Monday, January 11, 2010

Gid Tanner and his Skillet Lickers

James Gideon Tanner (1885-1960) was an American fiddler and band leader considered a pioneer in what would later become known as "country music". He was a chicken farmer most of his life, since fiddling around didn't pay much yet. He formed The Skillet Lickers (back in the 1920s) and made a stack of records that are mostly still very collectible today.

Blind Riley Puckett was probably the most famous (and independently successful) of the Skillet Lickers. I'm guessing few of you share my old music collecting as a hobby, but Puckett's "Ragged But Right" was pretty decent.

On a related note (honest, it really is related) a "Blind Tiger" is American Prohibition-Era slang for a speakeasy, so-called because they were often in a backroom of a carnival "oddity" front. The name has nothing to do with the NYC bar on Bleecker Street that stole the name.

But more trivia: Bleecker Street IS the one that appears in PP&M's arrangement of "Freight Train" (original lyrics written by Libba Cotton in 1907 when she was 12 years old), covered over the years by countless singers including Dick and DeeDee and PP&M. Again, for old music buffs.

Listen to Freight Train, Dick and DeeDee VersionListen to Freight Train, Peter, Paul and Mary Version (buried on Bleecker Street lyrics)
(Note that Elisabeth Cotten plays the guitar left handed and upside down.)

The Peter Paul and Mary version is the best, but iTunes won't let me share it with you, and I can't find theirs on YouTube. Sorry.

Update: Thanks to Descartes, I have found the Peter Paul and Mary version of Freight Train on Groove Shark and you can listen to their version by using the widget I've installed in the sidebar to your right.


  1. I do listen to quite a bit of old music. Not, I'm afraid, country.

  2. You gotta love a band with a name like Skillet Lickers.

    You might go and checkout Groove Shark-they have the Peter, Paul, and Mary song and an embedding/exporting feature.

  3. I misread first time around and thought one of the versions was from Dave, Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick, and Tich. Now that's another name to conjure with.

  4. About a million years ago I did a term paper on the Grand Ol' Opry. The Skillet Lickers were among those I found during my research, but I had forgotten until now. Thanks.

  5. @Stephnie B - I know you are musically inclined. Actually the music linked is Folk Music, not country. Country as we know it today wasn't around yet. I think you would like Folk Music. It was our original music that was used to pass down stories of events (and just old songs) from one generation to another. A post which further clarifies the genres is coming soon.

    @Descartes - Thank you for the tip. I don't know why I hadn't learned of that site yet. It looks very interesting.

    @A. - ?

    I do my best. I'm failing this time. :)

    @Janet - I think there is more to the story you left out. Why did you choose that for a topic? The roots of what became known as country music were formed in the early days of the Opry. It's a fascinating subject to a music devotee like myself.

  6. I really do like his hat! Writing his name on it was a nice touch.

  7. Lidian - He's wearing a hat? I just noticed! Heh.



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