March 21

Fiddlin’ John Carson’s Legacy Remains

Here at Country Daily, we remember our artists who contributed to the Traditional Country Music industry.  Today, let us celebrate the natal day of one of those that build the foundation to our kind of music. So together with jubilant heart, let’s wish John Carson a Happy Birthday!

In the spring of 1922, Georgia’s Fiddlin’ John Carson, at the age of fifty-four, became one of the first genuine old-time country musicians to broadcast country music over a radio station. A year later, on June 14, 1923, Carson recorded his first phonograph record. Eventually, the recording quickly sold out and increased national interest in southern rural music.

Fiddlin' John Carson’s Legacy Remains 1

Biography overview

Born March 23, c. 1868, in the north Georgia mountains, John William Carson as a boy learned to play fiddle on an instrument brought from Ireland by his ancestors. In 1879, at a political function in Copperhill, Tennessee, the young Carson was dubbed “Fiddlin’ John Carson” by fiddler and governor of Tennessee, Bob Taylor.

With fiddling as a sideline, Carson made his living in a variety of jobs, working as a farmer, railroad worker, jockey, and moonshiner.

After moving to Atlanta in 1900 to work in a textile mill, he found increased opportunities to entertain as a ?ddler. A 1913 strike caused Carson to turn to ?ddling and singing on the streets. A major ?gure at the Georgia Old-Time Fiddlers’ Convention, held annually in Atlanta between 1913 and 1935, Carson received extensive coverage in the city’s newspapers. He was a favorite among the competing ?ddlers and a colorful character who attracted large audiences wherever he performed.

Carson’s Breakthrough

When Atlanta’s first radio station, WSB, went on the air in 1922, Carson was among its first performers. The large number of letters, telegrams, and telephone calls from listeners who appreciated his repertoire of traditional ?ddle tunes kept Carson on the station as a regular performer for the remainder of the decade.

Recording company executives discovered the profitability of Appalachian and southern “hillbilly” music after Carson’s debut release became popular. Recorded June 14, 1923, by producer Ralph Peer for the OKeh label, it featured the song “The Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane” and the instrumental “The Old Hen Cackled and the Rooster’s Going to Crow.” Although Carson was a pioneer in the ?edgling commercial country music industry, his sound was soon deemed too “primitive,” and his subsequent recordings for the Bluebird labels received less attention.

He died December 11, 1949.  Surviving friends and family play music at his grave each year around the anniversary of his birth.

His views on race and evolution

Although he made a joke on the KKK in “There Ain’t no bugs on me, Carson was a regular at Ku Klux Klan rallies and his “Ballad of Little Mary Phagan” helped to exacerbate the anti-semitism that was a major factor in the lynching of Mary’s alleged murderer, Leo Frank(the killer is widely believ’d to ‘ave been someone else nowadays).

On the other hand, Carson made light of the evolution controversy in “There Ain’t No Bugs on Me” when he said: “monkeys swing by the end o’ their tail an’ jump from tree to tree their may be a monkey in some o’ you guys, but there ain’t no monkey in me”.

All-time favorites

Here are some of our favorite Carson hits, are they on your list?

Fare You Well, Old Joe Clark

You Will Never Miss Your Mother Until She is Gone

The Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane

John Henry Blues

Old Dan Tucker

And here’s one of Fiddlin’ John Carson’s song that can pamper our nostalgia moments. Have a great day fella!


John Carson

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