Posts Tagged ‘Leake County Revelers’

At A Georgia Camp Meeting

May 21, 2012

At A Georgia Camp Meeting (1897 )

Composed by Kerry Mills, played by The Leake County Revelers (click below to play).


Written as a “two-step, polka or cakewalk” it is in reality a perfect characteristic cakewalk. Kerry Mills, born in Philadelphia in 1869, was perhaps the most popular composer of popular American music in his lifetime, stated: “This march was not intended to be a part of the religious exercise, but when the young folks got together they felt as if they needed some amusement. A cakewalk was suggested and held in a quiet place – hence this music.”

Mills’ career reflected the changing trends in American popular music in 1897 to 1915. He was a skillful and prolific composer, capable of writing in any popular idiom. His most lasting composition might be “Red Wing.” [He also composed “Whistling Rufus.”] Mills’ compositions were the antecedent of classic ragtime and they indicate a bridge between the old two-step danced to Sousa’s “Washington Post March and Two Step” and the emerging styles of black-derived dance called the cakewalk.

In Mills’ music, unlike the grotesque ‘coon’ songs of the era, the African-American is a medicum of dignity and individuality. Mills’ sheet music covers are carefully conceived, executed and designed to emphasize the title without resorting to a complex apparatus of symbolism. “Georgia Camp Meeting” in its time was the biggest of hits and is based on the Civil War tune “Our Boys Will Shine Tonight.” In “Georgia” one can see the influence of the cakewalk ancestor – the march, and it is band music, not written for the keyboard idiom.

“At A Georgia Camp Meeting,” played by The Leake County Revelers.

Recorded April 16, 1929, Atlanta, GA


The Leake County Revelers

November 14, 2011

by Eugene Chadbourne (

The Leake County Revelers was one of the most popular old-time string bands in Mississippi in the late ’20s. The group was also among one of the earliest groups to make records in that state, hitting the jackpot with one of the first sides cut, the lovely “Wednesday Night Waltz.” Like much of the blues and early country talent from Mississippi, the group was scouted out for recording by H.C. Speir, a man who is considered the Sam Phillips of Mississippi music in the ’20s and ’30s. Spier was involved quite early in the game of “talent broker,” the job which would later become known in the record industry as artist and repertory development, or A&R man for short. He arranged a series of sessions for the Leake County Revelers that were released on Okeh and Columbia, and the string band’s reputation spread quickly.

They became known for tunes played in relaxed, slow tempos, which was exactly the opposite of all other string bands which highlighted rapid-fire breakdown numbers. The Leake County Revelers recorded some 44 different sides between 1927 and 1930. Besides the initial success, these recordings have also enjoyed several new additional lifetimes through reissue ventures on labels such as Document and County. Not only has the group’s entire output been made available via several volumes on these labels, various tracks by the group have emerged on a smorgasbord of compilation sets, including anthologies focusing on yodelling, early American string bands, and early country music.

The group was quite famous for its original waltzes and complex vocal harmony arrangements, again in direct contrast to what has seemed like a distinct lack of vocalizing by other Mississippi string bands. In this case, the difference may have had more to do with the commercial desires of the record labels than the repertoires of the groups, since instrumental repertoire was always one of the selling points of most string bands, especially the shenanigans of hellbent-for-leather fiddlers. The blend of Jim Wolverton’s five-string banjo and R.C. Moseley small banjo-mandolin is one of the most recognizable aspects of the group’s sound, highlighted on tracks such as the ragtime instrumental “Dry Town Blues.”

The group humorously reveals their love of slow tempos by titling a piece of stately, almost Baroque parlor music “Mississippi Breakdown,” even though the piece is as far from a breakdown as Seattle is from Mississippi. The previously mentioned “Wednesday Night Waltz” was the band’s biggest hit, as well as one of the first two records issued by the group, first pressed in 1927. The song has been covered by many other artists, particularly fiddlers, and has become a dance warhorse, sometimes appearing under the title of “Kitty Waltz.” It was performed frequently by Curly Fox on the radio in the ’30s and ’40s, and was later recorded by Leroy Canaday. In the ’30s, politician Huey Long hired the Leake County Revelers to play for his campaign, using the down-home music to reinforce his image as a grassroots populist. In the ’90s, the group was nominated for the Mississippi Hall of Fame and has inspired such modern-day string band revival groups as the Old Hat String Band and the Hinds County Revelers.

The Southern Waltz (#12)

November 13, 2011

“The Merry Widow Waltz,” by The Leake County Revelers

April 27, 1928, New Orleans, LA