I've got to say, this is the most concentrated setting I've had listening to old-time music, and I'm quite relishing the experience.
In the lot, there are some artists with several records. It's time to tackle those now, beginning with the first star of country music, Jimmie Rodgers. His rise to stardom and lavish lifestyle during the Depression proved that hillbilly music could be a full-time, professional career. Rodgers's music included older old-time pieces, pop music, and a notable infusion of blues. He died young from tuberculosis. I've heard many of his early recordings before, but I want to take notes on which records I'd hypothetically buy over others. I own one Jimmie Rodgers record already - one his of earliest releases, from 1928, Victor 21142 Blue Yodel / Away Out On A Mountain. Both sides are fabulous.
Given as timing and historicity play a factor in my collection - I won't just grab any tune I like (though also: I won't buy shellacs I DON'T profoundly like) - my notes on prolific recorder Jimmie Rodgers will include background of when each side was recorded and when each record was released, yada yada.
JIMMIE RODGERS - VICTOR 21142 Blue Yodel / Away Out On The Mountain The one I own!
JIMMIE RODGERS - VICTOR 21547 My Little Old Home Down In New Orleans / Dear Old Sunny South By The Sea His seventh record, released October 5, 1928. Dear Old Sunny South By The Sea was the first song recorded the first day of his third recording session on February 14, 1928 (he also recorded February 15). My Little Old Home Down In New Orleans was from his fourth session on June 12, 1928. Listening to My Little Old Home, I'm experiencing my typical Jimmie Rodgers experience: I get happy and relaxed. His music is always nice to chill to and he has the nicest yodel... no wonder every hillbilly artist at the time was trying to yodel, too. Dear Old Sunny South By The Sea is by no means fast, but it has more energy in the churning accompaniment with multiple instruments. These are both standard, high Jimmie Rodgers quality, but neither song pulls me particularly in to "separate them out".
JIMMIE RODGERS - VICTOR 21757 Daddy And Home / My Old Pal His ninth record, released December 2, 1928. Both are typical lowkey guitar-only Jimmie Rodgers from June 12, 1928 session. I do like My Old Pal.
JIMMIE RODGERS - VICTOR 22319 Whisper Your Mother's Name / A Drunkard's Child His eighteenth record, released April 4, 1930. I tend to enjoy the Jimmie Rodgers music with just the guitar as versus him accompanied, as in Whisper Your Mother's Name. I don't care for this one as much as other songs I've listened to thus far. I like A Drunkard's Child, but it's still in the usual wash of nice Jimmie Rodgers music as versus an exceptional divergence.
JIMMIE RODGERS - VICTOR V-40014 Blue Yodel No. 4 / Waiting For A Train His tenth record, released February 8, 1929. At 365,0000 copies sold, this was the second best-selling release in Rodgers's career. Blue Yodel No. 4 (recorded October 20, 1928 during the first day of his fifth session) has an accompaniment of guitar, steel guitar, upright bass, cornet, and clarinet. It's a nice touch to have the cornet and/or clarinet repeating after Rodgers's melody on short breaks between singing. Near the end, all instruments go to town, playing in the enjoyably slight-chaos, slight-offness I'm familiar with from early jazz recordings. Folks who consider hillbilly and jazz very separate would do well to hear this record. The same instrumental accompaniment is present on Waiting For A Train (recorded October 22, 1928, the seond day of his fifth session)... this is one of the most iconic songs I know from Jimmie Rodgers, and the recording an vibe is positively WONDERFUL. The accompaniment works better for this side than the other. It's so, so good. I don't need to prioritize nabbing this because copies circulate everywhere... but this is one I'd prioritize over other Jimmie Rodgers records, for that Waiting For A Train. I do love it.
JIMMIE RODGERS - VICTOR V-40054 I'm Lonely And Blue / The Sailor's Plea His eleventh record, released April 19, 1929. The Sailor's Plea was recorded February 14, 1928 and I'm Lonely And Blue June 12, 1928. I don't care much for I'm Lonely And Blue. This is absolutely not the first time I've listened to The Sailor's Plea but it's not one I'd rush to buy on a 78. Essentially all these Jimmie Rodgers records here are ones that'd be good for CD compilation so I can vibe at length, instead.
