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MIDDLE TN STATE UN IV 



rd County 
stdrical Society 



3 3082 01501326 



Publication No. 35 



976 
.857 
R931p 
V. 35 





Uncle Dave Macon 

1995 

Murf reesboro; Tennessee 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2010 with funding from 

Lyrasis IVIembers and Sloan Foundation 



http://www.archive.org/details/publication35ruth 



RUTHERFORD COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY 
PUBLICATION NO. 35 



Published 
by 
the 

Rutherford County Historical Society 

OFFICERS 

President Charles L. Nored 

Vice President Kirk McCrary 

Recording Secretary Ed DeBoer 

Treasurer Mary Cox 

Directors Robert Walden 

Ernie Johns 
William Hall 



Publication No. 35 is distributed to members of the 
Society. The annual membership dues are $15.00 per family, 
which includes the two regular publications and the monthly 
Newsletter to all members. Additional copies of this and other 
publications may be obtained by writing to the Society. A list 
of publications available is included in this publication. 

All correspondence concerning additional copies, 
contributions to future issues, and membership should be 

addressed to: 

MlSuLiDrary 
Rutherford County Historical SocietyMiddle Tennessee Stale UnK/ersity 
P.O. Box 906 Murfreesboro, Tennessee 37132 

Murfreesboro, TN 37133-0906 



10-028S7 



■'■J 31^2 



i-iwfvt 



The Rutherford County Historical Society would 
like to express its appreciation to Dr. Charles Wolfe, 
Professor of English at Middle Tennessee State 
University, for writing this publication for the 
Society. The co-author of The Life and Legend of 
Leadbelly^ Wolfe has also authored ten other books on 
American music. He has been nominated for three 
Grammy Awards. 

Wolfe received his A.B. degree from Southwest 
Missouri State College and his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees 
from the University of Kansas. 



The following publications are for sale by; 



THE RUTHERFORD COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY 

P.O. Box 906 

Murfreesboro, TN 37133-0906 

(All publications are $5.00 + $2.00 postage and handling) 



Publication 1 



Publication 2: 



Publication 3; 



Publication 4: 



Publication 5: 



Publication 6: 



Publication 7: 



Publication 8: 



Publication 9: 
Publication 10; 



Rutherford County Marriage Records , 
(1851-1853), Bride Index, Rutherford County 
Militia Commissions 1807-1811, Rutherford 
County Offices and Officers (1804-1973), and 
Union: Murfreesboro ' s Other University. 

Rutherford County Marriage Records , 
(1854-1856), Bride Index (continued), 
Rutherford County Militia Commissions 
1812-1820, Mayors of Murfreesboro, and a 
History of the Kittrell Community. 

Rutherford County Marriage Records 
(1857-1860), Bride Index, Griffith 
Rutherford, 1803 Census of Rutherford County, 
and Rutherford County Militia Records. 

History of Readyville, Artists Depict Battle 
of Stones River, and Census of 1810 and List 
of Taxpayers not in Census . 

The Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad 
(1845-1872), Rutherford County Post Offices 
and Postmasters, and the Rutherford Rifles. 

A History of the Link Community, History of 
Lavergne, Fellowship Church and Community, 
and The Sanders Family. 

Hopewell Church, Petition by Cornelius Sanders 
for Revolutionary War Pension. 

History of Bethel-Leanna Community, the 
Crowders of Readyville, A view of the 
Battlefield of Stones River from New York 
Times (Sept. 2, 1865), Record of Jordan 
Williford, Revolutionary War Soldier from 
Records in U.S. Pension Office, Company Roll 
of Major Hardy Murfree (Sept. 9, 177 8 from 
the National Archives ) . 

History of Dilton Community. 

1864 Diary, Peter Jennings, Henderson Yoakum, 
Early Methodist Church, and Overall. 



Publication 11 



Publication 12 



Publication 13 



Publication 14; 



Publication 15; 



Publication 16; 



Publication 17 



Publication 18; 



Publication 19; 



Publication 20; 



Publication 21 



State Capitol, Ben McCullough, Petition of 
Michael Lorance, Country Store, and Soule 
College. 

History of Smyrna, Sewart Air Force Base, 
Goochland, Index of Some Actual Wills of 
Rutherford County, 1802-1882. 

Tennessee College, Coleman Scouts, New 
Monuments in Old City Cemetery, and James 
Bole's Revolutionary War Pension. 

Murfreesboro Presbyterian Church, Kirks and 
Montgomerys, Russell Home, John Lytle's and 
John M. Leak's Revolutionary War Pension. 

John W. Childress Home (1847), Whigs in 
Rutherford County (1835-1845). 

Hart, Childress, Miles, Fosterville, Cherry 
Shade, William Cocke. 

Jefferson 1803-1813, Will Abstracts (1803- 
1814), Old City Cemetery. 

Railroad Stations in Rutherford County, Rion 
Family, Stones River. 

Footprints ... at Smyrna, V.A. Medical Center, 
Manson Family, Jenkin ' s Homes, Will Abstracts 
(Record Books 3 & 4), Rutherford County 
Historical Society, Early News, Sketch from 
Macon County, Illinois, 1981 in Rutherford 
County . 

Roads and Turnpikes of Rutherford County, 
includes many Rutherford County names. 

Jefferson Springs Resort, Lascassas Baptist 
Church, John Price Buchanan, Will Abstracts, 
1836 Tax Records of the 25th District. 



Publication 22; 



Publication 23; 



Ft. Rosecrans, Big Springs, East Main Church of 
Christ, Tax Records District 23 & 24 for 1836, 
1837, and 1849, Mathias Hoover. 

Harding House, Milton, County Stores in the 
Jefferson Area, Will Abstracts Book 7, Tax 
Record of Districts 15 and 16 (1836, 1837, and 
1849) . 



Publication 24: History of Medicine in Rutherford County. 



Publication 25; 
Publication 26: 

Publication 27: 
Publication 28; 

Publication 29: 

Publication 30; 
Publication 31; 



Publication 32: 

Publication 33; 
Publication 34; 



Legends and Stories of the Civil War in 
Rutherford County. 

A Yankee in Rutherford County, Literary 
Interest Expressed by Women in Rutherford 
County, Mt. Olivet and Hoovers Gap Methodists, 
My Years at Linebaugh Library. 

History of Central Christian Church, Alfred 
Blackitian. 

Coleman Scouts (Henry B. Shaw, Leader; Sam 
Davis, Dee Jobe, Williams Roberts, William 
Manford Street, and others.) 

The Churches of Christ in Rutherford County, 
History of the Salem Methodist Church, and 
Municipal Officers of the Town of Murfreesboro 
(1818-1891) . 

History of Rutherford County Farm (including 
insane asylum and the pest control center). 
Architecture of Rutherford County Farm. 

The Rutherford County Rifles (a group of 150 
young men from Rutherford County who 
volunteered for service in the Confederacy). 
Includes a list of these men and what happened 
to them. Article on Violence in Rutherford 
County. 

A Researcher ' s Guide to Rutherford County 
Records by David Rowe; Jerry Sneak by Homer 
Pittard (discovered after his death). 

Census and Tax Records for First District. 

Mattie Ready-John Hunt Morgan Wedding; Dement 
Family; Two Gallant Leaders at the Battle of 
Murfreesboro . 



The following publications are also available through the 
Society: 

History of Medicine in Rutherford County , Part II (A collection 
of Biographies of Physicians Who Practiced in the area during 
the Nineteenth Century.) Robert G. Ransom, M.D. 

