Alabama Stringbands – Various Artists – Complete Recorded Works (1924-1937)
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The first artist featured here is Dr.D.Dix Hollis (1861-1927) was born into a family of West Alabama planters with large slave holdings. At the age of 10 Hollis learned to fiddle from a family servant and from older fiddlers around Sulligent, Alabama. While studying medicine in Baltimore for 5 months in 1884, he also took lessons from a classical violinist. In 1924 he travelled to New York and recorded 12 tunes for Paramount. Four of these tunes were and four others were preserved as test pressings by the Hollis family over the years. These are some of the earliest fiddle recordings made and capture the playing of a 63-year old man whose style is firmly rooted in the 19th century.
Y.Z. Hamilton (1888-1936) was highly esteemed by local fiddlers, his “Fifty Years Ago” and “Hamilton’s Special Breakdown”, recorded in 1926, were standards in the repertoires of Birmingham fiddlers for decades. Despite 3 fingers missing on his right hand, Hamilton was also an excellent ragtime piano player.
Olen Mayes (b.1901) of the Short Creek Trio was born and raised on Sand Mountain, an area known for fiddlers and string bands. In their first recording session they concentrated on vocal numbers led by Reuben “Red” Burns and in the second laid down fiery hoedown tunes fiddled by Cliff Click.
The next artist featured on these recordings is E.E. Akins. He had played on radio and made public appearances in bands such as the “Plow Pushers” and “Silas Akins’ Radio Favourites.” In 1928 Akins recorded 2 tracks with banjoist Johnny Motlow and guitarist Red Phillips in Atlanta.
Dixie Ramblers, the last band on this recording, hailed from the northwestern Alabama town of Russellville. The four-piece band recorded in Birmingham in 1937. Their vocal numbers were rejected by the recording company, but their swingy original fiddle tunes made the cut.