The Stripling Brothers Biography

From early childhood the two brothers, Charlie (Charles Nevins Stripling, 8 August 1896, Pickens County, Alabama, USA, d. 19 January 1966, Alabama, USA) and Ira (b. Ira Lee Stripling, 5 June 1898, Pickens County, Alabama, USA, d. 11 March 1967, Alabama, USA), developed a considerable level of skill as fiddlers and guitarists. By their late teens, they were well known throughout the state, especially in the northern hill country. With a repertoire of traditional songs, they often entered contests and maintained a competitive edge to their performances by developing ear-catching techniques. They played on radio in Alabama and adjacent states and in the late 20s were recorded in Birmingham, Alabama, by Vocalion Records. This first recording date produced ‘The Big Footed Nigger In The Sandy Lot’ and ‘The Lost Child’, which attracted a lot of attention. Historically, ‘The Lost Child’ was of special importance as researchers and archivists came to regard it as the first recorded example of the musical form that was subsequently known as Black Mountain Blues (or Black Mountain Rag).

The brothers soon made more records for Vocalion and continued performing albeit mainly in their home state. In the mid-30s they recorded for Decca Records but by the end of the decade Ira had retired from music. Charlie formed a band with his two sons and continued to play, still locally, and adapting stylistically to accommodate changes in taking place in country music, in particular the popularity of the electric steel guitar. At the end of the 50s, poor health forced Charlie into retirement. Even when judged from the standpoint of today’s virtuoso country fiddlers, the Stripling Brothers’ playing is of a remarkably high standard. Historically speaking, their recordings are invaluable in forming a comprehensive understanding of the roots of country and mountain music.

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

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