Skillet Lickers

Also Known As: Gid Tanner, Riley Puckett, Clayton McMichen

Updated: February 27, 2011

The Skillet Lickers were an popular country string band from north Georgia featuring Gid Tanner, Riley Puckett and Clayton McMichen.

The Skillet Lickers were a popular string band from north Georgia whose recordings, made during the late 1920s and early 1930s, influenced old-time musicians for generations. Formed around local fiddler and comedian James Gideon “Gid” Tanner (June 6, 1885–May 13, 1960), the Skillet Lickers were the creation of Columbia recording executive Frank Walker, who sought to capitalize on the burgeoning popularity of rural southern music throughout the region at that time.

Tanner and his accompanist of several years, blind guitarist and singer Riley Puckett (May 7, 1894–July 13, 1946), were joined by virtuoso fiddler Clayton McMichen (January 26, 1900–January 4, 1970) and banjoist Fate Norris (dates unknown) for the first Skillet Lickers recording session, held in April 1926 in Atlanta. Over the next several years, the group, with varying personnel and under different names, recorded hundreds of infectious fiddle breakdowns, raucous comedy skits, and upbeat songs. Many other individuals were also part of the loose-knit group through the years, including fiddlers Lowe Stokes and Bert Layne, guitarist Slim Bryant, mandolin player Ted Hawkins, and other talented north Georgia musicians.

The Skillet Lickers’ best-selling release was a lively 1934 recording of the instrumental “Down Yonder,” which reportedly sold more than a million copies. Group members were rediscovered during the folk music revival of the 1950s and 1960s, leading to a resurgence of interest in the Skillet Lickers’ music. Many string bands of the past twenty-five years have derived their style, repertoire, and personas from the group’s early recordings. Puckett’s guitar style, with distinctive syncopated bass runs, was highly influential. McMichen, the most technically accomplished musician in the band, went on to studio work with such artists as Jimmie Rodgers (who recorded McMichen’s “Peach Pickin’ Time in Georgia”). Gid Tanner’s grandson Phil Tanner and other family members and friends have kept the style and much of the repertoire of the original group alive, appearing around north Georgia as the Skillet Lickers.

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MLA Style

"Skillet Lickers," Encyclopedia of Appalachia, 2017, Encyclopedia of Appalachia. 25 May 2017 <http://www.encyclopediaofappalachia.com/entry.php?rec=21>

APA Style

"Skillet Lickers." (2017) In Encyclopedia of Appalachia, Retrieved May 25, 2017, from Encyclopedia of Appalachia: http://www.encyclopediaofappalachia.com/entry.php?rec=21

Skillet Lickers