Paramount Old Time Recordings  (compiled and annotated by Pat Harrison) - comments

Anthology of early recordings of Old Time Music on the Paramount label.

Notes by Pat Harrison.

"Paramount Old Time Recordings" is a box set of 4 CDs. CD A - "String Bands" CD B - "Ballads and Blues" CD C - "Religious Music" CD D - "String Bands, Ballads and Cajun Music" 

CD "A" - String Bands

1. Fruit Jar Guzzlers                                     C & O Whistle
2. Fruit Jar Guzzlers                                     Fox in the Mountain
3. Fruit Jar Guzzlers                                     Old Joe Clark
4. Fruit Jar Guzzlers                                     Kentucky Bootleggers
5. Fruit Jar Guzzlers                                     Cackling Hen (instr)
6. Wilmer Watts and the Lonely Eagles        Cotton Mill Blues
7. Wilmer Watts and the Lonely Eagles        Say Darling Won't You Love Me
8. Wilmer Watts and the Lonely Eagles        Banjo Sam
9. Wilmer Watts and the Lonely Eagles        Knocking Down Casey Jones
10. Wilmer Watts and the Lonely Eagles      Been on the Job too Long
11. Dixie Crackers                                        The Old Bell Cow
12. Dixie Crackers                                        Bile Them Cabbage Down
13. McClung Brothers and Cleve Chaffin    Alabama Jubilee (instr)
14. McClung Brothers and Cleve Chaffin    Trail Blazer's Favourite (instr)
15. Dixie String Band                                   Chickens Don't Roost Too High For Me (instr)
16. Dixie String Band                                   Soldier's Joy (instr)
17. Dixie String Band                                   Show Me The Way To Go Home (instr)
18. Arthur Tanner                                        Whoa Mule Whoa
19. Arthur Tanner                                        When I Was Single My Pockets Did Jingle
20. Arthur Tanner                                        Little Old Log Cabin In The Lane
21. Arthur Tanner                                       The Knoxville Girl
23. Red Brush Rowdies                                Hatfield McCoy Feud
23. Red Brush Rowdies                                Tuck Me In (instr)
24. Red Brush Rowdies                                Harbour of Home Sweet Home (instr)
25. Red Brush Rowdies                                Midnight Serenade (instr)

Paramount: Supreme as in supreme authority; pre-eminent, as of importance: superior to. (Dictionary definition c 1911).
    With what must surely be one of the most distinctive record label logos, a Golden Eagle atop a globe, most notably on a blue or black background, discs of the "trade-mark registered" Paramount company are perhaps the most sought-after items by collectors of 78 rpm records. One reason for their collectability is the admirable 12000 series that provided some of the finest blues recordings ever made - most notably by such greats as Skip James, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Charley Patton, Ma Rainey and so many others that an extra page or two would be needed to complete a comprehensive listing. As if the blues roster wasn't enough, the company recorded a number of jazz luminaries. On the occasion the likes of Jelly Roll Morton, King Oliver, Johnny Dodds and Fletcher Henderson would grace the Paramount studios.

    The company, along with most other American record labels of the 1920s and 30s, ready to record 'rural' performances of hillbilly or old time music (for the purposes of these notes I shall use the term otm, obviously the abbreviation for old time music). And here we come to a rather neglected area when it comes to the re-issuing and appreciation of otm performers who recorded for the label.  To be fair, there was a fine LP issued on the J.E.F.M. label in the 1970s, devoted to otm artists who cut sides for Paramount, and a number of items have appeared on anthologies. But this is perhaps the first time a more in-depth collection or assessment has appeared. Courtesy of Joe Bussard, the man who has preserved so much classic American roots music in his wonderful record collection, JSP are proud to present 100 tracks of Paramount old time music. There are students of otm who consider Paramount's recordings of the genre to be inferior or second-rate to material in the catalogues of other contemporary companies. There is a case for this - certainly is one compares the Paramount otm listing to that of the blue, then there is really no contest. But it has to be remembered that the big companies such as Columbia/Okeh and Victor did also record a number of lesser quality rural artists. To put things in perspective, Paramount did record the great Charlie Poole and his group, albeit under a pseudonym, The Highlanders (see JSP 7734), and other notable performers who had either recorded for other companies or would do so in the future.

    Irrespective of what some historians say, there is no denying the importance of many of the musicians and singers featured on this anthology. Some may have been overlooked because interested parties have concentrated on the works of better-known musicians such a Fiddlin' John Carson, Gid Tanner and his Skillet Lickers or Charlie Poole. It is therefore pleasing to introduce a 'new' audience a taste of such underrated names like Emry Arthur, Frank Welling & John McGhee and Hugh Gibbs' String Band.

    But back to the record label. The Paramount Record Company was owned by the Wisconsin Chair Company which had been founded in 1888. That a furniture business should enter the recording world was not as odd as it seems. By 1914, among the things they manufactured were playback mechanisms for phonographs (phonographs being an early ancestor of modern record players). Four years on, the company was keen enough on recordings to set up the 'New York Recording Laboratories'. Material was issued on the Puritan label, Paramount's predecessor. The idea seems to have been to give away Puritan discs with phonographs as a sales incentive.'  

