Saturday, October 17, 2009

Mac and The Skillet Lickers: Part 4- The Music


This Blog we'll look at some Mac and the Skillet Lickers complete songs. Then we'll look more closely at Mac's two favorite fiddle contest songs.

On April 17, 1926 Gid Tanner and his Skillet Lickers cut their classic first eight sides: “Hand Me Down My Walking Cane,” “Bully Of The Town,” “Pass Around the Bottle,” “Alabama Jubilee,” “Watermelon on the Vine,” “Don’t You Hear Jerusalem Moan,” “Ya Gotta Quit Kickin’ My Dog Around” and “Turkey in The Straw.” Their first single, “Bully of the Town,” backed by “Pass Around the Bottle,” was a huge hit, selling over 200,000 units and causing the Skillet Lickers to eclipse Charlie Poole and his North Carolina Ramblers as Columbia’s hottest Country artists. Other songs from that session, "Soldier's Joy" and “Turkey in the Straw,” sold well and “Watermelon on the Vine” became another hit.

Here is a complete list of their recording under the name The Skillet Lickers, I've included the 1934 session even though bert Layne and Clayton were no longer present and the band actually split up in 1931.

Complete Songs recorded by the Skillet Lickers: Alabama Jubilee; Baby Lou; Back Up And Push; Be Kind to a Man When He's Down; Bee Hunt On Hill For Sartin Creek; Big Ball in Town; Billy in the Lowground; Black Eyed Peas and Cornbread; Black-Eyed Susie; Boil 'Em Cabbage Down; Boll Weevil Blues; Bonepart's Retreat; Broken Down Gambler; Buckin' Mule; Buffalo Gals; Bully of the Town; Bully Of The Town No. 2; Cacklin Hen and Rooster Too; Carroll County Blues; Casey Jones; Charming Betsy; Chicken Reel; Cindy; Coon From Tennessee; Corn Licker Still in Georgia (skit; Part I- Part XIV); Cotton Baggin'; Cotton-Eyed Joe; Cotton Patch; Cripple Creek; Cumberland Gap (On A Buckin‘ Mule); Dance All Night with A Bottle In Your Hand; Darktown Strutters Ball; Day At The County Fair; Devilish Mary; Dixie; Dogs on a Coon Hunt; Don't You Cry My Honey; Don't You Hear Jerusalem Moan; Down Yonder; Drink 'Em Down; Everyday Will Be Sunday, By & By; Fiddlers' Convention In Georgia; Flatwoods; Flop Eared Mule; Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss; Football Rag; Four Cent Cotton; Four Thousand Years Ago; Georgia Man; Georgia Railroad; Georgia Waggoner; Giddap Napoleon; Girl I Left Behind Me; Git Along; Going Down Town; Goodbye Booze; Hand Me Down My Walking Cane; Hawkins’ Rag; Maple Leaf Rag; Hell Broke Loose in Georgia; Hen Cackle; Hinkey-Dinkey-Dee; Hog Killing Day; I Ain’t No Better Now; Ida Red; I Don't Love Nobody; I Got Mine; I Shall Not Be Moved; It Ain't Gonna Rain No Mo'; I'm S-A-V-E-D; I'm Satisfied; It's A Long Way To Tipperary; Jeremiah Hopkins Store At Sand Mountain; John Henry; Johnson's Old Grey Mule; Just Give Me the Leavings; Keep Your Gal At Home; Kickapoo Medicine Show; Leather Breeches; Liberty; Man In The Woodpile; Miss McCleod's Reel; Mississippi Sawyer; Molly Put the Kettle On; Nancy Rollin; Never Seen the Like Since Getting Upstairs; New Arkansas Traveller; Night in Blind Tiger; Old Dan Tucker; Old Grey Mare; Old Joe Clark; Old McDonald (Had a Farm); On Tanner's Farm; Original Arkansas Traveller; Pass Around The Bottle And We'll All Take a Drink; Please Don't Get Offended; Polly Put the Kettle On; Polly Wolly Doodle All The Day; Possum and Taters; Possum Hunt On Stump House Mountain; Practice Night with Skillet Lickers; Prettiest Little Girl in the County; Pretty Little Widow; Prohibition, Yes or No; Prosperity And Politics; Ricketts Hornpipe; Ride Old Buck to the Water; Rocky Pallet; Rock That Cradle Lucy; Roving Gambler; Rufus; Run Jimmie Run; Rye Straw; Sal's Gone (Down) to the Cider Mill; Sal, Let Me Chaw Your Rosin Some; Settin' In The Chimney Jamb; She'll Be Coming Around The Mountain; Shortenin' Bread; Show Me The Way To Go Home; Skip To The Lou My Darling; Sleeping Lulu; Smoke Behind the Clouds; Soldier's Joy; Soldier, Soldier (Won't You Marry Me); Streak O' Lean, Streak O' Fat; Sugar In The Gourd; Sweet Bunch of Daisies; Taking The Census; Tanner's Boarding House; Tanner’s Hornpipe; Tanner's Rag; There'll Be A Hot Time In The Old Town Tonight; They Gotta Quit Kicking my Dog Around; Tra-Le-La-La; Turkey in the Straw; Uncle Bud; Watermelon Hanging On the Vine; Where Did You Get That Hat; Whoa, Mule, Whoa; Wild Horse; Work Don't Bother Me; Wreck Of Old Ninety-Seven; Ya Gotta Quit Kicking My Dog Around.

