Truman Price / True West String Band

Music of the frontiers

Thinking about that slogan, adopted years ago
after many Oregon Trail concerts and other
historical forays: it's okay but not complete.
The fiddle does a lot: it can be lively, sure;
or exquisite and slow; happy or sad tunes,
ballads, quotes from other cultures and styles"
"Fiddle Music That Leaves One Feeling Good" -- ?

Hi! Truman is Oregon's leading scholar of music of the Oregon Trail era...
(among other music).
He plays fiddle and sings, solo or with the True West Band, and calls old-time square dances.
Below are calendar notes, a little about his play-mates; and links to videos, CDs, tunelists, and related pages
(including a little essay on the Mexican Dances for Guadalupe.)

  • The True West Band

    The True West Band plays authentic music(s) of the frontier, from Appalachian fiddle tunes along the Oregon trail into the West; influences along the way -- including at times a sprinkling of ancient ballads, blues, Scandinavian fiddle tunes, Norteno polkas, swing, etc., more below. We also do old-timey dances, including the dance calling.

    The core of True West for years has been Truman Price, fiddle, and Wes Messinger, guitar and banjo. We often perform as a trio: Truman, Wes, and either Don "Taco" Austin, Tim Crosby, or Paul Clements (see "Some Folks" below). Or a quartet. Or with other good musicians. Sometimes with son Adam Price, who lives in Seattle, on banjo (see youtube bits below).

    We don't advertise. Performances are due to word-of-mouth encounters, but we've done hundreds: outdoor festivals in the summers, weddings, libraries, for years a second-and-fourth Saturday of the month 3-hour gig at the Old World Deli in Corvallis. Good practice. A list of some of the gigs that turned into multiple repeat performances is shown below the calendars. I've called oldtimey (square) dance evenings over a hundred times. The biggest had 24 squares. We don't tour, although I play sometimes in Washington.

    Truman solo or True West have played three to many repeated performances at each of these-

    1. Artist in Schools Programs (@ 40 residencies, week or two each - @ 14,000 young dancers)
    2. Misc. programs for Oregon Historical Society (@ 40x)
    3. Champoeg Harvest Festival - many times, many forms
    4. Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, Baker City (24 shows, 2 seasons)
    5. Gilbert House Children's Museum
    6. Northwest Folklife Festival, Seattle
    7. Oregon Folklife Festival, Corvallis
    8. Portland Folklore Society
    9. Lynn & Pat Regan's Limousin Ranch 4th of July Celebrations (@ 15x)
    10. Salem Art Fair
    11. Salem Waterfront Grassroots Festival, Salem World Beat Festival
    12. Silver Falls Main Lodge - many times
    13. Silver Falls, Overnight Campground Ampitheatre
    14. Timberline Lodge
    15. Willamette Vineyards
    16. Old World Deli, Corvallis (200x +) We could go on....

    In process: currently sticking photos with the past calendar pages -
    one or two each, so far

    Upcoming in 2015?:

  • Beginning 2014... & there's bound to be more coming...
  • Sat., Jan 10, 7-10 pm: Guthrie Hall, near Dallas: Square Dance, Tru calling, Cash & Company music)
  • Jan 14: minor every-month gig at Monmouth Senior Center, with Ted Hunt and Friends
  • Jan 15-18 Portland Old-Time Festival
  • Feb 14, Saturday. 11-12:30, State Capital Rotunda, with OR Oldtime Fiddlers, part of the Oregon's 150th Birthday Celebration.
  • Feb 14, Saturday. 1:30 pm "Music of Early Oregon" for Santiam Historical Society, Stayton, solo.
  • Feb 14, Saturday. 4 pm -- naptime!! , because...
  • Feb 14, Sat., 7-10 pm: Guthrie Hall, near Dallas: Square Dance, Tru calling, Cash & Company music)
  • Feb 16, Sunday. Jam at our House
  • Mar. 7, Sat. Polk Festival, Rickreall: I'll do a half-hour of Oregon Trail music at 6, followed by an evening of old-time square dancing, no experience necessary, with Joe Huff and John Meade playing authentic old-time dance music on fiddle and banjo!
  • Mar 14 15, Sat., 7-10 pm: Guthrie Hall, near Dallas: Square Dance, Tru calling, Cash & Company music)
  • Mar 16, Sunday. Jam at our House
  • April, so far: Old Time Fiddlers Reunion at Rickreall, and calling three different square dances

    Back in 2014 - gotta move this...:

  • Sat., Jan 11, 7 pm: Guthrie Hall, near Dallas: Square Dance, Tru calling, Cash & Company music, with Jim Hockenhull, fiddle_)
  • Jan 16-18 Portland Old-Time Festival
  • Jan 19, Sunday. Jam at our House
  • Sat., March 1: Sitting in with the Wild Hawgs at Greenberry Tavern, a benefit
  • Fri April 11, 1 pm; at OT Fiddlers Convention, Rickreall, my workshop on "Fiddle for Violinists"
  • Fri April 11, 7 pm; at OT Fiddlers Convention, Rickreall, a short bit, one of many in the evening show
  • Sat. April 12, 7 pm: Guthrie Hall, near Dallas: Square Dance, Tru calling, Cash & Company music)
  • Sat., May 13: Sheep to Shawl Festival at Mission Mill; with Silver Creek Band 1pm main bldg.
  • Sat., May 13: Festival at Mission Mill; 3:30-4:30, solo, music of the Oregon Trail, main bldg.
  • Sun., May 17 - Dance in the Park, Independence, Tru calling, Cash & Co music
  • Fri., May 23 - at Bush School, Seattle (private): Music of the Oregon Trail
  • Mon., May 26 - 4:30 pm; with Adam Price, at Fisher Green Stage (the big lawn in the middle), NW Folk Festival, Seattle : Music of Oregon Trail, mainly
  • Sat June 28 - World Beat, Salem; 5:30-6:15, solo: Music of the Oregon Trail music and 1 or 2 original tunes
  • Sat June 28 - World Beat, Salem; 6:45-8:30, fiddle circle, Note: If dancers come, this includes an oldtimey dance, all dances taught!
  • July 4, 4-6 pm; at Newell House by Champoeg State Park, "an Old-Fashioned Fourth"; solo +
  • July 5, 1-2 pm; solo, for Grand Opening of Inspiration Garden, Mtn. Fir Park, 799 F Street, Independence* (*music will be entirely plant-themed titles, (plus The Swallows))
  • July 19, Sat., 5-8 pm; at Marilyn Affolter Fine Art Gallery 325 NE Evans McMinnville; theme "Wild West"; solo.
  • July 22, Tuesday, at sundown: Echoes in Time; at Champoeg State Park; 30 people, campfire, fiddle, and everything we can remember from fifth grade!
  • Jul 25, Friday evening: Wedding dance, Monmouth, with Cash & Company.
  • Jul 26, Sat. 7: Tru calling barn dance at Champoeg (barn behind the main office, access from highway), music by Worn Out Shoes.
  • Aug. 2, Sat. 5-6; solo; for Pioneer Days Celebration, with Dallas LDS, City Park.
  • Aug. 9, Sat. 7: Tru calling barn dance at Champoeg (barn behind the main office, access from highway), music by Worn Out Shoes.
  • Aug 13, Wed. Canby County Fair, Music of the Oregon Trail, next to the OT Fiddlers two-hour show 2-4 pm
  • Aug 14-17 at Centralia fiddle campout
  • Aug 20, Wed., with Usual Suspects at Knox Presby Church, their Annual Community Barbecue 5:30-8
  • Sept 2, Tuesday, at Beaverton Powells. A "Letitia Reading"; some OTrail music, solo, with Jane Kirpatrick reading from her new novel on Letitia Carson... and may do my new "Letitia's Song"
  • About Letitia - Letitia Carson, 1845: tba.
  • Sept 14, Sun, at Soap Creek, Letitia Reading, Bob Zybach's Soap Creek oral histories and music by Truman - will include "Letitia's Song.
  • Sat. Sept 13, 7 pm: Guthrie Hall, near Dallas: Square Dance, Tru calling, Cash & Company music)
  • Oct 10 - can't take part at the Letitia Reading at Oregon Historical Society, PDX; we'll be at the Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair, Seattle Center.
  • Oct 29, Wed., Pendleton, OR: A "Letitia Reading", with Historian Bob Zybach; music inc. my "Letitia's Song"
  • Sat. Oct 25, 7 pm: Guthrie Hall, near Dallas: Halloween Square Dance, costumed! Tru calling, Cash & Company music)
  • Sat. Nov. 8, 7 pm: Guthrie Hall, near Dallas: Square Dance, Tru calling, Cash & Company music)
  • Wed Nov 11, Music at Monmouth Sr. Center, with friends, 6:30-8
  • Sun Nov 16, 1-4: Jam at our house. Welcome.
  • Fri. Dec 12: (Tru & Pablo) with the Native Mexican Dancers, Guadalupe Day celebrations: 7 pm, at St. Patrick's Church, Independence [Not certain about the time! Check!]
  • Sat. Dec 13, 7 pm: Guthrie Hall, near Dallas: Square Dance, Tru calling, Cash & Company music)
  • About the Dancers for Guadalupe and similar Celebrations [Description, 2-3 photos, a tune or two]
  • Thurs. Dec 18: "AN APPALACHIAN CHRISTMAS", party for retirement center in Keizer, with Jane Keefer and Tim Crosby Note: This was a terrific, Professional show: twenty organizations around the valley would ask for it, if they only knew about it!
  • Sun Dec 21, 1-4: Jam at our house. Welcome.