JIMMIE RODGERS - VICTOR V-40096 My Carolina Sunshine Girl / Desert Blues Thirteenth record, released August 2, 1929. My Carolina Sunshine Girl is nice and a slower piece with band. Desert Blues is much more upbeat a band accompaniment with an oom-pah feel. Wouldn't prioritize these sides, but interesting listens. The band has become an increasingly prominent and active part of Rodgers's recordings. Quite a number of instruments take extensive breaks.
JIMMIE RODGERS - BLUEBIRD 33-0513 The Soldier's Sweetheart / The Sailor's Plea A record combining cuts from previous releases. The Soldier's Sweetheart is from the first record Jimmie Rodgers released. I would rather track down the original record release, since that one, coming out of the Bristol Sessions, and being Jimmie Rodgers's first, is a huge historic mark. This one isn't.
JIMMIE RODGERS - BLUEBIRD 5136 Old Pal Of My Heart / Mississippi Moon Old Pal Of My Heart was initially released July 28, 1933 on Victor 23816. Mississippi Moon was initially released August 12, 1932 on Victor 23696. Not going to bother listening.
Welp, that was tons of Jimmie Rodgers. Now onto the next recurring musician in the listings: Kelly Harrell. This is another name I know, though I don't know his material and sound as well. Kelly Harrell (1889-1942) was acquainted with recording pioneer Henry Whitter, one of the first hillbilly artists to put music to record. Early Kelly Harrell Victor recordings included studio musicians; I am familiar with this, given as I've listened to his "O! Molly Dear Go Ask Your Mother." I found the juxtaposition between the smooth violin and his mountain voice an enjoyable experience, and have considered buying a Shellac of his O! Molly Dear... which so happens to be one of the records for sale. Also to note (and which I've listened to) are his March 1927 and August 1927 studio sessions where he brought in his own accompaniment to give a rougher, more authentic string band experience.
KELLY HARREL - VICTOR 19563 Butcher's Boy / I Wish I Was A Single Girl Again I Wish I Was A Single Girl Again was the third song and Butcher's Boy was the fourth song of Kelly Harrell's first recording session on January 7, 1925. He re-recorded these numbers on June 8, 1926. The first release was Victor 19563 and the second release was Victor 20242. Given as the other two songs he recorded January 7, 1925 were released on Victor 19596, this record right here, on sale, proves to be his first release. The audio I found on YouTube might not be his first release, but it gives me the idea. It's as simply put together (or even moreso!) as the O! Molly Dear I've heard before. Beyond the intro and an extremely short instrumental break 1:45 into the recording, it's just him strumming the guitar once per chord change while he sings verse after verse after verse. That's true folk music, but it also means you gotta prioritize which songs you care about for records. The Butcher's Boy has quite the story, but I've always liked O! Molly Dear better across all the renditions I've heard of it. I'm too lazy to check if the version I'm listening to for I Wish I Was A Single Girl Again is the 1925 version, but I will say, between the guitar and the harmonica (and the solo fiddle during the break) and the upbeat feel, I like this one way better than the other side. This one I chose to listen to the end.
KELLY HARRELL - VICTOR 20103 Hand Me Down My Walking Cane / My Horses Ain't Hungry I absolutely love Hand Me Down My Walking Cane as a general song... have ever since I got introduced to it via Jake and Josh on the Flatt & Scruggs TV Show. This version of Hand Me Down My Walking Cane is interesting in that Kelly Harrell starts the first half of the verse calmer with fewer strums, and then picks up the energy and accompaniment at the end of each verse. He keeps this pattern up the entire song. That studio violinist is there, of course. Gosh, I wish he'd had a few verses where he just kept the energy up, because when that energy is up, it's infectious. It turns out that both Kelly Harrell and Gid Tanner and His Skillet-Lickers with Riley Puckett released Hand Me Down My Walking Cane in September 1926. Kelly recorded his on June 10, 1926 and the Skillet-Lickers April 17, 1926. So I guess that means the Skillet-Lickers are "first," and I already own that one. Still, the contrast with the Kelly Harrell version is fun in showing the diversity of early hillbilly recordings. May eventually think about getting this one. I'm not as pulled into My Horses Ain't Hungry, but its simplicity has its own attractivity.
