Poor White Boys and the Slide
Once again the influence of Hawaiian music has shown up on the Bus. It got me to thinking about another genre of American music that was influenced by the slide guitar of Hawaii. I have often mentioned the influence of the Hawaiian slide guitar style on two seemingly different genres, country and the blues. The two are much more closely related than most folks think and neither would sound as they do today if it were not for the interchange of ideas, licks, and influences of early musicians.
I have discussed the popularity of Hawaiian music in this space so many times before that I’m sure some of you riders are rolling your eyes and thinking “There he goes, wondering off to Hawaii again.” Don’t fret, I’ll skip the Hawaiian lecture today, you all know the routine by now. I just wanted to point out that the rural white country musicians picked up a thing or two from the waves of Hawaiian music that rolled across America during the first few decades of the twentieth century.
On the drive home from the plant I thought about what music I would post. The first artists that came to mind were Darby & Tarlton, Frank Hutchison, and Riley Puckett. When I got home, I searched through my collection for other early white country musicians that had picked up the slide guitar. I found plenty of examples; in fact, I was surprised at how many I found with just a quick pass through. After pulling out many records and listening, I decided to go with my first thought. All were from the rural South, all worked for a living (Riley Puckett, blinded shortly after birth, played on street corners in Atlanta for change, Darby & Tarlton worked at a textile mill in South Carolina, and Frank Hutchison was a coal miner from West Virginia), and all were early pioneers in country music that had been influenced by both Hawaiian music and by their black musician neighbors.