Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Scottdale String Band

Yesterday I listened to some old-time country 78s, and the Scottdale String Band really made me smile.  This three-piece band was based in the mill village of Scottdale, Georgia, east of Atlanta.  The band was unusual in that the instrumental lead was taken by Charlie Simmons on mandolin and banjo, not by a fiddler.  The other members of the band were Barney Pritchard and Marvin Head, both guitarists.  The group made a dozen or so records for Okeh and Paramount between 1926 and 1932.

Scottdale, only a few miles from my house in Atlanta, grew up around the Scottdale Cotton Mill, opened by George Washington Scott in 1901.  The mill remained in operation until 1982.  Many great early country bands sprung up in the shadows of Southern cotton mills - check out Patrick Huber's fine book Linthead Stomp: The Creation of Country Music in the Piedmont South
The mill has been demolished, although there is a newer steel mill looming over the railroad tracks.  Many of the mill houses built for the workers remain, mostly freshly painted and restored.  The main design seems to have been a rather plain duplex- there are dozens of these nearly identical double houses in Scottdale.

My Scottdale String Band records are pretty worn, as many early country records tend to be.  But one side of Okeh 45103, "Chinese Breakdown," is in better shape than the rest.  You can hear Charlie Simmons' lead banjo, played with a pick, mandolin-style, it sounds like, rather than in the more common clawhammer style.

Unfortunately, the label of my copy of "Chinese Breakdown" is almost illegible, so I'm posting the best-looking label, along with the best-sounding music I have, by this great Georgia country group.  "Chinese Breakdown" was recorded in Atlanta on March 21, 1927.

Scottdale String Band - Chinese Breakdown

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