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Charlie Poole

Charlie Poole

Biography

Charlie Poole isn't quite as much of a folk icon as the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers, yet his influence on old time, bluegrass, country & western and the folk revival is no less considerable. Charlie Poole & the North Carolina Ramblers were one of the most famous string bands in the 1920s, recording nearly 70 sides for Columbia. Unlike the Skillet Lickers and other popular string bands of the day, the Ramblers didn't play the "rowdy hillbilly" card. Inspired in part by ragtime, they employed a finesse and complexity that would go on to influence Bill Monroe and just about every other bluegrass pioneer. John Cohen of the New Lost City Ramblers once tagged the group's sound "mountain chamber music." Poole in particular was a stunning musician, inventing a distinctive three-fingered approach to the banjo. He was also a stunning drinker. As with so many race and hillbilly artists, his popularity began to wane as the Great Depression sunk its teeth into the country. This eventually sent Poole on a marathon bender -- we're talking weeks -- in 1931. Not surprisingly, it killed the man. Although the Ramblers soldiered on, they failed to achieve much commercial success without Poole.
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