$16.00 + $2.00 postage 

Westbrooks, Williams, and Related Smothermans of Rutherford 
County . $14.50 + $2.00 postage 

Brothers and Others and Fosterville $21.00 + $2.00 postage 
(OUT-OF-PRINT) 

History of Versailles - OUT OF PRINT 

History of Rutherford County by C.C. Sims (pub. 1947) 

$12.00 + $2.00 postage 

History of Rutherford County by Mabel Pittard (pub. 1983) 

$12.50 + $2.00 postage 

A History of Rutherford County Schools, Vol. I (Northern 
section of the County) $12.00 + $2.00 postage 

A History of Rutherford County Schools , Vol II (Southern 
section of County, including Murfreesboro) 

$12.00 + $2.00 postage 

1840 Rutherford County Census with Index 

$5.00 + $2.00 postage 

Deed Abstracts of Rutherford County, 1803-1810 

$5.00 + $2.00 postage 

Cemetery Records of Rutherford County; 

Vol. I (Northwestern third of County and part of Wilson 
and Davidson Counties, 256 cemeteries with index and maps) 

$10.00 + $2.00 postage 

Vol. II (Eastern third of County, cemeteries with index and 
maps) $10.00 + $2.00 postage 

Vol. Ill (Southwestern third of Rutherford County and the 
western part of Cannon County, 241 cemeteries with index 
and maps) $10.00 + $2.00 postage 



The History of Rutherford County . Vol. I, 1799-1828 

by John C. Spence $25.00 + $2.00 postage 

The History of Rutherford County , Vol II, 1829-1870 

by John C. Spence $25.00 + $2.00 postage 

A Civil War Diary by John C. Spence $25.00 + $2.00 postage 

The Pictorial History of Rutherford County by Mabel Pittard 
OUT OF PRINT 



Map of 1878 Rutherford County (shows land owners) 

$3.50 + $2.00 postage 

Available from Mrs. R.A. Ragland, P.O. Box 544, Murfreesboro, 
TN 37133-0544 

Marriage Records of Rutherford County 

$10.00 + $2.00 postage 



UNCLE DAVE MACON 

by 

Charles Wolfe 

There was in those days a big old two-story house out on 
the Woodbury Pike near Murf reesboro, Tennessee, in the dusty 
little community called Kittrell. Everybody knew who lived 
there — it was hard not to. Across the top of the long front 
porch was a sign that said UNCLE DAVE MACON, and to the right 
was a big wooden picture of a genial older man holding a banjo 
and grinning a big gold-tooth smile. "I want people to be able 
to find me in case they want me to come and play for them, " the 
owner of the house explained to the curious . 

Back in the 1930 's, people were having little trouble 
finding Uncle Dave Macon. Churches came to him to see if he 
would help them raise money; auctioneers came to him to get him 
to play for country sales to attract bidders; vaudeville bookers 
came with offers to play tours that ranged from Boston to 
Florida; schoolhouse superintendents came to him asking for a 
show to help buy books in Depression-racked rural districts. 
Even the bank of nearby Woodbury came to him when they finished 
building the new bank and had to transfer all the money from the 
old one: could they hire Uncle Dave to sit on top of the wagon 
with the money chests and play his banjo during the move? 
Surely no desperado would dare try to rob a wagon that had Uncle 
Dave Macon sitting on top of it. 



People all over middle Tennessee knew David Harrison Macon 
and were used to seeing him at local schools and on the little 
courthouse squares. He was the one with the chin whiskers, the 
red suspenders, the gold watch and chain, and what Judge Hay at 
the Grand Ole Opry called "that million dollar Tennessee smile." 
He was the one with the hat that bore the hat band slogan OLD 
BUT REGULAR, that twirled his banjo like it was a baton and 
fanned it with his hat, and that refused to drive a car because 
they weren't as dependable as mules. But he was also the one 
that was heard every Saturday night on the Grand Ole Opry, and 
that was featured on dozens of Victrola records put out by 
Vocal ion, Brunswick, RCA, Okeh, Champion, and Montgomery Ward. 
He was the one who was country's first real superstar, winning a 
national reputation years before Jimmie Rodgers or The Carter 
Family ever stepped into a studio. For years he was the most 
popular single performer on the Opry, a grand old man whose 
humor and personality won him fans everywhere. He was the first 
artist to make style a part of country music. As one of his 
fans said, "He may not have been the best banjo player or the 
best singer, but he sure as heck was the best something ! " 

David Harrison Macon had roots running deep into Tennessee 
history. He as born October 7, 1870, in the community of Smartt 
Station in Warren County; in Uncle Dave's own words, "I was born 
near the beautiful mountain town of McMinnville. " His father 
was Captain John Macon, born in Warrenton, North Carolina, in 



1829, and a Civil War veteran. His mother was Martha Ann 
Ramsey, a native of Viola in Warren County, born in 1838. The 
1870 census for the 9th Civil District shows David Harrison was 
the ninth child born to the family. The oldest was a daughter 
Lou (born 1856), followed by Vanderbilt (b. 1857), Betty (b. 
1858), Samuel (b. 1860), George (b. ca. 1862), John (b. 1863), 
and Sallie C. (b. ca. 1867). After David Harrison would come 
two younger children. Bob (b. 1875) and Pearl (b. ca. 1879). 
Some of these siblings — especially Lou and Bob — would play 
important roles in Uncle Dave's later career. 

Captain John Macon was a well-known and popular figure in 
Warren County. His own father was a Henry Harrison Macon, who 
in turn was descended from a Revolutionary War hero. Colonel 
John Macon, and from his uncle, Nathaniel Macon, a North 
Carolina Congressman and one-time Speaker of the U.S. House of 
Representatives. Sometime prior to 1830 Henry Harrison Macon 
settled in Warren County, on Hickory Creek, on a plot of some 
600 acres. Before his death in 1851, Henry Harrison Macon 
expanded his holdings by over 2,000 more acres, and had 
established a distillery, as well as a saw mill, grist mill, and 
cotton gin. By 1850, the year before Henry Harrison died, his 
son John shows up in the census records as a student at Irving 
College, one of 55 students in that local institution. By the 
time of his father's death, John found himself inheriting a 
considerable amount of business and property. Most of these he 
administered with his younger brother, Joseph K. 



The Macon family Bible indicates that John married Martha 
Ann Ramsey on December 2, 1855, in Warren County. The young 
couple soon built a handsome house in McMinnville, and the Macon 
Brothers soon bought a grocery store, a tin shop, and a 
mercantile business downtown. All this, as well as John and 
Martha's growing family, was interrupted in 1861, with the 
outbreak of the War Between the States . Both Macon brothers 
closed their stores and joined the 35th Tennessee Infantry 
Regiment, sometimes called the First Tennessee Mountain Rifle 
Regiment, commanded by Colonel Benjamin J. Hill. John Macon 
helped to organize the 2nd Company D; it along with some nine 
others was mustered in at Camp Smartt, near McMinnville, on 
September 6 and 7 . 

During the early days of the war, the regiment moved from 
Trousdale County to Bowling Green and finally to Shiloh, where 
they joined in one of the bloodiest battles of the conflict. 
Here the brigade the 35th was in suffered over 1,000 killed or 
wounded — over a third of its roster. Reorganized, the 
regiment fought in the northern Mississippi campaign, as well as 
at Perryville and at the Battle of Murfreesboro. The exact fate 
of "Captain Macon's company" during the balance of the war is 
not clear; his regiment was reorganized and merged with others 
throughout the conflict, until their eventual dismissal at 
Greensboro, NC, on May 1, 1865. Nor are there any clear records 
to indicate exactly when Captain John returned home; he bought 
out his brother's share in the family businesses in 1862, and 
there is a record of the marriage of Joseph in 1865. We do know 



that by 1867 Captain John had reopened his store with a new 
partner. 

The world young David Macon was born into in 187 was the 
grim world of the Reconstruction South. In Warren County, crops 
lay fallow, buildings were in disrepair, and money was in short 
supply. Still, two generations of Macon prosperity gave the 
family at least some sort of cushion, and the year young David 
was born, his father was still relatively prosperous. The 
census records gave his real estate value that year as $2000, 
his "personal value" estimated at $4000 — over six times the 
average per capita income in the state at that time. The Macon 
household also included three live-in employees, two 
housekeepers and a "male farm laborer." Though the Macon family 
was large, it was well provided for; young David was soon 
attending school in town, and listening to some of the folk 
music from the region. His sister Lou was an accomplished 
pianist, and often bought the latest sheet music to try out in 
the family parlor. Through her, David picked up rudiments of 
singing and a knowledge of songs. 

