Every string band needs its frontman, the important role of rhythm guitarist and lead vocalist also a tradition that was carried forward into the bluegrass days. Dallas Jones was a Mississippi boy, despite his nickname, and one of the members of the Leake County Revelers, an extremely popular old-time Mississippi string band. The group began recording in the late '20s, making it one of the earliest Mississippi groups to cut sides. Like much of the blues and early country talent from this state, the Leake County Revelers were a discovery of H.C. Speir. This early talent scout is considered the Sam Phillips of Mississippi music in the '20s and '30s. Spier arranged sessions for the Leake County Revelers that were released on Okeh and Columbia. The members of the group besides Jones were fiddler Will Gilmer, banjo picker Jim Wolverton, and R.O. Moseley on the rarely played banjo-mandolin hybrid. The group became known quickly through its recordings for tunes played in a slow, easy tempo: exactly the opposite of all other string bands and obviously something of a break for the wrist muscles of the rhythm guitarist. Jones recorded some 44 different sides with the band between 1927 and 1930. These recordings met with great success and enjoyed additional lifetimes through reissue on labels such as Document and County. Not only has the group's entire output been made available via several volumes on these labels, isolated tracks by the group have shown up on a variety of compilation recordings, including sets focusing on yodelling, early American string bands, and historic primitive country music. The group was renowned for its original waltzes and complex vocal harmony arrangements, usually centered around the clear and piercing vocal pipes of Jones. These efforts were again in direct contrast to what other string bands of the time were doing in the recording studio, as there was always a distinct lack of vocalizing by Mississippi string bands. This may have had more to do with the commercial desires of the record labels than the repertoires of the groups, since instrumental repertoire was certainly one of the selling points of most string bands. The group revealed both its sense of humor and addiction to slow tempos by titling a piece of stately, near-classical parlor music "Mississippi Breakdown," even though the piece is as far from a breakdown as Dallas (the city, not the singer) is from Mississippi. "Wednesday Night Waltz" was the band's biggest hit and one of its first two records issued that was pressed in 1927. The song has been covered by many other artists, particularly fiddlers, and has become a dance warhorse sometimes appearing under the title of "Kitty Waltz." In the '30s, politician Huey Long hired the Leake County Revelers to play for his campaign, using the down-home music to reinforce his image as a grassroots populist. In the '90s, the group was nominated for the Mississippi Hall of Fame, and have inspired such modern-day string band revival groups as the Old Hat String Band and the Hinds County Revelers.
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