Obviously, A.P. Carter was fascinated with song form. He would listen, collect and re-craft snippets of song over the course of his lifetime. He was quite catholic in his tastes – origin, genre, subject matter. He was open. Which isn’t to say he wasn’t selective. He knew a good song from a bad one, clearly. And he knew how to take the great bits of an otherwise just OK number and turn it into something enduring.
His song collecting partner for many years was the bluesman Lesley Riddle. Lesley loved music as A.P. did – open-heartedly. He and A.P. traveled the South in A.P.’s Chevrolet looking for songs. And Lesley personally identified many songs from his own African-American tradition that the Carter Family went on to record.
One of those songs was “When the World’s on Fire” which later would form the basis for another song that Woody Guthrie recorded. You might have heard of it. We call it “This Land is Your Land.”
In Bristol, Tennessee at the Paramount Theatre, we were fortunate to catch up with our friends, The Carolina Chocolate Drops. Dom Flemons of the group granted us a wonderful interview in which he talked about his understanding of Lesley Riddle’s invaluable contribution to the Carter catalogue. And the Chocolate Drops also sang “When the World’s on Fire” for us. Enjoy.