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Malone published Country Music U. College catalogues routinely offer courses that incorporate country music, while social, cultural, and labor historians often deploy country song lyrics as primary documents. Historians, though, are frequently the last of the academic ilk to sense a new trend of study.
In Linthead Stomp , it is fitting that Patrick Huber draws heavily from the disciplines of both history and folklore to weave a compelling study of commercial hillbilly music and the Piedmont millhands who made up the majority of the musicians on record.
In the process Huber makes important contributions to the interdisciplinary study of popular music. Using records as cultural artifacts, numerous oral histories, and public advertisements to point the way, Huber often sheds new light on the experiences of southern mill workers and the music that was ever-constant in their lives.
While much of the scholarship in recent decades focuses on notions of respectability and authenticity in hillbilly or early country music, Huber instead offers two major correctives to assumptions about the geographical and temporal roots of commercial hillbilly music.
Despite how contemporary listeners might hear hillbilly music today or how it was packaged at the time, as the sounds of a bygone rural South, Huber convincingly argues that musically, lyrically, and culturally, the music of Piedmont millhands was the product of a modern milieu.
The second corrective Huber tackles is the myth that hillbilly music emerged chiefly from the dark hollows of southern Appalachia and the rural South more broadly. The myth began as immediately as the music. Some early hillbilly recording artists misleadingly marketed themselves as residents of the mountain South while other mill town musicians outfitted themselves as rural hayseeds, playing up the hillbilly moniker in name and dress.
Newspaper articles and record advertisements played no small role in perpetuating this image to the public. Over the years the myth grew stronger and crept into the popular mind. Daly took thorough stock of the southern mill world, Huber unravels the lives of Piedmont mill workers through their music. Linthead Stomp focuses on the lives and music of four white male Piedmont mill town musicians. In numerous interviews, Carson weaves fantastical tales of his upbringing and, thus, the origins of his music. A resident of rural Cobb County, Georgia, in his younger years who migrated with his wife and children to Atlanta in , Carson bridged the nineteenth-century sound of the rural South to the commercial and modern sounds of the twentieth century.
He often included Broadway, vaudeville, and Tin Pan Alley songs in his performances. Carson also played songs popular among African Americans, and Huber indicates that his fiddling technique might also be indebted to African American fiddlers.
Carolina linthead : growing up in Cotton Mill Village in the Depression
Unfortunately, Carson is the only subject in Linthead Stomp whose racial attitudes receive thorough treatment. Huber demonstrates how Carson and his contemporaries were willing participants in the emerging commercial and material aspects of the urban South. Driving cars, attending popular music performances, and purchasing radio sets were common activities among people like Carson and made them members of the mass culture of the day. As beloved among hillbilly music aficionados as the fiddling Carson, is banjo picker Poole. Alcoholic, troubadour, mill worker, and prolific musician, Poole gained a mythic status in some circles similar to that of bluesman Robert Johnson.
If not, why? In sum, the chapter on Poole lacks the depth that the other chapters possess in abundance.
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What the chapter on Poole lacks, however, the biography of McCarn makes up for in rich detail. The mill towns in Gaston County, North Carolina, of the s and s come vividly alive as Huber adeptly recounts their modern trappings and violent growing pains.
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Huber similarly treats McCarn with stirring nuance. For Huber, however, McCarn was not simply a womanizing roustabout.
In McCarn, Huber finds a textile worker and hillbilly musician whose music and experiences captured much of the major themes of the s and s industrial South, namely, increased mechanization, clashes between old and new moral standards, the emerging Jazz Age, and mill workers struggling to make life a little more bearable in the cotton mills. Like Carson, Dixon spent his early years in the preindustrial rural South before his sharecropping family moved into the mill village workforce.
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Dixon made a name for himself in East Rockingham as the author of tragic poems and songs. Often published in the local newspaper, Dixon penned mournful verses when members of the community, especially the young, died in accidents often related to the mill or the automobile. Dixon, a Pentecostal, regularly ended each song with a plea for his neighbors in the Piedmont South to follow the teachings of Jesus and live a morally upright life before their days came to an end.
Often dismayed by secularism and materialism, Dixon hoped that fundamentalist Christianity could reverse what he saw as eroding moral values and the creep of modernity. But, as Huber explains, modernity itself was not the source of sin. In other words, modern amenities were not inherently sinful, but could be corrupted by people.
Linthead Growing Carolina Cotton Mill by Wilt Browning
No group contributed more to the commercialization of early country music than southern factory workers. This book explores the origins and development of this music in the Piedmont's mill villages. It offers vivid portraits of a colorful cast of Piedmont millhand musicians, including Fiddlin' John Carson, Charlie Poole, Dave McCarn, and the Dixon Brothers, and considers the impact that urban living, industrial work, and mass culture had on their lives and music.
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Drawing on a broad range of sources, including rare rpm recordings and unpublished interviews, the author reveals how the country music recorded between and was just as modern as the jazz music of the same era. The book celebrates the Piedmont millhand fiddlers, guitarists, and banjo pickers who combined the collective memories of the rural countryside with the upheavals of urban-industrial life to create a distinctive American music that spoke to the changing realities of the twentieth-century South. Forgot your password? Don't have an account? OSO version 0.
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