Charlie Poole

Heard of this guy? I had, barely, but only have one song (White House Blues, from 1926) in my library. - Charlie Poole's Outlaw Country: 80 Years Old -- and Hot:

Eighty years ago today, an ambitious, even cocky, banjo picker from the mill towns of North Carolina showed up at Columbia Records' New York studios with fiddle and rhythm guitar players in tow, looking for a shot at cutting his first record.

There was nothing identified as “country music” yet, or even “hillbilly music.” But a few tunes from down home had made a bit of a stir, and this nattily dressed string-band leader knew he had fashioned something a little different, more propulsive, just plain hotter than anything that had come out of the Southern countryside before. Charlie Poole and his North Carolina Ramblers passed the audition.

One number they cut that day, “Don't Let Your Deal Go Down Blues,” a driving, infectious warning not to mess up your situation (whatever it might be), would sell 102,000 copies. That was an astonishing number for any record of the day. Poole recordings in the five years that followed included such twang classics as “Take a Drink on Me,” “White House Blues,” “If the River Was Whiskey” and “If I Lose, I Don't Care” -- songs that would be taken up by Bill Monroe, Flatt and Scruggs, the Stanley Brothers and dozens of others in bluegrass and old-time country music, and then by the likes of the Grateful Dead, The Band and John Mellencamp in the rock era.

Charlie Poole's You Ain't Talkin' to Me

“Old Time Songs Recorded from 1925 to 1930” (Charlie Poole)

This anniversary of Poole's “Deal” hit comes just as new attention is being paid to Charlie, his bands and his lasting influence, thanks to the Columbia Legacy release of a highly listenable, startlingly clean-sounding new boxed set, “
You Ain't Talkin' to Me: Charlie Poole and the Roots of Country Music

.” The three-CD set comes with an informative book, and is packaged in a downright-charming cigar box with a cover rendering of Poole that's unmistakably the work of music-loving cartoonist R. Crumb. (Because of the box's unusual shape, it's not found on the shelves of all CD stores, but it's readily available from online dealers, including the label's at

The new set, produced and assembled by veteran old-time-music historian and practitioner Hank Sapoznik, pegs Charlie Poole and the Ramblers as an inventive, aggressive, forward-looking band -- highly accessible forerunners and fathers of much rhythmic American music that's come since.

Allmusic's entry on Poole:

Charlie Poole & the North Carolina Ramblers were one of the most popular string bands of the 1920s. If they didn't have the foot-stomping exuberance of their chief competitors, Georgia's Skillet Lickers, they offered a debonair precision that was equally infectious. Infused with ragtime and pop, their music almost seemed to swing at times (even though the use of that word to describe music was still several years in the future). Poole strongly influenced later banjo players, including those who would become the creators of bluegrass. ... Like many country performers to follow, Poole lived a fast life; he was a hard-drinking man, rowdy and reckless. Poole was significant as one of the first country artists to gain widespread popularity through recordings, and when the Depression slowed record sales dramatically, he was hard hit. Around 1930 his self-confidence began to wane with his popularity, and he began drinking even more heavily. Scheduled to appear in a film in 1931, he unfortunately went on a bender and died of heart failure before he could get to Hollywood.

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This page contains a single entry by Seth A. published on July 27, 2005 9:46 AM.

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