Let's look at two of the songs that were important to Clayton throughout his career that he recorded with the Skillet Lickers.

Bile Them Cabbage Down recorded by the Skillet Lickers in Oct. 1927. This was one of Clayton's show pieces. He used the song to win many of his competitions. Curiously he doesn't includes it in his 1934 songbook. Then he says in his 1959 interview that Bile Dem Cabbage Down was one of his songs, indicating that he wrote it. He said he wrote it in 1938 or 39 when he was refering to his Georgia Wildcats recording for Decca in 1937. Somehow, the fact that he recorded the song with the Skillet Lickers was completely erased from his memory. He had been bitter for many years about the Skillet Lickers- it was his band and Gid somehow got all the credit.

Mac's attachment to the song is similar to other early country artists like the Delmore Brothers who, once they recorded a song, it was their property, even if they didn't write it. Sometimes by writing a new verse or two that was enough for them to feel like they'd written the song.

The sense of ownership was strong. I heard, and this is not substantiated, that Mac wouldn't let other performers play or record Bile Them Cabbage Down and was even in some verbal and legal scuffles over the song. [Hannah Boil Dat Cabbage Down was published by Sam Lucas in 1878] The surprising thing is Mac, who was friends with Fiddlin' John Carson, must have know Carson recorded the song in 1924. Other Atlanta performers like Earl Johnson played and recorded it. This was a song the top fiddlers in Atlanta knew- so it's hard to understand Mac's lapse.

Pretty Little Widow was recorded by the Skillet Lickers in 1928 when Lowe Stokes was aboard. This is another of Mac's show pieces and contest numbers. In the 1959 interview he relates that it was one his father's songs. He taught it to Mac circa 1910 when the youngster would accompany his father and family to the local dances. Mac, his father and uncles played fiddle and his mother played straws. His grandmother used to play banjo but she was getting older now and didn't play publicly anymore.

In the interview Mac relates how the folks in Nashville [Hank Garland and Red Foley] copied his father's song and called it "Sugarfoot Rag." Mac bemoans the fact that even if he raised hell there's nothing that can be done about it. [The song was first recorded by Fiddlin' John Carson in 1925 as "Old Frying Pan and Old Camp Kettle."] The Skillet Licker's excellent version includes some banter at the beginning and verses sung by Riley Puckett. [For a complete transcription see my web-site: ]

Pretty Little Widow- Skillet Lickers 1928
Mac to Bert: Well Zeke, how're you doing with the little widder now?
Bert as Zeke: Oh boy fine, fine.Mac: They tell me you're gettin' up quite a case up there is that so?
Bert as Zeke: You bet.
Mac: I just learned a new tune called the "Little Widder," I'm gonna play it for you and her. Riley you sing it now.
Riley: Let's go


Lawd Lawd, what a pretty little widder,
If I was a young man I'd go and git 'er.


Lawd-- what a pretty little widder,
Black my boots and I'll go and git 'er.


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