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Riley Puckett

Riley Puckett was one of the pioneers of country music, a singer whose output both as a solo performer and as a member of the supergroup the Skillet Lickers left an indelible mark on the work produced in his wake. He was born George Riley Puckett on May 7, 1894, in Alpharetta, GA; though at birth he had the ability to see, a medical mishap during his infancy left him blind. He attended the Macon School for the Blind, where he learned to read Braille and began playing the banjo, followed by the guitar, developing a unique, arhythmic style of playing bass-note runs to bridge chord changes. He also attracted attention at regional fiddling contests.

Puckett made his radio debut with Clayton McMichen's Hometown Band on WSB Atlanta in 1922. He soon became one of the station's most popular performers, and began appearing as a soloist. The next year, he joined with mandolinist Ted Hawkins and fiddler Lowe Stokes to form the Hometown Boys, where his smooth vocal style and yodeling abilities earned the group a devoted following among WSB listeners, who began calling the singer "the Ball Mountain Caruso." In 1924, Puckett accompanied James "Gideon" Tanner to Columbia Records' New York City studios, where he cut his first sides, including a cover of Fiddlin' John Carson's "The Little Old Log Cabin," "Steamboat Bill," and "Rock All Our Babies to Sleep," believed to contain the first-ever appearance of yodeling on a country record. The results proved highly successful, and later in the year a second session followed; accompanying himself on banjo, Puckett recorded, among others, "Oh Susannah" and "You'll Never Miss Your Mother Till She's Gone."

In 1925, Columbia introduced their 15000-D Hillbilly Series, and Puckett quickly became one of the imprint's most successful acts; only Vernon Dalhart sold more records. A year later, he joined the Skillet Lickers, which also featured Gid Tanner and Clayton McMichen, and remained with the group through 1931. In 1927, he also joined high tenor Hugh Cross for the very first recording of "Red River Valley." The duo went on to cut two more sessions together, generating songs like "Gonna Raise a Ruckus Tonight" (released under the name Alabama Barnstormers), "Call Me Back Pal o' Mine," and "My Wild Irish Rose."

While the onset of the Depression did not crush Puckett's career, as it did to so many of his contemporaries, it did force him to curtail his prolific recording schedule. The records he did cut appeared under a variety of group names and aliases, the most successful being 1931's "My Carolina Home," issued as McMichen's Melody Men. After the demise of the Skillet Lickers, Puckett performed with McMichen's Georgia Wildcats; in 1932, the Skillet Lickers began anew, and Puckett also signed on with Bert Layne's Mountaineers. In addition, he recorded a number of duets with Red Jones, including "I Only Want a Buddy, Not a Sweetheart" and "St. Louis Blues."

By 1936, he was touring with former Mainer Mountaineer "Daddy" John Love and also performed again with Bert Layne. After organizing his own tent show to tour throughout the South, he returned to New York to record with Red Jones, duetting on "Alttoona Train Wreck," "Take Me Back to My Carolina Home," and "The Broken Engagement." Puckett did not record again until 1940, when he cut the pop-oriented "Oh, Johnny, Oh," "Little Sir Echo," and "South of the Border." In 1941, he entered the studio one last time, performing "How Come You Do Me Like You Do," "Railroad Blues," and "Peach Picking Time in Georgia." Puckett continued performing on radio with the Stone Mountain Boys until 1946, when on July 14 he died from blood poisoning as a result of a boil on his neck which was left untreated. ~ Jason Ankeny
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: American Yodeling

