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Fiddlin' John Carson

Fiddlin' John Carson was already 55 when in 1923 the OKeh label released "Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane"/"The Old Hen Cackled" -- the first recording by a strictly country artist and arguably the beginning of the country music recording industry. Carson was born in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia in 1868, and worked in cotton mills for over 20 years until his fiddling talents won several contests. He began performing in minstrel shows, and came to be quite popular around the Georgia area -- so much so that Atlanta furniture salesman Polk Brockman recommended Carson's name to OKeh field recorder Ralph Peer. Though Peer agreed to record the fiddler, he was disgusted with the results and sent only a few copies to the furniture store -- then the only outlet for records. Brockman sold out of several pressings, convincing Peer that there was a market for hillbilly recordings.

Carson was brought to New York late in 1923 to begin recording the first of his over 150 sides for the label. The following year, Carson updated his old-timey sound by recording with a string band called the Virginia Reelers. He also recorded as a comedy duo with his daughter, Rosa Lee (known as Moonshine Kate). Carson's fortunes declined during the Depression, however; his final recordings were for Victor Bluebird in 1934. He later worked as an elevator operator at the Georgia State Capitol, a job he received from governor Eugene Talmadge in return for the popular musician's campaign help. Rounder has released a compilation of the fiddler's recordings with the Virginia Reelers and Moonshine Kate. ~ John Bush, Rovi
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