This record features a pair of top-notch fiddle and guitar duets—so top-notch in fact, that it is regarded as one of the finest old-time records of all time—played by the Stripling Brothers, Charlie and Ira, of Pickens County, Alabama; two of the most talented and outstanding artists of that genre. Today, I’m posting this fantastic disc in honor of one man who’s done more for the preservation of these old shellac records than most anybody else, the legendary King of Record Collectors, Mr. Joe Bussard, who has for many years used it for the theme of his radio program. I’ll dedicate a post to the Striplings later on sometime, but this one here’s for Joe. This is one of a number of fairly hard to find and generally excellent records that I had the great fortune of uncovering in the backroom of one of my favorite record stores.
Melotone M 12181 was recorded on November 15, 1928 at the Bankhead Hotel in Birmingham, Alabama by the Stripling Brothers: Charlie on fiddle and Ira on guitar—the entirety of their first session. It was originally issued on Vocalion 5321, which was their first record, this issue dates to 1931.
This fine fiddlin’ tune, titled “The Lost Child” is used as the radio theme song for the esteemed collector (that’s an understatement) Joe Bussard’s radio show “Country Classics” on WREK 91.1 FM in Atlanta, and it also appeared as the first track on his compilation Down in the Basement: Joe Bussard’s Treasure Trove of Vintage 78s, 1926-1937 (Old Hat RCD-1004), in which it is described in Marshall Wyatt’s liner notes as a “brilliant showpiece.” The melody also served as a basis for the bluegrass staple “The Black Mountain Rag”. It’s a masterpiece of hillbilly fiddle music, one of the best pieces I (and many others) have ever heard, ranked number one by the Old-Time Herald in their top one-hundred Essential Hillbilly Commercial Recordings on 78s.
Like the previous side, the reverse of this disc is a musical masterpiece, yet in spite of the outstanding musical content, I had some reservations about posting this record because of fears that its rather unsavory title, “The Big Footed Nigger in the Sandy Lot”, might not go over so well nowadays. Offensive as it is, such things come with the territory of ninety-plus year old music; my recommendation is just enjoy the music and pay little mind to the title. It really is a beautiful melody, with outstanding fiddling by Charlie Stripling.
Updated with improved audio on June 23, 2017, and on May 1, 2018.