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Exploring Old Time Recordings and Artists 


Roane County Ramblers

Fiddler "Uncle Jimmy" McCarroll


Roane County, TN was home to a popular string band known as Roane County Ramblers. The Ramblers recorded for Columbia Records in 1928 and 1929. Fiddler James "Jimmy" McCarroll (1892-1985) had a reputation as one of the finest fiddlers in East Tennessee. He was supported by Luke (Luther Claude) Brandon on guitar, (William) Howard Wyatt on banjo, and John Kelley on mandolin. In 1929, Arnim LeRoy "Curly" Fox, who went on to become a nationally renowned fiddler, joined as a second guitarist.

The band first recorded in Johnson City, TN for Columbia Records in 1928. You can see the original newspaper ad for musicians in the photo slider below. In 1929, additional recordings for a total of 14 sides were made by the Ramblers in Johnson City and Atlanta. Those recordings are part of The Johnson City Sessions, which have been documented as a major influence in bringing local musicians to a national audience eager for “Hillbilly” music. These historic session recordings are available on Bear Family Records. The Ramblers' “Lee Highway Blues” (aka "Home Town Blues"), named for an American Auto Trail that runs through Knoxville, and “Southern No. 111,” about the train that ran near the Ramblers' home, proved to be very popular. The band was known for their energetic stage performances, and enjoyed their time in the spotlight until 1930, when their association with Columbia Records ended.

“Uncle Jimmy” McCarroll (and other McCarroll family members) continued to play locally. In the 1970’s and early 80’s folk revivalists and record collectors rediscovered the Ramblers' music and McCarroll’s unique fiddling style, and were influential in the passing of his legacy to today’s players. The band’s complete recordings are available on the County Sales label as “Roane County Ramblers Complete Recordings 1928-1929.”

For those interested in more on the McCarroll family, fiddler Joseph DeCosimo explored the McCarroll family for his Master’s thesis (.pdf file) at UNC Chapel Hill. In addition, you can visit the tune history page for some appreciation of another popular Ramblers tune, "Green River March."

Roane County Ramblers

Hometown Blues aka Lee Highway Blues

Roane County Ramblers

Johnson City Rag

Roane County Ramblers

Southern No. 111

McCarroll's BreakdownThe Roane County Ramblers
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