14 Mar 2013

Andrew Baxter with the Georgia Yellow Hammers (1927): “G Rag”

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An interesting specimen of an extinct and forgotten musical genre, recorded at Charlotte, North Carolina on Tuesday, August 9, 1927 — Andrew Baxter, fidle; Charles Ernest Moody,banjo-ukelele; Phil Reeve, guitar/vocals; Clyde Evans, guitar; Bud Landress, spoons.


The music of African-American (and Cherokee) fiddler Andrew Baxter backed-up by his son Jim on guitar is one great example of an old string-band tradition among African-Americans that is now almost completely extinct and was rarely recorded on phonograph records. Folklorists and researchers found that the rural string-band music so much associated with whites nowadays was commonly played also by blacks in the Southern States until the beginning of the 20th century but soon faded away due to migrations to the North and the cities, the popularity of Blues and Jazz during the phonograph years and changes in popular tastes. Many white musicians testified to have learned the banjo or the fiddle in their youth watching black musicians and some of this influential musicians were recorded by phonograph companies or on field recordings. Their repertoire was sometimes very similar to white string-bands but included tunes that were typically African-American in style. Some were able to play in more than one style to please their public, whether it was a white or a black audience. Andrew and Jim Baxter,for example, could play breakdowns, Blues or Church music even if their more Bluesy repertoire is prominent on the recordings we have of them, due to the popularity of the genre among the black record buyers from those days. They came from Gordon County, Georgia and were recorded in Charlotte, North Carolina in 1927 by the Victor Records company. They made the trip to the recording studios with a white string-band from their hometown called The Georgia Yellow Hammers. Due to segregation, they had to be separated on their train ride to Charlotte and recorded in separate sessions. But for one track, “G Rag”, Andrew Baxter played fiddle with The Georgia Yellow Hammers, a very rare example of an “integrated” band during the 1920′s.


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