Short Film of Gid Tanner

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Gid Tanner performing at his home, 1955. Original film and audio recorded (seperately) by Joe Young, 1955. Video/Audio sync by Matt Downer, 2013. Only known footage of this legendary entertainer.

We are extremely grateful to musician, scholar, and archivist Matt Downer of Chattanooga, TN for tracking down this footage and doing the work to make it widely available for the first time in history.

by Matt Downer:

I was working on the “Great Southern Old Time Fiddlers’ Convention” documentary and contacted Russ Tanner to see if their family might have any photos of Gid I could use. We talked several times and I asked him about if there were any home recordings that existed of Gid fiddling. He told me there were…… and there was also a video.

This blew me away – video of Gid Tanner fiddling sounded too good to be true. He said it was originally filmed on 8mm and had no audio. No matter, I say, I’d love to have a look at it.

A couple of weeks later, the dvd is delivered. Like a child on Christmas morning, I tore into the package and sat transfixed as one of the finest entertainers ever in the business silently sawed, laughed and clowned around in his living room one afternoon back in 1955. Earl Johnson was on there as well, with his sons beside him on guitar and banjo. Earl (Johnson) even backs Gid up on banjo on one tune.

The speed of the video was an issue – it played very fast. I had nothing to go on and originally just estimated what I thought looked right for the playing speed. I called Russ again when I thought I might have it pretty close to real-time speed. He had some more news for me – there was a seperate audio recording from that same day. He said some folks had tried to match it up with the video in the past, but had no luck. I asked him to send me the audio and I would do my best to sync it up.

The song “Tanner’s Boarding House” (labeled on the disc as “Birmingham Special” and featuring a healthy dose of “G-Rag”) was a logical place to start. I’ve played that one a bunch and knew the words, so knew what singing to look for on the video. When I found the video segment where I could tell he was singing the chorus, I knew I was in business.

Once I got the video speed altered and audio matched up it was truly special to sit there and watch and listen to Gid perform. It was honestly something I never thought existed, something I never expected to see. It was a very special experience to be the first person in more than 50 years to watch and listen to Gid perform live. It is an honor to share the video with friends, fiddlers and fans of old time music everywhere.

Thanks to Russ Tanner and the Tanner family for the materials and inspiration. Thanks to Gid Tanner for keeping the right energy in his music right up to the last time around.

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One Response to “Short Film of Gid Tanner”

  1. Yardbird Says:

    Gid is my co-pilot.

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