Monday, July 8, 2013

Discovering More About My Musical Roots ~ Monday Musings

Let me preface this by saying that I have a lot of genealogical history from my mother’s paternal side of the family. It is a wonderful story for another day, but last week, while visiting my parents, we talked about my father’s maternal side of the family, and the result is this rambling post. Reader, beware.

I knew my father came from a long line of singers and musicians, and I knew there was an album in Daddy's collection that has fiddle songs recorded by several groups, including Carter Brothers & Son (top right), my ancestors. This album came into my father's possession in the mid-70's or so and its significance went right over my head, as it would any teenager, I suspect.

But as time goes by, you tend to become more interested in who you are, thus the reason for my bringing it out of the dusty archives. 

I knew my paternal grandmother was a Carter and that George Carter was related to me, but until Daddy reminded me, I'd forgotten he was my great-grandfather, my dad’s maternal grandfather. George Carter died in 1948, so Daddy doesn't have a whole lot of memories that involve him. Anyway, this album was produced in 1975 and is a “copy” of the original, which was recorded in 1928.

Here's a little of what the album's Liner Notes say about Carter Brothers & Son: "To collectors and students of old-time music, the Carter Brothers & Son have long been one of the most intriguing and mysterious of the 'Golden Age' recording bands. Andrew and George Carter were primarily cotton farmers who had a brief moment of glory when they recorded 13 tunes for two different companies in 1928. They also played over the radio at Birmingham about the time the records were made. Their archaic, exuberant, and sometimes wild twin fiddling, spiced up by George Carter's equally wild 'vocals,' results in some of the most memorable old-time string band music ever recorded."

Studying this photo, I attempted to figure out why it consisted of my great-grandfather and two children, one of which was, obviously, a girl with a big bow in her hair. But when I read again the back Liner Notes, the mystery cleared up. In 1975, the young boy here, Jimmie (in his 70's by then) provided this photo of himself and his father for the express purpose of the historians involved in producing this album. Jimmie (James) played guitar on the 1928 album, at the age of ten. The girl just happened to be in the photo and, at that point, I still didn't know what the connection was. The other brother in the "Carter Brothers" equation (Andrew) is not pictured anywhere; I'm assuming no photo of him was available.

After returning home, I did some research, wanting to find more information about my maternal grandmother’s family. A Google search of "Carter Brothers & Son" brought up Grandpa Carter’s recordings on YouTube. (Have you ever?) 

It sent chills from head to toe when the the same photo from the album appeared, only this time, uncropped. I still had no idea who all of the people were, but I determined to try and find out.

I did a search on a popular genealogical website and discovered, pinned to someone's (stranger to me) family tree, the same photo. The beautiful thing was the photo on the genealogical website was labeled, with full names, which sent chills down to my toes. I discovered Grandpa Carter's full name was George Washington Carter. Love it!

And now I know that this is a photo of my paternal grandmother (MawMaw) before she married, pictured with her parents and her siblings (at least I know some of them are her siblings; I assume they all are). Anna Estelle (my grandmother) is the one behind her father, to the right. What a sweet, sweet face. 

Whoever posted this photo to their family tree had captioned it, "papa pic of singing." Now, I hope to find some long-lost relatives out there.

It is believed that Carter Brothers & Son were the first group to ever record to a phonograph the infamous fiddle song, “Cotton-Eyed Joe.” If this is true, that’s quite a "first" in the music world, as "Cotton-Eyed Joe" is the most recorded fiddle song in history. Even though Great-Grandpa's music is not my style of music, I got quite a kick out of listening to it on YouTube. There’s some mighty fine fiddling going on. I loved it!

If you’d like to hear “Cotton-Eyed Joe,” as performed by my ancestors, you can click on this link and it should pop right up. Grandpa's vocals are a bit wild sounding, but how wonderful to have this available, so many years later. I also discovered that this recording was put on CD in 2000. I have been in contact with the engineer of that project and plan to purchase a few copies.

