One of the sources for old music, since the official American culture people had no interest in documenting American vernacular in music, was newsreel. Sometimes a newsreel would capture something wonderful beyond belief. I remember seeing an old newsreel that had a jug band doing “He’s in the Jailhouse Now.” I hope to find that and see it again before I croak. I’m looking.
Anyway, this is Uncle John Scruggs and this is from a newsreel. Bless their little hearts! Sometimes they might film you know, some music to use as background and film the actual performance or something and then edit the music behind something more news worthy than a fabulous probably x-slave playing banjo and the song “Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane” which is an 1871 pop hit. There’s sheet music to this. This is not folk music!
And most musicologist don’t pay attention to the fact that the popular songs of 19th century are what they meant when they were talking about old time singing and playing. It doesn’t have to be from the 1500s and something like that and come from the English and Scottish balled tradition. It’s pop music that is now so old and the formula is, in country music, anything over 30 years old is country music.
That’s why Junior Brown doing Jimi Hendrix and surf music and things like that are perceived as. I think some of the Country music now sounds like Fleetwood Mac. What the hell’s going on there, anyway.
This is a pop tune. A minstrel tune. A buck-face minstrel tune about the little old log cabin in the lane that was run down where the slaves lived and all that. That’s basically what we are seeing here. This is newsreel footage. This is not like done in Hollywood with costume changes and designers and set designers and all this stuff. It’s a run down cabin.
It’s just absolutely brilliant. But it’s an old popular published piece of sheet music. We know who wrote it. But it has become a folk song. In fact the first hillbilly record that I know of is Fiddlin’ John Carson’s Okey recording of “Little Old Cabin in the Lane.”
Now I’m cautious whenever I say something is first because something always turns up later. You know. And oh God the first Rock ’n’ Roll record, don’t get me started on that. It’s not “Rocket 88.” “Rocket 88” works if you can only go back to early R ’n’ B. If you are interested in the roots of Rock ’n’ Roll. It goes WAY WAY back!
And the thing is, is this politically correct? I mean technically the term used for the little kids dancing around would be pickaninnies, which you don’t hear much anymore. But there’s an idea that we should revise. The Revisionist History Program! Which is ‘oh that’s not correct anymore.’ And what that is for is so in three or four generations we can pretend that none of this slavery business ever happened.
In fact there was a text book put out a year or two ago, “An America of Immigrants” and the Africans, it said that the Africans came over here to work. Ehhh, you know. All of us alive now know what happened, but in a hundred years we’ll be thinking, ‘They came over here to work’ and ‘They had to get work visas’ and all that. And a bank to cash their pay checks in, but that wasn’t how it was at all.
This is somebody who is probably an old slave playing a very old style of banjo and it’s wonderful beyond belief. It just really. What a miracle that some news cameraman would film this!
Uncle John Scruggs – Little Log Cabin in de Lane
Uncle Dave Macon & Son – Take Me Back to My Carolina Home
Cast from the “Grand Ole Opry” film – Swing Your Partner; Down in Union County (1940)
Coon Creek Girls – How Man Biscuits Can You Eat?
Clarence Ashley "The Cuckoo" talks about medicine shows
Clarence Ashley & Doc Watson
Roscoe Holcomb – Little Birdie
Doc Boggs – Pretty Polly (1966)
Doc Boggs – Country Blues (1966)
Doc Boggs – Oh, Death – audio only
Old Time Clog Dancing (c.1967)
The Fruit Jar Drinkers – Soldier’s Joy (1955)
The Dezurick Sisters (The Cackle Sisters) – Hillbilly Bill (late 1930s)
The DeZurik Sisters (The Cackle Sisters) – Arizona Yodeler (1938) audio only
Stringbean played the banjo in the tradition of Uncle Dave Macon and the minstrel shows and all that. That’s where the banjo became THE instrument. And then the Country people adopted it once it was old enough.
It wasn’t like there were these huge categories because this stuff wasn’t being studied by academics or anything like that. It was just music, but the minstrel stuff was the first big music out of America. “Listen to the Mockingbird” took Europe by storm. That rhythm had never been heard by white people before. It swept the world and minstrel shows with that.
