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Local History

Jimmie Driftwood

Jimmie Driftwood, widely known folklorist and singer, visited May Kennedy McCord of Springfield in 1958. Lucile Morris Upton recorded some of his history in a long article for the News-Leader.

Born James C. Morris, his grandmother's nickname for him came about after a prank. His grandfather tried to pass off a piece of sycamore driftwood as the new-born James. When a recording studio suggested he change his name he used his grandmother’s nickname, Jimmie Driftwood. Born in Mountain View, Arkansas, he lived in Timbo, Arkansas. He graduated from Arkansas State Teachers College in Conway. Reputedly, some of his songs were composed to interest his students in history.

He had recently released a record called “Jimmie Driftwood Sings Newly Discovered Early American Folk Songs”, which included the popular “Battle of New Orleans”.

Driftwood knew hundreds of songs he learned from his father and from old-timers in his community. In addition to singing he was also an accomplished musician who played many instruments including a guitar his grandfather had made, a mouth bow, which he thought only a couple of other people played, and a fiddle, purported to have belonged to the Riggs Brothers, who had fought in the Battle of New Orleans and later founded Mountain View, Arkansas. The fiddle was then sold to a hillsman, who sold it to Driftwood’s grandfather.

Morris thought he learned the early war songs from his father, Neal Morris, of Timbo, Arkansas. However, many of the old timers in his community also knew the songs and he may have learned from them.  News-Leader August 3, 1958

If you would like to listen to Jimmie Driftwood music, check out these music CDs. Other folk songs can be found in the Max Hunter Collection online. Look for Jimmie Driftwood Morris in the "J"s.

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