Thursday, May 01, 2008

Fiddlin' John Carson

Today country music is the most common radio format in America. About 2,200 stations of the approximately 14,000 broadcasters are country-formatted stations. That's almost 16%. But long ago, there was a strong resistance among programmers to county music. For regular readers and radiophiles that's all review.On March 6th 1922 750 WSB-AM went on air in Atlanta. It was the first big station in the American south. 880 WSM-AM would not sign-on in Nashville until 1925. Both would become country-music taste-makers, but WSB was first hands down. WSB also can lay claim to creating the first comuntry-music superstar- Fiddlin' John Carson.

Cartson was a local boy, born in 1868, in Blue Ridge, Georgia. Within a few weeks of WSB first going live, Carson was performing there. Carson played on several programs, even with groups of musicians playing non-country music. It is rumored that radioman Lambdin Kay was the one that gave him airtime and paid Carson in whiskey. By June 14th 1923 he had a hot selling 78 rpm platter on Okeh records. The A side was "The Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane" and the B side was "The Old Hen Cackled and the Rooster's Going to Crow."

There was disconnect between what the affluent programmers wanted to play, and what the rural listeners wanted to hear. The instant popularity of Carson directed the future path of many programming decisions. At the urging of A&R man Polk C. Brockman, Okeh records initially pressed 500 copies. They had to rush back to re-press. Eventually it sold over half a million copies. He recorded another 150 sides fo Okeh and Bluebird. This was some of the first commercial country music ever. In that moment country music as we think of it began to grow as an off shoot of the indigenous hillbilly music. His recording career, which yielded some 165 recorded songs, lasted into the 1930s. Carson spent the last years of his life as an elevator operator in Atlanta. He was inducted into the Georgia music hall of fame in 1994.