It was really the beginning of the flowering of all the genres of music. Well here’s a throwback. His contemporaries were Webb Pierce and Patsy Cline and people like that, but he would be on these TV shows as a guest star and it was always a treat to see this guy.
There must be more footage of him. But this is, I believe 1954 and it’s in color. It’s just beautiful. Look around in the back and see how many Country Western stars you can pick out.
Stringbean & Grandpa Jone – Little Liza Jane
Stringbean – Cripple Creek (mid-1950s)
Stringbean – Hillbilly Fever (mid-1950s)
Sringbean – Chewin’ Gum (1962)
Stringbean w/ Flatt and Scruggs – Run, Little Rabbit, Run (early 60s)
Stringbean w/ Flatt and Scruggs – Herding Cattle (early 1960s)
Stringbean w/ The Osborne Brothers – Hot Corn, Cold Corn (early 1960s)
Stringbean – Fishin’ Song (early 1960s)
Sringbean – Suicide Blues (early 1960s)
Stringbean w/Harold Morrison – Old Joe Clark (mid-1960s)
Stringbean – Fishin’ Song (Mid-1960s)
Stringbean – Goin’ to the Grand Ole Opry (1967)
Stringbean – Mule Went Away with the Little Red Wagon (c.1968)
Stringbean – Pretty Little Widow (c.1968)
Grandpa Jones – Mountain Dew (mid-1950s)
Grandpa Jones – Old Dan Tucker (mid-1950s)
Grandpa Jones – Bald Headed End of a Broom (mid-1950s)
Grandpa Jones – That New Vita-mine (mid-1950s)
Grandpa Jones & Ramona – Take My Ring from My Finger (mid-1950s)
Grandpa Jones – Wasn’t He a Big Foot Boy (mid-1950s)
Grandpa Jones & Ramona – I Wonder Where My Darlin’ is Tonight (mid-1950s)
Grandpa Jones – Are You from Dixie? (early 1960s)
Grandpa Jones w/Steve Chapman – Uncle Eph’s Got the Coon (late 1960s)
Grandpa Jones – The Banjo am the Instrument for Me (c.1970)
Grandpa Jones – Night Train to Memphis (c.1970)
Grandpa Jones – Falling Leaves (c.1970)
Glenn Allen Howard on The Carter Family
Carter Family – Wildwood Flower
The Louvin Brothers – Love Thy Neighbor
Louvin Brothers – Hoping That You’re Hoping (1956)
Louvin Brothers – I Don’t Believe You’ve Met My Baby (1956)
Louvin Brothers – I Can’t Keep You in Love with Me (early 1960s)
Louvin Brothers – Are You Washed in the Blood of the Lamb (1957) audio only
Louvin Brothers – The Great Atomic Power (1962) audio only
Glenn Allen Howard on Hedy West
Hedy West – Little Sadie
Hedy West performs Cotton Mill Girl on Pete Seeger’s Rainbow Quest
- See the other women of our collection in The Women’s Room
Fiddlin’ Arthur Smith – Orange Blossom Special (1945)
Fiddlin’ Arthur Smith w/ Jimmy Wakely – John Henry (1948)
Fiddlin’ Arthur Smith w/ Jimmy Wakely – Turkey in the Straw (1948)
Glenn Allen Howard on Effin’
Jimmie Riddle and Jackie Phelps – Effin'
Joe Perkins – Little Effin' Annie – audio only
The DeZurik Sisters (The Cackle Sisters) – Radio Show (1937) part 1 – audio only
The DeZurik Sisters (The Cackle Sisters) – Radio Show (1937) part 2 – audio only
The DeZurik Sisters (The Cackle Sisters) – I Left Her Standing There – audio only
The DeZurik Sisters (The Cackle Sisters) – Birmingham Jail (1950) audio only
The DeZurik Sisters (The Cackle Sisters) – Old Dan Tucker – audio only
The DeZurik Sisters (The Cackle Sisters) – Checkerboard Time Intro; Crawdad Hole (1950) audio only
The DeZurik Sisters (The Cackle Sisters) – Dude Cowboy (1950) audio only
The DeZurik Sisters (The Cackle Sisters) – Guitar Blues (1938) audio only
The DeZurik Sisters (The Cackle Sisters) – Sweet Hawaiian Chimes (late 1930s) slide show