This classic old-time fiddler is a bit of a mystery man, showing up as the senior member of a band formed in 1918 by fellow fiddle genius Clayton McMichen, one of the regular sidekicks of Lowe Stokes over the years. At first called the Lick the Skillet Band, then the Old Hometown Band, this double-fiddle group eventually morphed into Gid Tanner & the Skillet Lickers, one of the most famous and well-loved of old-time groups from this era that managed to be recorded. But if the saga of Stokes is to be believed, life on the road with this band was more about licking one's wounds than licking skillets. On one tour, the trouble-bound Stokes was stabbed perilously near the heart as the nasty consequence of a love triangle, then was shot in the hand in a drunken altercation a few days later while still healing from the earlier wound. This was something of a gory preliminary to the next Skillet Lickers tour, where the poor Stokes would have his hand shot off completely. Luckily, a fellow fiddler in the outfit was a skilled engineer and was able to design a special hook that allowed Stokes to hold his bow despite the injury. This was something of a distinction obviously, with old-time music fans decades later still commenting on the wonders of seeing "a photograph of Lowe Stokes, playing one-handed" on fiddle chat rooms in cyberspace. Stokes was mostly known as a sideman. In the Skillet Lickers, he played alongside guitarist and singer Riley Puckett and mandolinist Ted Hawkins, fiddlers Bert Layne and Gid Tanner, as well as the aforementioned McMichen. He also worked in the group Seven Foot Dilly & His Dill Pickles, led by fellow North Georgia fiddler John Dilleshaw. There was a series of recordings Stokes did as frontman for his band, the North Georgians, including titles such as "I Wish I Had Stayed in the Wagon Yard," "Home Brew Rag," "Wave That Frame," and "Take Me to the Land of Jazz." Many of these recordings were collected for a series of reissues on the Document label. He also recorded with cowboy singer Hugh Cross. In 1925, poet Stephan Vincent Benet wrote a poem, entitled The Mountain Whipporwill, which was based on seeing Stokes win a fiddle contest in Atlanta the year before. Not quite as timeless as a piece of poetry, Stokes nonetheless was feeling fit enough to fiddle at the 1982 Brandywine festival, leaving ecstatic fans still guessing about his exact age. He remains one of the classic icons of old-time fiddling, an important influence to all new generations of players taking on this genre. ~ Eugene ChadbournePortions of Content Provided by Rovi Corporation.
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