MIDDLE TN STATE UN IV
3 3082 01501326
Publication No. 35
Uncle Dave Macon
Murf reesboro; Tennessee
Digitized by the Internet Archive
in 2010 with funding from
Lyrasis IVIembers and Sloan Foundation
RUTHERFORD COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY
PUBLICATION NO. 35
Rutherford County Historical Society
President Charles L. Nored
Vice President Kirk McCrary
Recording Secretary Ed DeBoer
Treasurer Mary Cox
Directors Robert Walden
Publication No. 35 is distributed to members of the
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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
Rutherford County Historical SocietyMiddle Tennessee Stale UnK/ersity
P.O. Box 906 Murfreesboro, Tennessee 37132
Murfreesboro, TN 37133-0906
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
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)
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.
State Capitol, Ben McCullough, Petition of
Michael Lorance, Country Store, and Soule
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
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.
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
Publication 24: History of Medicine in Rutherford County.
Legends and Stories of the Civil War in
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
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
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
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
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History of Medicine in Rutherford County , Part II (A collection
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Westbrooks, Williams, and Related Smothermans of Rutherford
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History of Versailles - OUT OF PRINT
History of Rutherford County by C.C. Sims (pub. 1947)
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History of Rutherford County by Mabel Pittard (pub. 1983)
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A History of Rutherford County Schools, Vol. I (Northern
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A History of Rutherford County Schools , Vol II (Southern
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1840 Rutherford County Census with Index
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Deed Abstracts of Rutherford County, 1803-1810
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Cemetery Records of Rutherford County;
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Marriage Records of Rutherford County
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UNCLE DAVE MACON
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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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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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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)
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
Whoop 'em Up Cindy (w/ Sam. McGee)
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
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
Them Two Gals of Mine
Diamond in the Rough
Tossing the Baby So High
Shoo' Fly, Don't Bother Me
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)
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
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)
For Goodness Sakes Don't Say I Told You (w/ Sid Harkreader)
We Need a Change in the Business All Around (w/ Sid Harkreader)
Mister Johnson (w/ Sid Harkreader)
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)
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
January 1938. Charlotte, North Carolina. Victor (Bluebird)
(Uncredited ace. by Smoky Mountain Glen Stagner. )
Country Ham and Red Gravy
Summertime on the Beeno Line
He Won the Heart of Sarah Jane
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
(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
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
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
Something's Sure to Tickle Me
All in Down and Out Blues
Hungry Hash House
No One to Welcome Me Home
Unidentified Banjo Solo
Polly Put the Kettle On
Kissing on the Sly
JY 9 '10
Demco, Inc. 3b-233