Sources of Mississippi Music

Mississippi fiddle music has long fascinated me. Early in my playing, I learned many of the tunes and searched out the old recordings. My appreciation and focus on these quirky tunes has only increased over time.  I teach workshops in Vintage Mississippi Fiddle tuneslead jams and do my best to spread these great fiddle tunes.


Sources for Mississippi fiddle tunes. Please feel free to suggest any I have left out! 

From the late 1927-36 white Mississippi fiddlers were represented on approximately 200 78rpm records. Though the number of bands and fiddlers recorded was small as compared to other southern states, the quality was high and a wide variety of styles were captured. Some of the recorded musicians were the Carter Brothers and Son, Narmour and Smith, The Leake County Revelers, Hoyt Ming and his Pep-Steppers, Freeny's Barn Dance Band, Mississippi Possom Hunters, Ray Brothers, The Newton County Hillbillies and The Nations Brothers. Document and County Records have issued many of these recordings.

In 1923, Arthur Palmer Hudson began his ballad collecting in Mississippi, which culminated in his 1936 publication of Folksongs of Mississippi. Although his focus was on documenting the Mississippi textural variations of the classic Scots and English ballads, his fieldwork documented other songs and folkways. Unfortunately, only a handful of the songs were documented with musical notation and that was not until he published, in 1937 a small collection, Folk tunes of Mississippi.

In the Summer of 1936, the WPA Music and Writers' Project in Mississippi, inspired by Hudson's work, began collecting songs in the state. I am currently at work on a book about and containing the sheet music for the approximately 150 fiddle tunes that were collected. See the Book for more info about my upcoming book on this subject.

The  state office of the Music and Writers Project arranged the recording schedule for  the Library of Congress field recording expedition of 1939. During that summer, Herbert Halpert's 400 field recordings in Mississippi documented ballad singers, children's songs and games, blues, gospel singing and fiddle and banjo players. Some of the musicians Halpert recorded were John Hatcher, W.E.Claunch, Stephen B. Tucker, Enos Canoy, Thaddeus C. Willingham, and John Brown. Of his recordings about 150 are of fiddlers.  Document has issued a 3 cd set of the banjo and fiddle recordings in late 2015.

Alan Lomax's five LOC field trips from 1936-1959 focused on the black music traditions. Fiddlers that he recorded include Son Sim's and Sid Hemphill.

The Smithsonian festival in Washington in 1974 featrured Mississippi fiddlers, notably Hoyt Ming and Alvis Massengale and the Six Towns Band attended. Around that time field recordings were made of Alvis Massengale, Hoyt Ming and Homer Grice.

In lp record era there were 4 recordings of interest:

Hoyt Ming and his Pep-Steppers - New Hot Times -1973 a modern recording of the family band that made the classic 78's
The Leake County String Band Led by Morgan Gilmer, son of the original Leake County Revelers fiddler Will Gilmer, they made a brief appearance in the movie "The ballad of BIlly Joe" and appear on the soundtrack album.
Mississippi Sawyers - 1980 - living fiddlers playing in a variety of state styles. Bluegrass, Old time, Celtic and Cajun
Great Big Yam Taters -1985 - a fantastic source of information and recordings from the 1939 Library of Congress trip to Mississippi.

There were also a few 45's made, most notably of Jabe Dillon.


Online sources of some of these fine Mississippi tunes:

Slippery Hill

Youtube (search by tune title or source performer)



Mississippi music on my own recordings:

Mississippi Travelers - Archaeology - unknown or little-known tunes from family recordings and unissued 78s

Tunes from the book, some of the most interesting of the tunes from the 1936 manuscripts

Carroll County, Mississippi, based primarily on the recordings of Narmour and Smith.

-Jake Leg Rag
-Sweet Milk and Peaches
-Where the Southern Crosses the Dog
-Texas Shuffle
Captain George, Has Your Money Come?
-The Sunny Waltz
-Avalon Quickstep
-Limberneck Blues
-Little Star
-Carroll County Blues
Someone I Love

-Charlestons No's 3, 2 and 1

-Kiss Me Waltz

-Gallop To Georgia
Dry Gin Rag
-Mississippi Breakdown
Avalon Blues/Whistling
-Little Black Moustache--Gene Clardy and the Ray Brothers.

-Blessed Be The Name- Mississippi John Hurt

-The Last Shot Got Him -  Mississippi John Hurt and the Mississippi Possum Hunters.

Come On Over And See Us Sometime - with Brian Slattery
-Poor Little Mary /  Roll them Simmons
-Little Black Train - played in Mississippi as late as 1936

The pleasure of your company with Joel Wennerstrom
-The Shadow of the Pines  - played in Mississippi as late as 1936
-Louis Collins - Mississippi John Hurt
-Lincoln County Blues - Nations Brothers
-Good Fellers - Leake County Revelers