When the New Old-Time String Band starts picking and grinning tomorrow night at Mason District Park in Annandale, Odell "Speedy" Tolliver, a genuine (pronounced jen-YOO-wine) Virginia folk music legend, once again will be showing a local audience how it was, is and should be done.
Tolliver was already an acknowledged bluegrass whiz kid in 1939 when, at 20, he packed his banjo and headed north from his home town of Green Cove in southwestern Virginia. Tolliver had been convinced by a fiddle-playing friend that large audiences of Appalachian natives who had come to the Washington area for work during the Depression were in sore need of down-home entertainment.
As a member of the Lee Highway Boys, Speedy -- who got his nickname because he often seemed to be in no particular hurry to get anywhere -- found those audiences in Fairfax, and the band was a staple on local radio, at hoedowns and at rowdy roadhouses such as Centreville's Hunter's Lodge.
Switching from banjo to fiddle, Tolliver made seminal recordings of such songs as "Ida Red" with Frank Blevins of North Carolina during his heyday and performed with legends such as Roy Clark and Eddie Stoneman.
Though Tolliver retired as a professional musician in the '50s, he has continued to appear with groups such as the New Old-Time String Band, which features Andrew Acosta on guitar, mandolin and vocals; Rosser Clark on guitar and vocals; and Pat MacCauley on banjo and vocals.
Tomorrow's free concert is part of the Fairfax County Park Authority's "Spotlight By Starlight" series and is co-sponsored by the Friends of Mason Park. For more information, call 703-941-1730.