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Clint Howard

Clint Howard received a huge ovation at the 1963 Newport Folk Festival and appeared on nearly a dozen albums. Yet he hardly lived a showbiz lifestyle; he raised his children as a welder and small-time farmer growing corn and beans and raising cattle. He hailed from the richly musical Mountain City area of Tennessee, deep in the heart of the Appalachians, and was most widely known through his association with one of that area's superstars of folk and old-time music, Doc Watson. Both Howard's mother and father sang old-time ballads of the type William Clinton Howard would eventually perform himself. His first exposure to these songs were as bedtime lullabies, and he also recalled his mother accompanying herself on the dulcimer. The lad himself didn't work up a full head of steam about music until he was a teenager, however. His father had bought him a guitar when he turned 11, but it was not until almost a decade later that he was beginning to perform regularly. Once he started getting serious, there was no hesitation at all in dropping by the house of Clarence "Tom" Ashley for some pointers, as this had been the neighborhood musical hangout for types such as Arthel "Doc" Watson and fiddler Fred Price all along. An attempt was made to capture the relaxed atmosphere of this mountain music haunt on two volumes of Folkways' Old Time Music at Clarence Ashley's, one of several fine recordings featuring Watson made with his neighborhood friends. Watson himself picked out the Old Timey Concert collaboration with Howard as one of his own personal favorites from a mountainous discography, proving that a blind man can indeed rummage through a huge pile of records and find the best stuff. Howard became known for stepping forward and performing old-time music warhorses such as "Footprints in the Snow" and "The Old Man at the Mill." His impact on audiences during the '60s folk revival was not to be slighted, sometimes leaving educated journalists at a total loss for descriptive ideas. One such reviewer offered astonishment that such simple mountain people could be capable of the intense and complex outpourings of emotion found in a song such as "Maggie Walker Blues." Ashley's own career went into a brief second wind during this period with a band that included Watson, Howard, and Price. Is it beyond ridiculous to stress that there is no connection between this Clint Howard and the actor who played the title role of the Ice Cream Man, an actor usually described as "Ron Howard's odd-looking brother?" Actually, because of the Appalachian connection, as well as the matching names, there are those who are foolishly led to believe there is indeed a link. After all, the hang out of the old-time musician Clint Howard, Watson, and the rest of the gang was just a few hills over from good old Mayberry, where Ron Howard presided as the sheriff's son, Opie, for years. There was even some old-time music on the Andy Griffith Show from time to time, so it is possible one of these guys is Clint Howard, whose name pops up in the credits sometimes. No, no, no. The closest the old-time picker got to prime time television was a segment of Pete Seeger's great series Rainbow Quest. As for the Ice Cream Man, please reference Molly and Matt's List of Top Ten Winter Movies. ~ Eugene Chadbourne
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