Moonshine Kate

Moonshine Kate (born Rosa Lee Carson, October 10, 1909, Atlanta, Georgia - 1992, Bainbridge, Georgia) was an American country and folk guitarist and banjo player who is best known for recording with her father Fiddlin' John Carson and his band, the Virginia Reelers. Kate was among the earliest recorded women in country music, and arguably her best remembered song was a rendition of her father's composition "Little Mary Phagan".

Carson was born the youngest of nine children in Atlanta, Georgia. As early as the age of five, she appeared as a vocalist and dancer at stage shows and political rallies as an accompaniment to her father's musical act. By age 14, Carson proficiently performed with the guitar and banjo as she played alongside her father on Atlanta's flagship radio station, WSB, and toured with him and the Virginia Reelers throughout Georgia. When Carson graduated from high school, she became a permanent member of the band.

In June 1925, Carson made her recording debut accompanying her father on guitar on four sides for OKeh Records. In the same session, she also recorded two solo efforts, "The Lonely Child", which was about a lonely wandering orphan, and "Little Mary Phagan". The somber ballad was composed by Fiddlin' Jon Carson in 1915, as a response to the notorious, and highly publicized murder of 13-year-old Mary Phagan, which was allegedly perpetrated by her manager, Leo Frank. She played and recorded with the Virginia Reelers until 1934, adopting the stage name Moonshine Kate in 1928 at the suggestion of Okeh Records man Polk Brockman. Many of Kate's recordings for Okeh play up her name, consisting of short musical passages interspersed with quick-witted dialogues revolving around the moonshine trade.

The Great Depression ended the Carsons' recording days, and she continued to perform intermittently, also working with Eugene Talmadge on his 1932 bid for Governor of Georgia and for the Atlanta Department of Recreation. She married in 1944 and retired in Georgia. In 1983, both she and her father were inducted into the Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame.

Birth and Death Data: Born 1909 (Atlanta), Died 1992 (Bainbridge)

Date Range of DAHR Recordings: 1929 - 1934

Roles Represented in DAHR: speaker, banjo

Notes: Daughter of Fiddlin' John Carson. Original name: Rosa Lee Carson.

Recordings

Company Matrix No. Size First Recording Date Title Primary Performer Description Role Audio
OKeh W402341 10-in. 3/16/1929 You can't get milk from a cow named Ben Fiddlin' John Carson ; Moonshine Kate Dialogue and fiddle (violin) and guitar duet speaker  
OKeh W402342 10-in. 3/16/1929 Going to the county fair Fiddlin' John Carson ; Moonshine Kate Dialogue and fiddle (violin) and guitar duet speaker  
OKeh W403446 10-in. 12/17/1929 Pa's birthday party Fiddlin' John Carson ; Moonshine Kate Instrumental trio, with dialogue and mixed vocal trio instrumentalist, banjo  
OKeh W403447 10-in. 12/17/1929 Corn licker and barbecue Fiddlin' John Carson ; Moonshine Kate Instrumental trio, with dialogue and mixed vocal trio instrumentalist, banjo  
OKeh W403448 10-in. 12/17/1929 Corn licker and barbecue Fiddlin' John Carson ; Moonshine Kate Instrumental trio, with dialogue and mixed vocal trio instrumentalist, banjo  
OKeh W403449 10-in. 12/17/1929 Who's the best fiddler? Fiddlin' John Carson ; Moonshine Kate Dialogue and instrumental trio speaker  
OKeh W403500 10-in. 12/17/1929 Who bit the wart off Grandma's nose? Fiddlin' John Carson ; Moonshine Kate Instrumental trio, with dialogue and male vocal solo instrumentalist, banjo  
OKeh W403501 10-in. 12/17/1929 Kate's snuff box Fiddlin' John Carson ; Moonshine Kate Instrumental trio, with dialogue instrumentalist, banjo  
OKeh W403926 10-in. 4/24/1930 You gotta let my dog alone Fiddlin' John Carson ; Moonshine Kate Dialogue, with fiddle (violin), banjo, and guitar speaker  
OKeh W403927 10-in. 4/24/1930 John in the army Fiddlin' John Carson Instrumental trio and male vocal solo, with comic dialogue speaker  
OKeh W403928 10-in. 4/24/1930 The old grey horse ain't what he used to be Fiddlin' John Carson ; Moonshine Kate Dialogue, with fiddle (violin), banjo, and guitar speaker  

Citation

Discography of American Historical Recordings, s.v. "Moonshine Kate," accessed April 12, 2021, https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/100125.

Moonshine Kate. (2021). In Discography of American Historical Recordings. Retrieved April 12, 2021, from https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/100125.

"Moonshine Kate." Discography of American Historical Recordings. UC Santa Barbara Library, 2021. Web. 12 April 2021.

DAHR Persistent Identifier

URI: https://adp.library.ucsb.edu/names/100125

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