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GUEST,Richie Earl Johnson question (13) RE: Earl Johnson question 31 Aug 07


I have some notes on Byrd Moore; I'll post it later. Maybe you can add to it. Here's the first section of my notes on Johnson:

Atlanta was the hub of early Country Music in the 1920's. The Georgia Old-Time Fiddlers' Convention was a nationally covered event and WSB radio began broadcasts country performers in 1922 like Fiddlin' John Carson, Rob and daughter Roba Stanley, Riley Puckett, Gid Tanner, Clayton McMichen and Earl Johnson. The major recording companies Columbia, Victor and Okeh all did "field" recordings in Atlanta. They set up portable studios hoping to discover another Fiddlin' John Carson or Riley Puckett.

Earl Johnson formed his own band after winning first prize at Georgia Old-Time Fiddlers' Convention in 1926. He was tired of playing second fiddle in the shadow of Fiddlin' John Carson. Earl Johnson and his Dixie Entertainers played the wild an exuberant style of music that typified the Atlanta string band sound. They were more than just a clone of Gid Tanner and His Skillet Lickers, the Atlanta super-band that had struck pay dirt in the early "hillybilly" market.

The Dixie Entertainers brought their own songs to the recording table and on Feb. 21, 1927 they began their recording career with Okeh, the label that had discovered Fiddlin' John Carson. By now Ralph Peer was gone and had found greener pastures with the Victor label. Later that summer he would host the "big bang" of Country Music in Bristol and with The Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers' song copyrights securely under his belt would become Country's most powerful recording mogul.

EARLY LIFE:
Earl Johnson was born Robert Earl Johnson on August 24, 1886 in Gwinnett County, Georgia. He learned violin techniques under the tutelage of his father and a correspondence course and formed his first group with his brothers Albert (banjo) and Ester (guitar). When both of his brothers died in 1923, he played second fiddle with the then well known Fiddlin John Carson and his band the Virginia Reelers, and occasionally played with the popular Georgia Yellow Hammers (Phil Reeve, the Yellow Hammer's manager, guitarist and singer, was born in 1896. A man of many talents he was also a piano tuner and organized a brass band. In 1916 he was a known as a yodeler, and later became manager of Johnson's group. Reeve had contacts with Victor records and later managed other Atlanta artists).

Johnson had a reputation that he could play both classical violin pieces and standard fiddle tunes. After trying classic violin he supported the traditional ways of playing the fiddle, according to Earl Johnson: "Back when I was younger I got the idea that violin music might be better than fiddle music so I gave it a good try. I studied several months under a well-known teacher and the longer I worked the more I realized that the fiddle furnished the superior type of music. The violinist doesn't play his own music he translates somebody else's ideas. And he concentrates so hard on getting his notes, his rests and all the other details the way the composer wrote them that he can put himself into the music. But a fiddler can cut loose, if he doesn't like the tune he can improve on it."

WSB and Fiddlin' John Carson:
Radio station WSB, "The Voice of the South" was sponsored by The Atlanta Journal, the newspaper that "covers Dixie like the dew." The first broadcast was March 15, 1922 and the varied programming included Country Music, indicative of the progressive spirit of the station's general manager, Lambdin Kay, known as "The Little Colonel" throughout the world of radio. Fiddlin' John Carson is thought to have been the first country musician on WSB. The unconfirmed date of his first performance was on his birthday, March 23, 1922 only one week after the station opened.

Like Fiddlin' John Carson and Gid Tanner, Earl Johnson became a fiddler on WSB as early as 1922 the first year they broadcast. Through his connections at WSB and the Atlanta Fiddler's Convention, Johnson became friends with Carson and was invited him to become part of his string band the Virginia Reelers in 1924. [Fiddlin' John Carson and His Virginia Reelers: John Carson - voice and fiddle, Earl Johnson - fiddle, Moonshine Kate Carson - guitar or banjo, T. M. "Bully" Brewer - guitar or banjo.]

Some of the songs Johnson recorded by the Virginia Reelers were "Christmas Time Will Soon Be Over," "Did he Ever Return," "Don't Let Your Deal Go Down," "Peter Went Fishing," and instrumental like the "Arkansas Traveler." Through John Carson's Virginia Reelers recording sessions with Okeh Earl Johnson established a working relationship and had no trouble scheduling his own band with Okeh. Johnson still continued his sessions with the Carsons and the Virginia Reelers. Both bands recorded two sessions for Okeh in Atlanta from October 7-11, 1927.


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