By the late 1950s, as country music moved into its post-Elvis era, the old-time string band tradition that dominated the music in its first generation was almost dead. Local square dance bands still held forth, playing at the local Moose club or country school auditorium, but in the commercial world there were only a handful of real, veteran string bands still working regularly. J. E. Mainer still had his Mainer’s Mountaineers, and Steve Ledford still had his band in North Carolina; on the Grand Ole Opry stage in Nashville, bands like the Crook Brothers and the Fruit Jar Drinkers still took to the stage every Saturday night, usually playing for a rowdy troupe of square dancers. In Georgia, Gordon Tanner, son of the legendary Gid, kept together his band, the Junior Skillet Lickers, though they too played mostly for dances. Most of the younger musicians who liked accoustic music had gone into bluegrass, and what string bands were left were busy imitating Flatt and Scruggs.
Then, starting about 1960, an odd thing happened: There emerged a self-conscious revival movement of the old Charlie Poole-Skillet Lickers sound. It was almost certainly an offshoot of the so-called folk revival movement of that time, spurred on by the success of groups like the Kingston Trio, and it was unique in that it transferred the venue of string band music from the country schoolhouse to the concert stage and the college campus. Its flagship band was one formed in 1958 called the New Lost City Ramblers—the name being a witty play on the old colorful names from earlier days. Its original members were Mike Seeger, a masterful collector and singer and son of musicologist Charles Seeger; Tom Paley, a mathematics teacher; and John Cohen, a Yale-educated veteran of the New York folk club scene. None of them was from the South (in fact, all of them were born in New York City), and all approached the music from a historic and even academic point of view. Their first record, on the “scholastic” Folkways label in 1961, was quite different from the lat-