It’s no wonder that so many purists believe it just ain’t country if you don’t have a bit of fiddle. Thanks to Fiddlin’ John Carson, the first legitimate country hit had fiddlin’ all over it.
Like many performers of his generation, being a musician meant live performances. Hailing from Georgia, Carson traveled around the south for decades playing his signature fiddle. While the meager pay meant he had to work several other side jobs, one of which was manufacturing moonshine, Carson’s fame outpaced his fortune.
By the time he walked into an Atlanta Recording studio in 1923, Carson was already a seven-time Georgia Fiddlin’ Championship winner and his music had been heard across much of the United States, thanks to a gig on the Atlanta-based radio station WSB.
He recorded just two tracks: “Little Old Log Cabin” and “The Old Hen Cackled and the Rooster’s Going to Crow.” The label, Okeh Records, pressed only five hundred copies, but they sold out almost immediately, with Carson promoting the discs at his live performances. By many accounts, it was the first real hit of the genre that would come to be known as country.
Before long, he was called back into the studio to record another dozen songs, this time in New York. Carson would go on to record over 150 songs, many of them with his daughter, Moonshine Kate. His illiteracy led to some copyright issues, and legal wranglings over the songs he wrote would become a nuisance for him.
But even though he didn’t reap the financial windfall that artists of similar popularity would soon enjoy, he did lay the groundwork for country music as we know it when he walked into that Atlanta studio so many years ago.
- Little Old Log Cabin, 1923
- The Old Hen Cackled and the Rooster’s Going to Crow, 1923
- You Will Never Miss Your Mother Until She is Gone, 1924
- Fare You Well, Old Joe Clark, 1924
- Old Dan Tucker, 1925
- Fiddlin’ John Carson: Complete Recorded Works Vol. 1-Vol. 7, 1998
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