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Driftwood posing with his unusual guitar
|Birth name||James Corbitt Morris|
|Also known as||Jimmy Driftwood|
|Born||June 20, 1907|
|Died||July 12, 1998 91) (aged|
|Genres|| Folk |
Country and Western
|Occupation(s)||Musician, songwriter, instructor, environmentalist|
|Instruments||Vocals, guitar, banjo, fiddle, dulcimer, mouth bow|
|Labels||RCA, Rounder, Monument|
James Corbitt Morris (June 20, 1907 – July 12, 1998),known professionally as Jimmy Driftwood or Jimmie Driftwood, was an American folk music songwriter and musician, most famous for his songs "The Battle of New Orleans" and "Tennessee Stud". Driftwood wrote more than 6,000 folk songs, of which more than 300 were recorded by various musicians.
Driftwood was born in Timbo, Arkansas, United States on June 20, 1907. [ citation needed ]. He is on the album Songs of the Ozarks. Driftwood learned to play the guitar at a young age on his grandfather's homemade instrument. Driftwood used that unique guitar throughout his career and noted that its neck was made from a fence rail, its sides from an old ox yoke, and the head and bottom from the headboard of his grandmother's bed. This homemade instrument produced a pleasant, distinctive, resonant sound.His father was folk singer Neil Morris.
Driftwood attended John Brown College in northwest Arkansas and later received a degree in education from Arkansas State Teacher's College. He started writing songs during his teaching career to teach his students history in an entertaining manner.
During the 1920s and 1930s, Driftwood left Arkansas, eventually hitchhiking through the southwestern United States. In Arizona he entered, and won, a local song contest.
In 1936, Driftwood married Cleda Johnson, who was one of his former students, and returned to Arkansas to raise a family and resume his teaching career. During this period of his life Driftwood wrote hundreds of songs but did not pursue a musical career seriously.
He wrote his later famous "Battle of New Orleans" in 1936,to help a high school class he was teaching become interested in the event.
In the 1950s, he changed his name to Jimmy Driftwood, both publicly and legally.
In 1957, a Nashville, Tennessee song publisher learned of Driftwood, auditioned him, and signed him to his first record deal. Driftwood recalled playing some 100 of his songs in one day, of which 20 were chosen to be recorded. Driftwood's first album, Newly Discovered Early American Folk Songs, received good reviews but did not sell particularly well.
"The Battle of New Orleans" was included on the album, but did not conform to the radio standards of the time because of the words "hell" and "damn" in the lyrics. Driftwood said that at the time those words could be preached but not sung in secular contexts for broadcast. Driftwood was asked to make a shorter censored version of the song for a live radio performance. Singer Johnny Horton, after hearing the song, contacted Driftwood and told him that he wished to record his own version.
Driftwood left Arkansas for Nashville and became popular by his appearances on programs including the Grand Ole Opry ,Ozark Jubilee , and Louisiana Hayride . He was invited to sing for Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev as an example of traditional American music during the leader's 1959 state visit to the United States. He became a member of the Opry in the 1950s.
The popular peak of Driftwood's career came in 1959, when he had no fewer than six songs on the popular and country music charts, including Johnny Horton's recording of his "The Battle of New Orleans", which remained in first place on the country music singles chart for ten weeks, and atop the popular music chart for six weeks that year. The song won the 1960 Grammy Award for Song of the Year.
After Horton's success, Driftwood performed at Carnegie Hall and at major American folk music festivals before returning home to Timbo, Arkansas in 1962.During his recording career Driftwood also won Grammy Awards for Wilderness Road, Songs of Billy Yank and Johnny Reb and Tennessee Stud. Driftwood songs were recorded by Eddy Arnold, Johnny Cash, Hawkshaw Hawkins, Homer and Jethro (the parody "The Battle of Kookamonga"), Odetta, Doc Watson and others. In 1958, Driftwood appeared as a guest challenger on the television game show, To Tell The Truth .
For a time during the 1960s, Driftwood toured the United States and Europe with the Preservation Hall New Orleans jazz band, although as a separate act. Back home, he became a folklorist, establishing the Rackensack Folklore Society, an association of local folk singers and musicians, and began performing at the local county fair in Mountain View.Driftwood became interested in promoting Arkansas folk music and the local folk performers he knew in the area. He invited members of the Mountain View community to perform at a festival of his own devising. First held on April 19 and 20 of 1963, this festival grew over the years, and transformed into the annual Arkansas Folk Festival which would attract more than 100,000 people.
Driftwood helped establish the Ozark Folk Center to preserve Ozark Mountain culture. The Folk Center was later absorbed into the Arkansas State Park system and remains a popular tourist destination.
Driftwood became involved with environmental issues when the United States Army Corps of Engineers planned to dam the Buffalo River. He worked to defeat the plan, which ultimately resulted in the establishment of Buffalo National River. Driftwood had a major role in preserving Blanchard Springs Caverns which later came under management of the United States Forest Service. He recorded the song still heard in the orientation film in the visitor center.
Driftwood was appointed to direct the Arkansas Parks and Tourism Commission for his environmental efforts. He was also named to the Advisory Committee of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.. Due to his extensive knowledge of folk music he was appointed as a musicologist for the National Geographic Society.
During his later life Driftwood enjoyed performing free concerts for high school and college students. He died of a heart attack on July 12, 1998, in Fayetteville, Arkansas, at age 91.
William Smith Monroe was an American mandolinist, singer, and songwriter, who created the style of music known as bluegrass. Because of this, he is often called the "Father of Bluegrass".