KELLY HARRELL - VICTOR 20171 Rovin' Gambler / New River Train New River Train was the first song and Rovin' Gambler the second song of Kelly Harrell's first recording session on January 7, 1925. He then re-recorded them on June 8, 1926. This is the re-recording. I'm listening to the Victor 20171 version and quite enjoying it. The violin on this recording does a better job pretending to be folksy. There's a hokey train whistle blowing when the train comes into the story that feels too 'produced' to me. The other side goes even further with train noises at the start. It's pretty peppy for a Kelly Harrell recording. Both songs are ones I know well from being common old-time numbers. "Oh darling, you can't love but one!" I like the harmonica and violin duet. These were fun listens but I wouldn't buy them on Shellac.
KELLY HARRELL - VICTOR 20280 O! Molly Dear Go Ask Your Mother / Broken Engagement I've blogged elsewhere about how I enjoy O! Molly Dear. It's still my favorite Kelly Harrell recording, so if I prioritized anything from this lot, it'd be this. It's SUCH a cool atmosphere. Broken Engagement has a different mood and includes his harmonica playing; it's simple, old-timey, and good.
KELLY HARRELL - OKEH 40486 Wild Bill Jones / I Was Born About Ten Thousand Years Ago Without the Victor studio musicians, this comes off much more authentically. But I don't care much for either song.
I loved going through this Kelly Harrell stuff. This was a great dive and I like his simple performances and delivery.
I've listened to most of Fiddlin' Powers and Family's initial releases, which is what this seller has. I have already prioritized one of their records for purchase. I both love how it sounds and it has historic merit. James Cowan Powers (1877-1953) lost his wife from tuberculosis and was left with four children. Rather than leave his kids behind to work, he devised a way to take them with him; they formed a family band. In 1924, Fiddlin' Powers and his kids recorded seventeen tunes, eight of which Victor issued (and all of which this seller has for sale rn). They are the first recordings of a working mountain string band! They also recorded for Edison in 1925 and OKeh in 1927. In his later years, Fiddlin' Powers would occasionally perform in concerts while traveling with the Stanley Brothers; he had a heart attack onstage and died in the hospital shortly later.
VICTOR 19434 FIDDLIN' POWERS AND FAMILY Ida Red / Old Joe Clark According to two sources, released either October 31 or December 1924. Ida Red is great and folksy. Includes sung verses. This song evokes an old Scots-Irish feel to me, but it's actually American in origin. Old Joe Clark is one of those omnipresent fiddle tunes that I don't need two hundred versions of, especially since I can perform it myself just fine, though this has a good old folksy vibe to it. Also includes lyrics sung - among them the ancient, constantly-recurring couplet of "shoes and stockings in her hand."
VICTOR 19448 FIDDLIN' POWERS AND FAMILY The Little Old Cabin In The Lane / Sour Wood Mountains According to the Discography of American Historical Recordings, released August 26, 1924, though they also gave the same date to Victor 19449. Since this has a lower number, I'm assuming this would be the first release (why it's not Victor 19434 puzzles me, though). This is the one I'd been planning on trying to get. I've always loved the feel of Sour Wood Mountains. It has an ancient sound to it.
VICTOR 19449 FIDDLIN' POWERS AND FAMILY Cripple Creek / Sugar In The Gourd Cripple Creek is the Edison Edition; I can't find the Victor edition in YouTube right now. That... makes this one appealing to possibly grab. XD If I can't get it elsewhere! Cripple Creek is another one of those omnipresent tunes that if you can fart in the direction of a fiddle or a banjo, you can play this song. It is *THE* beginning Scruggs-style banjo tune! And this version is the typical melody I'm used to. But it's cute. Includes quite a few sung stanzas. And as far as Sugar In The Gourd, I can't even find record recordings! Only cylinders! There's a COOL churning to the song. Gosh, this is making this record WAY tempting to purchase.
