DOCD-8029 Leake Country Revellers Vol. 1 1927 ï¿½ 1928)
Leak County Revellers: Will Gilmer, vocal, fiddle; R.O. Mosley, mandolin; Jim Wolverton, banjo; Dallas Jones, guitar.
Genres: Old Timey, Vintage country music, Country fiddle, Country string band.
Informative booklet note by Tony Russell.
Abridged from DOCD-8029 booklet notes.
The most famous string band in Mississippi in the ’20s might just as accurately have called itself by another name. Two of its members lived in Sebastopol, the town where the four men first teamed up – and Sebastopol lies in Scott County. But only a walk from the Leake County line.
The oldest member of the group was R. O. Mosley, who played the “tat.er-bug” (lute-shaped) mandolin. Gilmer worked next door at Underwood’s Drug Store, guitarist Dallas Jones was a Sebastopol resident, and Jim Wolverton. The five-string banjo player, though a Leake Countian by birth, lived and farmed in the adjacent Neshoba County.
The ensemble sound of the Leake County Revelers is highly distinctive. With fiddle and mandolin as joint lead voices and the guitar’s rhythmic role somewhat understated, the music is light, cool and airy. It feels more old-fashioned than the hot, hard-driving stuff of contemporaries like the Skillet-Lickers (Document DOCD-8056 to DOCD-806) and is often closer in spirit to Southwestern bands like the East Texas Serenaders (Document DOCD-8031) or Taylor-Grigg’s Louisiana Melody Makers, or even the African-American Dallas String Band (Document DOCD-5161). The vocal refrains seem secondary, and it can hardly be an accident that they are consistently under-recorded, even when Jones, Gilmer and Wolverton join their voices in a trio for venerable material like My Wild Irish Rose or In The Good Old Summertime.
The four men had been playing together for about a year when they came to the notice of H. C. Speir, the Jackson music-store owner and talent scout. Speir passed the word on to Columbia Records’ Frank Walker, who came to hear them and was taken aback by both their musicï¿½ Walker recorded them during one of his Southern trips, in spring 1927, and was promptly rewarded with one of the biggest hits of the period, the coupling Wednesday Night Waltz / Good Night Waltz. It sold almost 200,000 copies on its first releaseï¿½
Although they never repeated the success of their first two releases (the debut coupling Johnson Gal / Leather Breeches had done unusually well too, selling over 35,000 copies), they ran up sales totals exceeding 20,000 with The Old Hat / Monkey In The Dog Cart and Make Me A Bed On The Floor / Merry Widow Waltz. They also enjoyed a considerable reputation in central and southern Mississippi through their appearances at schools, fiddlers’ contests and house-dances and their Saturday-evening radio programmes on WJDX in Jackson, though music never brought in enough money to free any of them from their day-jobs.
Perhaps the Revelers’ bifurcated repertoire of songs and fiddle-tunes reflected differing views within the group about the kind of music they should be playing -R. O. Mosley, the middle-aged shopkeeper, preferring fragrant old blooms like My Wild Irish Rose or Birds In The Brook, while the younger, wilder Gilmer, a lifelong bachelor and rambler, pressed the claims of vivacious fiddle breakdowns like Johnson Gal, The Old Hat (a version of “Going Down To Lynchburg Town”) or Bring Me A Bottle (“Give The Fiddler A Dram”). Jones, for his part, enjoyed dusting off old comic songs like They Go Wild Simply Wild Over Me and “Rock All Our Babies To Sleep” (Rockin’ Yodel).