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and declined. "They'll be singing it at your funeral," he rejoined. They did.
The outlaw John Dillinger seemed a likely source of inspiration to Bob. He prepared two pressings before the gangster came to grief. One had him killed by his own men, the other by the F.B.I. The two-version procedure insures release of the proper record at the earliest possible moment.
Accuracy with regard to names, dates, and places is essential.
The trial of Bruno Richard Hauptmann, kidnaper of the Lindberg baby, was one of his biggest-selling records. In nine verses, the evidence is duly considered, the verdict rendered, the moral drawn. Bob was never one to exploit crime for its own sake. There's the inevitable moral.
The phonograph companies really woke up to the possibilities in bleeding hearts when they saw what was happening to the Prisoner's Song, back in 1925. They began sending emissaries with recording outfits into the remote reaches of Tennessee, Georgia and the Carolinas on a still hunt for local talent. They found it in the raw: barefoot fiddlers who couldn't read a note but who could raise a voice on endless tunes, especially with the aid of corn liquor. Grooves were cut right on the spot, performers receiving $25 a side, which seemed like getting paid for having a good time.
With the records creating followings for these untutored balladeers, many of them quit their rocky farms and took to barn-storming through the South. Riley Puckett, a blind balladist with a guitar, became better known in Georgia than Babe Ruth. People trailed him through a town in the manner of a returned hero.
Puckett is still a legend in the South, together with Clayton McMichen, Chris Bouchillon and Gid Tanner, to name a few. Frank Walker, hillbilly specialist for a big record company, once invited two of his finds to New York to attend a dealer's convention. They came on an earlier train than Walker expected and he missed them at the Pennsylvania Station. Searching about, he found a crowd in the main waiting room, in the center of which were his friends whanging away. They had already collected $17 before Walker took charge.