Sunday, October 18, 2009

Mac and Slim: On the Road Again-Georgia Wildcats


By May 1931 Slim Bryant had quit his electrician job in Atlanta. He was now a professional musician first briefly at WCKY in Covington, and then at WLW Cincinnati. McMichen had formed his Georgia Wildcat band with Slim (Guitar), Bert Layne (fiddle), Pat Berryman (banjo), and Johnny Barfield (Guitar). Bert Layne, Mac's brother-in-law didn't stay long in Cincinnati.

In the above picture taken in late 1931 or early 1932 at KDKA. The Georgia Wildcat line-up was (left to right) Pat Berryman, Clayton McMichen, Johnny Barfield and Slim Bryant.

By the fall of 1931 McMichen and Bryant were back in Atlanta making records. On Oct. 26, 1931, McMichen and his Georgia Wildcats with Slim Bryant and Bert Layne did a session for Columbia. The cut their jazzy western number "When the Bloom is On The Sage" and Slim's "Yum Yum Blues." Two days later they cut one of Mac's favorite fiddle compositions, "Wild Cat Rag" with a nice guitar solo by Slim and "Sweet Florene."

In between the Wildcat sessions, Mac (as Bob Nichols) cut 4 sides with Riley Puckett: "Devil's Dream," "Durang's Hornpipe," "Longest Train (In the Pines)," and "That's No Business Of Mine (Nobody's Business)." Possibly because of the economy, they were never issued.

One song Mac claimed he wrote and Slim as well, was "In The Pines." Slim and Juanita McMichen Lynch (Mac's daughter) are still getting royalties for the song. To be fair- they did a rewrite on the song, changing most of the lyrics. Mac regarded it as his and Slim's song. It was first released as "Grave In The Pines" done by Clayton as Bob Nichols, vocal with a simple guitar accompaniment (by Slim?), in 1930.

Surely Clayton knew of other versions existed before his "Grave in the Pines." Dock Walsh recorded "In The Pines" in 1926 for Columbia, hence Clayton's title. Somehow even Bill Monroe credits Clayton for the song even though Monroe doesn't use Clayton's lyrics. ["In the Pines/Longest Train", also known as "Black Girl" and "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?," is a traditional American folk song which dates back to at least the 1870s.]

Later in 1937 Mac recorded the song with his Georgia Wildcats as "In the Pines" and it appears in his 1934 songbook. For more info and lyrics:

After the session in Atlanta and just before Christmas in 1931, the Wildcats we moved to Pittsburgh's KDKA, the first radio station in the country. After a brief stay at KDKA (see photo take above) the Wildcats played at Cleveland's WTAM in 1932 before getting the call from Jimmie Rodgers in the summer of 1932.

More to come,


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