There are a lot of reasons you should know about Georgia. For one thing, it’s the largest state east of the mighty Mississippi. It’s been around almost from the start: Georgia officially became a state on January 2, 1788, making it the fourth addition to the growing Union. And there it sits today – a prime piece of lovely geography, boasting mountains, rivers, historic towns and modern urban centers - bordered by Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina and the Atlantic Ocean.
If you’re not from Georgia or one of its neighbors, what are you likely to know about this deep-south state? Probably Georgia’s two most visible champions in recent history are President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981) and media mogul Ted Turner, an adopted southerner whose ubiquitous Atlanta Braves have been sold as 'America’s team.' Another of Georgia’s claims to fame is Margaret Mitchell, author of 'Gone With the Wind,' which won the Pulitzer prize for literature in 1937. In addition, if you’re a Julia Roberts fan, you probably know that she hails from Smyrna, Georgia. Moving a bit down the cultural food chain, a few dedicated collectors might recall that the original Cabbage Patch Dolls were born, so to speak, in Cleveland, Georgia.
A few other things before we get down to the music: Georgia produces about 40% of the chicken consumed in the US. That’s a lot of poultry, explaining the oft-heard claim that in Georgia 'Chicken is King and Jesus is Lord.' Gobble, gobble, amen!
You probably also know that a lot of that chicken gets washed down by a steady stream of Coca Cola, another native Georgia invention. Georgia is known as 'The Peach State.' It’s true – they’re everywhere. In Atlanta, there are, by last count, 55 different streets that have 'Peachtree' in their name. Even legendary baseball player Ty Cobb was known through his association with the state fruit. Cobb was called 'The Georgia Peach.'
Georgia is identified by one of the most famous compositions in all of American popular music – Georgia On My Mind. Not surprisingly, this 1930 composition by Stuart Gorrell and Hoagy Carmichael has become the state’s official song. It is likely that every time someone enjoys a hit version of the song (e.g., Ray Charles in 1960; Willie Nelson in 1978) there is a corresponding spike in Georgia’s tourist revenues. Since we’ve eased into the topic of music, let’s consider some of the highlights presented on this CD. To begin, we offer a less well-known version of the Georgia state song by pop music legend Frankie Laine. This track dates from 1949. Pat Boone follows with a surprisingly swinging version of the Harlem Globetrotters theme song, Sweet Georgia Brown – a title we also include as an instrumental romp by Chet Atkins along with Homer & Jethro, doing business as the Country All-Stars.
A big-budget highly dramatic production surrounds Tompall Glaser on his reading of Burn, Georgia, Burn. Hank Snow narrows the venue to a cave in Waycross, Georgia, and deals with some dire consequences of cheating in Miller’s Cave
Jimmy McCracklin takes us across the tracks for some vintage R&B in the Georgia Slop, and Sun alumnus Carl Mann, just a teenager during the early days of rock 'n' roll, turns up in a rare demo recording of Sweetheart of Atlanta.
Along with some fancy picking by guitar masters Chet Atkins and Joe Maphis, we have some Bluegrass music as well, with vintage samplings from stalwarts Charlie Monroe, Mac Wiseman, and Flatt & Scruggs. Back in the early '60s when Willie Nelson was still struggling to find his musical identity, he made some wildly eclectic recordings for Liberty Records that include the stellar jazzy duet with Shirley Collie (soon to become his wife) on Columbus Stockade Blues.
At the other end of the spectrum, we offer a time warp into much earlier musical times. Louisiana governor Jimmie Davis takes us on a 1940 tour of Atlanta, Georgia, while another Jimmie - the Singing Brakeman, Rodgers – takes us even further back in time to Peach Pickin’ Time In Georgia. Rodgers’ wonderful slice of back porch music might just as well have made its way to a number of other CDs in this series, including Texas, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Virginia, Arkansas and the Carolinas. The man mentions them all – he was literally a tour guide of the South on this recording.
While we’ve gone back in time, let’s enjoy an early look at superstar Gene Autry before he’d found his singing cowboy gig in a 1931 track called I’m Atlanta Bound. Other surprises include a pre-superstar glimpse of Webb Pierce singing the Georgia Rag as well as a track from a dozen years later, called Georgia Town Blues. We also get three Georgia-related glimpses of a major star from the 1940s, Curley Williams, whose name has slipped into undeserved obscurity. Finally, there’s a wholly unexpected visit from ‘50s pop star Eartha Kitt, singing the obscure W.C. Handy tune, Atlanta Blues.