The young boy was soon playing the guitar -- he had not 
been introduced to the banjo yet — and picking up songs. Many 
years later, when he was asked if he remembered the first song 
he learned, he smiled, nodded, and proceeded to sing it. It was 
a comic piece called "Greenback." 

If I had a scoldin' wife, I tell you what I'd do. 
Run my finger down her throat, gag her with my 
thumb, 



Hi yo, that greenback, greenback, hi yo today. 
Hi yo, that greenback, they're done courtin' me. 
Once I had a brand new overcoat and I hung it on 

the wall, 
Someone stole the overcoat, and whoa, mule, whoa! 
Hi yo, that greenback, greenback, hi yo today, 
Hi yo, that greenback, they're done courtin' me. 

You may ride the old grey horse, I will ride the roan. 
You may court your own true love, leave my wife alone. 
Hi yo, that greenback, greenback, hi yo today. 
Hi yo, that greenback, they're done courtin' me. 

During Reconstruction, of course, one of the bones of contention 
between southerners and the national government was the issue of 
paper money, or "greenbacks." There was even an independent 
"Greenback Party" which ran on the platform in 1876 that paper 
money should be the only currency. 

In the meantime, things were not going well for Captain 
John. The so-called Panic of 1873 delayed what recovery was 
underway in the region, and by 187 7 he was starting to sell off 
some of the Macon property. By early 1884 he had decided that 
times were so hard up country that the best chance for him and 
his young family would be to do what many of his friends were 
doing: head for the cities. In December 1883 he sold his house 
in McMinnville, along with the original 600 acre tract that 
Henry Harrison Macon had originally settled 40 years before. In 
early 1884 he packed up his family — at least those that were 



still living at home — and started down off the Cumberland rim 
down to Nashville, 60 miles to the west. With them came the two 
youngest children, Bob and Pearl, as well as 13-year-old David, 
young Martha, young John, Samuel, and Eugene. By this time Lou 
and Bettie had each found husbands . 

Captain John and Martha had decided to enter the hotel 
business, and settled in at the Broadway House hotel, at 166 
Broadway in Nashville — near the current site of the Hard Rock 
Cafe. For reasons unclear, the hotel was in Martha's name (M.A. 
Macon and Company), though Captain John was a very visible part 
of the scene. In the 1880 's Nashville had a rich vaudeville and 
theater scene, and many of the touring performers liked to stay 
at the Broadway House. One reason was that the building had a 
large, open basement where the acts -- which ranged from 
jugglers to animal acts — could rehearse. Young David, who 
after school began to clerk at the hotel, was fascinated with 
the old vaudeville style and spirit of the performers, and 
watched with great attention as they rehearsed not only their 
music and songs, but their jokes, their slapstick tricks, and 
their comedy lines. It was an age of showmanship, when how well 
a performer sold himself to an audience could make or break his 
act. Style became more important than substance -- a lesson 
young David Macon was learning well. 

The 13-year-old boy was also fascinated with his 
schoolwork. Many years later he would write that he "attended 
the old Hume Fogg high school in the city." He continued: 



It was in this first school in that city 
that my beloved teacher Miss Julia Burton aroused 
in me an ambition to be neat, to learn my lessons 
well, and above all be careful with my writing. 
And though to this day I am past 62 years old I 
never write a letter but what her dear face filled 
with tender instructions comes up before me urging 
me to do my best. I do not know if she is still 
living or has seen How Beautiful Heaven Must Be. 
But let that be as it is, I'm hoping to meet her 
some sweet day and thank her face to face for her 
good influences that have followed me through life. 

Throughout his life. Uncle Dave's penmanship was graceful and 
distinctive, and his letters have a 19th century charm and 
formality that impressed almost everyone who got them. 

In the fall of 1885 a circus pitched camp in downtown 
Nashville, in an open field that was then at the corner of 8th 
and Broadway. Run by a man named Sam McFlinn, it featured, 
among other acts, the comedy and banjo playing of Joel Davidson. 
Davidson was apparently a native of Davidson County, and the 
Nashville city directories for 1884 and 1886 list him as a 
"comedian" who lived at the corner of Lee Avenue and High 
Street. Little other information has been discovered about 
Davidson, but Uncle Dave recalled that at the time he was 
"noted" as a banjoist and comedian. Whatever the case, Davidson 



became the single most important influence on young Dave. It 
was he, Macon wrote, "who proved to be the spirit that touched 
the mainspring of the talent that inspired Uncle Dave to make 
his wishes known to his dear old mother and she gave him the 
money to purchase his first banjo." (A famous photo of the 
young man proudly holding this banjo has often been published in 
various stories about Macon and was used by the artist himself 
in one of his own songbooks.) We do not know if Macon knew 
Davidson personally, or just watched him on stage; one of his 
later trick banjo-twirling numbers called "Uncle Dave Handles a 
Banjo Like an Elephant Handles a Peanut" apparently came from 
Davidson. 

By 1886, the year he turned sixteen, David Harrison was 
working part time as a clerk at the Broadway House. Living 
there with him were his parents, John and Martha, as well as his 
younger brother Bob, and his older brothers John and Samuel. 
Another brother, Eugene L., operated a livery stable up on 
Market Street. John and Samuel also operated a distillery (and 
were officially described as "cider and vinegar manufacturers") 
on south Front Street — a detail that would play a key role in 
the events that would soon occur. That fall would see one of 
the most colorful and bitter political campaigns in Tennessee 
history, the "War of the Roses" between the fiddling Taylor 
Brothers, Alf and Bob. But for the Macon family, the stage was 
being set for a much more personal and dramatic tragedy. 

Late in the afternoon of October 14, 1886, the Macon family 
was lounging around the door to the Broadway House when a man 



10 



passed by that all of them instantly recognized. He was one 
J.C. Fowler, a former resident of Warren County who was also a 
United States Internal Revenue Deputy Collector. For some 
fifteen years, bad blood had existed between Captain John and 
Fowler; back in Warren County, Fowler had been responsible for 
inspecting the distillery that Captain John ran, and he had 
written him up for numerous violations. Captain John argued 
that these were trumped-up charges, and that Fowler had a 
vendetta against him and his family. Apparently Fowler's 
superiors agreed, for they had reassigned all inspections of the 
Macon distillery to other agents. Now both Fowler and the 
Macons found themselves working in Nashville, and Fowler was 
starting to find violations in the distillery run by the Macon 
sons John and Samuel. 

According to later trial testimony, on this evening, as 
Fowler passed in front of the hotel, one of the brothers made 
some sarcastic comment to him. Words followed; Captain John 
overheard from his position as desk clerk and joined the 
argument. One thing led to another, and soon he and Fowler were 
scuffling on the sidewalk. Fowler had in his hand a penknife he 
was whittling with, and he abruptly stabbed Captain John under 
the forearm. At first, the cut appeared to be superficial, and 
the son took Captain John to the hospital. Once there, though, 
they soon found that the knife had cut a major artery, and that 
Captain John was losing blood fast. Shock set in, and the next 
morning. Captain John Macon, late of the Confederacy, aged 57, 
was dead. 



11 



The Macon boys were horrified, and swore to bring Fowler to 
justice. Several, including young David Harrison, had actually 
witnessed the attack, and were more than willing to testify. On 
October 19, the Grand Jury indicted Fowler for murder, and plans 
were set for the trial. Fowler, who apparently was well off, 
got three attorneys to defend him, and succeeded in getting a 
series of continuances through the fall of 1886 and into the 
spring of 1887. Apparently the defense thought the Macons would 
eventually tire of waiting and move out of Nashville, but they 
stubbornly hung on, with Martha continuing to run the Broadway 
House, Sam and John to run their cider and vinegar company, and 
Eugene La Vanderbilt to run his livery stable. 

