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David McCarn

It can be argued that no city as dull as North Carolina's Gastonia has ever received a tribute in song as lively as the "Gastonia Gallup," originally cut by local harmonica hotshot David McCarn in the '30s. The harmonica, the most portable of instruments, managed to infiltrate just about every conceivable style of American music, as if in every musical setting there is always someone lurking with one in their pocket, waiting for a chance to blow. McCarn was part of the first generations of American harmonica virtuosos whose various musical interests were celebrated in the fascinating Yazoo anthology, Harmonica Masters. To many listeners, this set represents their total knowledge of this artist, as well as many of the others featured. Even among scholars who study the history of such colorful harmonica geniuses as Daddy Stovepipe, Six Cylinder Smith, and Rhythm Willie, the activities of McCarn remain somehow shrouded in secret, although he has also made something of a ripple on the country and western pond in a manner that has even attracted attention from leftist political scholars. Interestingly enough, another of McCarn's recordings is one of the few examples of a country & western protest song based on the problems of a typical textile mill worker. This is one of the dominant industries across the North Carolina Piedmont, and the treatment of workers is harsh. One might expect more tunes along the line of McCarn's "Cotton Mill Colic," which was a popular protest song throughout the '30s. The song "Cotton Mill Man" by Jim & Jesse is one of the only other country songs on this subject along with other material by McCarn. Other artists who have done protest songs about the textile industry come from the Appalachian folk tradition, such as Wade Manier and Dorsey Dixon. But Melton McLaurin's scholarly essay Class Consciousness in Country Music actually stresses that McCarn was more of a commercial country artist of his era. He recorded the tune for Victor, as well as the superb "Everyday Dirt," in a period when this label was attempting to cash in on the new country music market. He still had more barbs to aim at the textile lords. The American Folk Life Center collected his follow-up, "Cotton Mill Colic No. 2" on one of its anthologies of American folk songs. This tune is also known as "Poor Man, Rich Man." ~ Eugene Chadbourne
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Work Hard, Play Hard, Pray Hard: Hard Time, Good Time & End Time Music, 1923-1936

Disc 1

1. John Henry The Steel Drivin' Man

2. Poor Man, Rich Man (Cotton Mill Colic No. 2)

3. I've Got The Chain Store Blues

4. The Farmer Is The Man Who Feeds Them All

5. The Farmer's Dream

6. When The Roses Bloom Again For The Bootlegger

12. Poor Boy Long Ways From Home

Disc 2

1. Work Don't Bother Me

2. Soldier's Joy

5. Barnyard Frolic

8. The Beer Party

9. Charleston Rag

11. Too Tight Rag

12. Cheat Em

13. Hide Away

14. The Preacher Got Drunk And Laid Down His Bible

Disc 3

1. You've Got To Stop Drinking Shine

2. Climbing The Golden Stairs

4. Easter Day

5. I'm S-A-V-E-D

15. My Christian Friends In Bonds Of Love

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