Extenuating circumstances over the past several days unfortunately prevented me from publishing a tribute to Vernon Dalhart on his birthday yesterday, April 6, but here is a belated celebration today.
Vernon Dalhart was born Marion Try Slaughter, April 6, 1883 in Jefferson, Texas. After his father was murdered behind the Kahn Saloon there, his family relocated to Dallas, where he attended a music conservatory and became an operatic tenor. Assuming the name “Vernon Dalhart” after two Texas towns, he began recording in the 1910s. Having previously learned cowboy songs while working on the range as a teen, in 1924, Dalhart became a pioneering figure in country music, when he recorded “Wreck of the Old 97” and “The Prisoner’s Song” for the Victor Talking Machine Company. That record was met with huge success, and Dalhart, working frequently with guitarist and sometimes singer Carson J. Robison, became one of the most popular artists in the 1920s. Dalhart’s success waned by the end of the decade, and he only recorded sporadically in the 1930s, making his final records in 1939. Vernon Dalhart died of a heart attack in 1948.
Victor 19919 was recorded was recorded December 21, 1925 in New York City. Vernon Dalhart is accompanied by Carson Robison on guitar and Murray Kellner on violin. Dalhart himself plays the harmonica.
Vernon Dalhart is best known for his ballads and tearjerkers (e.g. “The Prisoner’s Song”, “In the Baggage Coach Ahead”), but he recorded quite a number of songs outside that genre, including “Putting on the Style”. This tune was later revived in 1957 by Lonnie Donegan.
“The Little Black Moustache” is one of those songs written for a singer of the opposite sex, making it into quite a humorous affair. Vernon sings it in good spirits, and does a good job with it if you ask me.