Finally, on May 24, 1887, the trial started. It lasted 
three days, and dwelt extensively on the bad blood between Macon 
and Fowler. There was also testimony about the wound Captain 
John suffered, and how it would not normally have been fatal, 
but due to the Captain's "advanced years" and "feeble health," 
the loss of blood was fatal. On the 28th of May, with the Macon 
clan watching in the courtroom, the jury came back with a 
decision of not guilty. 

It was a bitter blow to the Macons, but especially to 
Martha. Within weeks she had decided to leave Nashville and 
return to the countryside. She chose not to return to Warren 
County, but to go to Readyville, about halfway between 
Murfreesboro and McMinnville. There she took the proceeds from 
the Broadway House and bought the old Ready Home ("The 
Corners"), a big three-story structure that literally stood on 



12 



the county line dividing Rutherford and Cannon Counties. In 
recent years, the house had been used as a stopover for the 
local stagecoach line, as well as an inn, and Mrs. Macon planned 
on continuing to use it that way. In a sense, she was trading 
one hotel for another. 

Mrs. Macon moved to Readyville in the latter half of 1887, 
but it is not clear how many of the boys moved with her. The 
two youngest children. Bob and Pearl, were only fifteen and 
thirteen respectively, so they were certainly there, but Dave 
was seventeen and might have been out on his own for a time. In 
1889 we have him living at Hermitage, Tennessee, courting a 
young woman that he thought somewhat above his station. 
Sometime after that, and with the courtship abandoned, he did 
return to Readyville. Here he worked for his mother tending to 
the horses from arriving stagecoaches. In his spare time, he 
continued to sing and play the banjo, taking what he had learned 
from the professional entertainers in the basement of the 
Broadway House and adding to it the older folk traditions of 
rural middle Tennessee. 

He was especially interested in African-American music in 
the region. During the late 1800 's, there was a considerable 
black population in the rural counties to the west and south of 
Nashville; many former slaves had come up to the area from 
Mississippi after Emancipation, and some parts of the area 
showed as much as 25% black residence in the 1910 census. 
Though black fold music would later be associated with 
spirituals and blues, the older forms of it featured fiddle and 



13 



banjo music, and young Dave Macon was fascinated with the odd 
tunings and different picking styles he saw local blacks using. 
One of his close friends was a black man named Tom Davis, who 
worked for years at the Readyville mill, and who supposedly 
taught him what would become one of his most famous songs, "Keep 
My Skillet Good and Greasy." 

By the 1890 's young Dave had hit upon the idea of 
entertaining the passengers arriving by stagecoach, and he 
constructed a little platform on top of a barn where he could do 
impromptu shows. Though he received nothing but an occasional 
tip and some polite applause, he found he enjoyed making music 
— though he had no real hope to ever be able to do it for a 
living. His marketable skill seemed to be with horse and mule 
teams — "he was a mule man," recalled his son Archie. He was 
learning how to care for, drive, and harness up teams, and he 
had little doubt that his future lay in the farmland of middle 
Tennessee. 



14 



II 



By 1899 David Macon had grown into a handsome young man 
with the dark, brooding Macon eyes and a neat Van Dyke beard, 
fond of dressing well, not a bit shy about meeting strangers. 
By now he was some 29 years old, and friends and family were 
wondering if he was ever going to marry. They were relieved 
when he met and began courting a girl named Matilda Richardson, 
a native of nearby Kittrell and seven years David's junior. She 
was the daughter of a well-to-do farmer, Patrick Henry Richardson, 
and his wife Mary Bowling Richardson. She was not especially 
musical, and didn't share David's enthusiasm for banjo picking, 
but she was charmed by the Macon style; when he proposed to her, 
she accepted. The wedding was held on November 28, 1899, in 
Kittrell - probably in the nearby Methodist church. 

The young couple settled in Kittrell, in a house facing the 
Woodbury Pike, and began working the sizable tract of land that 
Matilda received as her dowry. By May 1901 their first child, 
Archie Emery Jesse Macon, was born. Others followed within a 

few years: John Henry David Macon (June 1903) , Harry Richardson 
Macon (September 1906), Glenn Samuel Macon (June 1908), Dorris 

Vanderbilt Macon (July 1910), Esten Gray Macon (February 1913), 

and Paul Franklin (May 1919) . (Uncle Dave would later make 

jokes to his friends about "He-Kittrell . " ) 

To help feed his growing family, Uncle Dave organized, 

about 1900, the Macon Midway Mule and Transportation Company. 



15 



The plan was to haul freight between Murf reesboro, in Rutherford 
County, and Woodbury, to the east in Cannon County. This was 
necessary because Woodbury didn't have a railroad, and the only 
way to get goods in or out was by wagon. Since the Kittrell 
farm was about half way between the two towns, it was decided to 
make that the layover point; one day's drive would be from 
Murf reesboro to Kittrell, the team and driver would rest there, 
and the second day's drive would be over the hilly, winding 
roads into Woodbury. "We hauled everything," recalled his son 
Archie, who later helped him on the route. "Flour, nails, 
barbed wire, piece goods, horse shoes, medicine — anything you 
can think of. We hauled something that paid good in those days, 
and still does — Jack Daniel No. 7. We hauled it to Woodbury 

for 25 cents a gallon that is, what they didn't make at 

Woodbury!" Uncle Dave soon hired a friend and neighbor, Hatton 
Sanford, to be general manager for the company, and using what 
he later called "four good mules and a Mitchell wagon," he got 
the business into high gear. 

But the newly minted teamster couldn't quite keep his 
interest in music down. As he drove along, people on the route 
could hear him singing, and whenever any little boy on the road 
got hold of an old banjo, he would be standing at the side of 
the road to show it to Uncle Dave. He had picked up dozens of 
old folk songs from the area — ones like "Sail Away Ladies" and 
"Whoa Mule" and "Rabbit in the Pea Patch," and he still 
remembered some of the favorites he had heard in Nashville, such 
as the stage song "Over the Mountain" and the old riverboat 



16 



roustabout song "Rock About My Saro Jane." But now he was 
beginning to write his own songs, and to customize some of his 
old ones. People liked to hear about local topics, and about 
current events, and about people they knew -- a lesson that he 
would remember for years. And then, in 1902, Uncle Dave 
suddenly found himself right smack in the middle of a major 
news-making event. 

On March 28, 1902, the Nashville Banner carried two 
innocent articles about the weather; one described heavy 
rainfall that had hit Alabama; the other predicted "continued 
rain" in the middle Tennessee area. That Thursday night, 
though, and the following Friday, it began raining hard in 
Rutherford County and middle Tennessee. "The heaviest fall of 
rain ever known here fell here," said one dispatch to the 
Banner. "Every bridge in the county was washed away and 
Murfreesboro is cut off from the outside world. The telephone 
lines in many directions are burned out, and it is therefore 
impossible to get complete information." Nor was there any work 
from nearby Woodbury, since the phone lines were out there as 
well. Throughout the weekend there were attempts made to get 
word from Woodbury; a wagon driver who tried to cross one of the 
flooded streams to get to the town was swept away and severely 
injured. When communication was eventually restored, people 
learned that an entire "Negro church" was washed away, as well 
as a number of cabins near Rush Creek. 

When the water finally went down. Uncle Dave and Hatton 
Sanford were among the first to get into Woodbury. Uncle Dave 



17 



later remembered: "When we at last reached the city limits of 
Woodbury, to find the first face to greet us was none other than 
the old familiar face of Bob Vernon, a noted musician, chimney 
builder, gardener, and general flunky. Our first question was, 
'Well, Bob, how did the flood serve you?' He replied, "Boss, 
all I've got is gone.'" The phrase and the situation struck 
Uncle Dave, and he soon had turned it into one of his first 
original songs: "All I've Got is Gone." 

