The main fiddler with the '20s string band Georgia Yellow Hammers gets songwriting credit for many standard items in the old-time music repertoire, meaning at the very least that he goes way back, and was there when the ball first started rolling in terms of recording this genre. Also known as Uncle Bud Landress, the talented if cornpone performer also recorded in several small group settings including a duo with Bill Chitwood. His discography contains many fabulously entertaining song titles, involving almost all the subjects dear to the mountain music crowd: chickens, mules, rabbits, and so forth. Landress may have gotten the blues, but they were the
"Rip Van Winkle Blues," the title of one of his '20s recordings.
Ironically, Landress chose not to play his fiddle at what turned out to be a high-profile recording when it was reissued more than half-a-century later on an anthology entitled Folks, He Sure Do Pull Some Bow!: Vintage Fiddle Music 1927-1935. Instead, a guest fiddler named Andrew Baxter, who happens to be black, is featured, while Landress stands around making mock radio announcements. Since this collection is a study of early black country fiddlers, it would have been inappropriate for Landress to play, although nobody could have predicted that at the time. Nobody needed to predict such a separation, anyway -- as a white band from Gordon County, North Georgia, the Georgia Yellow Hammers full well knew about the formal segregation of white and black bands. This recording is considered one of the rare documentations of these two worlds entering each other's forbidden zones, even if Landress did happen to leave his fiddle in his lunch box that day.
No matter. The man has achieved fame on many other levels. His interpretation of "Rubber Dolly Rag," a fiddle tune that for many represents the essence of nostalgia for the good old days, is considered the standard, at least to the point where it is Landress that nabbed songwriting credit for the piece when it was covered by country stars such as Western swing bandleader Bob Wills or guitar virtuoso Chet Atkins. Merle Haggard wrote a song about the song, "Uncle John," and Captain Beefheart liked "Rubber Dolly Rag" so much that the original recording made it onto a compilation entitled Gimme Dat Harp Boy, which purports to be a flattened, miniaturized vision of Beefheart's desert island jukebox.
Other masterpieces that Landress is associated with include the festive "Fourth of July" and "Hen Cackle," an obligatory subject for at least one song in every set of this genre. The sturdy, comfortable "Furniture Man," like the aforementioned pair of ditties, was recorded by a duo credited as Bill Chitwood & Bud Landress. It is a primitive-sounding recording, the blend of voice and instruments unbalanced, the rhythms of the toe-tapping variety, the lyrics sad, the conclusion involving success on the part of a demon "without any horns" who is attempting to glom onto souls. As Uncle Bud Landress, he let the Victor label release his "Coon Hunting in Moonshine Hollow," a masterpiece of hillbilly pathos that was right next to the original release of "I'm a Bum" in the company's catalog. The Georgia Yellow Hammers also recorded for this label throughout the mid-and late '20s.