  • Two regular jams:

  • General jam: Guthrie Park, 3 miles south of Dallas at 4320 Kings Valley Hwy, has been running every Friday night, 7-10 pm, for 25 years (I never missed a Friday in the first ten years or so). A very large jam - over 20 musicians each week, a large and faithful audience and folks dancing. It follows a strict rotation around the circle of musicians around the floor, although there is a dominant group who sit on the edge of the stage. Music includes country-western, older pop, folk, fiddle tunes and waltzes. If the weather is nice some of the old-time-fiddlers may move out to the porch.
  • Appalachian fiddle tunes: in Corvallis, 1st and 3rd Thursdays of each month; at Old World Deli, 7 pm
  • Appalachian fiddle tunes: There is a very nice Appalachian fiddle tunes jam in Keizer on the first Sunday of each month. Inquire here, or of Roger Applegate. Same group sometimes at our house on the Third Sunday, not summer, erratically. About half of the core group of 15 or so musicians show up at any particular jam. Here's a couple of recent tunelists. Inquire.
  • Second Wednesday every month, a few friends practice/perform for a small but regular audience at the Monmouth Senior Center, 6:30 - 8pm; come in, musicians and listeners welcome!

    1800's Reel at Newell House, solo, April 30 - Suzanne on the left
  • Busking with Gumbo, Corvallis Saturday Market - photo by Jesse Beam
  • At the Guthrie Jam, January 2010

    Some Folks

    Early on, Truman's father assigned him to learn to play fiddle like his great-uncle, a one-room school teacher in the mountains of Georgia. This began an extended process of trial and error including a few years of childhood violin training, a few years residence in Appalachia, etc. On his father's 90th birthday, he played Ol' Dan Tucker and was rewarded with, "That's pretty good" (after years of "Nope"). In between, he had studied traditional fiddle styles, played hundreds of tunes and songs, forgot lots of them, made up some, etc. He has been most influenced by J. P. Fraley, Woody Guthrie, Western Virginia fiddle conventions, the Rounders, dreams of Grappelli ... and "Pa" Ingalls as described in Laura Wilders' books! Tru's pursuit of frontier fiddle techniques has enabled him to fiddle and sing, or even call dances, at the same time, and he loves getting people involved. The collection, Songs and Tunes of The Oregon Trail , with Jane Keefer, sold 1000 copies as a cassette tape, and is now on CD at Amazon. The Luckiamute River String Band grew out of string band classes he taught, and he has also taugnt several other very succesful fiddle players. Truman calls oldtime dances, squares, etc., and was artist-in-residence for 60 weeks in Oregon schools, teaching square & circle dances with live fiddle music. He taught at least 5 dances each to about 14,000 children. He is an antiquarian bookseller, with specialities in children's literature (with Suzanne's expertise) and folk music, and maintains a small farm with a few Jersey beef. A more or less accurate newspaper feature about Truman's Fiddling was published in the Salem Statesman-Journal 9/28/08.

    John Wesley Messinger has rambled the Great American West most all of his life, but came of age in Dare County, North Carolina. This is where he had his first and only banjo lesson (what WAS that girl's name? She sure had a nice banjo...). The style is oldtime southern clawhammer. I've heard no one better at it. Wes also performs strange ancient ballads, traditional songs of the American West, and is a fine, reckless, rhythm guitarist. Interesting stuff. He is a field botanist by trade.

    Truman and Wes have played fiddle and banjo together for twenty years, and bounce tunes and songs off each other without even trying. They both began with immersion in Appalachian fiddle tunes, but have been easily distracted: Western Swing and Swing, rags, Mexican polkas and folkloric tunes, Scandinavian tunes, the Rounders, anything loose and vigorous, or just plain catchy. Both sing while playing. If needed they produce old-time square dances, taught and called on the spot. Wes' banjo style is outstanding for these dances, being dynamic, rhythmic, melodic and fast, all at once, and his memory for the lyrics of obscure ballads is remarkable. True West has performed countless times for audiences of every size and kind, including many three-hour sets of authentic music of the pioneer era for the Champoeg Harvest Festival, Mountain Men Conventions, receptions and many other events, and a Saturday night show at the Old World Deli in Corvallis every week for several years..