Well, I am going to sing you a brand new song. 
She's a dandy as sure as you are born. 
Everything just running in rhymes. 
Of matters and things concerning these times. 

For all I've got is gone, all I've got is gone. 

A whole lot of people had acted fools. 
Went along here and bought a lot of mules. 
Cotton was high, but now it is down. 
You can't jump a mule man in your town. 

For all I've got is gone, all I've got is gone. 

I went to the bank to borrow some money. 
Tell you right now, I didn't find it funny, 
The banker said, 'I have none to loan. 
Get your old hat and pull out home. ' 



For all we've got is gone, for all we've got is gone. 

Uncle Dave would sing this song often at local events and on his 
Mitchell wagon, and would even record it at his first recording 
session years later. It would, in a very real sense, become his 
first "hit." 

In November 1906 Uncle Dave's mother, Martha Ramsey, died, 
leaving her old house in Readyville to her son Vanderbilt. 
Other changes soon followed. Two of the Macon brothers, Emory 
John and Bob, had moved to Oklahoma, and it was there that Emory 
John died in 1908, under somewhat tragic circumstances. He was 
single, and left most of his estate to his brother Bob; however, 
a handsome bequest came to Uncle Dave as well, providing even 
more capital for his farm and freight business. 

It was about this time, however, that David Harrison began 
to suffer from emotional problems that would bother him for the 
rest of his life. He started having fits of depression, and 
would go into states that would sometimes last for days. 
Sometimes these states would involve drinking, but at other 
times they simply came on of their own. Miss Mary Hall, whose 
father was for many years the Macon physician, recalls her 
father coming home one night after a house call and saying, 
"Well, Dave's going down again. He's just sitting there, not 
talking, just staring into space." Sid Harkreader, who would 
later be his partners, recalls: "There would be nights when he 



19 



wouldn't sleep at all. He'd just sit in the dark and stare. 
One time he told me, 'There's times I wish morning would never 
come.'" He was hospitalized several times for the condition; 
even before his mother died in 1906 she sent Bob with him to 
Bolivar, to the state psychiatric hospital there. And in 1913 
the family sent him to the old Central Hospital near Nashville, 
for a stay that lasted from February 10 to May 10 -- some 13 
weeks. (This started only four days after his son Eston was 
born.) It is hard to say exactly what his condition was, but it 
sounds like what a modern therapist might call manic depression. 
Whatever it was, it seems to have been a deeply rooted condition 
that had been with him long before he began performing in 
public. 

By the end of World War I, about 1918, The Macon Midway 
Mule and Transportation Company was facing a new challenge. 
Competing lines were starting up, using the new-fangled gasoline 
powered trucks to carry freight. Friends urged Macon to do the 
Scime, but he wouldn't hear of it; he had always been suspicious 
of automobiles, and had never even learned to drive one. (To 
the end of his life, he refused to drive one, though he got to 
where he saw the need to travel in them. ) It was about this 
time that he also wrote a song, "From Earth to Heaven," about 
his freight line. The chorus ran: 

Been wagonning for over twenty years. 
And a-living on the farm. 



20 



I'll bet a hundred dollars to a half a ginger cake, 
I'll be here when the trucks is gone. 

The last two stanzas compared the truck system to the mules: 

An auto truck has a guiding wheel. 

While I hold my line. 

Oh, when my feet and body get cold, 

I'm a-walking half the time. 

I speak right to my power. 

They understand my talk. 

And when I holler, 'Way, get a-right! ' 

They know just how to walk. 

Says an auto truck runs quick and fast. 

The wagon hasn't the speed. 

Four good mules and a Mitchell wagon. 

Is the safest, oh yes indeed. 

I'm on my way to Heaven , 

Well, gonna tell you just how I feel, 

I'd rather ride in a wagon and go to Heaven, 

Than to hell in an automobile. 

But the writing was on the wall, and it was only a matter 
of time before the gasoline trucks took over, and the mule power 
was a thing reserved only for parades and special occasions. 
And while Uncle Dave was comfortably fixed on his farm, he was 



21 



fifty years old, and he was used to working and being in the 
public eye. Most of his boys were still at home, and with farm 
prices what they were in the 1920 's, he began casting about. As 
his son Eston later explained it, "You know the old saying. When 
life gives you a lemon, make lemonade. That's what my father 
did. When his freight line was put out of business, he turned 
to music. " 

In the summer of 1920, shortly after he quit his freight 
line, Macon visited a nephew in the Arkansas Ozarks. In a 
letter he wrote in 1933, he admitted that it was here, for the 
first time, that he "gave himself almost entirely to his 
favorite past time, that of playing and singing on his banjo." 
He was staying at a hotel, and the other tourists there totally 
enjoyed the informal playing he did. One man in particular 
impressed him; he came to him and said, "Uncle Dave, you have 
saved my life. I was so blue and down and out I did not care to 
life [sic] any longer. But by seeing you at your age act out as 
well as playing and singing... my spirits just rose and refreshed 
my whole soul and body and has given me hope to go on with 
life's duties." For someone who knew first hand what it was 
like to be "blue and down and out," this was an impressive 
testimony. It was also food for thought — music might not only 
be profitable, but also therapeutic. 



22 



III 



During the early 1920 's, then. Uncle Dave Macon, at an age 
when most men were getting ready to retire, embarked on a second 
career. There are a number of different stories about his 
"first" performance, and how it came about. Some say that he 
began by hiring out to local auctioneers to play for their sales 
and attract crowds. Others say a wealthy local farmer asked him 
how much he would take to play for a party; miffed at the man's 
arrogance and hoping to insult him. Uncle Dave named what he 
thought was a ridiculous price. To his surprise, the farmer 
accepted. Uncle Dave himself said "the first time I ever played 
and sang in public" was in 1921, at Morrison, Tennessee; "the 
Methodist Church there needed a new door. I gave a show, then 
passed the hat and collected the money, $17." Another account 
has him playing for a Shriner's convention in Nashville, and 
yet another playing for a sales meeting of the popular Sterchi 
Brothers furniture chain. A story told by Macon's long-time 
partner Sid Harkreader describes Uncle Dave showing off for some 
of the patrons at Melton's barber shop in Nashville when an 
agent for the Loew ' s theater chain saw him and exclaimed, "I 
think it's the greatest thing that ever was!" 

About 1923, Uncle Dave decided he needed a partner in his 
new endeavor. He first hoped to interest one of his boys in it; 
Glenn was emerging as a truly talented banjo player and 
guitarist, and he was in 1923 about 15 years old. 
Unfortunately, he was painfully shy, and could not be coaxed 



23 



into playing in public; to the end of his life, he remained a 
"kitchen musician" — albeit a superb one. The oldest son, 
Archie, had a fine singing voice, but was establishing his own 
career as a blacksmith. A third son, Dorris, who would later 
join his father on stage, was still too young and inexperienced. 
Thus Uncle Dave turned to a young man from near Lebanon, 
Tennessee, Sid Harkreader. Sid was a tall, gangling youth who 
was skilled on the fiddle and guitar, and who was a capable 
singer. Furthermore, Sid was ambitious; though what people 
would eventually call country music was still in its infancy, 
Sid really planned on making a living at it. In order to do 
this, he knew he had to give the people what they wanted, and to 
promote himself and his music. He sensed the immense appeal of 
Uncle Dave Macon, and was willing to apprentice himself to the 
older singer. A deal was struck, part of which was that Uncle 
Dave would furnish the car, and Sid would drive it. 

