WHEN FIDDLE WAS KING by Ron Yule (Northwestern State Univ. Press, 2006) 246 pp, softbound

Louisianan Yule—who also wrote a recent book on the legendary Cajun fiddler Iry LeJeune—has done an amazing and admirable job in gathering data and photos of musicians and groups who played music in Louisiana in the first half of the 20th century. His list (which he actually limits to the north and west regions of the state)—includes old-time, Cajun, country and even some Bluegrass groups.

Some of the brief write-ups are drawn from Yule interviews, others put together from Newspaper accounts or from other writers. There’s a chapter on Louisiana Country Dances, and about 60 pages are devoted to “Fiddle Tales” of various musicians & local fiddle contests. I had not heard of most of the musicians and bands in this book, but there are names that some (specially record collectors) ill recognize.

Some of these include the Hackberry Ramblers, Anatole Credeur, Taylor-Grigg Melody Makers, Miller’s Merrymakers and the Pelican Wildcats—long a mystery old time band, they put just one fine tune on a very late Columbia 78 which was mis-titled “WALKIN’ GEORGIA ROSE” (it should have been WALKING GEORGIA ROADS). There’s a nice little section on fiddlers of the KWKH Barn Dance—some of these included Paul Warren, Cousin Emmy, Ralph Mayo, Curley Fox and Clayton McMichen.

In the way of Bluegrass, there is mention of Jimmy Martin, Luke Thompson’s Green Valley Boys, and Buzz Busby. Others mentioned include Rusty & Doug Kershaw, and the well traveled mandolinist Clyde Baum (who played with the Bailes Brothers, Johnnie & Jack, Charlie Monroe, the Sullivan Family and even Hank Williams). A nice feature of this book is the photos—there are dozens, and most are fairly sharp for their age. Although the scope of this work is very limited, there’s a lot of good information here that fans of the older days will appreciate.


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