I don't know if I have anyone still reading, but, if so, God bless you one and all. Some time back, I wrote (and posted) about music's impact on my life, and the wonderful lineage of singers and musicians that make up my history. If you're still with me, and would be so inclined, on another day, perhaps, you can find that rambling post here.

Until next time, sweet friends, go make some music!




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18 comments:

  1. I love stories like this! How interesting and fun for you to discover all this! I listened to the video! The "fiddling" was fantastic! The singing was kind of funny but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing this!

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    1. Yes, the vocals are definitely wild and crazy sounding, and sis and I laughed and laughed every time we hit "repeat." HA!

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  2. Such a great story and amazing photographs! Love that song..."Where did ya' come from Cotton Eyed Joe!"...such fun!
    Blessings,
    Cindy

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  3. Fantastic post! I love hearing great genealogy stories. My mom is our family historian, so far uncovering 2 historic homes that we are connected to.

    Is your family by any way distantly related to the Carter Family of country music?

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    1. Kim, I wouldn't doubt that we are. Haven't researched much, but I plan to try and contact some distant cousins and see what memories/photos they have, etc. Should be interesting.

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  4. Thanks, twin sis, for this delightful post, and I did read every word. ;-) It's great discovering more about MawMaw's family and our musical roots. George Washington Carter. Now that's a name.

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    1. I know! Love his name, and his brother's name was Andrew Jackson Carter.

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  5. Well my GOSH, Dayle. That was quite a yarn. Bet you almost flipped when you saw the entire photo, right there on the internet! Isn't modern technology a--m-a-z-i-n-g?
    Unbelievable, really.

    Thanks for sharing this extremely interesting story of family history. I will look forward to listening to the fiddle music. Do you play an instrument, Dayle? Susan

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    1. I did about "flip" when I saw great-grandpa's music (and the photo) on the Internet. Technology would shock him, no doubt.

      Yes, on the instrument playing. I play anything with a keyboard, as do both of my sisters. We're all singers, as well, although I mostly sing in the shower these days. :)

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  6. Still reading? I was glued to the end. I love stories like this. I don't think I've ever mentioned on my blog how much I love genealogy. It's not just the people, it's their whole story that I love. One of my favorite things to do (and I am ashamed to admit how much time I "waste" when when get started) is to go on a rabbit trail for information and find a treasure.

    You have a huge one. Imagine that if that photo had been cropped just slightly differently, your grandmother would be in it too. Regardless, it has your very own great grandfather, an American musical treasure. That is just way cool to me.

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    1. Dayle,

      Thanks for sharing this post with us...and what really cool photos! I agree with you that when we are young, we don't appreciate our family heritage but the older we get it really matters to most of us. My family has played music and sung together as long as I can remember and it gets me to wondering how many ancestors I have that may have done the same! I am also a fan of "old time" music and have heard "Cotton-Eyed Joe" played many times...some performances were better than others :) Enjoyed this post!

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    2. Debbie, I'm like you ... rabbit trails can delay me for hours, but what fun. Even though my grandmother wasn't in the cropped photo on the album, that is my Great-Aunt Ruby, the only sibling of my grandmother's that I actually remember. So cool.

      Thanks, Debbie Ray, for your comments. I think music is a wonderful tool to bring families together.

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  7. Family, it's roots go very deep.
    So much history in each of ours. And to think you discovered a part of yours on the internet. With more to come, maybe.
    Rich, rich, rich, history!
    Enjoyed reading this post.

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  8. Loved this!! Can't wait to hear what more facts you discover!

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  9. What an awesome post! And how cool that you shared a link to the music! Love it!

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  10. Enjoyed the post and yes I did read all of it then read it to Edward. Now, Edward has a book he wants me to write. Bottom line he sure hopes you are able to find out more about this and let him know.

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Dear Readers, I adore your company and your comments. If you ask questions here, I respond to them here, so please check back when you have a chance. Kind regards, Dayle