In 1923, Fiddlin' John Carson, a millhand from north 
Georgia, made the first Victrola record on which country music 
was sung. It was a hit, and within months all the major record 
companies were falling over themselves to find their own "hill 
country" musicians. By the summer of 1924, the Sterchi Brothers 
furniture chain, popular throughout Tennessee, had become the 
southern distributors for Vocalion records, one of the nation's 
leading companies. The chain's Knoxville manager, Gus 
Nennesteil, began looking around for local Tennessee performers 
that might be suitable for Vocalion. At a meeting at the Reed 
House in Chattanooga, he had heard Uncle Dave and Sid and 



24 



decided they fit the bill. He persuaded the Furniture Company 
to pay the expenses for Uncle Dave and Sid to travel to New York 
City to put some of their songs on record. 

It was quite a trip. Asked to keep track of his expenses. 
Uncle Dave carried a little notebook and pencil and dutifully 
wrote down everything. When he was charged New York rates for a 
shave and a haircut, he wrote down: "Robbed in barber shop — 
$7.50." When he was walking down the street to the studio, 
carrying his banjo without even a case, he was accosted by a 
gang of rough and tumble East end kids. "Where you from, old 
man?" they said. "Tennessee," was the reply. "Lot of darn 
fools come from Tennessee, don't they?" another said. "Yes," 
said Uncle Dave, "but they don't run in packs like they do up 
here." On the way home. Uncle Dave found some new friends, and, 
having a good time with them, mistakenly got off the train in 
Richmond, Virginia, leaving Sid to go on to Tennessee. The next 
day he finally got straggled in, not quite clear just what had 
happened. "You know, I hope I didn't insult anybody," he said. 
"Don't worry. Uncle Dave," Sid said. "If it had been too bad, 
they would have arrested you." 

They had done good work, though. On July 8, 1924, Uncle 
Dave had recorded his first records. The very first song he 
committed to wax was "Keep My Skillet Good and Greasy," followed 
by "Hill Billie Blues." Both were among his most popular 
pieces; "Hill Billie Blues" was the first song to use the term 
"hillbilly," what was later applied for years to the entire 
genre of music we now call country. Others from that very first 



25 



session were his flood song, "All I Got Is Gone," a comedy song 
about a burglar who hides under the bed called "The Old Maid's 
Last Hope," and an imitation song called "The Fox Chase." For 
the next three days, Uncle Dave and Sid continued to play and 
sing, eventually running up a total of fourteen sides. The 
first song to actually be released by the company was another of 
the Macon favorites: "Chewing Gum." 

Thus, about 1920, the year Uncle Dave turned fifty, things 
began to change. Trucks came on the scene, and a rival company 
began to use them to take away much of the Macon freight hauling 
business. He began to think about a trip he had made to 
Arkansas in 1920, where he had entertained alm.ost constantly 
with his banjo, and about how well his listeners had responded. 
Then one day at Melton's Barber Shop in Nashville, he was 
showing off and dancing around his banjo when he attracted the 
attention of a talent buyer for the Loew's Theater chain. "I've 
never seen anything like that," the buyer said. "You'll be a 
sensation on stage." 

He was. In January 1925 the Loews people sent him to 
Birmingham for his debut. With him were two leal boys, Sid 
Harkreader (a fiddler and guitarist) and Dancing Bob Bradford (a 
tap dancer and old-time flat foot buck dancer). "Uncle Dave 
Macon and his sons. Direct from Billy Goat Hill" read the 
marquee. Uncle Dave was pulled on stage riding on a wagon 
pulled by a goat, wearing a big straw hat, playing a little 



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26 



open-back banjo. What followed must have resembled a cross 
between Hee Haw and The Beverly Hillbillies ; there were jokes, 
dancing, rube stories, and songs like "Bully of the Town" and 
"Keep My Skillet Good and Greasy" and one Macon had just written 
called "Hill Billie Blues." The good citizens of Birmingham 
couldn't get enough; a two week run turned into three weeks, 
then four, then five. So many customers tried to get in that 
the manager let people stand up against the back wall of the 
theater and was arrested by the Fire Marshall for overcrowding. 
By the time Uncle Dave moved on to similar runs in Memphis and 
Nashville, he was the sensation of the season. Soon he was on 
the larger Loews' circuit, doing shows in Boston, Florida, and 
points in between. 

Thus by the time George D. Hay decided to start a WSM Barn 
Dance in December 1925, Uncle Dave was by far the best-known 
entertainer in the area. He was the only one of Hay's crop of 
early Opry musicians who had really had any professional 
experience; it was not surprising that when Hay made the formal 
announcement about starting what would be the first scheduled 
Opry show, on December 28, 1925, the two featured stars were 
old-time fiddler Uncle Jimmy Thompson and Uncle Dave Macon. 
Ironically, during these early years (from 1925 to 1929), Macon 
was not on the show all that much; much of the time he was on 
tour or off making records. He soon found he could make more 
money by doing his own booking and setting up a series of 
"schoolhouse" shows around the South; he would choose a country 



27 



school, do a deal with the principal to split the proceeds, put 
up window cards, do a free show at recess for the kids so they 
would run home and tell their folks. The results worked, and 
even after the Opry started its own booking agency and began to 
put Uncle Dave on package tours, he still continued his own 
personal booking. 

Through the 1920 's and 1930 's Uncle Dave continued to 
record, for just about every major label. Often his partners 
were Sam and Kirk McGee, ace instrumentalists and singers from 
nearby Franklin. For one session he organized a group called 
The Dixie Sacred Singers, and recorded early hit versions of 
"Maple on the Hill" and "Heavenly Sunlight." Starting in 1935, 
he began working with The Delmore Brothers, the definitive 
country harmony team, and recorded with them several wonderful 
sides for RCA's Bluebird label: "Over the Mountain," "One More 
River to Cross," "From Jerusalem to Jericho." Toward the end, 
his favorite partner in the studio was Smoky Mountain Glenn 
Stagner, when whom he recorded "Wait Til the Clouds Roll By." 
Though he often appeared (after 1930) with his son Dorris on 
tours and on the Opry, he never made any issued commercial 
records with his son. There were no Top Ten charts in those 
early days, but Uncle Dave's big hits included "Way Down the Old 
Plank Road" (1926), "The Death of John Henry" (1926), "Rockabout 
My Saro Jane" (1927), "Sail Away, Ladies" (1927), "Buddy Won't 
You Roll Down the Line" (1928), and the story of his own career, 
"From Earth to Heaven" (1928). Two of his best-remembered songs 



28 



from the radio were "How Beautiful Heaven Must Be" (his 
unofficial theme song) and "Eleven Cent Cotton, Forty Cent Meat" 
(one of his numerous protest songs). 

The young Turks on the Opry usually got assigned to Uncle 
Dave on tours; Judge Hay felt Uncle Dave could draw the crowds, 
and that he could teach the youngsters about showmanship. Those 
who learned included The Delmore Brothers, a young Roy Acuff, a 
younger Minnie Pearl, a youthful Bill Monroe, and the colorful 
Curly Fox. In 1940, it was Uncle Dave and Roy Acuff who were 
the stars of the Opry ' s first foray into Hollywood, the Republic 
film Grand Ole Opry — though Uncle Dave's name was listed above 
Acuff 's in the credits. In 1939, when the Prince Albert portion 
of the Opry went on the NBC network for nationwide hearing. 
Uncle Dave became a regular member of that half hour. In 1946, 
when the BBC came over to record country music to introduce the 
Opry to England, Uncle Dave was one of the first choices. And 
in 1950, when Governor Gordon Browning came on-stage for a 
special edition celebrating the Opry ' s 25th anniversary. Uncle 
Dave was on hand to sing "Chewing Gum." By now he was being 
recognized as one of the founders of the Opry, and one of its 
most important links with its past. 

