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when somebody hit a hot lick. But the show was really crying for a vocal star. It found one in a remarkable old character known as Uncle Dave Macon, "the Dixie Dew-drop."
Uncle Dave, who died last spring, lived at Readyville, Tenn. He wore a high wing collar, a bright red tie, a broad-brimmed hat of black felt, a double-breasted waist­coat, long sideburns, gold teeth and a sensational goatee. He used to play for quarters in a hat at the country school at Lascassas, Tenn., where I attended. He did wonderful things on a variety of banjos, and he sang in a voice you could hear a mile up the road on quiet nights.
Mules used to stir uneasily in their stalls halfway up the valley when they heard Uncle Dave squall:
As long as ole bacon stays at thutty cents a pound I'm a-gonna eat a rabbit, if I haff-ta run him down . . . Oh tell me how long . . .
I remember the first Saturday night, in 1926, when Uncle Dave made his debut on WSM. We had read about it in the paper, but we didn't mention it about Lascassas. We had one of the two radio sets in the community, and we were afraid everybody in that end of the county would swarm into our house to hear Uncle Dave, and trample us.
Nevertheless, the word got around and just about every­body did swarm into our house, except a few local sages who didn't believe in radio.
Except for Uncle Dave, who was mainly comedy, the Opry had no real vocal stars until 1938. Vocalists had con­tented themselves with singing the old favorites, "Rabbit in the Pea Patch" or "Clementine." Roy Acuff, with a string band from Maynardville, Tenn., was the first featured singer backed by a band. He was also first to identify him­self with particular songs—"The Great Speckled Bird" and "The Wabash Cannon Ball."
These came to be identified with Acuff in somewhat the way "Cry" is with Johnny Ray. Later, AcuflE began com­posing his own songs. He still performs on the Opry, which now has a whole stable of highly popular singers. Red Foley hit with "Smoke on the Water"; Ernest Tubb with
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E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III