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Outdated-time duo serenades Historic Society from ‘Shady Grove’ to ‘… My Sunshine”


James Pittman and Joe Nelson serenaded the Bulloch County Historic Society on Monday with old-time music, principally tunes chosen for having been carried out by musicians who performed and made information in Atlanta in the course of the late Nineteen Twenties and early Nineteen Thirties.

Greater than half a century earlier than Atlanta laid declare to being the hip hop capital, it was an early middle for recording what’s now known as old-time, one of many musical traditions that developed and recombined within the later classes of nation and folks music. Atlanta was additionally the host metropolis for a lot of fiddlers’ conventions, Pittman famous.

Beforehand an impartial trucker, Statesboro resident James Pittman, now 68, joined the Historic Society when he retired from the street in 2020. His buddy Joe Nelson, 67, hails from Savannah and works for Gulfstream Aerospace. They’ve been enjoying and singing old-time and conventional songs and a few early nation music collectively for 25 years.

Earlier than the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted gatherings, Nelson and Pittman performed professionally at sq. dances and pretty usually at Savannah venues. Additionally they carried out at history-themed occasions, dressing up at occasions as Revolutionary Struggle or Civil Struggle figures or as cowboys.

“We get pleasure from music and we get pleasure from historical past, and once we can put them collectively, it is a riot,” Pittman mentioned. “It is a good time.”

He principally performs rhythm guitar, and his guitar – acoustic, in fact – was the one instrument he picked throughout Monday’s efficiency. A multi-instrumentalist, Nelson performed banjo, then mandolin, then fiddle throughout their set. He has been enjoying stringed devices because the age of 12.

Greater than 90 Historic Society members and visitors gathered for lunch with music Sept. 26 within the Pittman Park United Methodist Church social corridor.

‘Georgian Hobo’

The primary track the duo carried out, “Georgia Hobo,” was first recorded in 1927 by the Cofer Brothers, from Hancock County.

“You get on the tender. And I’ll journey the blind. We’ll return to Georgia on the Seaboard Air Line,” one verse goes, mentioning a railroad firm that served a lot of Georgia within the days of steam locomotives.

“Stagger Lee,” an old-time normal, relies on a folks legend a couple of infamous gambler, Pittman famous, and the refrain calls him “a nasty man.” This track has many alternative verses and variations, and Nelson and Pittman mentioned the model they performed was discovered from the late Tommy Jarrell, a widely known North Carolina fiddler.

Nelson and Pittman supplied one thing like an apology for a way among the old-time songs have been “politically incorrect” but in addition famous that the lyrics typically condemn the notoriously dangerous conduct described. For instance, “Georgia Man,” first recorded in 1929 by the Georgia Organ Grinders, stories intimately how the title character, “whipped his girl with a fryin’ pan,” however the refrain repeatedly calls him “nothing however a low-down Georgia man.”

Nelson and Pittman additionally carried out the rosy and higher identified, “You Are My Sunshine,” and one precise gospel track.

The gospel quantity was “Angel Band.” The lyrics, initially known as, “My Newest Solar is Sinking Quick,” date from 1860, and many individuals at this time comprehend it from the Stanley Brothers’ model that was included within the soundtrack album for the 2000 film “O Brother, The place Artwork Thou? ”

Not Bluegrass

“Numerous what we’re enjoying right here at this time is from the 20s and 30s, and we do some extra trendy stuff,” Nelson mentioned. “However we name it old-time music, and loads of occasions it will get confused with bluegrass music, and bluegrass is a extra trendy type invented by Invoice Monroe in Nineteen Forties. … Bluegrass relies on old-time music the identical manner that rock and roll relies on blues.”

The oldest tune within the Historic Society set might have been “Shady Grove.” Though the track emerged with that identification in Kentucky across the finish of the nineteenth century, it seems to have been based mostly on a British track from the 1600s known as “Matty Groves,” Pittman famous.

He and Nelson additionally carried out a few tunes by a gaggle known as the Georgia Yellow Hammers. The track “Kiss Me Fast” was recorded in 1929.

However the ultimate Georgia Yellow Hammers tune they performed, “G Rag,” the one instrumental within the set, was one which made historical past with maybe the primary racially built-in recording session involving Georgia musicians, Pittman famous. Andrew Baxter, an African American fiddle participant additionally from Georgia, traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina, to play with the Yellow Hammers, a white band, for the 1927 recording.

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