Still, for a man of his age. Uncle Dave took to change 
amazingly well. As early as 1933 he told Judge Hay that he was 
looking forward to being on television — and got his wish 
shortly after WSM's television station went on the air in 1950. 
He enjoyed the revolutionary banjo playing of bluegrass great 



29 



Earl Scruggs in the late 1940 ' s -- though he once came to him 
and said, "Ernest [for some reason he always called Scruggs 
Ernest], you're a fine banjo player, but you ain't a bit funny." 
He took as his protege a long, lean droll-faced young Opry 
member named David "Stringbean" Akeman, teaching him his style 
and his songs and eventually willing him one of his own banjos. 
(Stringbean did preserve the tradition, eventually carrying the 
music to the Opry and to Hee Haw before his own tragic murder.) 
Once Uncle Dave came up to Earl Scruggs and Stringbean and said, 
"Boys, we're the only three banjo players on the Opry now. We 
can really make ourselves some money if we were to go on tour 
together, and form the world's first Banjo Trio." Scruggs and 
Stringbean just stared at him. 

By now Uncle Dave was nearing 80, and was slowing down on 
some of his own banjo playing. Most of the time he preferred to 
use trailing or clawhammer techniques, and many current Opry 
members who recall Uncle Dave in person recall him using only 
this rather simplified picking style. But in his earlier days, 
as reflected on his records from the 1920 's. Uncle Dave was a 
veritable Tyrannosaurus of the banjo. Scholars have identified 
no fewer than sixteen different banjo styles on his records: 
two finger style, three finger style, complex rolls, classical 
styles from the 19th century, ragtime styles, blues, styles that 
sound amazingly like modern bluegrass, double-drop thumb, 
combinations of up-picking and down-picking, and several that 
haven't even been identified yet. We have no records of him at 



30 



his true prime, in his 30 's or 40' s, and can only wonder what 
his skill level might have been then. 

By the mid-1940 's, Uncle Dave was pretty much alone in the 
world. Matilda had passed in 1938, and all the sons were grown 
and most had families of their own. Though he had a housekeeper 
for his place in Kittrell, he lived a good deal of the time in 
the old Merchant's Hotel in downtown Nashville, just doors away 
from where the old Broadway House had been. In his last years, 
he gave up running his own shows, and often toured with other 
artists. In 1947, he wrote to a friend: "Now I am still around 
here, all OK, coming 77 years of age and cannot decide at 
present what is best for me to do. I have no woman housekeeper 
and no house is anyways half kept without a darling woman to 
boss it. I sometimes think I will talk some secondhand love to 
a rich widow I know for a housekeeper and hang my old banjo on 
the wall Saturday night." 

He never did, though, and was still playing on the Grant 
Old Opry when his final illness struck him on March 1, 1952. 
After the curtain at the old Ryman came down, he sat still in 
his old ladder back chair he performed in, and said quietly, 
"Boys, you'll have to carry me off." A throat ailment caused an 
emergency operation, and he spent the next three weeks in 
Rutherford Hospital. Cards and letters poured in at the rate of 
150 a day, but he finally died at 6:25 in the morning on March 
22. His funeral, held at the Methodist Church, attracted over 
5,000 mourners. 



31 



The day of the funeral, like everything else about Uncle 
Dave Macon, entered into local legend. Nobody had ever seen a 
procession like the one that wound its way out Main Street to 
the Coleman Cemetery, on the Woodbury Pike. The great and near- 
great were here — as well as local farmers and shopkeepers. 
Car full and car full rolled past, and the yarns about Uncle 
Dave came and thick and fast, as everybody told their favorite 
Uncle Dave story. And it was said that the onlookers, standing 
on the Main Street curb with their hats off, were puzzled at the 
sight. Car after car, going to a funeral, but full of people 
laughing and smiling and looking for the life of them like they 
were having a good time. 



32 



Acknowledgments 

This essay is based on material I have been gathering for 
the past 20 years for a book about Uncle Dave Macon. My primary 
sources include members of the Macon family: Uncle Dave's sons 
Archie, Harry, Eston, and Dorris; Edna and Ramsey Macon, for 
their work in the Macon genealogy; John and Wren Doubler; John 
Doubler and Dave Macon. I am grateful too for the many 
musicians who performed with Uncle Dave and shared their 
memories with me: Sid Harkreader, Sam and Kirk McGee, Alcyone 
Bate Beasley, Smoky Mountain Glen Stagner, Jewell Haynes, Curly 
Fox, Bill Monroe, Blythe Poteet, Louis M. Grandpa Jones, Earl 
Scruggs, Walter Bailes, Zeke Clements, and others. Other 
sources include Mrs. Ruth Woods, Miss Mary Hall, Representative 
John Bragg, Emily and George Boswell, Bill Knowlton, Bill 
Harrison, Howdy Forrester, Roy Acuff, and Paul Ritscher. I owe 
special thanks to the Warren County historian James Dillon for 
his research into the career of Captain John Macon, and to Susan 
Newby and Maria Cartwright for their newspaper research into the 
early years. The list of recordings was based on research by 
Ralph Rinzler, Bob Pinson, Tony Russell, and Norm Cohen. A more 
detailed discography may be found in the pamphlet "Uncle Dave 
Macon: A Bio-Discography , " published (not now out of print) by 
the John Edwards Memorial Foundation, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA 
1970. 

CKW 



33 



UNCLE DAVE MACON — THE RECORDINGS 

July 1924. New York. Vocalion Record Company. 

Keep My Skillet Good and Greasy 

Hill Billie Blues 

Old Maid's Last Hope (A Burglar Song) 

All I ' ve Got ' s Gone 

The Fox Chase 

Papa's Billy Goat 

The Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane (w/ Sid Harkreader) 

( She Was Always ) Chewing Gum 

Jonah and the Whale (w/ Sid Harkreader) 

I ' m Going Away to Leave You Love 

Love Somebody (w/ Sid Harkreader) 

Soldier's Joy (w/ Sid Harkreader) 

Bile Them Cabbage Down 

Down by the River 

April 1925. New York City. Vocalion Record Company. 

Run, Nigger, Run 

Old Dan Tucker 

Station Will Be Changed After a While 

Rooster Crow Medley 

Going Across the Sea 

Just From Tennessee 

Watermelon Smilin' on the Vine 

All-Go-Hungry Hash House 

From Jerusalem to Jericho 

I Tickled Nancy 

Arkansas Travellers (w/ Sid Harkreader) 

The Girl I Left Behind Me (w/ Sid Harkreader) 

Muskrat Medley 

Old Ship of Zion (w/ Sid Harkreader) 

Down in Arkansas (w/ Sid Harkreader) 

Down by the Old Mill Stream (w/ Sid Harkreader) 

I Don't Reckon It'll Happen Again 

Save My Mother's Picture from the Sale 

April 1926. New York City. Vocalion Record Company 

Rise When the Rooster Crows (w/ Sam McGee) 

Way Down the Old Plank Road (w/ Sam McGee) 

The Bible's True (w/ Sam McGee) 

He Won the Heart of My Sarah Jane (w/ Sam McGee) 

Late Last Night When My Willie Came Home (w/ Sam McGee) 

I've Got the Mourning Blues (w/ Sam McGee) 

Death of John Henry (Steel Driving Man) (w/ Sam McGee) 

On the Dixie Bee Line (In That Henry Ford of Mine) (w/ Sam 

McGee ) 

Whoop 'em Up Cindy (w/ Sam. McGee) 



34 



Only as Far as the Gate, Dear Ma (w/ Sam McGee) 
Just Tell Them That You Saw Me (w/ Sam McGee) 
Poor Sinners, Fare You Well (w/ Sam McGee) 
Old Ties (w/ Sam McGee) 

September 1926. New York City. Vocalion Record Company. 