1. Yodeling' Mountaineer

2. Gonna Quit My Rowdy Ways

3. The Arizona Yodeler

4. My Clinch Mountain Home

5. The Devil's Great Grandson

6. Cowboy Night Herd Song

7. Worried Devil Blues

8. Will There Be Any Yodelers In Heaven?

9. The Nasty Swing

10. Yodeling Mule

11. Lost Lover Blues

12. The Yodelin' Teacher

13. Lonesome Yodel Blues

14. La Valse De Marriage

15. Lovesick Blues

16. I Wanna Be A Cowboy's Sweetheart

17. My Swiss Moonlight Lullaby

18. Mule Skinner Blues

19. Rockin' Yodel

20. Yodeling Fiddling Blues

21. Standin' On The Corner (Blue Yodel No. 9)

22. Sauerkraut

23. Yodeling Radio Joe

25. You Gotta To Go To Work

26. Sleep, Baby, Sleep

x

Track List: Imaginational Anthem Vol. 6 - Origins Of American Primitive Guitar

1. Guitar Rag

2. Buck Dancer's Choice

3. Darkey's Wail

4. Cannon Ball Rag

5. Way Down Yonder Blues

6. Hutchinson's Rag

7. Frisco Blues

8. Fuzzy Rag

9. Knoxville Blues

10. Guitar Blues

11. Jailhouse Rag

12. Tramp Waltz

13. Franklin Blues

14. Jamestown Exhibition

x

Track List: People Take Warning 3: Man Vs. Man

Disc 1

2. Wreck Of The Old 97

3. Bill Wilson

4. The Crash Of The Akron

5. The Fate Of Talmadge Osborne

8. Fate Of Will Rogers & Wiley Post

9. Down With The Old Canoe

10. Wreck Of Number 52

11. Kassie Jones Part 1

12. Kassie Jones Part 2

13. The Brave Engineer

14. The Sinking Of The Titanic

15. Fate Of Chris Lively And Wife

16. Wreck On The Mountain Road

17. The Unfortunate Brakeman

19. The Fatal Wreck Of The Bus

20. Last Scene Of The Titanic

21. Casey Jones

23. The Titanic

24. When That Great Ship Went Down

Disc 2

1. The Story Of The Mighty Mississippi

3. Dixie Boll Weevil

5. Ohio Prison Fire

6. Memphis Flu

7. Explosion In The Fairmount Mine

8. Storm That Struck Miami

9. When The Levee Breaks

10. Alabama Flood

13. High Water Everywhere, Part 2

14. Ryecove Cyclone

15. McBeth Mine Explosion

16. Dry Well Blues

17. Baltimore Fire

18. Tennessee Tornado

19. Dry Spell Blues, Part 2

20. The Santa Barbara Earthquake

21. The Death Of Floyd Collins

22. The Porto Rico Storm

23. Boll Weavil

24. The Flood Of 1927

Disc 3

1. Peddler And His Wife

2. The Little Grave In Georgia

3. Kenney Wagner's Surrender

4. Henry Clay Beattie

5. The Murder Of The Lawson Family

7. Railroad Bill

8. Frankie

9. Trial Of Richard Bruno Hauptmann, Part 1

10. Trial Of Richard Bruno Hauptmann, Part 2

12. Darling Cora

13. Billy Lyons And Stack O' Lee

14. Tom Dooley

17. Fingerprints Upon The Windowpane

18. The Bluefield Murder

20. Fate Of Rhoda Sweeten

21. Dupree Blues

22. Poor Ellen Smith

x

Track List: Serenade In The Mountains

Disc 1

1. Japanese Breakdown

2. Carbolic Rag

4. Chinese Rag

5. My Little Girl

7. Barney McCoy

8. What Will I Do When My Money Is All Gone

9. Skip To My Lou My Darling

10. The Savingest Man On Earth

12. Yankee Doodle

14. Mississippi Breakdown

15. Avalon Quick Step

17. Magnolia One-Step

18. Sales Tax Toddle

20. Lorena

22. Granny Will Your Dog Bite?

Disc 2

1. Lost John Dean

2. Mountain Dew

4. Lulu Wall

5. I Wish I Was A Mole In The Ground

6. Kidder Cole

7. Italy

8. Little Turtle Dove

9. Dry Bones

11. Coal Creek March

12. American And Spanish Fandango

14. Over At Tom's House

15. Goin' Back To Jericho

16. Bathe In That Beautiful Pool

17. In The Pines

18. A Precious Sweetheart From Me Has Gone

19. Your Low Down Dirty Ways

20. Her Name Was Hula Lou

21. I'm Going To Georgia

22. Shanghai In China

23. My Mama Scolds Me For Flirting

24. There Ain't No Use In Me Working So Hard

Disc 3

1. Hawkins Rag

2. Tokio Rag

3. Ragged But Right

5. Three Nights Drunk

6. Rainbow Waltz

7. Down In The Valley

8. Zelma

10. Mr. Johnson Turn Me Aloose

11. Slim Gal

12. Raccoon On A Rail

13. Cindy

14. Hometown Rag

15. Georgia Man

16. Come Over And See Me Sometime

17. Kiss Me Quick

18. Warhorse Game

19. Black Annie

20. Everybody Works But Father

21. The Boston Burglar

22. Don't Let Your Deal Go Down

23. Short Life Of Trouble

Disc 4

1. I Tickled 'Em

2. Handy Man

7. Left My Gal In The Mountains

9. Ain't Gonna Grieve My Mind

10. Get Away Old Man Get Away

12. Birmingham Jail

16. Shine On Harvest Moon

17. Little Green Valley

18. Swaller Tail Coat

19. Ten Hours A Day / Six Days A Week

20. How To Make Love

21. Who Stole The Lock From The Hen House Door

22. Four Thousand Years Ago

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