Friday, April 07, 2006

Short life of trouble

At the 1927 fiddlers' convention in Mountain City, Tennessee, two men met by chance and together they helped shape country, bluegrass and folk music forever. Gilliam Banmon (G.B.) Grayson and Henry Whitter were, without a doubt, the most influencial of all mountain musicians.

G.B. Grayson was born in Ashe County, North Carolina November 11, 1887. Legally blind from an early age, as a young man he made his living as a minstrel, travelling the mountain communities and playing his fiddle and bajo at dances and gatherings. His fiddling was some of the best you're likely to hear, so he made a comfortable living. He eventually settled in Laurel Bloomery, Tennessee, near the Virginia border.

Henry Whitter was born April 6, 1892 in Fries, Virginia. Whitter has a mill-hand who performed on guitar and harmonica. His musical talent was not exceptional, but he was a strong promoter of old-time music.

After teaming up in 1927, the pair recorded for the Gennet and Victor labels, until Grayson's death in an automobile accident in 1930. Their recording career was relativley short, but their impact on music continues to this day. As was the tradition of the minstrel, Grayson penned songs about the popular news of the day. In the days before radio or TV, songs were a means to pass along the latest news to a largely illiterate popoulation. Several of Grayson's songs are now considered classics and are still being played by contemorary artists. "Tom Dula", which later became the Kingston Trio's standard "Tom Dooley" (which matches the local pronunciation) was written by Grayson. A list of their songs reads like a "Best Loved Songs" list of country, bluegrass or even folk music: "Banks of the Ohio", "The 9 Pound Hammer", "Little Maggie", "Handsome Molly", "Ommie Wise", "Train 45", "Short Life of Trouble" ... I could go on, but you get the picture. These two men penned some of the best known songs ever recorded. Ralph Stanley recorded an entire album of the songs of Grayson & Whitter. Buy it here

Tom Dooley - Grayson & Whitter.mp3

Short Life Of Trouble - Grayson & Whitter.mp3

Going Down The Lee Highway - Grayson & Whitter.mp3

Wow! what a great start to the weekend!
Ya'll have a good one, see ya back here Monday.


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April 19, 2006 4:41 PM  

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