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Jimmie Tarlton

Jimmie Tarlton is best known for his partnership with Tom Darby, which lasted from the late '20s until the mid-'30s. The two were never especially fond of each other, however, and although they both saw some activity in the '60s as part of the folk-blues revival, and Tarlton got to make a record, there was no impetus for continuing the partnership.

Tarlton's style was rooted in rural South Carolina, where he was born and raised. His father, a sometime farmer and sawmill worker, played a fretless banjo and his mother sang. At age six, Tarlton was playing banjo and French harp, and he later took up the guitar and learned to play bottleneck, using glass and a knife. In the '20s, he also discovered the Hawaiian guitar style. He played around the northeast and the Texas-Louisiana-Oklahoma region in the teens, and eventually made his way to California, playing at bars, cafes, and in medicine shows.

Poor eyesight kept him out of World War I, and he made his living working at local cotton mills in South Carolina before becoming a telegraph worker. He began recording with Tom Darby in 1927, but across his career, his performances included collaborations with Hank Williams, Jimmie Rodgers, the Delmore Brothers, and the Skillet Lickers, among numerous others. Although Darby and Tarlton had a substantial hit with "Cumberland Stockade Blues" and "Birmingham Jail," their contract only gave them a flat payment of $75 for the records, and there were no follow-up releases with any similar success. By the mid-'40s, Tarlton had left the music business.

He was rediscovered in 1963, living in Phenix City, AL (a notorious locale in its own right, incidentally, as the sin capital of its county and a crime and corruption center whose story was chronicled in two separate feature films in the '50s) and became a renowned figure in the folk and folk-blues revival. Tarlton played some shows at the Ash Grove in Los Angeles, and made a record, but was too old by that time to pursue the opportunities in front of him.

Tarlton became one of a handful of figures -- country fiddler Eck Robertson is another -- who preserved a style of music-making that would otherwise have been lost and embellished it into becoming something new and all his own. His music, as preserved on his solo sides recorded at his own home in the early '60s by then incorporated the influences of Hawaiian guitar and ragtime, but beneath it all was a native South Carolina folk style that pre-dated recorded music. ~ Bruce Eder
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Appalachian Heart: Original Bluegrass Classics

1. New Compton Races

2. Carroll County Blues

3. Blue Ridge Mountain Blue

4. Ramshackle Shack

5. Orange Blossom Special

6. Kentucky Is Only a Dream

7. Somebody Touched Me

8. Jesse James

9. Helen

10. Don't Let Your Deal Go Down Blues

11. Down Among the Budded Roses

12. Wabash Cannon Ball

13. Man of Constant Sorrow

14. Will the Weaver

15. Fate of Ellen Smith

16. Lowe Bonnie

17. Oh Molly Dear

x

Track List: Slidin' On The Frets: The Hawaiian Steel Guitar Phenomenon

1. My Little Grass Shack In Kealakekua

2. Pame Sti Honoloulou

3. Don't Sell It--Don't Give It Away

4. Milenberg Joys

5. My Little Blue Heaven

6. Why My Craf Vex With Me

7. Down In Waikiki

8. Honolulu Stomp

9. U Like, Noa Like

10. Mindanao March

11. Everybody Does It In Hawaii

12. Ghost Dance

13. You'll Never Find A Daddy Like Me

14. La Portena Es Una Papa

15. Has My Gal Been Here

16. Smiles

17. Clowin' The Frets

18. Caresses Venitiennes

19. Guitar Rag

20. The Cat's Whiskers

21. Happy Hawaiian Blues

22. Drifting And Dreaming

23. Sliding On The Frets

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