When digging through the musical past I sometimes run across a character whose story is too good to pass up, even if they’re pretty much unknown to many current music lovers. A good example is Uncle Dave Macon, who was one of the first stars of the Grand Ole Opry and also holds the distinction of being the earliest-born subject ever profiled on the GMC.
Born in rural Tennessee during the years immediately following the Civil War, David Harrison Macon was the son of a former confederate officer. Although he was musically inclined and spent some time around touring musicians while growing up, as an adult he worked at everything from farming to running his own truck line. In the 1920s, by then middle-aged, Macon was struggling to make a living and he turned to music. He’d kept his hand in through the years by performing at parties and dances, and after teaming up with fiddler Sid Harkreader he began to find some success on tour.
Over the next few years, Macon was able to begin making records that sold very well and he also became one of the earliest stars of the new radio show, WSM Barn Dance, which later became the Grand Ole Opry. Sometimes known as the Dixie Dewdrop but usually just fondly called Uncle Dave Macon, he became one of the most beloved members of the show’s company, and over the next several decades worked with many future stars, among them Roy Acuff and Bill Monroe. By the time of his death in 1952 (at age 82) he was an institution.
Macon was a talented banjoist and singer who also incorporated comedy routines into his act, but part of his appeal was his ability to present the audience with many varieties of traditional American music. He was equally at home with gospel music, minstrel, country blues, folk music, and even African-American songs. An example of the latter is the song below.