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Lesley Riddle

Country music may owe its very existence in part to a one-legged African-American guitar player named Lesley Riddle. Riddle was born on June 13, 1905, in Burnsville, NC. As a young man he worked in the local cement plant, where an unfortunate accident cost him his right leg at the knee. During his convalescence Riddle learned to play guitar, developing a unique picking technique and a biting slide style. A.P. Carter, patriarch of the Carter Family, met Riddle in Kingsport, TN, in 1928, learning "Cannonball" from him. Carter began using Riddle as a source for traditional material and arrangements, and he started to accompany A.P. on his song-collecting trips. Riddle essentially lived with the Carter Family off and on for several years at their home in Virginia, where he was occasionally called upon to teach Maybelle Carter a tricky guitar part or two. Legend has it that Sara Carter eventually presented Riddle with a brand new wooden leg as a sort of thank you.

Riddle moved to Rochester, NY, in 1942, which was where Mike Seeger discovered him in the mid-'60s. Seeger made several field recordings with Riddle between 1965 and 1978, and an album called Step By Step, featuring Riddle on guitar and piano, was assembled from those recordings and issued on CD by Rounder Records in 1993. Riddle had an easy, comfortable, and world-weary voice, and his guitar playing was solid and revealing, and it isn't hard to understand what A.P. Carter saw in Riddle when he met him in the 1920s. A musician of tremendous talent and integrity, Riddle made an undeniable impact on the material and overall sound of the Carter Family, and thus on the whole of country music. He died on July 13, 1980. ~ Steve Leggett
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: Classic Appalachian Blues From Smithsonian Folkways

1. My Baby's Gone

2. Louise Blues

3. Sitting On Top Of The World

4. Railroad Bill

5. Don't Let Your Deal Go Down

6. You Don't Know My Mind

7. Blues Around My Bed

8. Hesitation Blues

9. Pawn Shop Blues

10. The Road Is Rough And Rocky

11. Hoodoo Blues

12. Red River Blues

13. Walking Cane Peg Leg

14. One Dime Blues

15. Mississippi Heavy Water Blues

16. Outskirts Of Town

17. See What You Done Done

18. I Got A Woman

19. Girl Dressed In Green

20. Blues In The Morning

21. Wine Blues (Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee)

x

Track List: Classic Mountain Songs From Smithsonian Folkways

1. Omie Wise

2. Sugar Baby

3. I Am A Poor Pilgrim Of Sorrow

4. Sixteen Tons

5. John Henry

6. Lost Indian

7. Southbound

8. High On A Mountain

9. Coal Creek March

10. Coal Miner's Blues

11. Railroad Blues

12. Cuckoo Bird

13. Conversation With Death (Oh Death)

14. Lone Prairie

15. Rain And Snow

16. I Wish I Was A Mole In The Ground

17. Moonshiner

18. Wildwood Flower

19. Barbry Ellen (Barbara Allen)

20. Daniel Prayed

21. Wreck Of The Number Nine

22. Red Jacket Mine Explosion

23. Kingdom Come

24. Amazing Grace

x

Track List: Close To Home: Old Time Music From Mike Seeger's Collection, 1952-1967

1. In The Sweet Bye And Bye

2. Tie Your Dog, Sally Gal

3. Banjo Instrumental

4. Lost Train Blues

7. Old Gambling Man

9. Shout Little Lulu

10. He Will Set Your Fields On Fire

12. Going To Lay Down My Burdens

13. John Henry

14. Pretty Fair Damsel

15. It's These Hard Times

17. Jackson Schottische

18. Lone Prairie

19. Molly Put The Kettle On

27. Red Wing

29. Blackberry Blossom

30. Alabama Gals

31. Old Joe Clark

32. Sugar Baby

33. Queen Sally

34. Poor Orphan

37. He Said If You Love Me, Feed My Sheep

38. I Would Not Live Always

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