Liner Notes


VRCD 303

The Skillet Lickers, best-known of the old time North Georgia string bands, were organized in 1925 and disbanded in 1931. Members of the group were Gid Tanner, Lowe Stokes and Clayton McMichen, fiddles; Fate Norris, banjo; and Riley Puckett, guitar and vocals. They were the first to record skits of rural humor and music which borrowed their form from minstrel shows and were widely imitated by other groups. The most popular of these "Entertaining Novelty Records" was "A Corn Licker Still in Georgia," which was recorded in fourteen parts (on seven 78 r.p.m. records) between 1927 and 1930, and sold over a million copies. For this skit, Bill Brown, the producer, contributed additional dialogue.

"A Corn Licker Still in Georgia" depicts the varying fortunes of a band of mountaineers who try to make their living at moonshining and music during the Prohibition era. Various incidents in the plot provide an interesting social comment. The ineffectiveness of the jail sentence in stopping their moonshining demonstrates the futility of the Federal Government's efforts to enforce Prohibition. Another realistic feature is the complicity of the authorities who themselves are not above enjoying the illegal liquor.

The following definitions may help clear up some obscure parts of the dialogue which deal with the technique of making moonshine:

thumper keg - keg with entry near the bottom, exit near the top, partly filled with mash, through which steam from the pot is bubbled before going to the condenser. Sometimes used to add potency and mellowness.

rye paste - paste of rye flour and water which, mixed with the mash, rises to the top and forms a sort of seal.

condenser - coil of copper tubing in which steam from boiling condenses into liquid.

swab stick - stick with rag on it used to clean the still.

sweet mash - mixture of corn meal, sugar and water in the proportion of about fifty pounds of sugar, fifty gallons of water, and three or four bushels of meal. Sour mash omits the sugar.

sugar liquor - liquor made from sweet mash.

double back - distilling the mash a second time, with additional meal and sugar.

backings - weak liquor from the end of the run.

pot tails - what is left in the pot after distilling.

break it up - the rye paste forms a crust which has to be broken up with a stick.

two weeks wait - after the mash is mixed, it ferments for four or six days, and after the rye paste is broken up, it sours another four days, after which it is distilled by boiling and condensing.

pot - container for mash.

cap - lid for pot.

charred keg - adds color and mellowness to liquor stored in it.

doubled - either distilled twice or distilled once and run through a thumper keg.

twisted - distilled one more time after doubling.

Alternating with the dialogue are excerpts from the following tunes, listed in order of their appearance: Rye Whiskey, Soldiers Joy, Slim Gal, Blackeyed Susan, Pass Around the Bottle, Katy Hill, Leather Britches, Sweet Adeline, Possum Up the Gum Stump, Little Brown Jug, Poor Drunkard, Liberty, Hungry Hash House, How Dry I Am, Roll on the Ground, St. Louis Tickle, Way Down in Jail on My Knees, Hand Me Down My Walking Cane, Home Sweet Home, Going Down That Long Lonesome Road. We're Here Because We're Here, We've Been Working on the Big Road, Peas and Corn Bread (Rocky Pallet), Pass Around the Bottle, Back Home in the Mountains, Flatwoods, Going Down That Road Feeling Good, Cotton Eyed Joe, Cacklin' Hen, Going Up That Road Feeling Bad, blues, Broken Down Gambler, Nigger in the Woodpile, Done Gone, Prisoner's Song, In The Evening By The Moonlight, Chinese Breakdown, Back Up and Push, Wednesday Night Waltz, Comin' Round the Mountain, Little Brown Jug.

On this CD, we have placed a program number at the beginning of each of the fourteen original 78 rpm record sides.

Notes by Phil & Vivian Williams. Digital remastering by Murray Pleasance. Cover art by Eleanor Fernald.

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