Saturday, October 15, 2011

Gid Tanner and the Skillet Lickers - Cotton Eye Joe

Image credit: Wikipedia
James Gideon Tanner was one of the Ur-performers of Country Music, a decade before it was known as Country Music (actually "Country & Western").  This was Mountain music, from Appalachia Revivals and Medicine Shows, back even before the Great Depression.

He was known as one of the musical prodigies in Georgia, having taught himself to play the fiddle when he was a child.  He formed a band, and recorded in the 1920s, both songs of his own creation as well as traditional numbers already well known in his day.

While he gave up recording in the 1930s, he continued to perform until his old age.  I was astonished to find that he didn't die until a couple years after my birth.  The roots go deep indeed.

Cotton Eye Joe is one of the Ur-songs of Country/Bluegrass/Americana, dating certainly back to the War Between The States, and possibly earlier.  It was a mainstay of the types of venues that Tanner and the Skillet Lickers would have played.

Well known to all his audiences back then.  And while we've fast forwarded 80 years, it's still well known to audiences.  Not just audiences in the United States, but in Europe as well.  Rednex is a marketing-manufactured Swedish Techno Country group from the last decade.  The updated this for the modern European, err, "Revival Medicine Show."  If their grotesque stereotyping of the Appalachia Hill Folk gets under your skin, feel free to leave a lutefisk joke in the comments.

Well known indeed.

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