Fiddlin’ Around: The Southeast
The first fiddle music in America was mostly English folk songs and that influence found a home amongst the rural white population of the South. The southern fiddle tradition is a long and varied one. The fiddle music of the Appalachians remained firmly rooted in English tradition while the fiddlers of the Piedmont region were exposed to a much wider range of influences. Perhaps it was a combination of these varied influences that caused the totally wild fiddle music that swept through Georgia during the 1920s. During this wild period, string bands were creating a breeze in the hot Georgia nights with some frantic bow work.
From 1913 to 1935 the old Atlanta City Auditorium at the corner of Courtland and Gilmer streets was home to the Georgia Old-Time Fiddlers' Convention and the competition there was hot. The list of winners at these competitions reads like a history of Old Time fiddle music. Fiddlin' John Carson, A. A. Gray, Gid Tanner, Shorty Harper, Earl Johnson, and Clayton McMichen are a few of the names that crossed that stage into musical history. The frantic fiddling style that was prevalent at the time and the fierce competition in Georgia added fuel to the fire.
North Georgia may have had a bumper crop of frantic fiddlers, but it wasn’t the only place producing some fierce fiddle competition. Fiddle contests had sprung up in every state. This competition allowed for the exchange of ideas and styles amongst musicians and pushed fiddlers to hone their skills.
I chose these first two songs for their wonderful fiddle, but also because they both feature some great guitar work by two of my favorite Old Time guitarists.