|Birth name||James Gideon Tanner|
|Also known as||Gid|
|Born||June 6, 1885|
|Origin||Thomas Bridge, Georgia, USA|
|Died||May 13, 1960(aged 74)|
|Years active||1920s – 1930s|
James Gideon Tanner (June 6, 1885 – May 13, 1960) was an American old time fiddler and one of the earliest stars of what would come to be known as country music. His band, the Skillet Lickers, was one of the most innovative and influential string bands of the 1920s and 1930s. Its most notable members were Clayton McMichen (fiddle and vocal) and the blind Riley Puckett (guitar and vocal).
Gid Tanner was born at Thomas Bridge near Monroe, Georgia. He made a living as a chicken farmer for most of his life. He learned to play the fiddle at the age of 14 and quickly established a reputation as one of the finest musicians in Georgia. Early on, he participated in several fiddle conventions together with his rival Fiddlin' John Carson, what one of them didn't win, the other would. Tanner reportedly had a repertoire of more than 2000 songs.
Tanner and Puckett traveled to New York City in March 1924 to make the first of a series of duet recordings for Columbia Records. The first recording made with the Skillet Lickers was "Hand Me Down My Walking Cane," recorded in Atlanta on April 17, 1926, when the country music scene in Atlanta rivaled Nashville's. It was released by Columbia on a 78rpm disc backed with “Watermelon On the Vine". The group would eventually record more than 100 songs for Columbia before splitting up in 1931. Three years later, Tanner and Puckett reformed the Skillet Lickers and had several releases on Bluebird Records. Tanner stopped making records in 1934, but continued performing into his seventies. He died in Dacula, Georgia.
Legacy and influence
Many of the songs they recorded remain popular with bluegrass and country musicians to this day. Among their best-known songs are "Alabama Jubilee", "Shortnin' Bread", "Old Joe Clark", "Casey Jones", "John Henry", "Bully of the Town", "Bile Them Cabbage Down", "Cotton-Eyed Joe", "Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss", "Soldier’s Joy", "Bonaparte's Retreat", "Leather Breeches", "Four Cent Cotton" and their biggest seller, "Down Yonder". Their comedy recordings, including "A Corn Licker Still in Georgia" and "A Fiddler’s Convention in Georgia" were equally popular.
The lyrics of the Skillet Lickers' music used language then common among rural white Americans, but which today is considered offensive, including song titles like "Nigger in the Woodpile" and "Run Nigger Run" the last of which is an old slave song.
Gid Tanner & the Skillet Lickers were inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 1988. Following his death in 1960, Tanner's grandson and great-grandson continued performing as the Skillet Lickers. Phil Tanner, Gid's grandson, hosts an open jam session on Friday nights in a refurbished chicken house on his father's old farm in Dacula, Georgia. Great-Grandson, Levi Lowrey also continues in Gid's footsteps as a country music artist, songwriting for Zac Brown, and featured on Southern Ground Records in a multi-album record deal.
Songwriter Bob Dylan wrote and performed a version of Gid Tanner's "Down on Tanner's Farm", retitled and reset as "New York Town". It can be heard in Martin Scorsese's 2005 documentary on Dylan, No Direction Home.
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In various prewar lineups Tanner recorded singles on Columbia and affiliated labels, Bluebird, Victor, His Master's Voice (India), Regal (England), Regal Zonophone (Australia), Montgomery Ward, and Vocalion labels. Postwar, at least one Tanner 45 rpm reissue single is known on RCA Victor.
- Gid Tanner; Gordon Tanner; Phil Tanner's Skillet Lickers : Skillet Licker Music 1955-1991: The Tanner Legacy - Global Village CD-310 (1997)
- Gid Tanner & the Skillet Lickers : eponymous - RCA Victor EPA-5069 (1958)
- Gid Tanner & His Skillet Lickers : eponymous - Folk Song Society of Minnesota 15001-D (1962)
- The Skillet Lickers : Vol. 1 - County 506 (196?)
- The Skillet Lickers : Vol. 2 - County 526 (1973)
- Gid Tanner & His Skillet Lickers : Hear These New Southern Fiddle and Guitar Records - Rounder 1005 (1973)
- Gid Tanner & His Skillet Lickers : The Kickapoo Medicine Show - Rounder 1023 (197?)
- Gid Tanner & the Skillet Lickers : eponymous - Vetco LP-107 (197?)
- The Skillet Lickers : A Day At the Country Fair: Early Country Comedy - Old Homestead OHCS-145 (1985)
- Gid Tanner & His Skillet Lickers : Early Classic String Bands Vol. 3 - Old Homestead OHCS-193 (1990)
- Gid Tanner & His Skillet Lickers : A Corn Licker Still in Georgia - Voyager VRLP-303 (197?), reissued as VRCD-303 (1997)
- The Skillet Lickers : Old-Time Fiddle Tunes and Songs from North Georgia - County CD-3509 (1996)
- The Skillet Lickers : Complete Recorded Works In Chronological Order Volume 1: 1926-1927 - Document DOCD-8056 (2000)
- The Skillet Lickers : Complete Recorded Works In Chronological Order Volume 2: 1927-1928 - Document DOCD-8057 (2000)
- The Skillet Lickers : Complete Recorded Works In Chronological Order Volume 3: 1928-1929 - Document DOCD-8058 (2000)
- The Skillet Lickers : Complete Recorded Works In Chronological Order Volume 4: 1929-1930 - Document DOCD-8059 (2000)
- The Skillet Lickers : Complete Recorded Works In Chronological Order Volume 5: 1930-1934 - Document DOCD-8060 (2000)
- The Skillet Lickers : Complete Recorded Works In Chronological Order Volume 6: 1934 - Document DOCD-8061 (2000)
- Gid Tanner And The Skillet Lickers: Old Timey's Favorite Band on 4 CDs - JSP JSPCD 77155 - 2012
- Cohen, Norm. Liner Notes for the CD Old Time Fiddle Tunes and Songs from North Georgia (County Records, 1996)
- Russell, Tony. Country Music Records: A Discography, 1921-1942 (Oxford University Press, 2004)
- The New Georgia Encyclopedia
- Stars of Country Music, (University of Illinois Press, 1975)