The Unwound Third > Other Musical Interests

Jimmie Tarlton

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I'm not sure how many of you are familiar with Jimmie Tarlton, but he's probably my favorite artist to listen to. There were two stages in his career- the first being his duo with Tom Darby, who was born way back in 1884, and the second being his solo career in the 1960s. His best stuff was with Tom in the pre-war years, and is available in its entirety in box set form via His recordings during the blues/folk boom can also be found on on his cd called "Steel Guitar Rag."
Darby had mastered the rudiments of guitar and had a steady and deep voice. Jimmie would often howl over the end of Tom's vocal lines, creating an absolutely awe-inspiring sound. In fact, Jimmie Tarlton's singing was beautiful; he had the voice of an Irish tenor and he could hit incredibly high notes. He was an amazing guitarist who was truly one of a kind. His guitar style was a mix of black blues slide playing and the lap style of Hawaii. His repertorie was endless: everything from "When You and I Were Young, Maggie" to "Careless Love" to "Lonesome in The Pines" (known to most as "In The Pines") to "Lowe Bonnie," a ballad from the British Isles. He also recorded a version of "Frankie & Johnny," which Darby & Tarlton called "Frankie Dean."
The really great part is that nobody sounds ANYTHING like Jimmie Tarlton. Johnny James Rimbert Tarlton had all the bases covered, and I've never heard a more complete musician. Aside from the aformentioned skills, I'm filled with a really primitive but beautiful feeling whenever I hear the man's work. It's the same kind of feeling I get from the best- Hank Williams Sr., Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters- but perhaps this emotion is even more blatant and compelling when produced by Jimmie Tarlton's tunes.
Since Tarlton's isn't really a country blues artist, and can be better described as being an Old-Timey musician, I'm not sure how familiar everyone is with J.T. If anyone wants an mp3 or two of his, just e-mail me at

Fine indeed, I've loved his work ever since first hearing "Sweet Sarah Blues", must be some 30 years now; another artist of similarish ilk is Cliff Carlisle, I'd guess that if you like one, you'll likely dig the other -good stuff!

I had no idea that he survived into the 60's!  That's flat out amazing considering his birth year.  I don't think any of the black musicians who enjoyed a second career in the 60's were born as early as the 1880's.  Maybe Gus Cannon, but I'm not sure...

Actually, it was Darby who was born in 1884. Tarlton was born on May 8, 1892. Cliff Carlisle is good but nowhere near as good as Tarlton, in my opinion. Though I enjoy Carlisle and don't mean to knock him, Cliff relies heavily on yodelling and his lyrical topics seem less "heavy," emotional, and developed than Tarlton's. I have the Arhoolie Carlisle disc, and I understand from the liner notes that he recorded hundreds and hundreds of songs. Perhaps I'd enjoy a different batch of Carlisle songs more, but they don't seem to be available on cd.

It's great that you guys know who Tarlton is! I can't even find a website devoted to him, so I e-mailed the guy who runs the Dock Boggs Long Time Coming site and asked him if he'd be interested in making a similar site for J.T.

I have a CD of Cliff Carlise on the Zircon Hillbilly Clasics label

Probably the usual old stuff, but if you want I'll liist them so let me know.


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