Thursday, December 4, 2008

Carter Family and Leslie Riddle 1928


On the left is a photo of Brownie McGee (left holding guitar) and Leslie Riddle (right holding mandolin).

A.P. Carter became acquainted with Riddle through Sam Lyons and Riddle became the Carter Family's song catcher and teacher.

Here are some of the details:

Second Recording Session 1928

The following spring, Ralph Peer gave the Carter Family expense money to travel to the company studios in Camden, New Jersey and cut twelve more songs on May 9 and 10, 1928 including their theme song, "Keep on the Sunny Side" and perhaps their most widely known song, "Wildwood Flower."

At $50 per song, the total take amounted to $600 for the twelve songs they recorded, as much as they could make in a whole year on the farm. They split the money three ways, and with their winnings A.P. bought 70 acres of land and moved Sara and their three children into a larger farmhouse.

The songs recorded included some of their best: "Meet me by the Moonlight Alone," "Keep on the Sunny Side," "Little Darling, Pal of Mine," "Forsaken Love," "Anchored in Love," "I Ain't Goin' to Work Tomorrow," "Will You Miss Me when I'm Gone," "Wildwood Flower," "River of Jordan," "Chewing Gum," and "John Hardy Was a Desperate Little Man."

Lesley Riddle and A.P. Collect Songs- 1928

The Carters needed new songs to record and get copyrighted and A.P. became one of most successful song collectors in the history of Country Music. Most of the Carter family songs were collected and arranged by A.P. on his song collecting rambles throughout the south. He would find someone that had a song, get them to sing it. He would write down the words, arrange it and teach it to Sara and Maybelle.

One source of A.P.’s songs were African-American musicians, an unusual choice for the segregated rural south. In Kingsport, Tennessee A.P. collected "Motherless Children" from John Henry Lyons who belonged to a group including Brownie McGee and Steve Tarter. One Sunday morning in 1928 Lyons introduced Lesley (Esley) Riddle to A.P.

Leslie Riddle, an African-American guitarist and singer was born on June 13, 1905 in Burnsville, North Carolina. After a cement factory accident robbed him of his right leg, Riddle learned to play guitar while he was recovering from his injury. Throughout the Twenties, the decade after his accident, he played and sang in small string bands, at churches and neighborhood gatherings. He moved to Kingsport and was soon a regular in the area African-American musical scene.
"I played a couple of songs for him (A.P.) and he wanted me to go back home with him right then and there," said Riddle in an interview with Mike Seeger. "I went over to Maces Spring with him and stayed about a week. We got to be good friends and for the next three or four years I continued going over to his house, going where he wanted to go. I went out about 15 times to collect songs."

"He was just gong to get old music, old songs, what had never been sung in sixty years," said Riddle. "He was going to get it, put a tune to it, and record it." Riddle also taught the Carter Family such songs he knew like "Coal Miner Blues," "The Cannon Ball," "I Know What It Means To Be Lonesome," and "Let the Church Roll On." Maybelle Carter learned to fingerpick and play slide guitar from Riddle. "You don’t have to give Maybelle any lessons," said Riddle. "You let her see you playing something, she’ll get it- you better believe it."

It was Riddle’s job to learn the melody of the song. "If I could hear you sing, I could sing it too," said Riddle. "I was his tape recorder. He’d take me with him and he’s get someone to sing the whole song. Then I’d get it and learn it to Sara and Maybelle."

Through Riddle and his friend gospel singer Pauline Gary from Kingsport the Carters also learned "On a Hill Lone and Gray," "I’m Working On A Building" and "On My Way To Cannan’s Land." Through Riddle they adapted songs like Blind Lemon Jefferson’s "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean" (See That My Grave Is Kept Green) and Blind Willie Davis’ "Rock of Ages" (When the World’s On Fire), which is the melody that Guthrie later used to write, "This Land Is Your Land." By 1937 Riddle had married and no longer worked with the Carter family. In 1942 he and his wife moved north to Rochester, N. Y. and lost touch the Carter Family.

That's all for now. We'll be back to the Carter's songs next blog.


1 comment:

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