Sunday, February 24, 2013

Cousin Jake, Uncle Josh, Earl Scruggs - Nobody's Business

In the film “O Brother Where Art Thou” with George Clooney there is a band called the Soggy Bottom Boys. They perform the perfect version of the song “Man of Constant Sorrow” which was recorded by a partially blind fiddle player from Kentucky named Dick Burnett sometime in the 1940’s. Decades later the song became the mega hit we all know today.

The song “Man of Constant Sorrow”/ “I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow” was written in 1913 by Dick Burnett, who claimed to have gotten the idea for the tune from a fellow musician. Originally titled “Farewell Song”, it was included in the 1913 publication of Mr. Burnett’s songs. It was recorded as early as 1928 by Emry Arthur. Many folk musicians have laid down their own version of the song over the years, but the Soggy Bottom Boys version from the film will undoubtedly go down as the best version ever recorded, or performed.

The musicians in the movie are comprised of Dan Tyminski and several others associated with Allison Kraus and Union Station. But once upon a time there was a band called the Foggy Mountain Boys, which; as you might notice; is the complete opposite of the name of the band in the movie. The Foggy Mountain Boys were together as a band from 1948-1970. That’s quite a run.

Seen here on a local TV broadcast from the 1950’s are the real Foggy Mountain Boys, composed of Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs, Paul Warren on fiddle, the great Josh Graves on dobro, with cousin Jake doing the lead singing. They only ever had a single #1 hit record; which was the “Ballad of Jed Clampett” for the TV series “The Beverly Hillbillies” in 1962. They also wrote and performed the theme song with Waylon Jennings “I’m a Good Ol’ Boy” for the TV series “Dukes of Hazard” in the 1980’s.
Sunday Television in rural America is something many of us from the big cities missed out on. The shows were not as sopshicated as the variety shows coming out of New York and Los Angeles, but; just as with last week’s Sunday post; they offer a very realistic look at what American’s found entertaining during the decade preceding the Second World War. We were fat and happy; and as a nation we knew no real rival.

These old TV shows are a real treat to watch. They tell us so much about who we are today. Perhaps, somewhere in these old shows, there is a hint of what began the great American decline which we are currently experiencing. But, all of that aside, they are also great entertainment from an era long gone.

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