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Clayton McMichen: Fiddler (1900-1970)

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Lyr Req: Roll 'Em on the Ground (Skillet Lickers) (3)
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Richie 10 Sep 09 - 10:42 PM
Richie 11 Sep 09 - 01:41 AM
Richie 11 Sep 09 - 11:25 PM
Richie 12 Sep 09 - 12:02 AM
Richie 14 Sep 09 - 05:39 PM
Joe Offer 15 Sep 09 - 01:18 AM
McMichen's gurl 16 Sep 09 - 01:02 PM
GUEST,DWR 17 Sep 09 - 01:22 AM
GUEST,bobbie dunigan 14 Jan 11 - 07:21 PM
dick greenhaus 14 Jan 11 - 08:07 PM
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Subject: Clayton McMichen: Fiddler
From: Richie
Date: 10 Sep 09 - 10:42 PM


Recently Clayton McMichen was proclaimed Fiddler of the Century. I'm doing some research and I have a few questions about the Skillet
Lickers and Clayton McMichen. If anyone knopws any stories or anecdotes about McMichen please share them with me. I'd appreciate getting a source as well.

I figure the Skillet Licker break-up to be late 1930 or early 1931 (even tho they recorded again in 1934). The questions are relating to his period.

When did the Skillet Lickers play WCKY in Covington? I figure it was
May 1931 with a line-up of McMichen, Pucket, Layne and Bryant. Were
they billed as Clayton McMichen and The Skillet Lickers or just The
Skillet Lickers?

Then they moved to WLW Cincinatti. Exactly when? I figure a few months later in 1931. So Riley Puckett stays at WCKY and Gid Tanner
replaces McMichen and I believe Bill Helms plays with Puckett and
Tanner. This was a short stint for Gid, but how long?

So now McMichen, Bryant, Barfield and Perryman are at WLW calling
themselves the Skillet Lickers. They end up at Pittsburgh's KDKA at
the end of 1931. Did they play in Schenectady NY on WGY in 1931. If
not when did they (McMichen) play in NY?

Any detailed info about Merle Travis joining the Georgia Wildcats. I figure it was 1937. Did he replace Slim Bryant because Bryant quit or left?


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Subject: RE: Clayton McMichen: Fiddler
From: Richie
Date: 11 Sep 09 - 01:41 AM

Slim Byrant was still recording with the Wildcats until around 1940. McMichen moved to Louisville to start his jazz band around 1940. Byrant left then for Pittsburgh and started his own band.

Bryant could have left earlier in 1937 and still did the recording sessions which makes more sense since Travis was called by Mac in 1937 presumably to replace Slim. Juanita (Mac's daughter) said Slim left to play basebal but gave that idea up. Maybe Slim rejoined the group when Merle left a year later.

Mac might have lived in Louisville briefly before that since Bryant mentioned Louisville in the fall of 1932 before they went to WLS and played at the World's Fair in Chicago in 1933.

I think Lester Flatt played with Mac some but I can't remember when.


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Subject: RE: Clayton McMichen: Fiddler
From: Richie
Date: 11 Sep 09 - 11:25 PM


I'll post some info that will need to be worked on more. If anyone has any details to add please do. I talked to Slim Bryant for a while today and I think we have the McMichen details.

There are some statements that will need to be investigated. I need
help but I'll put my info on here for you.

Slim states that Merle Travis never played with the Georgia Wildcats
Slim met Travis "only once when Travis was a 17 year old kid, I meet
him around Drakesboro, we had a short jam backstage." Slim
corresponded with Travis for many years.

Gary Cinell and others attribute McMichen with starting Travis career
with the Wildcats and have Travis playing guitar in 1937. However in
the 1937 recording session Travis was not present. Slim played with
McMichen until 1939 when they split in Richmond Virginia.

Something's fishy here and I believe Slim. It's possible McMichen
hired Travis to play a few shows when Slim was gone, but I doubt it.
Here's my timeline:


Atlanta WSB Jan 13, 1931

Search for Radio spot; visit WLW and auditioned at WCKY- April 1931

WCKY hires them as Skillet Lickers May 1931; Clatyon McMichen Bert
Layne, Slim Bryant and Riley Puckett

They perform at various theaters including Broadway in Cincinnati
where fans lined up for 3 blocks to get in.

