By 1926, the success of the Skillet Lickers was proving to America’s record companies that the hard-driving north Georgia fiddle band sound could be a commercial commodity. All kinds of string bands paraded through the studios in the late 1920s, each seeking a piece of the Skillet Lickers’ action, and many bearing wild, extravagant names like Dr. Smith’s Champion Hoss Hair Pullers, Seven Foot Dilly and His Dill Pickles, and the West Virginia Snake Hunters. Many of these groups made a handful of records and then drifted back into obscurity. One that did not, though, was an outfit from Gordon County, Georgia, called the Georgia Yellow Hammers. Unlike many other bands, the Yellow Hammers generated a distinct style of music that was uniquely their own, and they recorded extensively and successfully.
To a casual observer, the Yellow Hammers might seem merely another imitation of the Skillet Lickers. After all, both bands were from north Georgia, and both were built around a preexisting fiddle-and-banjo team. Both presented images of hard-drinking, carefree rustics, and in both cases these images were the products of record company executives. Both recorded comedy skits, as well as vocal and fiddle tunes. Both contained musicians who wanted to transcend the narrow confines of the old-time string band. Both were in a sense studio groups, with personnel shifting from session to session, and both shared a common repertoire of north Georgia fiddle tunes. Yet there were some important difference too. The Yellow Hammers were based not in Atlanta, but in rural Gordon County, some sixty miles to the northwest. The Yellow Hammers stressed singing more than the Skillet Lickers (their records are full of fine quartet work), and boasted among their ranks two formally trained musicians who were adept at reading and composing all sorts of music. Yellow Hammers members were more ecumenical in their music, recording gospel quartets, sentimental songs, blues, pop, fiddle breakdowns, and even a couple of