“Fiddlin’ John” Carson was born in 1868. He grew up in nearby Cobb County and settled in Atlanta’s Cabbagetown neighborhood, which was home to a textile mill and full of Appalachian transplants.
He had already won various local contests for fiddle players and sung on Atlanta’s WSB—the South’s first radio station—when Ralph Peer, a talent scout for New York’s Okeh records, came to Atlanta in 1923 looking for new performers and new markets.
Carson sang and played fiddle on “The Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane,” an old minstrel-show tune. Though Peer called it “pluperfect awful,” it soon sold out of its initial pressing of 500 copies and demonstrated that what was then called “hillbilly music” had commercial potential.
Peer went on to capture the Tennessee mountain sounds of the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers in 1927 sessions known as the “Big Bang” of country music. While Nashville soon became the hub for the genre, Carson stayed in Atlanta, where he often played rallies for Georgia politicians and worked as an elevator operator in the state Capitol before his death in 1949.
He’s buried in a family plot at Sylvester Cemetery in the East Atlanta neighborhood, about four miles from downtown.
Know Before You Go
Sylvester Cemetery is open to the public. A gravel lane named for Carson leads visitors to the family plot.