The two-day Georgia String Band Festival take place on April 28 and 29, 2017 at the Harris Arts Center in Calhoun and features a Friday night opening concert followed by the Gordon County Fiddlers’ Convention on Saturday with competitions commencing at noon in categories including fiddle, banjo, old-time singing, buck dancing and more. A companion event in Calhoun that weekend is BBQ, Boogie and Blues, which includes BBQ vendors, live music and Kids Zone on Friday night and a full day of of KCBS BBQ competitions, music, activities and vendors on Saturday in City Park.
Gordon County’s roots music heritage stretches back to the Great Depression era of the late 1920s and 1930s when phonographs were sold at local furniture stores, general goods stores of music stories like L. Moss Music Company. During its heydey, the Gordon County Fiddlers’ Convention, which was established in 1924, drew up to 5,000 people downtown on a Saturday to hear old-time champion fiddlers including Atlanta’s Fiddlin’ John Carson and Tallapoosa’s A. A. Gray.
The Georgia Yellow Hammers, a string band and vocal quartet featuring Charles Moody Jr. (guitar), Bud Landress (banjo), Phil Reeve (guitar) and Bill Chitwood (fiddle), from Gordon County, went to Atlanta in February 1927 to record for Ralph Peer of Victor Records. This session actually predates Peer’s infamous Bristol sessions with Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family six months later. The recording of one of Landress’ songs, “Picture On the Wall,” sold almost 100,000 copies.
The Yellow Hammers, who were white, often collaborated with two African American folk musicians also from Gordon County, father and son Andrew and Jim Baxter, and in one of the earliest integrated sessions of old-time music, Andrew Baxter played fiddle on the Yellow Hammers song, “G Rag,” during a 1927 session in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Baxter’s 1929 recording of “Georgia Stomp” was featured on Harry Smith’s seminal 1952 six-compilation, Anthology of American Folk Music.
Joseph B. Evans of Harris Arts CenterOld-time music has extreme local variations, and, commercially, its main means of distribution other than live performance was sales of 78 rpm records through furniture stores, general goods stores, or music stores like Calhoun’s L. Moss Music Company. On a Calhoun Saturday at a fiddlers’ convention, one might find 5,000 folks crowding downtown in their wagons and buggies, craning their necks to listen to old-time fiddlers like Fiddlin’ John Carson, A.A. Gray, or Resaca’s Bill Chitwood.
Although he moved to Tennessee after the death of his father when he was 11 years, lyric tenor, composer and Gordon County native Roland Hayes is widely recognized as one of America’s pioneering African American concert artists.