: music was simply a way the Drody's connected to family, friends, and their community far and wide.

I hope these videos give you some time to see this special connection between family and music and, if you knew Anthony, to remember him fondly by getting to see him do something which ran both so deep and unassumingly in who he was.

  • Here is Anthony playing the great Douglastown step-dance tune, Tommy Rooney's Jig (of which there are several versions of Erskine playing elsewhere on the site). His sister, MaryEllen Drody-Savidant is backing him on the guitar. I'm amazed by much Anthony drives the tune with a bow stroke that just glides gently back and forth over the strings. Anthony always loved this tune and thought it was the best tune that Erskine played. 

  • In the second video, Anthony plays the Bob Wills classic, "Faded Love" again with MaryEllen chording for him. I love the way that Anthony plays this with a danceable march-like tempo rather unlike Bob Wills slower and smoother rendition. At the end, there's a nice teasing moment between brother and sister at the end of the video: perhaps influenced by American bluegrass and old-time jams, Anthony brought the practice of raising his foot to indicate when he wanted to end a tune - his siblings always found this a little peculiar.

  • Here is Anthony playing "The Old Man and Old Woman" with his brother Johnny on fiddle and again, and his sisters MaryEllen and Brigid on guitar and piano accordion respectively.

  • Finally, here's a clip of three Drody siblings (Brigid, Anthony, and Joseph) all playing fiddle together on "McNabb's Hornpipe" as MaryEllen and Johnny back them up on guitar with Debbie Sams (MaryEllen's daughter) on piano accordion. You can see Anthony's mastery of the bow-work required to play this tune.

There's plenty of other good music from this same tape on the following YouTube playlist I created.

Enjoy the music.

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