“If people call yodelling Jimmie Rodgers ‘the father of country music,’ then Uncle Dave must certainly be ‘the grandfather of country music’.”
— Music historian Charles K. Wolfe, 1943-2006

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March 1: If you live in Middle Tennessee, you’re no doubt familiar with the annual summer heritage festival in Murfreesboro known as Uncle Dave Macon Days. And chances are, you know very little about the festival’s namesake, other than that he was an early star of the Grand Ole Opry. Today, the 58th anniversary of his final appearance on country music’s most famous stage, let’s hear one from “the Dixie Dewdrop,” the link between minstrel-based music of the late 19th century and the early days of commercial country music in the first third of the 20th century.

David Harrison Macon (1870-1952) was a lively performer, on the vaudeville circuit or at the Grand Ole Opry.

Don’t think that changing careers in mid-life is anything new. Macon didn’t become a professional musician until he was 50, after the newfangled self-propelled trucks put his mule-drawn freight line out of business in 1920. This number was recorded either 11 or 18 years after that — late in a career that began several years before the “big bang” of the Bristol, Va., sessions responsible for introducing the world to Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family.

So why is their music better known today than Macon’s? Biographer James Manheim on Allmusic.com has a theory you should check out. Then, go here and sample more of Macon’s records, for a crash course in old-time music.

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