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Charlie Poole and His North Carolina Ramblers

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Biography

Charlie Poole (March 22, 1892 - May 21, 1931) was an American old time player and musician and the leader of the North Carolina Ramblers, an old-time string band that recorded many popular songs between 1925 and 1930.

Poole and his brother-in-law, fiddler Posey Rorer - whom he had met in West Virginia in 1917 - formed the North Carolina Ramblers as a banjo-guitar-fiddle trio with guitarist Norman Woodlieff. The group auditioned in New York for Columbia Records. After landing a contract, they recorded the highly successful “Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down Blues” on July 27, 1925. This song sold over 102,000 copies at a time when there were estimated to be only 600,000 phonographs in the Southern United States, according to Poole’s biographer Kinney Rorrer. The band was paid $75 for the session.

Norman Woodlief was later replaced by former railroad engineer Roy Harvey from West Virginia. Fiddlers in various other recording sessions included Lonnie Austin and Odell Smith.

The Ramblers in great part created the musical templates for two giants: the bluegrass of Bill Monroe and, by extension, the lyrical aspects of the modern country music of Hank Williams. Bill C. Malone, in his important history of country music, “Country Music, U.S.A.” says, “The Rambler sound was predictable: a bluesy fiddle lead, backed up by long, flowing, melodic guitar runs and the finger-style banjo picking of Poole. Predictable as it may be, it was nonetheless outstanding. No string band in early country music equalled the Ramblers’ controlled, clean, well-patterned sound.”

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