Archive for the ‘Stripling Bros.’ Category

The Stripling Bros. (#3)

April 11, 2013


excerpt from JEMF Quarterly Vol. IV, Part 1 — March 1968 — No. 9:

On September 2, 1963, collector Bob Pinson interviewed Charles and Ira Stripling at Charlie’s farm just north of Kennedy, Alabama. Pinson had been informed by blues collector Gayle Dean Wardlow that the Striplings lived near Gordo, Alabama. A service station attendant at Gordo told Pinson that they lived in Kennedy in Lamar County, some twenty-five miles north of Gordo.

That first contest was in January of 1913, and Charlie Stripling had just begun fiddling in the spring of 1912.    Ira had been playing the guitar only since the previous November.  Their father, Thomas Newton Stripling, owned a local Pickens Co. store and ordered Ira’s first guitar. The guitar, bought wholesale, cost Ira $6.00.

“Six dollars didn’t grow on bushes like they seem to now!” Their mother was Sarah Stripling and both parents were born in Pickens County. Neither played any instruments; the brothers assert that they were the only musicians in the entire family.

After the Kennedy contest, they received invitations from fiddlers’ contests in Millport (Lamar County), Fayette (Fayette County) and places even further away.  The further they went from Pickens County, the less they felt they could win, but soon changed their minds.

Charlie recalled, “the further off away from home I got, the easier it was to get the prize.”

“At this time, Uncle Bunt made an appearance at Millport and Charlie went up to hear him. (During the mid-1920′ s the industrialist Henry Ford had been sponsoring fiddle contests in the North and South. His hand-picked champion was a Tennessee fiddler, Uncle Bunt Stephens.)

A man was there who was representing a big fiddle contest to be held in Memphis, Tenn., the weekend of June 2, and he asked if Bunt would enter. Bunt explained that he was tied up for that weekend, at which point a friend of Charlie’s suggested that Charlie, who had gained quite a local reputation, might take his place.

The man accepted and Charlie traveled up without Ira, as no accompaniment was allowed. The contest lasted three days and there were very large crowds each day. The final night, on which the prizes were given, was a Saturday and 600 fiddlers were present.

“I realized I had competition,” Charlie recalled. Bunt finally showed up and Charlie learned later that the contest was probably fixed in favor of Bunt. Charlie still received second prize, which consisted of twenty dollars in gold.

When they recorded, they were told by the A and R man in Chicago, that many of the old-time tunes had been recorded and that they didn’t need any more versions, so the brothers were forced to search for new material. “Big Footed Nigger” they had learned from a local fiddler, Henry Ludlow, at a contest. Charlie, after hearing it, only remembered the first half. After going to sleep that night he awoke very late, remembering the second part, which he proceeded to immediately try on the fiddle.

Charlie recalled a contest in Fayette that he had won year after year. One time, the man who ran it gave him twenty dollars not to enter the contest because Charlie was discouraging the other fiddlers. Though he was popular and played many dances and contests it was never enough to make a living.


Stripling Brothers (#2)

June 6, 2012

by Kerry Blech (Old Time Herald, volume 6, number 5)
The Stripling BrothersComplete Recorded Works in Chronological Order, Volume 1 and 2, 1928-1936

From the very first time I heard a tune played by one of Alabama’s best musical exports, The Stripling Brothers, I was totally enamored. It was so long ago, that I can’t now place the time or place, but it probably was on an LP anthology. Not long afterwards, County Records issued their wonderful set of Stripling Brothers fiddle and guitar duets. Eventually I obtained a discography and learned that they had 42 sides issued commercially (on the Vocalion and Decca labels) in toto. Thus started a search that took years to complete-my own quest for the grail-finding all the Stripling recordings.

I found a few 78s, but primarily I traded tapes with 78 collectors until I had all but a couple in my collection, in various media formats. I pooled resources with Joyce Cauthen a few years ago and I finally had the complete recordings of the Striplings, after 20 years of searching. It was about that time that Joyce told me that she would be writing the liner notes for a CD reissue of the entire Stripling commercial output. Rather than being disheartened or depressed by my seemingly wasted effort, I was overjoyed that all their material would be found in a more permanent medium, and placed on two compact discs, the better for all to behold.

As many of you now know, Document, led by Johnny Parth, is methodically issuing complete works CDs of old-time music artists. As of this writing, they have 28 CDs for sale. It is a valuable service to researchers, discographers, and fans of the so-called “Golden Age of Old-Time Music” (or “first golden Age” as some might have it). With the Stripling set, they have made easily obtainable some of the finest fiddling ever committed to shellac.

The Striplings were talented enough and sold well enough that they had a longer recording career than most of their contemporaries. Lasting from late 1928 through early 1936, they kept their careers going through the teeth of the Depression, and all this with only two vocal numbers, the rest being instrumentals. Charlie Stripling (1896-1966) was one of the great old-time fiddlers, with myriad contest championships under his belt. (more…)

The Stripling Brothers

January 12, 2012

From “With Fiddle and Well-Rosined Bow,” by Joyce Cauthen (University of Alabama Press, 1989, 282 pages)

View entire article at

In Chicago, on August 19, 1929, the Stripling Brothers recorded sixteen tunes, all of which were released on the Vocalion label. Some also were released on Australian and Canadian labels. The tunes included traditional breakdowns like “Wolves Howling” and “Dance All Night with a Bottle in Your Hand”; four waltzes; and the only two vocals the brothers ever recorded, “Weeping Willow” and “Railroad Bum.”

Before the recording session Kapp informed the brothers that they should not play anything that had already been recorded. “You know, the old-timey pieces like ‘Turkey in the Straw’ and ‘Hen Cackle’ and ‘Leather Breeches’ and all like that had been recorded,” said Stripling. Thus he played several tunes of his own composition, among them the “Kennedy Rag,” named after his hometown, and “The Coal Mine Blues.” The latter was composed when Stripling, a cotton farmer who had never been near coal mines, began playing for dances in the mining camps of Walker County. The tune was very popular among the miners who inspired it. Stripling’s “compositions” were committed to memory and to the recording machine, but not to paper, as he had never learned to read or write music.

The records made in Chicago were well received. Charlie Stripling recalled: “The records come out and made a hit and was selling like hotcake. Every where I went they had ’em and was selling ’em. We could have got on, then, with the Victor Company. That agent come through there. He told us, said, ‘I could take one of these records down there and play it. My company would give you a job, right now.’ ”

However, the brothers had a contract with Brunswick-Balke-Collender. Upon its expiration, Dave Kapp, brother of the Brunswick agent, invited them to record for Decca in New York. There, on September 10, 1934, they played fourteen tunes, ten of which were issued. Except for the traditional tune “Chinese Breakdown,” most were waltzes, fox trots, and “ragtime breakdowns,” such as “Down on the L & N,” that Stripling had composed for round dancing. Kapp was not difficult to please, recalled Stripling: “He’d tell me to play over one, and I’d play over it, and I’d think to myself, ‘Well, he won’t take that,’ but he wouldn’t grumble about it. He’d just say, ‘Okay,’ and then he’d ask me what was the name of it and ask me how come it’s the name it is, and make a record of it then.”

The Southern Waltz (#9)

October 23, 2011

The Southern Waltz #9

“My Isle of Golden Dreams,”by Charlie and Ira Stripling

March 12, 1936, New Orleans, LA