CD "B" - Ballads and Blues

1.The Marion Massacre                                                    Welling and McGhee
2. The North Carolina Textile Strike                                Welling and McGhee
3. Busted Bank Blues                                                        Welling and McGhee
4. Picture on the Wall                                                       Welling and McGhee
5. Got Drunk and Got Married                                        Emry Arthur
6. I Tickled Her Under the Chin                                       Emry Arthur
7. The Married Man                                                          Emry Arthur
8. The Bluefield Murder                                                    Emry Arthur
9. George Collins                                                              Emry Arthur
10. Choctow Beer Blues                                                    Roy Gonzales
11. Anuiant Et Bleu                                                           Roy Gonzales
12. Sara Jane                                                                    Gentry Brothers
13. I Was Born 4000 Years Ago                                        Gentry Brothers
14. It's Hard to be Shut Up In Prison                               Owen Mills
15. Broadway Blues                                                           Brock Sisters
16. Log Cabin Blues                                                          Chezz Chase
17. Down In Arkansas                                                       Rufus K. Stanley
18. When the Whipoorwill Is Whispering Goodnight        Rufus K. Stanley
19. Only a Tramp                                                              Rufus K. Stanley
20. Six Feet of Earth                                                         Rufus K. Stanley
21. Those Dark Eyes I Love So Well                                 Fay & The Jay Walkers
22. Longing for Home                                                       Fay & The Jay Walkers
23. Down by the Railroad Track                                       Rex Kelly
24. Hen House Blues (instr)                                               Jack Penewell
25. Memphis Blues (instr)                                                  Jack Penewell

Wilmer Watts was born at Mount Tabor, now Tabor City, Columbus County, North Carolina in either 1896 or 1898. He played a number of musical instruments from a young age. A photo of him taken in his 20s or 30s shows him holding a fiddle, but on record he is heard on banjo. following the 1914-1918 War he moved to Belmont (mentioned in Walk Right In Belmont, recorded for Paramount by Watts and the Lonely Eagles, but not included here). Watts found work in the Belmont mills where he met singer and guitarist Frank Wilson with whom, in January or February 1927, he made his first recording. The duo cut just one side, The Sporting Cowboy, which was unissued. At around this time he met another mill worker, Charles Freshour, who also played guitar. Freshour and Wilson - on steel guitar - backed Wilmer Watts on his first Paramount session in 1927, which produced seven sides.  


1.Are You Washed in the Blood                       Welling and McGhee
2. What a Friend We Have in Jesus                Welling and McGhee
3. When the Roll is Called Up Yonder             Welling and McGhee
4. My Mother's Bible                                       Welling and McGhee
5. Brighten the Corner Where You Are           Welling & Shannon
6. I'm the Child of the King                            Welling & Shannon
7. There's a Treasure up in Heaven                Emry Arthur
8. Room for Jesus                                            Kentucky Thorobreds
9. The World is not my Home                          Kentucky Thorobreds
10. 'Til We Meet Again                                    Kentucky Thorobreds
11. He Cometh                                                Kentucky Thorobreds
12. The Model Church - Part 1                       Christian Harmony Singers
13. The Model Church - Part 2                       Christian Harmony Singers
14. Little David Play on your Harp                 Joe Reed Family
15. Jesus is Getting Us Ready                         Joe Reed Family
16. I Will Tell A Wondrous Story                     Joe Reed Family
17. Two Little Children                                   Joe Reed Family
18. I Shall Not Be Moved                                Davis & Nelson
19. Death is no More Than a Dream               Davis & Nelson
20. Will These Be Any Stars in My Crown       Sid Harkreader
21. The Land Where We Never Grow Old       Sid Harkreader
22. The Old Rugged Cross                               Sid Harkreader
23. In The Sweet By and Bye                           Sid Harkreader
24. Glory, Glory, Glory, Glory to the Lamb    Kentucky Ramblers
25. Give Me That Old Town Religion              Kentucky Ramblers

As with others in the otm field - like Roy Harvey and Henry Whitter - John McGhee not only performed and recorded but also acted as a talent spotter for recording companies. According to one of Garnett's recording engineers, McGhee would organise sessions for gospel groups, pay them a one-off flat fee and have the royalties signed over to himself. For Gennet, McGhee seems to have arranged sessions in Richmond, the label's home and it's studio location. Twice a year, it seems, he would gather a group of artists, book their hotel accommodation and pay them perhaps ten dollars each for a session. Once again McGhee would get any royalties on offer. One assumes this was a paying proposition. Tracks 5 and 6 feature Frank Welling and William Shannon. Born in 1900, Shannon was from Louisa, Kentucky. Evidently he was not at all at home in the recording studios and made just this session, delivering five sides. 


1. KENTUCKY RAMBLERS            Good Cocaine (Mama Don't Allow It)
2. KENTUCKY RAMBLERS            A Pretty White Rose
3. KENTUCKY RAMBLERS            The Prisoners Sweetheart

Recordings of Leo Soleil and Moise Robin are no strangers to JSP - two of their other Paramount tracks appear on JSP 7726 Cajun Early Recordings. Robin had been chosen by Soleil to take the place of his former partner Mayeus Le Fleur who had been murdered.  

Last updated on 08/11/2008