Mountain View is the largest city in and the county seat of Stone County, Arkansas, United States. Located in the Ozarks, the city has a rich tradition of preserving folk music and culture. Founded in 1873, the city's economy is largely based on tourism related to its title as the "Folk Music Capital of the World". Mountain View hosts the Arkansas Folk Festival in April, various folk artists at Ozark Folk Center State Park throughout the year, and weekly music gatherings on the courthouse steps that are free and open to the public. The city is also known for outdoors recreation opportunities, including Blanchard Springs Caverns, trout fishing on the White River and the Ozark National Forest.
John LaGale Horton was an American country music, honky tonk and rockabilly singer and musician, during the 1950s and early 1960s, best known for his saga songs that became international hits beginning with the 1959 single "The Battle of New Orleans", which was awarded the 1960 Grammy Award for Best Country & Western Recording. The song was awarded the Grammy Hall of Fame Award and in 2001 ranked No. 333 of the Recording Industry Association of America's "Songs of the Century". His first No. 1 country song was in 1959, "When It's Springtime in Alaska ".
Ozark Jubilee is a 1950s United States network television program that featured country music's top stars of the day. It was produced in Springfield, Missouri. The weekly live stage show premiered on ABC-TV on January 22, 1955, was renamed Country Music Jubilee on July 6, 1957, and was finally named Jubilee USA on August 2, 1958. Originating "from the heart of the Ozarks", the Saturday night variety series helped popularize country music in America's cities and suburbs, drawing more than nine million viewers. The ABC Radio version was heard by millions more starting in August 1954.
Arkansas is a Southern state of the United States. Arkansas's musical heritage includes country music and various related styles like bluegrass and rockabilly.
James Cecil Dickens, better known by his stage name, Little Jimmy Dickens, was an American country music singer and songwriter famous for his humorous novelty songs, his small size, and his rhinestone-studded outfits. He started as a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1948 and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1983. Before his death he was the oldest living member of the Grand Ole Opry.
Uncle Dave Macon, born David Harrison Macon—also known as "The Dixie Dewdrop"—was an American old-time banjo player, singer, songwriter, and comedian. Known for his chin whiskers, plug hat, gold teeth, and gates-ajar collar, he gained regional fame as a vaudeville performer in the early 1920s before becoming the first star of the Grand Ole Opry in the latter half of the decade.
Clyde Julian Foley, known professionally as Red Foley, was an American singer, musician, and radio and TV personality who made a major contribution to the growth of country music after World War II.
This is a list of notable events in country music that took place in the year 1959.
Lloyd Estel Copas, known by his stage name Cowboy Copas, was an American country music singer popular from the 1940s until his death in the 1963 plane crash that also killed country stars Patsy Cline and Hawkshaw Hawkins. He was a member of the Grand Ole Opry.
"The Battle of New Orleans" is a song written by Jimmy Driftwood. The song describes the Battle of New Orleans from the perspective of an American soldier; the song tells the tale of the battle with a light tone and provides a rather comical version of what actually happened at the battle. It has been recorded by many artists, but the singer most often associated with this song is Johnny Horton. His version scored number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1959. Billboard ranked it as the No. 1 song for 1959, it was very popular with teenagers in the late 50s/early 60s in an era mostly dominated by rock and roll music.
Ernest Bert Ashworth was an American country music singer, broadcaster, and longtime Grand Ole Opry star. Signed to the Hickory label, he recorded two studio albums in his career and charted several singles on Billboard Hot Country Songs, including the number one "Talk Back Trembling Lips" and seven other top ten hits.
"Rock Island Line" is an American folk song. Ostensibly about the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad, it appeared as a folk song as early as 1929. The first recorded performance of "Rock Island Line" was by inmates of the Arkansas Cummins State Farm prison in 1934.
Thomas Grady Martin was an American session guitarist in country music and rockabilly.
Timbo is an unincorporated community in Stone County, Arkansas, United States. It is in the Ozark Mountains region of the northern part of the state and is near the town of Mountain View.
James Clarence Wakely was an American actor, songwriter, country Western music vocalist, and one of the last singing cowboys. During the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, he released records, appeared in several B-Western movies with most of the major studios, appeared on radio and television and even had his own series of comic books. His duet singles with Margaret Whiting from 1949–51 produced a string of top seven hits, including 1949's number one hit on the US country charts and pop music charts, "Slippin' Around." Wakely owned two music publishing companies in later years and performed at the Grand Ole Opry until shortly before his death.
W.K. McNeil was a prominent American folklorist, historian, record producer, and author specializing in Ozark and Appalachian mountain cultures.
Tennessee Stud is a song written by Jimmy Driftwood, who originally recorded and released it in 1959. The song tells a story about the adventures of a man and his horse, a courageous, sun-colored, green-eyed stallion he nicknamed the "Tennessee Stud".
Gerald Delmar Tomlinson, known as Tommy Tomlinson, was a country guitarist and songwriter who was seriously injured in the automobile accident in Texas on November 5, 1960, which claimed the life of his friend and musical colleague, Johnny Horton. A member of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, Tomlinson also worked with Jim Reeves, Claude King, Marty Robbins, David Houston, David Soul, and Werly Fairburn.
Ollie Gilbert (1892–1980) was a folk musician from the Ozarks in Arkansas. She sometimes performed as "Auntie Ollie". Max Hunter recorded her singing more than 300 folk songs.
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