Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Fiddle Favorites: African-American Fiddlers


African-American musicians had the most profound effect on the music of North America. The Banjo, the blues, and jazz are often cited as the major contributions of African-Americans to American musical culture, but it goes much deeper than that.

I know this is a theme that I keep returning to, but I don’t believe it can be overstated. The blending of African and Caribbean rhythms and syncopations with the traditional English and, later, European musical styles is what made American music unique and laid the foundation for Rock ‘n’ Roll. This blending was already evident by the time Edison invented his cylinder recording machine, so that by the 1920s, when the record companies were swarming all over the South, very little music did not already contain at least some Black influence.

Although Black and White musicians would freely trade licks backstage and at informal jam sessions, this was still the period of Jim Crow and recording sessions were strictly segregated. That is until Bud Landress, the fiddler with the popular White string band the Georgia Yellow Hammers, sat out of a recording session in Charlotte, North Carolina.

It was August of 1927, the Yellow Hammers had traveled to Charlotte to record for Victor. Riding on the same train, but a few cars back, were the Baxter Brothers. The Baxter Brothers were actually the father and son act of Andrew and Jim Baxter. They, too were on their way to record for Victor, although during a separate session.

The Baxters and the Yellow Hammers had played together plenty of times back in Georgia and when Bud Landress sat out of the session, Andrew Baxter sat in as fiddler for the Yellow Hammers. To my knowledge this was the first integrated recording session in the South. The song that Baxter sat in for Landress on was G Rag, and turned out to be one of the Georgia Yellow Hammers better selling records.

Andrew and Jim Baxter - Forty Drops.mp3

Andrew and Jim Baxter - The Moore Girl.mp3

Georgia Yellow Hammers - G Rag.mp3

Andrew & Jim Baxter recordings are somewhat scarce today. Here are a few CDs that include some of their work:
Raw Fiddle available from County Sales
Roots of American Fiddle Music: Vol 2 available from HeaHeah

Last year I posted about the Georgia Yellow Hammers and the Baxters and shortly after I received an email from Paul Shoffner, Jr. of Calhoun, Georgia. He had been working for years to convince the powers that be in Calhoun that they ought to celebrate their native sons, Andrew and Jim Baxter. Well, the folks of Calhoun finally saw the light and on May 5th, 2007 the First Annual International String Band Festival will take place in Calhoun. The festival is being sponsored by the fine folks at Old Hat Records.

I won’t be able to make it to Calhoun, I’m still working too much overtime. If you can make it to the festival, leave a comment on the Bus and give your fellow riders a report.

12 Comments:

Blogger Daniel said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

April 04, 2007 1:24 AM  
Blogger Daniel said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

April 04, 2007 2:30 AM  
Anonymous john said...

Another great disc full of Black fiddlers is Old Hat's "Folks He Sure Do Pull Some Bow" which presents some great examples of fiddle music used in early Jazz and Blues tunes. Before hearing this I had always thought the use of the violin in Jazz to stem from Django Reinhardt and his Hot Club de France and Stephane Grapelli & Joe Venuti to be the only Jazz fiddlers out there. Boy, was I wrong!

April 04, 2007 8:19 AM  
Blogger kjk said...

Check out the Carolina Chocolate Drops. The fiddler is amazing.

April 04, 2007 10:16 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

John,
Good call, Old Hat's "...Pull Some Bow" is an amazing collection!

April 04, 2007 10:43 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

Ken,
Thanks for the link to the Carolina Chocolate Drops. They will be the headliners at the Festival in Calhoun next month. i suppose I should have mentioned that.

I hope you and the Mrs. are doing fine. email me if you get a chance.

April 04, 2007 10:47 AM  
Blogger kjk said...

another contemporary, african american string band: The Ebony Hillbillies.

So far so good with the Mrs. She's got a lot of spunk.

April 04, 2007 10:51 AM  
Blogger kjk said...

ed, i haven't able to locate your e-mail address. i saw it in the comments once, a while back. if you click on my blogger profile, my address is there ... anyway, back to work for me!

April 04, 2007 11:10 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

Ken,
Thanks for the heads up and link for the Ebony Hillbillies. I had not heard of them before. They are great! I've ordered their CD and will order the new one once it's available online.

April 04, 2007 6:33 PM  
Blogger Mr. Beer N. Hockey said...

In the photo above what do you suppose was "not allowed"?

April 04, 2007 9:44 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

I wondered that myself, Beer.

April 05, 2007 6:51 AM  
Anonymous john said...

Probably "Banjo Playing".
My wife has always wanted to have a sign like that posted in our house!

April 05, 2007 10:04 AM  

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