The last time we heard from the famed “Dixie Dewdrop”, Uncle Dave Macon, it was with two of his earliest recordings. This time around, let us turn our attention to thirteen years later, at the height of the Great Depression, and the height of his fame.
In 1938, Macon, a favorite performer in the Southern states who had appeared on WSM’s Grand Ole Opry since its start in 1925, published a book of his songs and stories, fittingly titled Songs and Stories of Uncle Dave Macon. Selling the books for twenty-five cents each, within its pages Macon reminisced about his early days, writing, “at my advanced age I realize more keenly the great mental powers of youth, and could I command an audience of the youth of our land today, I would say to them: ‘Learn the beautiful things of life in your early years—from Holy Writ we learn. Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth.'” Also included in the folio were twenty-four of Macon’s popular songs, and several pictures of him, some with his son Dorris. Concurrently, Macon had turned over a new page in his prolific recording career, becoming an exclusive RCA Victor artist in 1935, with most of his recordings appearing on their Bluebird label and client label for Montgomery Ward.
Montgomery Ward M-7348 and M-7350 were recorded on August 3, 1937 in Charlotte, North Carolina, Uncle Dave’s second session for RCA Victor. Macon is accompanied by his own banjo, an unknown guitar and second vocal (the two likely belonging to the same individual) on M-7348, and an unknown fiddler on M-7350-B. I would assume the guitarist to be Uncle Dave’s son Dorris Macon, but since this was not suggested in Country Music Records: A Discography, 1921-1942, I assume Mr. Russell had good reason to nix the possibility.
Alongside a large volume of the secular, minstrel type material that he’s probably best remembered for, Macon also recorded numerous sacred songs in his almost fifteen year career as a recording artist. Straight out of Songs and Stories, on the “A” side Macon recounts the Parable of the Prodigal Son in a jubilant rendition of “Honest Confession is Good for the Soul”.
On “B”, and also in the book, he sings another sanctified song on “Fame Apart from God’s Approval”, but you don’t have to be a religious person to enjoy the gospel as it was preached by that songster from days of old.
On M-7350, Uncle Dave first sings “Two in One Chewing Gum”, also appearing in Songs and Stories. He first recorded “(She Was Always) Chewing Gum” for Vocalion in 1924; the “two in one” part referring to Dave’s humorous rendering of the immensely popular “Nobody’s Darlin’ but Mine” that follows the titular song.
Finally, Dave and an unknown fiddle player get hot on the old-time number “Travelin’ Down the Road”, a melody that’s “just as loose, as loose as a goose!” This tune is the only one out of these four songs that’s not included in Songs and Stories of Uncle Dave Macon, so I’ll have to offer you all one of his stories instead…
“When prohibition struck Tennessee, and the apple business became an unprofitable one, two Warren county farmers, disgusted with poor land and poorer prices, set out for Texas in a wagon drawn by mules. In Texas, they were dazed by the enormous plains, rolling away in every direction as far as the eye could see. Undaunted, they pressed on for West Texas, where reports held out promises of prosperity.
After a week of travel, deeper and deeper into the heart of the great plains, a sand and dust storm came upon them—in a short time they could not see even the tips of the mules’ ears. One of the men turned to the other and said: ‘Bill, hold the mules, while I get down and pray.’
Bill climbed down, held the mules, and the other dropped to his knees: ‘Oh, Lord, here we are, out in the middle of this prairie; lost! Lord, we don’t know where we are. We don’t know.’
Bill was unusually anxious, and interrupted—’Hey, He knows where we are! Tell Him something, brother, tell him something.'”