Sunday, October 18, 2009

Mac and Slim and Jimmie- Part 2 In The Big Apple


On the left is a photo of The Singing Brakeman, Jimmie Rodgers. Here's a guy dying of tuberculosis and he's smiling, thumbs up. Rodgers was a good singer, and yodeler. Whatever talent Rodgers lacked as a musician could be overlooked because of his courage.

In 1932 and for the second time in his career, Clayton McMichen was working for Jimmie Rodgers. The biggest opportunity for Mac and Slim Byrant was Jimmie wanted to record some of their songs.

"I got a royalty check last week," said Slim Bryant. "Every Mother's Day the country stations play it. It's been recorded by 178 different artists and the first was Jimmie Rodgers."

The song Slim wrote that Rodgers recorded was "Mother Queen of My Heart." It became Slim's biggest hit and Mac's song "Peach Pickin' Time in Georgia" was also recorded by Rodgers in that session and became Mac's biggest hit.

Here are the stats for the Victor sessions in Camden NJ: Aug. 10, 1932 Jimmie Rodgers recorded "In the Hills of Tennessee" (unissued) with Clayton McMichen fiddle, Dave Kanui- steel guitar; Oddie McWinders- banjo; Slim Byrant- guitar, George Howell- stand up bass; Recorded Aug 11: “Mother, the Queen of My Heart” (Victor 23721); “Rock All Our Babies to Sleep” (Victor 23721); “Whippin’ That Old T.B.” (Victor 23751); “No Hard Times” (Victor 23751). Recorded August 15: “Long Tall Mama Blues” (Victor 23766); “Peach-Pickin’ Time Down in Georgia” (Victor 23781); “Gambling Barroom Blues” (Victor 23766); “I’ve Only Loved Three Women” (Bluebird 6810)

McMichen had a short fiddle solo on Rodgers' version of St. James Infirmary, a rewrite Rodgers titled, "Gambling Barroom Blues." Mac also contributed two songs. The first one was recorded as “Prohibition Has Done Me Wrong” but not issued possibly because of copyright conflicts with Columbia. According to Juanita McMichen Lynch, Peer thought it was "too contoversial for the times." The master was put aside and then accidentally lost. A similar version was done later by Ernest Tubb. The second song Mac contributed was the popular “Peach Pickin’ Time Down In Georgia,” a song that was recorded a year earlier with Hugh Cross that McMichen copyrighted.

While in the New York area McMichen, Byrant and McWinders played a few vaudeville gigs and contacted Bob Miller, author of “Twenty-One Years” and sometime recording director with Columbia. Through Miller they were signed to record some twenty-four sides for Crown, an independent cut-rate label for Victor owned by Peer’s competitor, A & R man Eli Oberstein.

The sides for Crown include some great old-time songs. The Crown songs were: Georgia Wildcat Breakdown; Hog-Trough Reel; Wreck of the Old 97; Singing an Old Hymn; Way Down In Carolina; Back In Tennessee; Arkansas Traveler; Old Hen Cackled; Give The Fiddler A Dram; Ider Red; Blue Hills Of Virginia; Down The Ozark Trail; Counting Cross Ties; Log Cabin in The Lane; Where The Skies Are Always Blue; Bummin’ On The I.C. Line; Red Wing; All I’ve Got Is Gone; Down In Old Kentucky; Yum Yum Blues; Smoky Mountain Home; I Don’t Love Nobody; Old Joe Clark; When The Bloom Is On the Sage.

Peer set up another Rodgers session with another group of NY musicians. Because of Byrant’s innate ability to follow Rodgers, who played his own rhythm, Peer said of Bryant “he’s our regular guitar player.” Mac didn't play on the session.

About Byrant's last NY session with Rodgers on Aug. 29 he said, "We'd go over the songs for a while until Jimmie was ready. They were done in pop music style." The four songs produced were “In the Hills of Tennessee” (Victor 23736) written by Billy Hill; “Prairie Lullaby” (Victor 23781); “Miss the Mississippi and You” (Victor 23736); and “Sweet Mama Hurry Home (or I’ll Be Gone)” (Victor 23796). "Jimmie asked me and Mac to go to England on a tour," said Bryant, "but he was so sick the doctors wouldn't let him go. It was a shame I was looking forward to going. After Rodgers went back to Texas he send me a one penny postcard, thanking me. I still have that postcard."

More to come,


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