VICTOR 19450 FIDDLIN' POWERS AND FAMILY Callahan's Reel / Patty On The Turnpike According to the Discography of American Historical Recordings, this was released September 16, 1924 with a cutout date of 1931. Callahan's Reel has to be my favorite tune released from the initial Fiddlin' Powers and Family recording session. Unlike the previous six tracks, it's instrumental. Although it sounds Scots-Irish, it's American in origin. Gosh, this is so so so so cool that I want this bad. Patty on the Turnpike is one I haven't listened to before, and I'm in love, too. This one actually *IS* Irish in origin. Alright. That's it. This one has to go to the top of the record purchase priority list. Both sides are TREASURES!!!
All four records are incredible. If I had endless funds, I'd get them all. As it is, I'm going to carefully peruse the internet to see which records are most likely to purchase later, and which have to be hopped on now. They're so good.
Chubby Parker was doing minstrel songs on the WLS National Barn Dance in Chicago by 1925. According to Ye Faithful, Wikipedia, he was a household name and produced many recordings of well-known folk or pseudo-folk songs (Wikipedia calling "O! Susanna" a folk song rankles me). Some of the track titles on these records definitely... well... definitely are minstrel-period affair.
CHUBBY PARKER - SILVERTONE 25102 Oh-Dem Golden Slippers / A Rovin' Little Darkey Whoo-boy, see, toldja, minstrel-period affair. Neither of these have been put to YouTube for Chubby Parker. Multiple cheap copies on decent grading are available from discogs, though.
CHUBBY PARKER - SILVERTONE 25101 Darling Nellie Gray / His Parents Haven't Seen Him Since How the heckity does YT not have Chubby Parker's Nellie Gray?
CHUBBY PARKER - SILVERTONE 5012 I'm A Stern Old Bachelor / Bib-A-Lollie-Boo Finally a Chubby Parker song on YouTube! I don't even care it's on Gennett instead of Silvertone. You know, I like him a lot better than I thought I would. He has a nice, clear, precise voice. His high notes are the best part. This recording is accompanied by frailed banjo. The start of Bib-A-Lollie-Boo reminds me of Arkansas Traveler / Baby Bumblebee. It has the sing-songy bouncy childish type of melody. Unsurprising given the title, lots of nonsense words.
I may search for Chubby Parker songs I have particular affinity to, but he's worth checking out more later. I don't care for most minstrel period music, but there might be something in his catalogue that'll vibe with me. I mean, the banjo and clear voice are nice!
I've never heard of Blind Andy before.
BLIND ANDY - OKEH 40393 Floyd Collins In Sand Cave / The Country Church Yard Ah yes, the tragedy song deal. The Country Church Yard is the common guitar + solo voice of early hillbilly. Blind Andy has a resonant voice with some natural vibrato, but his pronunciation for rhotic words can get a little awkward, as well as other odd places for twang. Not too pulled in, for my personal tastes.
BLIND ANDY - OKEH 45007 A Dream Of Home / The Little Newsboy Couldn't find a recording of either. Darn. Was curious if The Little Newsboy was the same as Jimmie Brown the Newsboy.
BLIND ANDY - OHEK 45347 Rambling Yodel Sam / Tennessee Yodel Man Blues Could not find either of these.
An absolute pioneer of country music, one of the first to record. His works have been improved upon by later musicians, but him being "first" is still admirable, noteworthy.
HENRY WHITTER - VICTOR 20878 Henry Whitter's Fox Chase / Rain Crow Bill Already looked at this one in a previous blog post.
HENRY WHITTER - OKEH 40015 Lonesome Road Blues / The Wreck On The Southern Old 97 When learning about Henry Whitter, I checked out Lonesome Road Blues. I love the song, having become acquainted with it first through Bill Monroe. Henry Whitter is definitely singing very nasally, and there's nothing special about his thunk-thunk-thunk chord guitar playing, but the recording is charming. I like it! Both sides were recorded December 23, 1923. It was released in 1924. There are no OKeh records with lower numbers, so presumably, this is his first record, too! Noteworthy from a historic standpoint to me. I've never cared as much for Wreck of the Old 97 as a song in itself, but Henry Whitter's version has a good charm, too, with the long harmonica + guitar playing. Even the one part he mumbled because he forgot the lyrics halfway through adds to the charm. I can't put this record as a priority, sadly, since there's too much to tackle rn, but I want this buddy sometime. This stuff makes me happy.
