Early Hillbilly & Old Time Music
The origins of country music are often traced to Victorâ€™s 1927 Bristol sessions, during which Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family were discovered and made their first recordings. While this was indeed a watershed moment for the commercial country genreâ€”as both artists quickly rose to national fame and contributed to the large-scale exposure of local, rural folk musicâ€”the foundations for this â€śBig Bangâ€ť were laid earlier in the 1920s. As radio emerged in the early '20s, record sales declined in the face of competition, and record producers searched for ways to expand their audiences. In various cities in the South, they began to record and release songs by popular local folk music artists, targeting lower-class, rural white audiences that recognized the featured local musicians and music styles. In 1924, light-opera-singer-turned-country-artist Vernon Dalhartâ€™s double-sided single â€śThe Wreck of the Old 97â€ť b/w â€śThe Prisonerâ€™s Song,â€ť became an unexpected hit, proving the commercial viability of â€śhillbillyâ€ť or â€śold-timeâ€ť music beyond small local markets.
The rise of country music coincided with the decline of the cylinder, and consequently this playlist is composed almost exclusively of Edison cylinders, as they were nearly the only cylinder manufacturer that persisted into the 1920s. Accordingly, this playlist functions more as a grab bag of early hillbilly music styles and artists, and less as a comprehensive summary. However, despite this limited scope, these selections provide a fascinating glimpse into the amazing diversity of white American folk music before the codification of the commercial country music genre.
—Chris Warden, Reed College
- Old Joe Clark / Fiddlin' Powers and Family. Edison Blue Amberol: 5076. 1925.
- Cripple Creek / Fiddlinâ€™ Powers & Family. Edison Blue Amberol: 5219. 1925.
- Wild reckless hobo / Cowen Powers. Edison Blue Amberol: 5131. 1926.
- Hand me down my walking cane / Ernest Stoneman. Edison Blue Amberol: 5297. 1927.
- When the workâ€™s all done this fall / Ernest Stoneman. Edison Blue Amberol: 5188. 1926.
- McDonaldâ€™s reel / Jep Bisbee. Edison Blue Amberol: 4916. 1924.
- Wreck of southern Old 97 / Vernon Dalhart. Edison Blue Amberol: 4898. 1924.
- The death of Floyd Collins / Vernon Dalhart. Edison Blue Amberol: 5049. 1925.
- You will never miss your mother / Blue Ridge Duo. Edison Blue Amberol: 4961. 1924.
- Arkansas traveler / The Blue Ridge Duo. Edison Blue Amberol: 4936. 1925
- Lifeâ€™s railway to heaven / The Blue Ridge Duo. Edison Blue Amberol: 4968. 1925.
- Little brown jug / The Blue Ridge Duo. Edison Blue Amberol: 4973. 1925.
- Turkey in the straw / The Blue Ridge Duo. Edison Blue Amberol: 4977. 1925.
- Walking water / Allen Sisson with John F. Burckhardt. Edison Blue Amberol: 4981. 1925.
- Durang hornpipe medley / John Baltzell (violin) and John F. Burckhardt. Edison Blue Amberol: 4918. 1923.
- The old red barn medley quadrille / John Baltzell. Edison Blue Amberol: 4914. 1923.