My esteemed colleague Alan Fitter set last weeks link in our long, long chain. With Suzzy Roche and Lucy Wainwright he gave us not just sibling harmonies but parental – mother & daughter harmonies. Well, Dear Reader, my train of thought quickly carried me back to the Mother lode, the year zero of Americana – The Carter Family. Or, to be exact, The Carter Family Version 2.0.
A good ten years after A.P. and Sara Carter had first recorded, Maybelle gathered her girls (June, Anita and Helen) and from 1939 onwards they hit the airwaves, the recording studios and became part of The Grand Ole Opry furniture (see the clip below). The real star of the show was Mother Maybelle and her influential guitar style – The Carter Scratch – a technique wherein she could play rhythm and lead simultaneously. Collectively they weren’t the greatest of singers, but that didn’t really matter. In a genre where roots and tradition is everything, their unquestionable links to the mountains, their folk tunes and the birth of country music was more than enough. It was certainly good enough for Johnny Cash.
For your eyes and ears, here’s ‘Wildwood Flower’, an ages-old mountain tune and a Carter Family standard. First recorded in 1928 by the original Carters, this is Maybelle and the girls from an Opry TV broadcast of the 1950s.