Thursday, October 22, 2009

Eight More Miles To Louisville- Mac and Slim


By 1934 Mac and Slim were heading back to Louisville:

Eight more miles and Louisville will come into my view
Eight more miles on this old road and I'll never more be blue
I knew some day that I'd come back, I knew it from the start
Eight more miles to Louisville, the home town of my heart.

The Georgia Wildcats moved for the second time to Louisville in 1934, which would eventually become McMichen's home base, and were featured on WHAS. They acquired a new stand-up bass player, Slim's younger brother Raymond "Loppy" Bryant.

"Mac went on a vacation back to Atlanta," said Slim Bryant. "When he came back he brought Loppy with him. I ended up teaching him bass and he took right to it."

When the Skillet Lickers regrouped in 1934 at the request of the Bluebird label who were trying to record all the Country stars of the 1920s, McMichen did not participate- he was busy playing with the Georgia Wildcats on WHAS. The 1934 line-up of Georgia Wildcats included McMichen and Slim Bryant, Jack Dunnigan guitar and singer, Pat Berryman on banjo, violin, and mandolin and Loppy Bryant on bass. Foster Brooks was the announcer, sometimes Dave Durham played Sax and trumpet.

In 1934 Mac and Slim published their songbook, Clayton McMichen and his Georgia Wildcats with Hoyt 'Slim' Bryant Folio of Songs. The 20 songs include two instrumentals, two songs they called traditional country songs like "Careless Love" and "Johnson's Mule" (really Thompson's Mule by Westendorff) and the rest they claim to be original but clearly "In The Pines" and "Riding On A Humpbacked Mule" should be considered traditional.

Their "In The Pines" version opens with the traditional chorus but uses different verses so it's clearly a rewrite. Their two biggest hits are included: Slim's "Mother of My Heart' and Mac's "Peach Pickin' Time." The songbook includes a lyric arrangement of Mac's great fiddle tune "Georgiana Moon" titled "Dreamy Georgianna Moon," a song I've never heard sung on a record.

In 1935 The Georgia Wildcats did a short stint at KMOX in St. Louis. "We performed the Uncle Dick Slack Show from a furniture store," recalled Slim. The experience paved the way for McMichen's later shows at Howell's Furniture in Louisville.

Alabamian promoter Joe Frank was Gene Autry's manager at WLS Chicago where McMichen and his Wildcats played for about a year until the fall of 1933. Frank moved to Louisville in early 1935. Joe lived at 3rd and St. Catherine and McMichen lived around the corner. Frank brought Gene Autry to Louisville on March 18, 1935 while they waited for Gene's first western movie in Hollywood to begin. Autry was in Louisville for a five weeks then left for Hollywood.

Pee Wee King, who later penned the immortal Tennessee Waltz, played accordion for Gene Autry briefly then followed Frank to Louisville after Joe organized a band and called King down to play. King joined The Log Cabin Boys and they played on WHAS along with McMichen's Georgia Wildcats.

WHAS also featured The Callahan Brothers; Bob Atcher and the Atcher family; Cousin Emma; Asher Sizemore and Little Jimmy. Dale Evans was even there in 1935.

"When Mac lived in Louisville, he owned the town," said Pee Wee. "Everybody loved him and his music." According to King, McMichen's shows on WHAS used slapstick comedy, animal noises and hee-haws between musical numbers.

More to come,


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