Friday, November 13, 2015
Continuing in the vein of recent posts, here is another vinyl era reissue of great vintage roots recordings from the RCA Victor catalog, the 1974 offering "Bluegrass For Collectors". None of the ten songs comprising the album are exactly bluegrass; even the Bill Monroe tracks are from his 1940/41 pre-banjo Atlanta sessions. It is, however, a stellar collection of the type of southeastern old time and country music that was highly influential on the development of bluegrass music, perhaps that where the "For Collectors" angle comes in. At the very least this LP is a worthwhile compilation and a thoroughly enjoyable listen!
Liner notes are as follows:
Alan Lomax called Bluegrass “Folk music in overdrive.” Its fast tempos, close harmonies and banjo melody lines give it an excitement that has been rediscovered by those old enough to remember its evolution in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Bluegrass has also been newly discovered by young Americans who have elevated it from an underground music to one of the newest and most popular attractions on the college campus. Thanks to the dedication of a few country musicians—most notably Bill Monroe—who refused to add to this music new electric amplification for their instruments, Bluegrass today remains pure and little removed from the styles of its origin, the music retains the elements that made it the people’s music of the southern Appalachians.
Certainly the invention of the phonograph from a musical standpoint is nothing short of phenomenal. And with this ability to indefinitely preserve music and musical performance has developed a new breed of men whose interests lay not only in “what’s new” in music but in its past glories. They are the keepers of the flame. They are the record collectors and sometimes it is the collector with his hoard of old records who has been the only remaining source for certain performances. To the serious collector then, this album of timeless Bluegrass treasures is most sincerely dedicated. And to these collectors we furnish below the all-important vital statistics concerning this impressive assemblage of Bluegrass stars and their recordings.
BILL MONROE AND HIS BLUEGRASS BOYS recorded Mule Skinner Blues in Atlanta on October 7, 1940 in a session that produced seven other songs in a short two hours and fifteen minutes. Bill revived the Jimmie Rodgers tune with the help of the Bluegrass Boys; Clyde Moody’s guitar, Tommy Magnes’ violin, Bill Westbrook’s bass and Bill’s own mandolin. Almost one year later, on October 2, 1941, back in Atlanta they recorded the Clayton McMichen and Slim Bryant song In the Pines.
CHARLIE MONROE AND HIS KENTUCKY PARDNERS recorded two of his own compositions, the favorite Mother’s Not Dead, She’s Only Sleeping and the moody Down in the Willow Garden. The first was cut in Atlanta on September 30, 1946 and the latter in Chicago on March 24, 1947. Bill Sickler joins Charlie to sing the harmony parts.
J. E. MAINER AND THE MOUNTAINEERS recorded both these titles in Atlanta on August 6, 1935 in a marathon session that started at 8 AM and produced fourteen sides. Zeke Morris is heard singing This World Is Not My Home and he is joined by Wade Mainer on New Curly Headed Baby, Daddy John Love and J. E. himself filled out the instrumentation of banjo, violin and two guitars.
RILEY PUCKETT was recorded alone on When It’s Peach Pickin’ Time in Georgia, another well accepted McMichen melody. The date was October 2, 1941 and the place was Atlanta. In fact, Riley’s session immediately followed the one previously mentioned by Bill Monroe. This legendary blind guitarist had earlier recorded in Atlanta, on February 5, 1940, but that time he was accompanied by an unidentified accordionist. The song When I Grow Too Old to Dream was not from the southern root source of most Bluegrass but an Oscar Hammerstein II and Sigmund Romberg success that proves an interesting example of the music form’s vast possibilities.
GID TANNER AND HIS SKILLET LICKERS cut both Back Up and Push and Skillet Licker Breakdown in San Antonio, Texas, on March 29, 1934. This session, described by the producer Elmer Eades as “a rip-roaring wild free-for-all,” also produced their biggest hit, “Down Yonder,” and for almost thirty years that hit, coupled with Back Up and Push, was consistently featured on the rural jukeboxes of the south and southwest.
1. Bill Monroe-Mule Skinner Blues
2. J.E. Mainer-This World Is Not My Home
3. Riley Puckett-When I Grow Too Old to Dream
4. Gid Tanner-Skillet Licker Breakdown
5. Charlie Monroe-Mother's Not Dead, She's Only Sleeping
6. Charlie Monroe-Down in the Willow Garden
7. Riley Puckett-When It's Peach Pickin' Time in Georgia
8. J.E. Mainer-New Curly Headed Baby
9. Gid Tanner-Back Up and Push
10. Bill Monroe-In the Pines