DANVILLE, Va. — The music of the 1920s and 30s has a distinctive sound not just because of how it was recorded and played back but because of the people who made it.
“So much of the music came from people who worked in the cotton mills,” said Kinney Rorrer. “I call it ‘millbilly music.’”
Rorrer gives it that title because so many of the musicians came out of the mills including some in his family like Charlie Poole and Posey Rorrer. Poole was one of the most popular artists of the time.
“A good seller was 5,000 records, a hit was 20,000,” said Rorrer. “Poole’s first record ‘Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down’ sold 102,000 copies.”
That family connection might explain why Kinney Rorrer’s home is filled with artifacts and mementos from that era.
“The pictures, advertisements anything related to the music during that time I collect,” said Rorrer who also has an amazing collection of Victrola. “My wife says I can collect anything but women and Victrolas are cheaper.”
Rorrer says his fascination with Victrolas and the music goes back to when he remembers playing old recordings for Charlie Poole’s widow.
“She would tell me which [song] she wanted me to play for her,” he said. “The one she always wanted to hear ‘Down Among the Budded Roses,” and I would see the tears run down her cheek and that’s when it dawned on me it was more than music, it really meant something in people’s lives.”
You can check out Rorrer on his podcast “The County Sales” Radio hour wherever you get your podcast.