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Columbus Stockade Blues

Way down in Columbus, Georgia,
Wanted back in Tennessee,
Way down in Columbus Stockade,
Friends has turned their back on me.

Go and leave me if you wish to,
Never let me cross your mind.
In your heart you love another,
Leave me darlin', I don't mind.

In the late 1920's, Tom Darby and Jimmy Tarlton were among the major country artists on Columbia Records, ranking in the main four along with Charlie Poole's North Carolina Ramblers, Gid Tanner's Skillet Lickers, and Riley Puckett. Their two-sided hit "Birmingham Jail" b/w "Columbus Stockade Blues" sold about 200,000 copies and achieved standard status. They recorded frequently through 1929, and last in 1933.

Apparently, the two did not always get along, Although both were rediscovered in 1962, by which time Darby's musical facilities had declined considerably. Tarlton made a brief comeback and recorded again, but soon fell back to obscurity.

Thomas P. Darby the older of the two men (B: August 25, 1891 — D: August 20, 1971) spent most off his life in Columbus, Georgia, and was apparently one-quarter Cherokee Indian. He was a distant cousin of Riley Puckett and learned to play guitar at the age of ten. His style showed considerable African-American influence. He went to Florida for a time in the mid-1920's, but then came back to Columbus, where he met South Carolina-born, but much-traveled Jimmie Tarlton who played a Hawaiian style acoustical guitar.

The two played well together and the owner of a music store suggested that they audition for Columbia records and even drove them to Atlanta in April 1927 where they cut two numbers "Way Down in Florida on Hog" [a variant of "Lonesome Road Blues" referring to the Florida land boom of the 1920's] b/w "Birmingham Town." Brisk initial sales led to a return visit to Atlanta in November where they did four more numbers including their big hit.

For the next three years, they did two sessions yearly, although for some unknown reason Tarlton did the December 1930 session by himself. In 1932, they did a session for Victor and in June 1933, a final one for the American Record Corporation in which of six numbers only two were released

Promo Ad - Columbia Records - Boggs-Rice Company - Bristol, TN - Darby and Tarlton - Columbus Stockade Blues - February 1928
Promo Ad - Columbia Records - Sterchi Brothers - Asheville, NC - Darby and Tarlton - Mexican Rag - December 1928

Seemingly, the two did not play or travel much together outside of their recording sessions. Darby remained mostly around Columbus, and in May 1931 along with a banjo picker named Jesse Pitts did two numbers as the Georgia Wildcats. Tarlton wandered about considerably playing for tips, or working at odd jobs when desperate for cash.

In his travels, he met Howard and Dorsey Dixon in a textile mill village in the Carolinas where he inspired Howard to play steel and learned Dorsey's song "Weaver's Life" which he cut for Victor under the title "The Weaver's Blues", (the Dixon's would not record it until 1937).

After their last recording in 1933, Darby and Tarlton saw little of each other until 1963. Their reunion was warranted by researchers and record collectors, Robert Nobley, Ed Kahn, and Emory Ward. The old pair of legends were cordial, but little more. Darby's musical talents had eroded badly, but Tarlton, in spite of physical problems, was as able as ever. He played and sang at a few folk clubs including a week at the Ash Grove in LA and recorded an album for Testament. He then retired musically for good and died in 1979.

Many of their original recordings have been reissued on albums, but most notably in a complete boxed-set from Bear Family (BCD 15764).

Columbia 15212 - Columbus Stockade Blues - Darby and Tarlton - 1927

Credits & Sources

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Recordings (78rpm/45rpm)

 
Columbia
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  15197 D A Birmingham Town
  15197 D B Down In Florida On A Hog
  15212 D A Birmingham Jail
  15212 D B Columbus Stockade Blues
  15254 D A After The Ball
  15254 D B I Can't Tell Why I Love You
  15293 D A The Irish Police
  15293 D B The Hobo Tramp
  15319 D A Mexican Rag
  15319 D B Alto Waltz
  15330 D A Heavy Hearted Blues
  15330 D B Traveling Yodel Blues
  15360 D A The Rainbow Division
  15360 D B Country Girl Valley
  15375 D A Birmingham Jail No.2
  15375 D B Lonesome Railroad
  15388 D A If You Ever Learn To Love Me
  15388 D B If I Had Listened To My Mother
  15403 D A Down In The Old Cherry Orchard
  15403 D B When The Bluebirds Nest Again
  15419 D A Touring Yodel Blues
  15419 D B Slow Wicked Blues
  15436 D A Birmingham Rag
  15436 D B Sweet Sarah Blues
  15452 D A The New York Hobo
  15452 D B Black Jack Moonshine
  15477 D A All Bound Down In Texas
  15477 D B Ain't Gonna Marry No More
  15492 D A Little Bessie
  15492 D B I Left Her At The River
  15511 D A Whistling Songbird
  15511 D B Freight Train Ramble
  15528 D A Jack And May
  15528 D B Captain Won't You Let Me Go Home
  15552 D A Faithless Husband
  15552 D B My Father Died A Drunkard
  15572 D A My Little Blue Heaven
  15572 D B On The Banks Of A Lonely River
  15591 D A Maple On The Hill
  15591 D B Little Ola
  15611 D A Pork Chops
  15611 D B Hard Time Blues
  15624 D A When You're Far Away From Home
  15624 D B Beggar Joe
  15674 D A The Black Sheep
  15674 D B Once I Had A Sweetheart
  15684 D A Gambling Jim
  15684 D B Lonesome In The Pines
  15701 D A Risin' Sun Blues
  15701 D B Frankie Dean
  15715 D A Going Back To My Texas Home
  15715 D B Down Among The Sugar Cane
 
Montgomery Ward
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  4335 A Once I Had A Fortune
  4335 B Thirteen Years In Kilbie Prison
 
Romeo
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  5249 A Let's Be Friends Again
  5249 B By The Old Oaken Bucket Louise
 
Vocalion
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  03077 A Maple On The Hills
  03077 B Little Ola


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