My new painting Sally Goodin, is now finished and I should have some images next week. I did a large portrait of Eck Roberston playing the fiddle in the mountains. The lyrics are silly fiddle rhymes of course but there are some good lines and a few interesting words like doxy.
I've decided I'll do some posts on the Carter Family since I'm researching some of their songs now on Mudcat and have written about them in my upcoming Mel Bay book Country Music: The Early Years.
I'll include bio excerpts and we'll look at their songs. This will be an ongoing project because I'm not doing 300 songs at this time.
The Carter Family wrote some songs of course but most of them were arrangements based on existing or traditional tunes. In those days if you found a song and recorded it the song was your song- you owned the rights and got royalties.
Some of the royalties were huge in comparison to what many of the people from the Appalachian Mountains made. Ralph Peer, with Okeh, set up a royalty system that gave the musicians a good cut of the royalty. John Carson's "Little Old Cabin in the Lane" and Henry Whitter's "Wreck of the Old 97" opened the floodgates. Although Columbia's Frank Walker didn't offer as sweet a deal there was money to be made.
Ernest Stoneman made triple the average wage for a year just off his royalties. AP Carter knew that the only way the Carters would continue their success was to find and record new songs. Each song was copyrighted and the more and different songs you recorded the more you made.
Many record companies like Okeh were only interested in securing copyrights. Peer amassed a large fortune, not form his salary but from the record royalties.