Between 1928 and 1936, the Stripling Brothers -- fiddler Charlie and guitarist Ira -- recorded 42 tunes, the first 18 for the Brunswick label, and the remainder for Decca. The sides they released reflect the rich (and otherwise un-recorded) fiddle traditions of their home in West Alabama; they also showcase the unique abilities of that area's most accomplished fiddler.
Charlie Stripling was born in Pickens County, AL, in 1896; Ira was born in 1898. As a teenager, Charlie picked up the fiddle and, accompanied by his brother's guitar, won first prize at his first fiddle contest. For the rest of his career, Charlie dominated all of the competitions he entered. Encouraged by their success, the brothers auditioned for Brunswick Records at a studio in Birmingham, where they cut two sides. They recorded again for Brunswick in 1929 in Chicago; in 1934 and 1936 they recorded for Decca in New York and New Orleans, respectively. Their 42 recordings include a number of breakdowns, waltzes, and other dance pieces, many of Charlie's own composition or adapted from traditional and popular sources; the brothers only recorded two numbers with vocals, "Weeping Willow" and "Railroad Bum." Their later recordings incorporated increasing pop influences, reflecting the evolution of dance styles and musical tastes. Though the Striplings may have asserted a mostly regional influence, the number of recordings they made -- on both sides of the Depression -- and the virtuosity of the playing attest to their stature as performers.
After the 1936 session, economic necessity forced Ira to focus on his business as a store owner, and he ceased playing at dances and competitions. Charlie, who worked as a sharecropper, continued to play and was often accompanied by his young sons, Robert and Lee Edwin (of his nine children, all were proficient on at least one instrument). Though he never returned to commercial recording, Charlie Stripling continued to fiddle professionally through the '50s, when failing health finally forced him to stop. He died in 1966; his brother Ira died the following year. ~ Burgin Mathews, Rovi