Move to WLW summer 1931, band now features McMichen, Slim Bryant, Pat
Berryman, and Johnny Barfield. Riley Puckett stays at WCKY- Gid Tanner
and Bill Helms join him.

Atlanta recording Oct. McMichen Oct. 26 Georgia Wildcats with Slim
Bryant McMichen and Bert Layne (Columbia) McMichen also recorded 2
sessions with Riley Puckett.

Atlanta recording Nov. 13-15 Slim Bryant, Bert Layne and Johnny
Barfield (Richmond, IN; Champion records)

KDKA Pittsburgh Dec 18 1931 Georgia Wildcats; Slim Bryant, McMichen
Cleveland WTAM 1932

New Jersey, NY recording sessions with Victor/Rodgers and Crown Aug.
Aug. 30th 1932 Louisville, KY fall 1932 Mac goes to WLS by himself.

World's Fair WLS 1933 Wildcats join McMichen at WLS. They play live on an airplane with Red Foley, Mac and Bob.

Back to Louisville Sept 1933 Jack Dunigan stays with WLS

WGY in 1933 NY 8 weeks.

Louisville KY WHAS (WAVE ?) 1935-1938

KWK St. Louis 2 months circa 1935 Uncle Dick's Furniture store.

KDKA Pittsburgh 1936

Recording: Decca July 22, 1937 NY Georgia Wildcats McMichen; Loppy and Slim Bryant; Ken Newton; Jerry Wallace;

Recording: Decca Aug 1938 Georgia Wildcats w/ Carl Cotner

Recording: Decca May 30, 1939 Georgia Wildcats

WRVA Richmond Virgina 1938 McMichen returns to Louisville in 1939 Slim and Loppy stay in Richmond.

Georgia Wildcats members; Clayton McMichen; ocassionally Bert Lane;
Slim Bryant; Pat Berryman; Ken Newton; Jack Dunigan, Johnny Barfield;
Loppy Bryant (Bass); Carl Cotner (fiddle);

I still need info about Grand Ole Opry


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Subject: RE: Clayton McMichen: Fiddler
From: Richie
Date: 12 Sep 09 - 12:02 AM


I just wanted to update the last post. Even tho Slim only met Merle Travis once, Merle did play with the Georgia Wilcats. In 1936 Slim formed another band and played in St. Louis. This was when McMichen telegraphed Merle to come and play.

I'll have more info later.


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Subject: RE: Clayton McMichen: Fiddler
From: Richie
Date: 14 Sep 09 - 05:39 PM


More news about Travis and McMichen. according to Ed Kahn's 1960 interview, Merle Travis made his first recording with McMichen's Georgia Wildcats on July 22, 1937. It was Farewell Blues.

According to Tony Russell, Slim Bryant was listed as guitarist on that session. I talked to Slim-- he was in Pittsburgh with his band, Slim Jack and the Gang.

Aslo McMichen gave away Travis- in marriage! Clayton posed as Merle's father because Merle was too young to legally get married!

Bert Layne posed as his wife's father, what a wedding. Looks like the Skillet Lickers were up to their old tricks.


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Subject: RE: Clayton McMichen: Fiddler
From: Joe Offer
Date: 15 Sep 09 - 01:18 AM

Hi, Richie-
For the benefit of us who don't quite remember who Clayton McMichen is, I found this article in the New Georgia Encyclopedia:

    Clayton McMichen (1900-1970)

    Clayton McMichen became one of the most successful and respected fiddlers to gain experience and exposure at the Georgia Old-Time Fiddlers' Conventions, held in Atlanta from 1913 to 1935.

    McMichen was born on January 26, 1900, at Allatoona, in Cobb County. With a father who played fiddle and a grandfather who played banjo, he showed an interest in music at an early age. By the time he was eleven years old, he was playing the fiddle and eagerly learning the ancient tunes that had been handed down in his family. His first documented appearance at the Atlanta fiddlers' conventions was in 1922, when he won second place for his rendition of "Arkansas Traveler."

