Linthead Stomp: The Creation of Country Music in the Piedmont South

Overview

"Contrary to popular belief, American country music did not have its roots solely on southern farms or in mountain hollows. Rather, much of this music recorded before World War II emerged from the bustling cities and towns of the Piedmont South. No group contributed more to the commercialization of early country music than southern factory workers. In Linthead Stomp, the first book-length study of southern millhands' musical culture, Patrick Huber explores the origins and development of this music in the Piedmont's mill villages and chronicles ...
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Overview

"Contrary to popular belief, American country music did not have its roots solely on southern farms or in mountain hollows. Rather, much of this music recorded before World War II emerged from the bustling cities and towns of the Piedmont South. No group contributed more to the commercialization of early country music than southern factory workers. In Linthead Stomp, the first book-length study of southern millhands' musical culture, Patrick Huber explores the origins and development of this music in the Piedmont's mill villages and chronicles the enduring contributions that the region's millhands made to American popular music." Huber offers vivid portraits of a colorful cast of Piedmont textile worker musicians, including Fiddlin' John Carson, Charlie Poole, Dave McCarn, and the Dixon Brothers, and considers the impact that urban living, industrial work, modern technology, and mass culture had on their lives and music. He also demonstrates how a variety of influences - including phonograph records, radios, fiddlers' conventions, industrial welfare programs, labor strikes, and even the nature of textile work itself - dramatically shaped the evolution of this music in the Piedmont. Drawing on a broad range of sources, including rare 78-rpm recordings and unpublished interviews, Huber reveals how the country music recorded between 1922 and 1942 was just as modern as the jazz music of the same era. Linthead Stomp celebrates the Piedmont millhand fiddlers, guitarists, and banjo pickers who combined the collective memories of the rural countryside with the upheavals of urban-industrial life to create a distinctive American music that spoke to the changing social realities of thetwentieth-century South.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review.

Historian Huber may surprise music fans by tracing the roots of country music and some of the most popular pre-WWII American sounds to city slickers, rather than hayseeds, living in the boomtowns of the American South's Piedmont region. At the turn of the century, textile companies dominated the South, employing thousands and, in some cases, effectively running the small cities that sprang up around them-complete with music programs for workers. What was known derisively as "hillbilly music" found its legs and growing popularity in these mill towns, and most "old time" musicians lived and recorded in cities like Atlanta, Charlotte and Greensboro. Huber traces the growth of the sound through four artists who personified it: Fiddlin' John Carson, a marginally talented but media-savvy violinist; hard-drinking banjo player Charlie Poole; guitarist Dave McCarn, whose luckily-recorded track "Cotton Mill Colic" made his legacy; and the Dixon Brothers, who devoted their songs to tragedy and the decline of Christian morals. Not surprisingly, happy endings are few; bad business deals, alcohol and drug addiction, obscurity and poverty threaten practically all involved. With respect and passion, Huber puts these pioneering artists in well-deserved perspective, gracefully illuminating the birth of an American art form.
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From the Publisher
"With respect and passion, Huber puts . . . pioneering artists in well-deserved perspective, gracefully illuminating the birth of an American art form."--Publishers Weekly, web exclusive starred review

"A fascinating history of Piedmont textile workers and their role in the development of country music. . . . Opens a window on a new view of country music. Recommended."--Choice

"Huber's reverential and enlightening descriptions of country music's pioneers leave readers yearning for their actual recordings. Fortunately, an appended discography and directory of other early hillbilly musicians direct readers to more foot-stomping tunes.."--Our State

"For lovers of music and its history--especially our homegrown Southern sound--the more we know, the more we want to know. . . . An enthralling tuneful journey into the birth and influence of a heretofore undervalued contribution to the genre. Guaranteed to set readers' toes tapping and then tramping out to track down the recordings included in the Linthead Stomp discography."--Tennessee Advocate

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781469621913
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 12/1/2014
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 440

Meet the Author

Patrick Huber is professor of history at Missouri University of Science and Technology, and the author or editor of five books, including The Hank Williams Reader.
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Table of Contents

Introduction 1

1 King of the Mountaineer Musicians: Fiddlin' John Carson 43

2 Rough and Rowdy Ways: Charlie Poole and the North Carolina Ramblers 103

3 Cain't Make a Living at a Cotton Mill: Dave McCarn 162

4 A Blessing to People: The Dixon Brothers, Howard and Dorsey 216

Epilogue 275

App. A Directory of Southern Textile Workers Who Made Hillbilly Recordings, 1923-1942 283

App. B Discography of Southern Textile Workers' Commercial Recordings, 1923-1942, Reissued on CD 301

Notes 307

Bibliography 365

Discography 393

Acknowledgments 399

Index 403

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