    Tim Crosby is often in the group. He is a gifted multi-instrumentalist in many styles, on fiddle, banjo, guitar, mandolin, bones, grin, pick. He has played with the trio Briarose for many years, and has released a solo CD of original and traditional cowboy songs, "Crystal Creek" by "Slim Crosby". He has played Irish music for years with The Flying O'Carolan Brothers. Since 2005 Tim has been so busy at major gigs with the hot bluegrass band Phoenix Rising that it is sometimes hard to book him. Tim has played as part of True West or as a duo with Truman for at least 50 events. They have enjoyed evenings which included a brief concert, followed by an oldtimey dance, followed by a campfire singalong, as a duo. Like the rest of us, Tim loves meeting people and gathering music lore.

    Taco, nee Don Austin is an absolute virtuoso on the washtub. He does not thump or thunk: he plays notes, including sizzling chromatic runs; if we are in a swing number, he takes solo breaks. I've never seen anything like it, and I don't know how he does it. Neither does he. Years ago he was a regular member of the True West Band; later he played most of the colleges in the Northwest as half of a duo, Austin & Ehart, tub and mandolin. Don makes up interesting songs, has a wonderful Brechtian voice, and is also a real nice guy. He has a four-piece rock band (tub-led, all original), and in his spare time directs theatrical productions -- many of them.

    Paul Clements and Truman first played together near Blacksburg, Virginia, after raising a log cabin on Jude Deplaze's farm... 30+ years ago... Paul has been an Oregon State Forester for quite a few years, out of Eugene. He is wild and knowledgable, an exciting fiddle and guitar player, and we have been fortunate to have played several gigs together recently. An artist. Paul also plays regularly with Wes in the Eugene contra dance band, Barnstormers. Jane Keefer, despite her PhD in Theoretical Chemistry and Physics (or because of it?) and brief career as a computer programmer for NASA, made her living for eight years by teaching folk music around Salem, Oregon (try that sometime!) She plays and teaches folk styles on fiddle, banjo, dulcimer, guitar and mandolin, also plays hammered dulcimer, autoharp, pian, etc. She has transcribed music for over 2000 traditional tunes in both notation and written tablature for the main string instruments. While working on the East Coast for several years she developed the Folk Music Index, which lists and indexes all folk music on record, based on her personal collection. Jane lives in Portland, where she teaches string band classes, performs with General Strike and is active with the Portland Folklore Society. Her 50-tune collection of fiddle tunes, in fiddle, banjo, mandolin and guitar versions, was published by Mel Bay in 2011. We played together frequently when she lived in Salem, still do occasionally, and always love the music.

    From the desk window in Early Spring . . . . . . . Same thing in June, with organic Jerseys . . . . . . . Hey, Stop Scaring My Cows! (Sept 1)

    Sometime soon, maybe?: 300 tunes done in public

    Some Video:

  • Solos filmed by Josh Meredith & Bob Zybach near Corvallis 2005, part of a presentation on the old California-Oregon Trail (Oregon Trail era material):
    > Note: We had just spent two hours finding camas roots and grubbing blackberry vines out of the watershed, and were all kinda muddy!
  • Most of these videos, and a few others, are on YouTube, some with nice comments - poke here, or just enter the words "old time fiddle" and see what comes up!

    June Apple: A bit filmed by Ray Leach at Centralia Campout August 2005, trio with Adam Price and Tom Peloso (of Modest Mouse).

    These are with Adam Price on banjo, at the Northwest Folklife Festival, Seattle, Memorial Day Weekend 2007:
  • Mississippi Sawyer
  • Wait for the Wagon
  • Frosty Morning


    Two CD's for sale:
  • Songs of the Oregon Trail CD Truman and Jane Keefer
  • Rough and Ready CD Truman and Wes
  • About the Dances for Guadelupe Celebrations

    Lessons: I have given lessons from beginning violin to advanced fiddle for many years. Several former students have become very impressive players. At our home near Monmouth, $20.

    Books: We make our main living these days selling antiquarian books, especially children's literature, and have a site at As a side specialty, I offer a few hundred books of folk music, which can be searched here. Use as keywords, folk music, or fiddle [leaves our site; return through back buttons].

    Organic Beef: We also sell some of that nice beef glimpsed in the photos above. Organically grown, mothers from a nearby Organic Jersey dairy, raised on grass, and grass hay in the winter, supplemented in the fall by lots of apples and pears from our big old trees. Amazingly good flavor - you cannot get better beef anywhere! (*recently found an authoritative paper from a New Zealand university which objectively established Jersey beef as the tastiest and tenderest - and even with healthier fat than other beef. We sell by the quarter, cut and wrapped.

    Contact -