'Fiddlin' Charlie Bowman' by BOB L. COX BOOK-Fiddlin Charlie
(Univ. of Tennessee Press, 224 pp, softbound). Although most casual fans of old-time music will recognize Bowman for the handful of good records he made under his own name in the 1920s, this very interesting book will quickly remind us that other musicians from that period besides Jimmie Rodgers, Gid Tanner and Charlie Poole, etc. had extensive professional careers as well. Author Cox does a very nice job in exploring and documenting the fiddler Bowman, a good part of whose life was involved with various musical groups (at the expense of his family life). Bowman’s first appearance on record was as a member of The Hill Billies, one of the pioneering old time string bands to make records. In Addition to making his own fine recordings of FORKY DEAR, MOONSHINER & HIS MONEY, HICKMAN RAG and 3 others, Bowman was a featured fiddler with other groups, including the Blue Ridge Ramblers, the Blue Ridge Music Makers, Charlie’s Southern Mountaineers, Charlie’s Buckle Busters, The Rice Brothers Gang and Dwight Butcher’s band. The author has included neat pictures of just about all of these groups, plus posters and various show bills—the book is very nicely illustrated. The author seems to be well acquainted with people and places in east Tennessee, the area that Bowman called home (he even points out which side of the street Charlie played on in the courthouse square in Johnson City). On the other hand, he is a little shaky on some other details (he claims that the Columbia Recording studio in New York City—where Bowman and his daughters recorded in 1929--was the 2nd highest building there, eclipsed only by the Empire State Building (but the Empire State building was not built until 1934). He also considerably exaggerates the sales of the records made by Charlie’s daughters, Jennie and Pauline: in fact one of them sold around 3,000, the other just slightly over 1000 copies. The Bowman sisters, as they were known, get considerable mention in the book, and must have been talented troopers on the vaudeville circuit, despite the rather ordinary quality of the 2 or 3 recordings they made for Columbia on their own. The book is enhanced by an afterword from noted folklorist Archie Green, and it also has 4 rather interesting appendices including a listing of all tour dates in 1931-32 preserved by Jennie Bowman, and another listing the records Charlie made. Most fans of old-time music should really enjoy this book.