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September 25

Remembering the 1st Star of Grand Ole Opry: Uncle Dave Macon

Uncle Dave

“The Dixie Dewdrop,” Uncle Dave Mason, is David Harrison Macon real life.  He is not only known as a talented banjo player but also a singer, songwriter, and comedian. He is renowned for his chin whiskers, plug hat, gold teeth, and gates-ajar collar, he gained regional fame as a vaudeville performer in the early 1920s before becoming the first star of the Grand Ole Opry in the latter half of the decade.

Uncle Dave’s was the music became the crucial bridge between 19th-century American folk and vaudeville music and the phonograph and radio-based music of the early 20th-century. Music historian Charles Wolfe wrote,

“If people call yodelling Jimmie Rodgers ‘the father of country music,’ then Uncle Dave must certainly be ‘the grandfather of country music’.”

Macon’s polished stage presence and lively personality have made him one of the most enduring figures of early country music.

His Career

Between 1924 and 1938, Uncle Dave Macon recorded over 170 songs. However, in his day he was most notable for his polished and lively stage presence. His bandmate Kirk McGee later described Macon’s personality as a never-ending performance— “All day long, from morning till midnight, it was a show.” While playing, Macon would often kick and stomp, and shout sporadically, taxing the skills of WSM’s early volume-control engineers.

His performance style can be discerned to some extent from his early recordings, in which he whoops and hollers amidst relatively aggressive vocal deliveries.

While contemporary musicians didn’t consider him a particularly skillful banjo player, modern musicologists have identified no less than 19 picking styles on Macon’s recordings. Macon’s favorite tunes included “A Soldier’s Joy”, “Bully of the Town”, “The Arkansas Traveler”, and “Sail Away, Ladies.”

Macon’s favorite hymn was “How Beautiful Heaven Must Be”, which is inscribed on his monument near Woodbury.

The First

In 1940 Macon— along with Opry founder George D. Hay, rising Opry star Roy Acuff, and Dorris Macon— received an invitation from Hollywood to take part in the Republic Pictures movie Grand Ole Opry. There’s a part of the movie that contains rare footage of Macon performing, including a memorable duet of “Take Me Back to My Carolina Home” with Dorris in which the 69-year-old Macon jumps out of his seat and dances throughout the second half of the song.

Uncle Dave Macon definitely deserves to be called the “Grandfather of Country Music” with his achievements and contributions to Country Music. Do ya’ll agree?


Tags

dixie dewdrop, Grand Ole Opry, uncle dave mason


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