HENRY WHITTER - OKEH 40029 The Old Time Fox Chase / Lost Train Blues Two solo harmonica pieces depicting the sounds of real life experiences. Not my thing, but kudos.
HENRY WHITTER - OKEH 40063 Little Brown Jug / She's Coming Around The Mountain He's struggling hitting those high interval jumps on Little Brown Jug. XD I can see why Pop Stoneman was grouchy he could sing better when he heard Whitter records like these. She's Coming Around The Mountain goes much better. It suits his voice better, even if he couldn't get more nasally. He really DOES just play the guitar with a constant downstroke on every beat of a measure, don't he? Bless the man. The sides were recorded February 24 and 25, 1924; I imagine this was his second recording session.
HENRY WHITTER - BLUEBIRD 5259 Henry Whitter's Fox Chase / Fox Chase No. 2 Given how much I looooooove the Fox Chase stuff, I know I can pass.
HENRY WHITTER - HERWIN 77537 The Explosion At Eccles, W. Va. / The Snow Storm For folks who aren't familiar with event songs like The Explosion at Eccles, W. Va., way back centuries ago, broadsides were news songs for sale to the tune of popular tunes, usually of the latest tragedies or woes. In the USA during the start of the Twentieth Century, tragedy songs off real life events were a big deal, such as singing about the sinking of the Titanic or the Wreck Of The Old 97. So this was on trend. There were tons of these things. The song isn't particularly appealing or unique. The Snow Storm is typical affair, too. I can pass. And someone else has already bid on it, so you go, buddy. You get that thing.
Since I've referenced Ernest Stoneman, it's time to get to him. Ernest Stoneman's story is relevant to several musicians I've already checked out in this post. In addition to Stoneman resolving to make records because he could sing better than Henry Whitter, one of his earlier tasks with Victor were also intended to repeat what Fiddlin' Powers and Family did. Notice the record Victor 20294 Going Up Cripple Creek / Sugar In The Gourd matching Fiddlin' Powers and Family's Victor 19449 Cripple Creek / Sugar In The Gourd, and Victor 20235 The Little Old Log Cabin In The Lane / Sourwood Mountain being the exact same set again as the Powers crew. And Ernest Stoneman was relevant in the Bristol Sessions getting SET UP. So we have Stoneman to thank for the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers being discovered. And that's still only the tip of the iceberg for this man's influence in country music! Hip hip hooray for Pop Stoneman!
ERNEST V. STONEMAN AND HIS DIXIE MOUNTAINEERS - VICTOR 20294 Going Up Cripple Creek / Sugar In The Gourd This is far from his first recording. This is from 1926. I haven't liked most of the early material I've heard from Stoneman that's religious and come out of the Bristol Sessions. But OH. Oh. This is a COOL version of Cripple Creek! I'm shocked I can't find Sugar In The Gourd online, though I have high hopes for it now.
ERNEST V. STONEMAN AND HIS DIXIE MOUNTAINEERS - VICTOR 20235 The Little Old Log Cabin In The Lane / Sourwood Mountain Oh that's some pungent out of tuneness at the start of The Little Old Log Cabin In The Lane hahaha. And the harmony stuff on the chorus is a little shrieky. Think Cowan Powers beat you on that one. It's very old-timey though. Sourwood Mountains was also done way better by Fiddlin' Powers and Family. It comes off with better rather than forced energy, and gliding fiddle rather than sharp harmonica. Fascinating to check out the blatant "remakes" though.
It's wild how many more records I have to listen to, and there are batches of records for artists like Fiddlin' John Carson and Riley Puckett alone. But I think we've come full circle and that Ernest Stonemen is an appropriate artist to end this post on. I swear my blog posts won't typically follow this format, but, admittedly, it's nice for me to dump my thoughts as I peruse endless records.