Buster Carter and Preston Young were part of an ensemble of old-time musicians that came from the North Carolina region, the most famous being Charley Poole, who recorded at the end of the 1920′s and beginning of the 1930′s.
Preston Young is one of a group of Depression-era musicians who, although able to make recordings, benefited very little financially from them and wound up much less well-known than some of the songs they recorded, such as in Young’s case “Rollin’ in My Sweet Baby’s Arms.” Young learned music from his banjo-picking father, and as a youngster used his whittling knife to fashion crude imitations of the instrument. As a teenager he learned autoharp from an uncle, Walter Spencer, then took up guitar in time to have an influential meeting with old-time legend Charlie Poole. It was Poole who suggested Young take up the banjo again. Following these instructions, Young started up his own band with banjoist Buster Carter and fiddler Posey Rorer. In July of 1931 they traveled up to New York City where they cut ten different sides for Columbia, some of which were never released. As was typically the case in this type of music, they tried to re-record many of the same numbers a few days later for the competing Victor label, but were turned down. (For a change: tales of such recording duplications done under pseudonyms or slightly-altered song titles are legion.) Young’s group was basically playing in the style they had learned from Poole, who passed away a few weeks before the New York sessions. Eventually to become a warhorse number in the interlocking genres of country & western, bluegrass, and Western swing, “Rollin’ in My Sweet Baby’s Arms” was a song Young recollected having heard “somewhere or other,” but he added enough of his own verses to consider it his own composition at the time of recording. The arrangement the group played was ahead of its time and would predict the vocal and instrumental style of bluegrass music. During the vocals, the instruments tend to be hushed, providing only spare accompaniment. Then, during the breaks, all hell breaks loose as fiddle, banjo, and guitar tear into competing and intertwining variations. Other well-loved recordings from this group include the hilarious “It Won’t Hurt No More,” a song based on a conversation between a dentist and his patient. (Does this subject constitute a genre of song? Yes, and that includes “Toothache Blues” by Lonnie Johnson and Victoria Spivey and “Terrible Operation Blues” by Georgia Tom and Hannah May. Some of the group’s recordings were eventually re-released on Folkways anthologies and/or recorded in cover versions by revival groups such as the New Lost City Ramblers. Despite Poole’s advice about switching to banjo, Young would sometimes record on guitar with this ensemble as he apparently felt his partner, Carter, was a better banjo picker than he was. Rather than being known as a hotshot picker, Young received more praise for his vocal abilities. He was an able interpreter of both serious and comic songs. From 1931 on Young began to lose interest in music because of the lack of financial renumeration. He would still get together to pick with associates such as Odell Smith and Edgar Rogers, the latter another musician who could play banjo, fiddle, and guitar equally well. The three formed a band called the Midnight Ramblers, which worked mostly in the North Carolina cities of High Point and Greensboro. Young found regular employment as a sheet metal worker but still fit in some musical activity such as an early morning radio program sponsored by the soft drink company that made Dr Pepper. But by this time he was playing so infrequently that he had actually gotten rid of all his instruments, and would have to borrow axes to pull off the radio shows. In the meantime his hands were suffering from injuries related to his job. This led to his complete retirement from music. In a 1971 interview with Tony Russell for Old Time Music magazine, he concluded “You’ve got to either make music or work…you can’t do both.” He finished out his life in quiet seclusion, his neighbors unaware that the fellow who first recorded one of the most popular bluegrass tunes of all time was living right down the road.
Edited by midlifefanclub on 22 May 2011, 21:40
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