Are you ready to dance? One of the fun features of Old Settlers Day, this year, will be the period dance held during the annual event. The public is invited to show up in period clothes, or not, if they choose, and dance the night away.

Get ready to dance to an eclectic collection of folk,gospel, and Civil War music from the 1700’s, 1800’s, and early 1900’s performed by the Back Porch Players at Old Settlers Day on Saturday, July 29 at 7:30 p.m.

The Daily Guide was curious about this band that seems determined to keep old time songs and melodies alive, so we spoke with Paul Stickley, a core member of the group to find out a little bit more about them.

From the voice of an experienced caller, anyone can learn how to dance to a grand march, a battle call of freedom or perhaps a half dance or polka.  Dance callers, Vickie and George, teach the steps for each dance during the performances.  

The Back Porch Players core group is Paul Stickley, Barb Stickley, Kaylyn Stickley and Fred Meyers.  The group enjoys singing and playing songs and gospel tunes from the 1700, 1800 and 1900’s, specializing in music from the civil war era.     

Their goal is to “keep alive the love of the melodies, lyrics, and history of these songs for present and future generations.  We want you to experience life the way it was during the 1860’s.”

Many members of the group play more than one instrument and some of the instruments are not the ones you’d see in a typical band.

Paul plays acoustical guitar and banjo. Gary plays upright bass. Kaitlin plays a fiddle,made in the 1700’s and handed down through the family, violin, bodhran (Irish drum)  and guitar. Barb plays violin and viola. Carissa Gilbert plays ukulele and sings and they all play a  variety of rhythm instruments including washboard, wood block, tambourine, and penny whistle.  

Paul Stickley has lived in Missouri most of his life and can claim local status. He moved to Waynesville when he was in 5th grade and graduated from Waynesville High School in 1962. After graduation, He enlisted in the Air Force and started playing guitar as a way to relax.  He formed a dance band with other Air Force musicians, performing pop and country music. After the Air Force, he continued playing with other pop and dance bands.  He played for relaxation in between his other jobs.Then he retired, from work, not music.

Stickley, started practicing and playing folk music on the back porch with his granddaughter, Kaylin.  They were often joined by Barb, who happens to be his daughter-in-law,  and his late wife Carol.

The group started playing at garage sales and neighborhood events.  Via word of mouth, their popularity grew and the number of events where they performed also increased. They played at many fundraisers in Springfield.

After performing at Habitat for Humanity, in Springfield, the group decided to refine their style of music to more of an appalachian style music, “ mountain music”   because, as Paul said, “Appalachian music is most similar to the style of music from the civil war era.”

Appalachian music has it's roots in European and African music.  It includes  English and Irish ballads, Irish and Scottish traditional music, (fiddle music) hymns, and African blues.  Banjo, fiddle and guitar are the instruments typically used to perform Appalachian music.

In 2005, the group performed at their first Civil War reenactment at Hulston Mill, in Dade County, Missouri.  This mill changed hands about 12 times during the Civil War.

After playing at the reenactment, the group decided they needed a name.  They decided to name the group the Back Porch Players because that's where they first started practicing.

Over the years the band has gained popularity and is in high demand to perform at Civil War reenactments and other old time era types of events.
“Music is an expression of the times and how life was affected during this time period,” said Stickley.   “We hope to help keep alive a love of the melodies, lyrics, and history of these songs.”

On June 17th, 2016, Carol, Paul’s wife, and bass player with the Back Porch Players, passed away from pancreatic cancer.     

Stickley commented, “We love her and miss her and continue to play her favorite songs in remembrance of her. “

The Back Porch Players band will perform “Never Grow Old” and “ Wayfaring  Stranger,” two of her favorite songs, at Old Settlers Day, keeping her legacy and love of music alive.