Victor 20877 – The Carter Family – 1927

In an effort to capitalize on the success of the popular “mountaineer songs” by the likes of Vernon Dalhart and Kelly Harrell, talent scout and record producer Ralph S. Peer arranged for the Victor Talking Machine Company to make a series of field trips in an effort to discover and record marketable new artists for the burgeoning “hillbilly” market.  Arriving in Bristol, Tennessee in late July of 1927, Peer got the word out about the sessions through local radio stations and newspapers, and soon musicians began coming to Bristol in droves to record for Victor.  Among the many noted artists who recorded in those sessions were Ernest Stoneman and Blind Alfred Reed.  It was in early August, however, when came the artists who were to make the biggest fame for themselves and for the Bristol sessions: the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers.

The Carter Family in the late 1920s. Left to right: Sara, A.P., Maybelle.

The Carter Family around the time of the Bristol Sessions. Left to right: Maybelle, A.P., Sara.  Pictured in the Victor Catalog

When A.P. Carter of Maces Spring, Virginia—not far from Bristol—learned of the sessions, he persuaded his wife Sara and sister-in-law Maybelle to make the short journey from their home to audition for Ralph Peer.  Though the trio had made music together since their meeting, only A.P. had inclinations to try and make a career out of it.  There in Bristol, on the night of August 1, 1927, A.P., Sara, and Maybelle—as the “Carter Family”—recorded four songs: Bury Me Under the Weeping Willow”, “Little Log Cabin By the Sea”, “The Poor Orphan Child”, and “The Storms are On the Ocean”.  Their audition went well.  Peer was impressed by the Carters, and invited them to return the following morning to record again.  They obliged, this time cutting “”Single Girl, Married Girl” and “The Wandering Boy”.  In return for these recordings, they were paid fifty dollars per song, and half-a-cent royalties on each record sold.  Their second issued record, “Single Girl, Married Girl” and “The Storms are On the Ocean” on Victor 20937, made quite a hit, and the Carters’ path to success as recording stars thus opened.  The following May, they traveled to Camden, New Jersey to record again, anticipating the many sessions to come for Victor, Decca, and the American Record Corporation between then and the early 1940s.  Thus, the Carter Family’s decades long, multi-generation legacy as one of country music’s most legendary acts of all time began.

Victor 20877 was recorded on August 1 and 2, 1927 in Bristol, Tennessee by the Carter Family, Sara, Maybelle, and A.P.  Released on November 4, 1927, it was the first issued record, but not the first recorded sides, by the Carter Family.

Firstly the Carters sing “The Poor Orphan Child”, the third side recorded at the Carter Family’s first session.

The Poor Orphan Child, recorded August 1, 1927 by the Carter Family.

The Poor Orphan Child, recorded August 1, 1927 by the Carter Family.

On the “B” side, they sing the third title cut at their second session, “The Wandering Boy”.

The Wandering Boy, recorded August 2 , 1927 by the Carter Family.

The Wandering Boy, recorded August 2 , 1927 by the Carter Family.

Updated on June 1, 2018.

Montgomery Ward M-4225 – The Carter Family – 1932/1928

With all due apologies for Old Time Blues unintended ten day hiatus, we hope now to return to regular posting. And what better a note to return on than these great classics by the one and only Carter Family, in honor of Sara Carter, born on this day 118 years ago.

Sara Elizabeth Dougherty was born in Copper Creek, Virginia on July 21, 1898 to William and Nancy Dougherty.  In 1915, she married Alvin Pleasant (A.P.) Carter, with whom she had three children, Gladys, Janette, and Joe.  In the 1920s, Sara began performing traditional folk songs with her husband and cousin Maybelle as the Carter Family.  In August of 1927, they came to Bristol, Tennessee to record for the first time in a series of sessions organized by Ralph S. Peer for the Victor Talking Machine Company.  At the Bristol Sessions, the Carter Family recorded six sides, four on the first and two on the second of August.  Their first record, “Poor Orphan Child” and “The Wandering Boy” was issued on Victor 20877 in December of 1927, with considerable success, and their second, “Single Girl, Married Girl” and “The Storms are On the Ocean” on Victor 20937, found even greater popularity.  In May of 1928, they ventured to Victor’s facilities in Camden, New Jersey for another session, with many more coming thereafter.  As the group reached their peak, Sara’s powerful singing—initially quite high, and later maturing into the deep, low voice for which she was known—provided a heart and soul to their music, perfectly complimented by Maybelle’s guitar playing.

In 1932, the Carters experienced marital strife, when Sara began having an affair with her A.P.’s cousin Coy Bayes while her husband was away on one of his many long trips to “discover” new material for the family, separating him from Sara for weeks or months at a time.  They divorced in 1936, but the original Carter Family stuck together until 1943, after which Sara married A.P.’s cousin and moved to California, where she retired from music.  A.P., Maybelle, and the kids returned home to Maces Spring, Virginia, where he opened a store, and she continued to pursue a musical career.  Sara later made a small comeback during the folk revival of the 1960s with Maybelle, but she never regained what she had in the old days, and indeed she probably never wanted to.  Sara Carter died in California at the age of 80 on January 8, 1979.

Montgomery Ward M-4225 was recorded in two separate sessions, the first on May 9, 1928, and the second on October 14, 1932, both in Camden, New Jersey.  The trio sings while Sara plays autoharp and Maybelle plays guitar.  They were originally issued on Victor 21434 and 23776.  This Montgomery Ward issue was pressed from the original masters.

The Carter Family’s classic rendition of the old standard “Keep On the Sunny Side” could be compared to Jimmie Rodgers’ “Blue Yodel” as a song that became indelibly associated with them, serving as their theme song when they performed on border blaster radio, and later inscribed as the epitaph on both Sara and A.P. Carter’s gravestones. Also like Rodgers’ “Blue Yodel”, it was recorded at the Carters’ first session after the Bristol Sessions.

Keep On the Sunny Side

Keep On the Sunny Side, recorded May 9, 1928 by the Carter Family.

“The Church in the Wildwood” is a song that I recollect fondly from my own childhood, and unsurprisingly the Carters’ rendition is a pleasure to hear.  Fittingly, this side was recorded in Victor’s Camden, New Jersey church studio.

The Church in the Wildwood

The Church in the Wildwood, recorded October 14, 1932 by the Carter Family.

Updated on June 1, 2018.