Tuesday, March 10, 2009
The late Ervin Rouse (1917-1981), composer of the enduring classic "Orange Blossom Special" has perhaps one of the most fascinating biographies in the history of country music. In his sixty-four years, he went from playing vaudeville and New York City's "Village Barn" to informally entertaining roughians at dive bars in the depths of the Florida Everglades. Along the way he met and played with greats, refused an offer to join the Grand Ole Opry, drank to excess, spent time in a mental institution, and made a small fortune in royalties which he seemed to barely appreciate.
These six recordings are about the only work in circulation by Ervin Rouse and his brother Gordon. The first four tracks are from a Rouse Brothers session for Bluebird in Manhattan on June 14, 1939. Included is Ervin's original version of "Orange Blossom Special" as well as a variant of "Will The Circle Be Unbroken" titled "The Family Circle".
"Jackson Schottische" was recorded by Bob Miller in October of 1953. Miller traveled twice that year to Ervin's swamp residence in Florida to record some selections for King records. The October trip was his second and yielded this track, which was released on the Deluxe label, number 2007.
The final track here is a home recording from 1973 of Ervin playing "Sweeter Than The Flowers" (the other country standard he composed) with his ex-wife's brother Virgil. Although the song was initially recorded commercially by both Moon Mullican and Roy Acuff, this is believed to be the only recording of Rouse playing and singing it himself. Unfortunately the tape has been rather over-processed.
The above photograph is from 1939, the same year as the Bluebird sessions. It is a stark contrast to the photo below, taken in 1976 at the Gator Hook, a rowdy establishment in Florida's Big Cypress Swamp. The full saga of Ervin's life is too involved to fully disclose here, I strongly recommend the book "Orange Blossom Boys: The Untold Story of Ervin T. Rouse, Chubby Wise and the World's Most Famous Fiddle Tune".
Click here for "Orange Blossom Boys" at Amazon.com
Author Randy Noles tells us he has a new revision called "Fiddler's Curse"!
Click here for "Fiddler's Curse" at Amazon.com
Click here for an interview with Johnny Cash about Rouse at the Folk Archivist
1. My Family Circle
2. Orange Blossom Special
3. Bum Bum Blues
4. (I've Got Those) Craven County Blues
5. Jackson Schottische
6. Sweeter Than The Flowers