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Dixie Dewdrop: The Uncle Dave Macon Story


Dixie Dewdrop: The Uncle Dave Macon Story

One of the early stars of the Grand Ole Opry, David Harrison Macon --- known as Uncle Dave --- magnetically attracted legend, lore and anecdote. This thorough exploration of his life, both personal and professional, has been organized to the delight of his fans new and old, by his great-grandson, Michael D. Doubler.

Doubler’s book is the product of, one could say, a lifetime of study about his famous kinsman, since his grandfather was Archie Macon, the son closest to Dave throughout his musical career. Dave had had a full life as a farmer, hotelier, busker and general entrepreneur before he began to try in earnest to seek fame and fortune as a singer, banjo player and, most notably, an entertainer. He was 50 when he hit the road, touring for several years with outstanding fiddler Sid Harkreader. Sid was accurate to the tune and note of every piece he played; Dave went for humor, flash and amusement value. They made the perfect pair as they toured haphazardly around the US. But when offered a significant contract by Loews theaters, Dave balked; he didn’t want to spend so much time away from his wife, Tildy, and a brood of sons back in Tennessee.

"This thorough exploration of [Uncle Dave's] life, both personal and professional, has been organized to the delight of his fans new and old, by his great-grandson, Michael D. Doubler."

Meanwhile, Dave was becoming a recording success, with hits like his own “All Go Hungry Hash House” and well-loved standards like “Old Dan Tucker” and “The Old Ship of Zion,” the latter expressing the deep roots of his Christian faith. His recordings predated --- indeed bypassed --- the storied Bristol “talent hunt” sessions, and his well-deserved, hard-earned fame garnered his nickname the "Dixie Dewdrop."

Having grown up in respectable poverty, Dave heard entertainers of every stripe in the family’s Nashville boarding house, from dockworkers to circus troubadors to the performers of the newly burgeoning, post-Civil War genres of vaudeville and blackface minstrelsy. The banjo, an instrument that had migrated from Africa, was his choice, a perfect accompaniment to the kind of music he played so well. Observing the antics of street and music hall musician Joel Davidson, Dave learned early on to toss, spin and twirl his banjo to keep the audience laughing and hanging on his every word and note.

Doubler, whose primary authorship has been in the realm of military history, has taken pains here to share not only Dave’s lively genius but also his torments. Afflicted by bouts of depression and alcohol addiction, Dave was more than once institutionalized by his wife and others. He was scrupulous in maintaining records of every financial transaction to the penny (he once recorded, after paying an outrageous amount for a haircut on his first visit to the big city of New York, that he was “robbed” of $8.50 in a barbershop). He also suffered many sorrows, notably the passing of his beloved Tildy. Doubler notes that everyone who had contact with Dave had an anecdote to share, and he has attempted to give voice to all of them.

When Dave passed away, after a career of just over 30 years, he was an American music icon, beloved by admirers as disparate as bluegrassers, old-time pickers, country music lovers and folk music revivalists. He had been onstage and recorded with the greats of his era --- Kirk and Sam McGee, Bill Monroe and the Delmore Brothers. With a short chin beard, a characteristic vest and necktie, humorous patter and ready grin, he was inarguably one of the first superstars of country music. He was the genuine article, a sincere representative of the rural culture from which he sprang.

Reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott on October 5, 2018

Dixie Dewdrop: The Uncle Dave Macon Story
by Michael D. Doubler

  • Publication Date: August 14, 2018
  • Genres: Biography, Music, Nonfiction
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: University of Illinois Press
  • ISBN-10: 0252083652
  • ISBN-13: 9780252083655