Saturday, October 17, 2009

Mac and The Skillet Lickers- Part 5


This is my last installment for now of Mac and The Skillet Lickers.

On the left you can see a photo of Slim Byrant who became Mac's guitarist for most of the 1930s. Here's a trivia question for you: When did Slim Byrant first play with the Skillet Lickers?

You can check some of the great articles on Slim by Rich Kienzle but you won't find the answer there. I actually found it out from Slim, himself.

The year was 1929 and Slim was invited by McMichen to do a road show with the Skillet Lickers. Slim had met Mac through Mac's uncle Elmer. Elmer and Slim cut one record for Okeh on March 15, 1929. This is what Slim related to me about the Birmigham show: "The deal was we'd all go down the Birmingham and divide up what ever money we made. So I took off work on Wednesday and Thursday and we played at this big festival. All the Skillet Lickers were there, Uncle Dave Macon and the McGees. I had to go back to Atlanta to play a baseball game, so I left. I never got paid a dime for the show."

Besides the Skillet Lickers, members of the Skillet Lickers played and recorded with any number of spin-off bands. Mac's main two bands were McMichen’s Home Town Boys and McMichen’s Melody Men (Usually a trio with Riley Puckett; sometimes Bert Layne as McMichen- Layne String Orchestra or Lowe Stokes). Mac did several duo projects usually under the alias of Bob Nichols: Riley Puckett and Bob Nichols (Clayton McMichen); Claude Davis and Bob Nichols (Clayton McMichen); Bob Nichols (Clayton McMichen) and Hugh Cross. Mac played with the Georgia Organ Grinders (1929 featuring McMichen- Fiddle; Bert Layne- Fiddle; Lowe Stokes- Organ; Fate Norris Banjo; Melvin Dupree- Guitar; Dan Hornsby- vocals) and also
Oscar Ford (McMichen, Bert Layne, Riley Puckett).

When Mac started playing with Slim, he found his perfect playing partner. Slim played jazz, knew modern chord comping and could play old-time country. By now it was 1930 and the record industry which was king in the mid to late 1920's was quickly slowing down. On Bryant's birthday, Dec. 7, 1930, Slim was included in his first recording session with Mac cutting a jazzy version of "When The Bloom is on the Sage." McMichen used his nickname as the new band name that weekend. "He called us McMichen's Georgia Wildcats with Slim Bryant," recalled Bryant. "I never asked him to put my name in there—he just did it."

The Skillet Lickers were over as far as Mac was concerned. Columbia, reeling from the depression, turned once more to their cash cow- the Skillet Lickers- hoping they could save the company. Mac, who was well paid for his sessions, couldn't turn down the kind of money they offered. He had a family to feed. On October 24, 1931, the original Skillet Lickers (with Clayton McMichen) made their last recordings: “Miss McLeod’s Reel,” “Four Cent Cotton,” “Molly put The Kettle On,” “Sleeping Lulu,” “McMichen’s Breakdown,” and “Whistlin’ Rufus.” The Skillet Lickers would record one last time in 1934 but not with Mac.

The band was still famous and the individual members, mainly Riley Puckett and Mac would form bands that would be called the Skillet Lickers. At one time in 1931 there were two bands with original members named the Skillet Lickers that played at rival radio stations: WCKY (Riley and Gid) and WLW (Mac with Slim, Barfield and Berryman). So Slim played on the radio on two bands named the Skillet Lickers, first at WCKY (Mac, Riley, Layne, Bryant) and then at WLW.

This prompted Mac to finally adopt his earlier band name, The Georgia Wildcats, based on Mac's nickname.

More to come,


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