Monday, December 15, 2008

Carter Family- The Depression Years- Recording With Jimmie Rodgers


I've gone through all the 292 original Carter Family songs. Whew! The information about the sources of the Carters songs has been posted on the Mudcat Discussion Forum and we're trying to decide the best way to present it.

We'll be looking at the rest of the Carters songs on my blog over the next few weeks and I'll post the I-J-K titles soon. For now let's look at how the Carter Family fared during the first years of the Great Depression 1929-1933.

The Depression Years- Recording With Jimmie Rodgers

Economically and emotionally these were trying times. Unlike many groups, the popular Carter Family recorded with Victor throughout the Great Depression (1929-34) years at least twice every year from 1929 to 1932. Even though their sales dropped drastically they still outsold other Country groups. Recording and performing did not bring in as much money, and A.P.'s erratic personal habits contributed to stress at home. In 1929, A.P. sought work in Detroit for several months, while Maybelle and her husband, Ezra, followed his railroad job to West Virginia, and, in 1931, to Washington, D.C. The recording business would not recover until the mid-1930s.
Ralph Peer hatched up the idea for the first all-star team-up in country music, bringing the Carter Family and Jimmie Rogers together to record. June Carter Cash, "They recorded with Jimmy Rodgers, and I remember once that mother said Jimmy was too sick to play his guitar so she played it for him."

The session began in Louisville, Kentucky on June 10, 1931 with "Why There’s a Tear in My Eye" and "The Wonderful City." A.P., who did not sing or play, contributed the song, "Why There’s a Tear in My Eye" and had some lines in the skits. A.P’s song as many collected came from other sources, "An Old Man’s Story" was copyrighted by Carson Robinson in 1928. On June 11 Jimmie recorded "Let Me Be Your Side Track" and the whole group recorded their song-and-spoken-word skits "The Carter Family and Jimmie Rogers in Texas" and "Jimmie Rogers Visits The Carter Family." On June 12 the first skit was redone to its released form.
The first release by the two top Country recording artists for Victor was "Jimmie Rodgers Visits the Carter Family" backed by Rodgers "Moonlight and Skies." The single was a big success by post 1929 standards, selling 24, 000 copies. Curiously, the other songs from that session (except Jimmie’s solo "Let Me Be Your Side Track") were released five years later, long after Rodgers was dead.

"The Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers in Texas," though recorded in Kentucky, asks the listener to imagine the Carters paying a visit to Jimmie in the Lone Star State. The number begins with Jimmie offering a short-lived snatch of song on 'Yodelling Cowboy', switches into repartee as the three Carters knock at the door, and then segues into Jimmie and his guests performing "T for Texas."

In 1932 Peer renewed the Carters' contract, this time with himself instead of Victor. The five-year contract gives the Carters $75 per song and guaranteed them four songs per year; Peer takes all the royalties. Peer was leaving Victor after conflicts with Eli Oberstein his replacement.

This was a bad deal for the Carters, who remained loyal to Peer. Oberstein tried to persuade the Carters to remain with Victor where they would, in addition to receiving a song guarantee continue to receive royalties.

That's all for now,


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