From the late 1927-36 white Mississippi fiddlers were represented on approximately 200 78rpm records. Though the number of bands and fiddlers recorded was small as compared to other southern states, the quality was high and a wide variety of styles were captured. Some of the recorded musicians were the Carter Brothers and Son, Narmour and Smith, The Leake County Revelers, Hoyt Ming and his Pep-Steppers, Freeny’s Barn Dance Band, Mississippi Possum Hunters, Ray Brothers, The Newton County Hillbillies and The Nations Brothers.
In 1923, Arthur Palmer Hudson began his ballad collecting in Mississippi, which culminated in his 1936 publication of Folksongs of Mississippi. Although his focus was on documenting the Mississippi textural variations of the classic Scots and English ballads, his fieldwork documented other songs and folkways. Unfortunately, only a handful of the songs were documented with musical notation and that was not until he published, in 1937 a small collection, Folk tunes of Mississippi.
In the Summer of 1936, the WPA Music and Writers’ Project in Mississippi, inspired by Hudson’s work, began collecting songs in the state. I am currently at work on a book about and containing the sheet music for the approximately 150 fiddle tunes that were collected.
The state office of the Music and Writers Project arranged the recording schedule for the Library of Congress field recording expedition of 1939. During that summer, Herbert Halpert’s 400 field recordings in Mississippi documented ballad singers, children’s songs and games, blues, gospel singing and fiddle and banjo players. Some of the musicians Halpert recorded were John Hatcher, W.E.Claunch, Stephen B. Tucker, Enos Canoy, Thaddeus C. Willingham, and John Brown. Of his recordings about 150 are of fiddlers.
Alan Lomax’s five LOC field trips from 1936-1959 focused on the black music traditions. Fiddlers that he recorded include Son Sim’s and Sid Hemphill.
The Smithsonian festival in Washington in 1974 featrured Mississippi fiddlers, notably Hoyt Ming and Alvis Massengale and the Six Towns Band attended. Around that time field recordings were made of Alvis Massengale, Hoyt Ming and Homer Grice. Additionally there are some “Home Recordings” of W.E. Claunch with his guitar player made in the 1950’s.
In lp record era there were 4 recordings of interest:
Hoyt Ming and his Pep-Steppers – New Hot Times -1973 a modern recording of the family band that made the classic 78’s
The Leake County String Band Led by Morgan Gilmer, son of the original Leake County Revelers fiddler Will Gilmer, they made a brief appearance in the movie “The ballad of BIlly Joe”
Mississippi Sawyers – 1980 – living fiddlers playing in a variety of state styles. Bluegrass, Old time, Celtic and Cajun
Great Big Yam Taters -1985 – a fantastic source of information and recordings from the 1939 Library of Congress trip to Mississippi.