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Clayton McMichen & Riley Puckett (Children's)

Clayton McMichen fused his interests in country, folk, jazz, swing, and pop music into one of the most recognizable fiddle styles. His playing with Jimmie Rodgers and Gid Tanner and His Skillet Lickers in the 1920s helped to lay the foundation for country music. From the time that he arrived in Atlanta to work as an automobile mechanic in 1921 until shortly before his death from emphysema nearly five decades later, he continued to allow his fiddling to evolve. McMichen's band, the Georgia Wildcats, was one of the most eclectic groups of the 1930s. Formed as a string band, they switched to Dixieland jazz in the mid '40s. From 1945 until 1955, the group was featured daily on the Louisville radio station, WAVE. McMichen and the Georgia Wildcats also appeared on their own television show in the early '50s. A native of Allatoona, GA, McMichen learned to play fiddle as a youngster. By his early twenties, he had mastered the instrument. After moving to Atlanta, he won the first of numerous fiddle championships. A close friend of the "singing brakeman" Jimmie Rodgers, McMichen and Rodgers toured and recorded together throughout the 1920s. Among the songs that they co-wrote was the classic "Peach Pickin' Time in Georgia." McMichen recorded his first songs as a bandleader, a series of jazz tunes played by fiddle, clarinet, and guitar in 1925. The following year, McMichen accepted an invitation to join an all-star country band organized by Columbia talent scout, Frank Walker. The group, which McMichen named the Skillet Lickers, went on to become one of country music's early successes. During the five years that they were together, the band, which also featured fiddler Gid Tanner, guitarist Riley Puckett, and banjo player Fate Norris, recorded more than 100 tunes. McMichen's first solo hit came with a fiddle tune arrangement of a pop standard, "Sweet Bunch of Roses." Released in 1927, the song sold more than 100,000 copies. Although he tried his hand at sentimental ballads, recording under the pseudonym Bob Nichols, only one recording, "My Carolina Home," became a hit. Forming the Georgia Wildcats after the breakup of the Skillet Lickers in 1931, McMichen was unable to match his early success. To supplement his income as a musician, he promoted fiddle contests and, in 1936, operated a medicine show. He continued to compete, as well. In 1932, he won the first of 18 national fiddle championships. Despite remaining active as a musician, McMichen had no interest in recording his new repertoire. In 1955, he retired from music. Although he was sought out during the folk revival of the 1960s, he was frustrated by the folklorists' reverence for the Skillet Lickers. While he maintained a low profile for the rest of his life, he agreed to perform at the Bean Blossom festival in 1964 and 1966 and the Newport Folk Festival in 1964. McMichen continued to dazzle audiences with his virtuosic fiddling. At the age of 68, he placed first in the senior division of the Kentucky State Championship. Merle Travis and Mac Wiseman celebrated McMichen's legacy with an album, The Clayton McMichen Story, released by CMH Productions in 1988. ~ Craig Harris
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: The Story The Crow Told Me: Early American Rural Children's Songs

1. I Am Just What I Am

2. Poor Little Thing

3. Barnyard Tumble

4. Old Molly Hare

5. Animals Coming In

6. Johnny Booker

7. The Old Grey Goose Is Dead

8. Pretty Little Pink

9. Free Little Bird

10. King Kong Kitchie Kitchie

11. Hop Along Peter

12. Horsie Keep Your Tail Up

13. The Nick Nack Song

14. The Story That The Crow Told Me

15. Sue Cow

16. Skip To Ma Lou, My Darling

17. Cindy

18. Say Darling Say

19. Liza Up In The Simmon Tree

20. The Old Bell Cow

21. George Washington

22. Sourwood Mountain

23. Angels Watching Over Me

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