Red Fox Chasers
The Red Fox Chasers consisted of two groups of musical partners who teamed up in the late 1920s and early 1930s to make commercial recordings for the Gennett label. With the fiddle and banjo playing of Guy Brooks and Paul Miles, and the tight harmony singing of guitar and harmonica players A.P. Thompson and Bob Cranford, the Red Fox Chasers were at home playing fiddle tune breakdowns, crooning sentimental songs, rattling off humorous songs and skits, and singing gospel quartet numbers. They recorded a bit of it all across 48 sides of various combinations.
Paul Miles grew up in Alleghany County, and his first banjo was a homemade fretless banjo with a groundhog head and a pot made from a meal sifter. Guy Brooks grew up across the county line in Wilkes, where he grew up hunting with his father and gathering enough chestnuts to purchase his first fiddle. The two grew up playing music together and developing a vast repertoire of fiddle tunes.
A.P. “Fonzie” Thompson and Bob Cranford both grew up in Surry County on opposite sides of Pine Knob. They both attended the same school at the top of the knob, where they learned to sing harmony from traveling shape note singing instructors. The singing instructors would stay in the community for a week or two, giving daily lessons on the rudiments of music and harmony singing. Thompson and Crawford learned how to harmonize, and soon they added guitar and harmonica to their repertoire. The two performed regularly around the area for several years before forming the Red Fox Chasers.
The two duos met each other at the Union Grove Fiddlers Convention in 1927, and they immediately hit it off. Paul Miles took the lead naming and organizing the group and writing record companies to try and get a deal. Miles eventually heard back from Gennett, and the foursome made their way to Richmond, Indiana for a tryout. Before they left, the group spent considerable amount of time rehearsing and getting their material ready. Miles later reported that the community was tired of hearing them by the time they left for Indiana.
The group recorded eight sides for Gennett in April 1928, and that first session was followed by several more. In all, the band put out 48 sides as Red Fox Chasers, with about a dozen of them featuring only Crawford and Thompson in their duet act. Brooks wrote a lot of the songs they recorded, with the assistance of Thompson on arranging. The Red Fox Chasers made their last recordings in 1929, although Crawford and Thompson would go on to record another dozen sides in 1931 as a duo. The Depression brought on the end of the band, as it did for so many others. The members had never made the switch to full-time musicians, and they all returned to other work – as a farmers, mechanics, carpenters, and plant workers.
The Red Fox Chasers continued to be part of the local and regional traditional music scenes, influencing new generations of players, including Traditional Artist Directory members, Fred McBride and Lucas Pasley, who are both relatives of Guy Brooks.