    On September 18, 1922, a mere six months after Atlanta's first radio station, WSB, went on the air, McMichen and a group of his musician friends, calling themselves the Home Town Boys, made their broadcast debut. They soon became one of the most frequently appearing acts on the station, and their programs, featuring a mixture of fiddle tunes, popular jazz numbers, and familiar ballads, provided entertainment for WSB listeners over the next four years.

    In 1923, at a fiddlers' contest in Macon, McMichen won first place with his fiddling ability, and a newspaper reporter covering the event dubbed him "The North Georgia Wildcat." The epithet stuck, and McMichen's future fiddle bands became known as the Georgia Wildcats. Between 1926 and 1930 McMichen recorded with Gid Tanner's famous Skillet Lickers, an influential Atlanta-based old-time string band. Modern critics have given McMichen much of the credit for the success of the Skillet Lickers, citing his jazzy but polished fiddling. McMichen himself criticized some of his fellow Skillet Lickers band members for being "about thirty years" behind the times in their musical styles and repertoire.

    On January 13, 1931, McMichen made what was apparently his last appearance on Atlanta radio with a broadcast over WSB. He subsequently worked on various radio stations in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in the Midwest, and in Nashville, Tennessee, where he was a member of the Grand Ole Opry. McMichen settled in Louisville, Kentucky, where, for many years before his retirement in 1955, he was heard regularly on local radio and television stations. During the last ten years of his professional career McMichen led his band in Dixieland jazz arrangements that met with enthusiasm among his audiences.

    McMichen was rediscovered during the 1960s folk music revival, and for several years he made appearances on college campuses and at bluegrass and folk festivals around the country. Although known primarily for his performances on stage, radio, and records, Clayton McMichen was a songwriter of considerable talent. Some of his compositions that gained wide acceptance among country musicians were "My Carolina Home," "Dear Old Dixie Land," "Peach Pickin' Time in Georgia," and "Georgiana Moon." He died in Battletown, Kentucky, on January 3, 1970.

    Suggested Reading

    Wayne W. Daniel, Pickin' on Peachtree: A History of Country Music in Atlanta, Georgia (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1990).

    Bill C. Malone and Judith McCulloh, Stars of Country Music: Uncle Dave Macon to Johnny Rodriguez (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1975).

    Charles K. Wolfe, "Clayton McMichen: Reluctant Hillbilly," Bluegrass Unlimited 13 (May 1979).

    Charles K. Wolfe, "McMichen in Kentucky: The Sunset Years," Devil's Box 11 (1977).

    Wayne W. Daniel, Chamblee

    Published 5/9/2003

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Subject: RE: Clayton McMichen: Fiddler (1900-1970)
From: McMichen's gurl
Date: 16 Sep 09 - 01:02 PM

He is my nice to see yall are so interested in him still. I have all the books you mentioned but if you have any photos Id be interested in seeing them.

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Subject: RE: Clayton McMichen: Fiddler (1900-1970)
Date: 17 Sep 09 - 01:22 AM

Gosh, Gurl ~ and we'd be happy to hear from you, too.

One of my very first record purchases as a boy was a used blue label Decca 78 of Clayton McMichen's Georgia Wildcats doing Please Don't Sell My Pappy No More Rum (talked about elsewhere here on Mudcat)backed by Put Your Arms Around Me Honey. I think I still have it somewhere, though I haven't looked for it in ages.

I don't think I can come up with any pictures, but I will look among my old books when I get a chance.


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Subject: RE: Clayton McMichen: Fiddler (1900-1970)
From: GUEST,bobbie dunigan
Date: 14 Jan 11 - 07:21 PM

my father jack dunigan worked with Clayton, slim. loppy in Chicago, Ky. and several other places in the early 30ths

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Subject: RE: Clayton McMichen: Fiddler (1900-1970)
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 14 Jan 11 - 08:07 PM

Happily, Document Records has released all the Skillet Licker material on CD (7 of them) And BACM has two of Clayton McMichen. He was an unbelievable fiddler.(All available from CAMSCO. of course)

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