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Prince Albert Hunt's Texas Ramblers

One of the finest musicians to emerge from the sleepy locale of Denton, TX (later the home of the eclectic polka band Brave Combo as well as the place where they jailed serial killer Henry Lee Lucas), historic fiddler Prince Albert Hunt packed a lot of significant events into his short lifetime. Many of these happenings were out of his control. He was shot to death outside a bar, putting him in the category of other innovative musicians that met their fates at the end of a gun barrel, including the exciting jazz trumpeter Lee Morgan. Prince Albert's death happened on the same date as that of guitar inventor Leo Fender, some 60 years later. Prince Albert also is considered an inventor, credited with fiddling up the style of Western swing, and although it is always a mistake to give a solitary individual total credit for a style, the recordings he made for Okeh don't have a whole lot of company in terms of early sides that predict the Western swing phenomenon.

The Prince Albert style is also called "hot fiddling," the groups who play it "hot string bands." It developed in Texas and Oklahoma from the late '20s onward, a bit like a hungry camper trying to set up a larder in the village grocery, grabbing at blues, ragtime, jazz, and old-time fiddle music as if these traditions were cans of beans, loaves of bread, and packs of wieners pulled off the shelves. It was music meant for dancing, before working up an appetite; it was also music that combined black and white influences to the point where terms such as "racial mongrel" have been used, although some may find this type of language distasteful. "Blues in the Bottle" was one of the great tracks cut by Prince Albert Hunt's Texas Ramblers, an amalgam of country blues, ragtime, and old-time that was so good that it was no wonder so many later recording artists wanted to take credit for writing it. "Blues in the Bottle" sounded perfectly fresh when recorded by the Lovin' Spoonful, a great folk-rock band of the '60s, so it is safe to say that this artist had a long-range influence on the American music scene. Some of his records were released under the name of Harmon Clem & Prince Albert Hunt. Guitarist Clem was a frequent sidekick of the fiddler's, and although he is certainly obscure, he also can be said to have done much better in the credit department than the third member of the Texas Ramblers, good ol' "Unknown." A survey of sides by this group seems a bit like a conversation with a travel agent. The tunes include "Canada Waltz," the slippery "Houston Slide," and a pretty oily "Oklahoma Rag." "Wake Up Jacob" became a fiddle standard, frequently covered through the years, and sometimes known under other titles such as "Wild Horse" and "Wild Horse of Stoney Point."

The prince of Texas fiddle was born Archie Albert Hunt in an area just south of Dallas. Besides developing his own group, which featured superb interplay between guitar and fiddle, Prince Alpert also played with his Terrell neighbors Oscar and Doc Harper. A television documentary was done on the fiddler in the '70s by Houston Public Television, bringing to light many interesting aspects of his life. He was sometimes described as a kind of Texas version of the great North Carolina fiddler Charlie Poole, and like Poole, his real specialty was blues music. Both fiddlers may have found fame in different genres than pure blues, but their blues specialty is certainly one of the reasons both Western swing and Appalachian old-time music have such a completely solid blues feeling at their core.

Prince Albert sometimes performed in blackface and had a reputation as an ornery character, to the extent of inspiring hyperbole such as the following excerpt from a Texas music website: "The fiddler who was shot to death at the age of 30 for stealing another man's wife. He growls through dirty teeth, rolls on the floor, punches his fist through his stovepipe hat, passes out, gets up, falls down, and after every verse kicks up a dance-call with a single down-stroke so fat and sweet you're ready to hire him to clean up your yard." If the image of the so-called inventor of Western swing raking one's yard isn't bad enough, Prince Albert Hunt has also been mistaken for a can of tobacco, in the case of a country music devotee hustling transcriptions of a '50s Grand Old Opry production, the Red Foley/Prince Albert Show. Despite claims that the Denton fiddler is present, impossible unless he came back from the dead in some sort of weird collaboration with Henry Lee Lucas, the show's title is surely a reference to its tobacco company sponsor. ~ Eugene Chadbourne
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Anthology Of American Folk Music

Disc 1

1. Henry Lee

2. Fatal Flower Garden

3. The House Carpenter

4. Drunkard's Special

5. Old Lady And The Devil

6. The Butcher's Boy

7. The Wagoner's Lad

8. King Kong Kitchie Kitchie Ki-Me-O

9. Old Shoes And Leggins

10. Willie Moore

11. A Lazy Farmer Boy

12. Peg And Awl

13. Ommie Wise

14. My Name Is John Johanna

Disc 2

1. Bandit Cole Younger

2. Charles Giteau

3. John Hardy Was A Desperate Little Man

4. Gonna Die With My Hammer In My Hand

5. Stackalee

6. White House Blues

7. Frankie

8. When That Great Ship Went Down

9. Engine 143

10. Kassie Jones

11. Down On Penny's Farm

12. Mississippi Boweavil Blues

13. Got The Farm Land Blues

Disc 3

1. Sail Away Lady

2. The Wild Wagoner

3. Wake Up Jacob

4. La Danseuse

5. Georgia Stomp

6. Brilliancy Medley

7. Indian War Whoop

8. Old Country Stomp

9. Old Dog Blue

10. Saut Crapaud

11. Acadian One-Step

12. Home Sweet Home

13. Newport Blues

Disc 4

3. Rocky Road

4. Present Joys

5. This Song Of Love

6. Judgement

7. He Got Better Things For You

8. Since I Laid My Burden Down

9. John The Baptist

10. Dry Bones

11. John The Revelator

12. Little Moses

13. Shine On Me

14. Fifty Miles Of Elbow Room

Disc 5

1. The Coo Coo Bird

2. East Virginia

3. Minglewood Blues

5. James Alley Blues

7. I Wish I Was A Mole In The Ground

8. Mountaineer's Courtship

9. The Spanish Merchant's Daughter

10. Bob Lee Junior Blues

11. Single Girl, Married Girl

12. La Vieux Soulard Et Sa Femme

13. Rabbit Foot Blues

14. Expressman Blues

Disc 6

1. Poor Boy Blues

2. Feather Bed

3. Country Blues

4. 99 Year Blues

5. Prison Cell Blues

6. See That My Grave Is Kept Clean

8. Way Down The Old Plank Road

9. Buddy Won't You Roll Down The Line

10. Spike Driver Blues

11. K.C. Moan

12. Train On The Island

13. The Lone Star Trail

14. Fishing Blues

x

Track List: Good For What Ails You: Music Of The Medicine Shows (1926-1937)

Disc 1

1. The Spasm

2. Tanner's Boarding House

3. Don't Think I'm Santa Claus

6. Gonna Swing On The Golden Gate

7. Papa's 'Bout To Get Mad

9. Bye, Bye, Policeman

11. Bow Wow Blues

12. Beans

14. Tell It To Me

16. Mama Keep Your Yes Ma'am Clean

18. My Money Never Runs Out

20. Traveling Man

21. G. Burns Is Gonna Rise Again

23. Born In Hard Luck

24. He's In The Jailhouse Now

Disc 2

1. Gonna Tip Out Tonight

2. Chevrolet Car

3. It Ain't Gonna Rain No Mo'

4. Bring It With You When You Come

6. Go Along Mule

7. Casey Bill

8. I Got Mine

9. Hannah

10. Adam & Eve In The Garden

12. Her Name Was Hula Lou

15. Stackalee

18. Nobody's Business If I Do

21. I Heard The Voice Of A Porkchop

24. Kiss Me Cindy

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