Da Costa Woltz's Southern Broadcasters

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In 1927, Da Costa Woltz -- mayor of Galax, VA, and a promoter of patent medicines -- got together a string band of local musicians for a three-day recording session in Richmond, IN. Billing themselves…
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In 1927, Da Costa Woltz -- mayor of Galax, VA, and a promoter of patent medicines -- got together a string band of local musicians for a three-day recording session in Richmond, IN. Billing themselves somewhat cumbersomely as Da Costa Woltz's Southern Broadcasters, the group featured Frank Jenkins on banjo and sometimes fiddle, Woltz on second banjo, Ben Jarrell on fiddle, and a 12-year-old Price Goodson on ukulele and harmonica; the young Goodson presumably functioned as much as a novelty and gimmick as a musician, performing on only three of the sides. Of the 18 pieces recorded, only one actually included the entire ensemble: the remaining tracks featured members of the group broken down into solos, duets, and trios. Such variation of personnel amounted to a fair degree of diversity within the overall output, offering a mix of instrumental music and old-time Southern melodies (mostly sentimental ditties along the lines of "Take Me Back to the Sweet Sunny South"). The recording session particularly served as a vehicle for Jenkins' precise, quick-trickling banjo playing and for Jarrell's raspy fiddling and vocals, perhaps the most unifying element of the sides.

Despite the group's name, the Southern Broadcasters never actually ventured into radio broadcasting , nor did they, despite their abilities on the 18 tracks cut in Richmond, return to the recording studio. Of the group, only Jenkins recorded again, joined in 1929 by his son Oscar and the prolific Ernest Stoneman under the name of Frank Jenkins' Pilot Mountaineers. The musical legacy of the Broadcasters did at least survive, meanwhile, through the bloodlines of some of the original outfit's members: More than three decades after the Pilot Mountaineers session, banjoist Oscar Jenkins returned to recording in the 1960s and '70s, while Jarrell's son Tommy was one of the most emulated fiddlers of that era's old-time revival.