Saturday, October 17, 2009

Mac and Slim: On the Road Again


By 1931 the Great Depression had brought the record industry to its knees. People just didn't have money for records. They did listen to the radio, and the radio needed music- back then there was only live music. WSB, the Atlanta station, didn't pay their old-time performers. Mac's band, The Home Town Boys, would continue to play on WSB off and on until 1931. According Clayton from Clayton McMichen Talking: "We kept playing up there [WSB], goin' up there, and we got tired of playing for nothin'. We'd quit and then go back."

Slim and Mac decided to try their luck elsewhere. They headed for Cinncinati Ohio and WLW, a station that paid a salary to their performers. "We knew that there was money in radio so we started looking for work," explained Bryant. "In early 1931 McMichen, Bert Layne, a singer named Cox, and me went to WLW in Cincinnati. They didn't have a place for us right then because they had just signed Otto Gray and his Oklahoma band. So we went back across the Ohio River and auditioned at WCKY in Covington, KY."

WCKY was interested in hiring the band, if they could bring popular Skillet Licker singer Riley Puckett. Cox, who already had a good job in Atlanta, dropped out and Riley agreed to go. So a new band was formed, named "The Skillet Lickers" with three original members; Bert Layne (fiddle), Mac (Fiddle), Riley (guitar and vocals) and Slim Bryant (guitar). Junaita gave me an original silver point photo on the WCKY Skillet Lickers.

At WCKY The Skillet Lickers got a weekly salary and a percentage of the money they earned playing shows around town. The station owner had several theaters and they played any venues they could find. At one show in Cincinnati there was a line of people three blocks long waiting to get in. Word of the sold out show got back WLW Cincinnati management and they offered The Skillet Lickers an opportunity at WLW for more money and a better percentage of our receipts.

Because they had a contract with WCKY they hired a lawyer and Mac agreed to leave Riley Puckett at WCKY. Gid Tanner and Bill Helms came up to play with Riley and WCKY kept the Skillet Lickers on their station. Slim, Bert and Mac went on to WLW. Mac picked up banjoist Pat Berryman and guitarist Johnny Barfield for the WLW show.
According Mac from Clayton McMichen Talking: "Gid and Riley couldn't do what Clayton and Bert and Slim could do. We's on WLW and they's on WCKY. And oh we gave em a lickin'."

With two Skillet Licker groups playing on the radio Mac changed his band permanently to The Georgia Wildcats.

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