Jimmie Driftwood Biography

James Corbett Morris, 20 June 1917, Mountain View, Arkansas, USA, d. 12 July 1998, Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA. Driftwood’s name first came to prominence as a result of the Johnny Horton recording of Driftwood’s song ‘The Battle Of New Orleans’ in 1959. The single made the top of both the US pop and country charts, but only reached the Top 20 in the UK. Lonnie Donegan reached number 2 in the UK with the song in the same year. Driftwood himself had recorded a version of the song the previous year for RCA - Victor Records. With a strong musical heritage Driftwood learned to play guitar, banjo and fiddle while still young. Picking up old songs from his father, Neal Morris, his grandparents, and other members of his family, he later travelled around collecting and recording songs. While still performing at folk festivals, Driftwood continued to teach during the 40s. With the 50s came the growing folk boom, and he found himself reaching a wider audience. RCA signed him to recordNewly Discovered Early American Folk Songs, which included the aforementioned ‘Battle Of New Orleans’. While the song’s popularity grew, Driftwood was working for the Grand Ole Opry, but left in order to work on a project to establish a cultural centre at his home in Mountain View. The aim was to preserve the Ozark Mountain people’s heritage. Having later joined the Rackensack Folklore Society, he travelled the USA, speaking at universities to pass on the importance of such a project. The first Arkansas Folk Festival, held in 1963, was successful and, in 1973, a multi-million dollar cultural centre was established. He had outlived his three sons when he died from a heart attack in 1998.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.