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Exploring Old Time Recordings and Artists 


Uncle Am Stuart

Pioneering Fiddler From Morristown, TN


Ambrose Gaines "Uncle Am" Stuart (1851-53?–1926) was born in Hamblen County near Morristown, Tennessee. He picked up the fiddle at an early age, entertaining and learning tunes from the Civil War soldiers who passed through the area. Morristown’s strategic location and intersecting rail lines made it a site of several battles, most notably “The Battle Of Morristown” also known locally as “Vaughn’s Stampede,” a decisive Union victory on October 28, 1864. 

As an adult, Stuart made a living by working as a safe and vault salesman for the Mosler Safe Company. He supplemented his income by fiddling, and was also a member of Frank Murphy’s orchestra in Knoxville. His vast song repertoire included Civil War era songs and mountain tunes from Eastern Tennessee and the surrounding Appalachian areas. His reputation as a formidable competitor in numerous fiddle contests across the Southern Appalachian region helped Stuart to become a very well known regional musician. 

In 1924, Vocalion Records invited several Southern Appalachian musicians to New York City to record, among them “Uncle Am” Stuart (now in his 70s), Uncle Dave Macon from Smartt Station, TN, and Dandridge/Knoxville, TN musician George Reneau (who also performed on several of Stuart’s records). Vocalion and other labels were acting on the popularity of the newly minted category of "Country” music and the 1923 record sales success of Fiddlin’ John Carson. The 14 sides Stuart recorded in July, 1924 included the first known recordings of “Cumberland Gap” and "Forki Deer." Also included were early renditions of the popular fiddle tunes "Grey Eagle" and "Old Granny Rattletrap,” and Stuart’s versions of "Sallie Gooden" and "Old Liza Jane.” All 14 recordings from this single day session were released by Vocalion, and sold well. 

In 1925, Stuart attended the Fiddlers' Convention in Mountain City, Tennessee, where he competed in the now-legendary meeting of fellow fiddlers such as Charlie Bowman, G. B. Grayson, Dudley Vance, and Fiddlin' John Carson - all of whom were, or soon would be, enjoying success as pioneering “Country” music recording artists.

In late 1925 or early 1926, Stuart signed a contract to appear with the Swarthmore Chautauqua, a well known Pennsylvania based traveling tent show. He had also just been awarded first place at a contest in Washington, DC that featured 26 of the best old-time fiddlers in the country. Unfortunately, according to a March 19, 1926 article in the Knoxville newspaper, “Uncle Am” came down with pneumonia after returning from that contest, and died at his son's home in Morristown at what could be considered the height of his commercial career.

A newspaper clipping tells of crowds gathering at the Morristown Baptist Church to show their appreciation for “Uncle Am”. A floral arrangement honoring this popular native East Tennessee fiddler reportedly consisted of a huge basket of flowers that surrounded a decorated fiddle - and a broken bow.

"George Boker" (George Booker)

Uncle Am Stuart 1924

"Forki Deer"

Uncle Am Stuart 1924

Gene Austin on tenor banjo

"Billie In The Low Ground"

Uncle Am Stuart 1924

Old Liza JaneUncle Am Stuart
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