We Are Up Against It Now 

Uncle Dave's Beloved Solo 

The Old Man's Drunk Again 

I Ain ' t Got Long to Stay 

Ain't It a Shame to Keep Your Honey Out in the Rain 

Stop That Knocking At My Door 

Sassy Sam 

Shout, Mourner, You Shall Be Free 

I Don't Care If I Never Wake Up 

In the Good Old Summer Time 

Something ' s Always Sure to Tickle Me 

Sourwood Mountain Medley 

Deliverance Will Come 

Wouldn't Give Me Sugar in My Coffee 

Kissin' on the Sly 

Hold On to the Sleigh 

In the Good Days of Long Ago 

My Girl ' s a High Born Lady 

The Cross-Eyed Butcher and the Cacklin' Hen 

In the Old Carolina State (Where the Sweet Magnolias Bloom) 

Never Make Love No More 

Arcade Blues 

Them Two Gals of Mine 

Diamond in the Rough 

Tossing the Baby So High 

Shoo' Fly, Don't Bother Me 

Uncle Ned 

Braying Mule 

May 1927. New York City. Vocalion Record Company. 

(FJD = Fruit Jar Drinkers, a band composed of Sam and Kirk 
McGee, Mazy Todd on fiddle, and Uncle Dave Macon.) 
(DSS = Dixie Sacred Singers, with same personnel.) 

Bake That Chicken Pie (w/ FJD) 

Rockabout My Saro Jane (w/ FJD) 

Tell Her to Come Back Home (w/ FJD) 

Hold That Woodpile Down (w/ FJD) 

Carve That Possum (w/ FJD) 

Hop High, Ladies, The Cake's All Dough (w/ FJD) 

Sail Away, Ladies (w/ FJD) 

I'm a Coin' Away in the Morn (w/ FJD) 

Sleepy Lou (w/ FJD) 

The Gray Cat on a Tennessee Farm (w/ FJD) 

Walk, Tom Wilson, Walk (w/ FJD) 



35 



I ' se Gwine Back to Dixie (w/ FJD) 

Take Me Home, Poor Julia (w/ FJD) 

Go Along Mule (w/ FJD) 

Tom and Jerry (w/ FJD) 

Rabbit in the Pea Patch (w/ FJD) 

Jordan is a Hard Road to Travel (w/ FJD) 

Pickaninny Lullaby Song (w/ FJD) 

Are You Washed in the Blood of the Lamb (DSS) 

The Maple on the Hill (DSS) 

Poor Old Dad (w/ The McGee Brothers) 

Walking in the Sunlight (DSS) 

Bear Me Away on Your Snowy Wings (DSS) 

The Mockingbird Song Medley 

Shall We Gather at the River (DSS) 

When the Roll is Called Up Yonder (DSS) 

In the Sweet Bye and Bye (DSS) 

In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree 

Molly Married a Travelling Man 

When Reubin Comes to Town 

Got No Silver Nor Gold Blues 

Heartaching Blues 

Roe Rire Poor Gal 

You've Been a Friend to Me (w/ The McGee Brothers) 

Backwater Blues (w/ The McGee Brothers) 

More Like Your Dad Every Day 

I'll Never Go There Anymore (The Bowery) 

June 1928. Indianapolis. Brunswick Recording Company. 

Jesus, Lover of My Soul 

July 1928. Chicago, Illinois. Brunswick Record Co. 

(uncredited ace. by Sam McGee, guitar or banjo-guitar) 
From Earth to Heaven 
The Coon that Had the Razor 
Buddy, Won't You Roll Down the Line 
Worthy of Estimation 
I'm the Child to Fight 
Over the Road I ' m Bound to Go 
The New Ford Car 

The Gal That Got Stuck on Everything She Said 
Comin ' Round the Mountain 
Governor Al Smith [for President] 

June 1929. Chicago, Illinois. Brunswick Recording Co. 

Darling Zelma Lee (w/ Sid Harkreader) 

Put Me in My Little Bed (w/ Sid Harkreader) 

The Life and Death of Jesse James (w/ Sid Harkreader) 

Man That Rode the Mule Around the World (w/ Sid Harkreader) 

Tennessee Jubilee (w/ Sid Harkreader) 

New Coon in Town (w/ Sid Harkreader) 



36 



For Goodness Sakes Don't Say I Told You (w/ Sid Harkreader) 

We Need a Change in the Business All Around (w/ Sid Harkreader) 

Susie Lee 

Mister Johnson (w/ Sid Harkreader) 

Farm Relief 

Uncle Dave's Travels, Part 3 (In and Around Nashville) 

Since Baby ' s Learned to Talk 

Uncle Dave's Travels, Part 4 (Visit at the Old Maid's) 

Over the Mountain (w/ Sid Harkreader) 

Hush Little Baby Don't You Cry 

Uncle Dave's Travels, Part I (Misery in Arkansas) 

Uncle Dave's Travels, Part II (Around Louisville) 

December 1930. Jackson, Mississippi. Okeh Phonograph Co. 
(Uncredited accompaniment by Sam McGee, banjo-guitar and banjo) 

Tennessee Red Fox Chase 

Wreck of the Tennessee Gravy Train 

Oh Babe, You Done Me Wrong 

She ' s Got the Money Too 

Oh Lovin' Babe 

Mysteries of the World 

Come on Buddy, Don't You Want to Go 

Go On, Nora Lee 

August 1934. Richmond, Indiana. Starr Piano Co, (Gennett Records) 

Thank God for Everything (w/ The McGee Brothers) 
When the Train Comes Along (w/ The McGee Brothers) 
The Tennessee Tornado (w/ Sam McGee) 
Don't Get Weary Children (w/ The McGee Brothers) 
He's Up with the Angels Now (w/ The McGee Brothers) 

January 1935. New Orleans, LA. Victor (Bluebird) records. 

(Uncredited ace. by Delmore Brothers on first four sides.) 

Over the Mountain 

When the Harvest Days Are Over 

One More River to Cross 

Just One Way to the Pearly Gates 

I ' 11 Tickle Nancy 

I ' 11 Keep My Skillet Good and Greasy 

August 1937. Charlotte, North Carolina. Victor (Bluebird) 
records . 

All in Down and Out Blues 

Honest Confession Is Good for the Soul 

Fame Apart From God ' s Approval 

The Bum Hotel 

From Jerusalem to Jericho 

Two-In-One Chewing Bum 

Travel in' Down the Road 



37 



January 1938. Charlotte, North Carolina. Victor (Bluebird) 
records . 

(Uncredited ace. by Smoky Mountain Glen Stagner. ) 

Country Ham and Red Gravy 

Summertime on the Beeno Line 

He Won the Heart of Sarah Jane 

Peek-a-Boo 

Working for My Lord 

She ' s Got the Money Too 

Wait Til the Clouds Roll By 

Things I Don't Like to See 

They ' re After Me 

My Daughter Wished to Marry 

Beautiful Love 

(No accompaniment on following sides, except for an unidentified 
fiddler on "Johnny Grey.") 

Give Me Back My Five Dollars 
Railroadin' and Gamblin' 
Cumberland Mountain Deer Race 
Johnny Grey 
The Gayest Old Dude That ' s Out 

February 1945. Nashville, Tennessee. Private recordings. 
(Accompanied by Dorr is Macon. ) 

Come Dearest the Daylight Is Dawning/Nobody's Darling 

Don ' t You Look for Trouble 

I'm Free, I've Broken the Chains 

Laugh Your Blues Away 

Travellin' on My Mind 

I'm Drifting Farther from You 

May 1950. Kittrell, Tennessee. Field recordings by Charles 
Faulkner Bryan and George W. Boswell. 

Cumberland Mountain Deer Race 

Rabbit in the Pea Patch 

Bully of the Town 

Mountain Dew 

Old Maid's Love Song 

Rock of Ages 

Keep My Skillet Good and Greasy 

Death of John Henry 

That ' s Where My Money Goes 

Long John Green 

The Lady in the Car 

Cotton-Eyed Joe 

Something's Sure to Tickle Me 

Chewing Gum 

All in Down and Out Blues 



38 



Hungry Hash House 

Whoa Mule 

No One to Welcome Me Home 

Unidentified Banjo Solo 

Polly Put the Kettle On 

Kissing on the Sly 





DATE DUE 




JY 9 '10 









































































































































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