As someone who remembers thinking Frigid Pink recorded the definitive version of House of the Rising Sun, it’s hard to admit falling deep for a bluegrass song.
But it happened.
A while back a friend lent me a DVD, Best of the Flatt & Scruggs TV Show. This was Volume 1 with episodes from August 1961 and February 1962. Lester Flatt (lead vocal and guitar) and Earl Scruggs (banjo) were at the height of their creative and performance powers.
I listened to the first 18 songs. Liked them, appreciated them, respected them.
Song 19 sent chills down my spine.
It was called, Don’t Let Your Deal go Down. I played it over and over, amazed by the song and the performance as these consummate pros worked the two stage mics.
I have since researched the song. Although no one knows for sure who wrote it, the earliest known recording is by Charlie Poole & The North Carolina Ramblers in 1925. They recorded it as Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down Blues.
From Wikipedia: “This song sold over 106,000 copies at a time when there were estimated to be only 6,000 phonographs in the southern United States, according to Poole’s biographer and great-nephew, Kinney Rorer.”
106,000 copies! This meant that just about everyone who heard it, bought it. Average sales for a country record at that time was around 5,000.
Although this song’s been covered innumerable times, it was the Flatt and Scruggs version that caught my ear.
Amazingly, these live recordings from the show almost didn’t survive. Literally found in film cans in a garage, 24 episodes of the Flat & Scruggs Grand Ole Opry Show were donated in 1989 to the Country Music Hall of Fame, which eventually released the DVDs in partnership with Shanachie Entertainment.
The band, featuring Flatt, Scruggs and the rest of the Foggy Mountain Boys, was the inspiration for the Soggy Bottom Boys in the Coen brothers 2000 film, O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down has been around in some form or another for at least 100 years. And it will continue to be discovered for the gem it is. Even by former acid-rock fans.