Clayton Mcmichen

Top Songs & Albums Clayton McMichen

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... read moreClayton McMichen fused his interests in country, folk, jazz, swing, and pop music into one of the most recognizable fiddle styles. His playing with Jimmie Rodgers and Gid Tanner and His Skillet Lickers in the 1920s helped to lay the foundation for country music. From the time that he arrived in...

Key songs

Clayton McMichen
Grave In The Pines
3:21
Clayton McMichen
Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss (Original Mix)
3:17
Clayton McMichen
The Wang Wang Blues
2:58
Clayton McMichen
Old Molly Hare
2:57
Clayton McMichen
Medley: Old Joe Clark / Pretty Little Widder / Shortenin' Bread
2:56

Biography

Active: 1920s-1940s
Country Of origin: United States of America
Member of: Gid Tanner

Clayton McMichen fused his interests in country, folk, jazz, swing, and pop music into one of the most recognizable fiddle styles. His playing with Jimmie Rodgers and Gid Tanner and His Skillet Lickers in the 1920s helped to lay the foundation for country music. From the time that he arrived in Atlanta to work as an automobile mechanic in 1921 until shortly before his death from emphysema nearly five decades later, he continued to allow his fiddling to evolve. McMichen's band, the Georgia Wildcats, was one of the most eclectic groups of the 1930s. Formed as a string band, they switched to Dixieland jazz in the mid '40s. From 1945 until 1955, the group was featured daily on the Louisville radio station, WAVE. McMichen and the Georgia Wildcats also appeared on their own television show in the early '50s. A native of Allatoona, GA, McMichen learned to play fiddle as a youngster. By his early twenties, he had mastered the instrument. After moving to Atlanta, he won the first of numerous fiddle championships. A close friend of the "singing brakeman" Jimmie Rodgers, McMichen and Rodgers toured and recorded together throughout the 1920s. Among the songs that they co-wrote was the classic "Peach Pickin' Time in Georgia." McMichen recorded his first songs as a bandleader, a series of jazz tunes played by fiddle, clarinet, and guitar in 1925. The following year, McMichen accepted an invitation to join an all-star country band organized by Columbia talent scout, Frank Walker. The group, which McMichen named the Skillet Lickers, went on to become one of country music's early successes. During the five years that they were together, the band, which also featured fiddler Gid Tanner, guitarist Riley Puckett, and banjo player Fate Norris, recorded more than 100 tunes. McMichen's first solo hit came with a fiddle tune arrangement of a pop standard, "Sweet Bunch of Roses." Released in 1927, the song sold more than 100,000 copies. Although he tried his hand at sentimental ballads, recording under the pseudonym Bob Nichols, only one recording, "My Carolina Home," became a hit. Forming the Georgia Wildcats after the breakup of the Skillet Lickers in 1931, McMichen was unable to match his early success. To supplement his income as a musician, he promoted fiddle contests and, in 1936, operated a medicine show. He continued to compete, as well. In 1932, he won the first of 18 national fiddle championships. Despite remaining active as a musician, McMichen had no interest in recording his new repertoire. In 1955, he retired from music. Although he was sought out during the folk revival of the 1960s, he was frustrated by the folklorists' reverence for the Skillet Lickers. While he maintained a low profile for the rest of his life, he agreed to perform at the Bean Blossom festival in 1964 and 1966 and the Newport Folk Festival in 1964. McMichen continued to dazzle audiences with his virtuosic fiddling. At the age of 68, he placed first in the senior division of the Kentucky State Championship. Merle Travis and Mac Wiseman celebrated McMichen's legacy with an album, The Clayton McMichen Story, released by CMH Productions in 1988. ~ Craig Harris~ Rovi

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