Hamper McBee: Cumberland Moonshiner
The Prestige Folklore Recordings
Spring Fed Records is proud to announce its new release, SFR-107, Hamper McBee: Cumberland Moonshiner, The Prestige Folklore Recordings.
“The[se] recordings offer an intriguing window into Hamper McBee’s earlier life, before he had the mustache. Overall, they remind me that Hamper was a character first and a singer second. But he sure was a good singer, with a resonant, growling baritone and natural instincts.”
from the liner notes
This record, originally released as a Prestige Folklore LP in 1964, features a great traditional ballad singer early in his career, moonshiner Hamper McBee of Altamont Tennessee. Ably accompanied by multi-instrumentalist Guy Carawan, Hamper offers traditional ballads, modern folk songs, and original tunes and memories of the moonshine trade. Don’t miss this chance to become acquainted with a great singer, early in his career, full of life and energy.
Mikii Marlowe's Original 1964 Interview with Hamper McBee in Altamont, Tennessee
***From the Origianls Prestige Folklore LP 14008, Hamper MacBee Cumberland Moonshiner
“I was born August 7, 1931 in the sate of Tennessee, Highland Rim section. My dad and mom are native Tennesseans – my dad was born and raised in this area. My folks on the McBee side came from South Carolina and settled in Tennessee back in the early days. I was born in Emory Gap in Rhone County. Dad was a state highway inspector at the time and travelling all the time. He was laid off during the depression – out of work. First place that I remember living was about four miles southwest of Sewanee."
"Early part of my life all I remember daddy doing was digging ginseng, star root and golden seal – known as yellow pacoone. Bitterer than quinine, a very small root, used to sell for $5 a pound – but try to find a pound! When I first started to school had to walk out from the side of the mountain, three quarters of a mile to catch a bus. This place was called the Natural Bridge. At that time the bus run out of Sherwood collecting everybody in the neighborhood going to public school. At the Natural Bridge there was a spring under the same bluff to which the bridge was connected. This was where we carried out drinking water for washing, about a quarter of a mile."
"By the time I was in the third grade we had moved out on top of the mountain along the Sherwood Pike. From then on, going to school was normal, just about like everybody else was. Of course we were not fixed as well as some of them. There were seven of us kids – three younger, three older than myself - I went to the Sewanee public school about ten years but never finished the eighth grade. I was always interested in old folk songs. When I was a little kid, I could sit for hours and listen to the old folks sing and I remember some of the songs I heard when I was four or five years old like Picture from Life’s Other Side, Barbara Allen, Wreck of the Old Number Nine, Sweet Betsy from Pike."
"After I quit school I went to work peeling Black Haw bark which we could sell for about 65 cents per pound at the time and we made a pretty fair living, too. From then on I dug herbs, worked at stave mills, clerked at a store and made a little moonshine on the side. It was about this time I got my nickname Hamper. The man was telling me about a wild animal that was supposed to be as mean as a tiger and from the way he talked, about the size of a yearling calf. He said it was a Hamper. This struck me sort of funny and I had to tell everybody I saw about this Hamper Cat. Everyone got a big kick out of the yarn so they began to call me Hamper and it stuck like a cow in a bog."
"In 1950 I joined the Army and stayed until 1954. I spent 11 months in Korea and 13 months in Germany. After I came out I just kicked around for a while and made whiskey. Since then I have worked at lots of different jobs such as construction, timber cutting, mule driving. I have cooked at logging camps and in cafes. One year I went to Oregon and worked for the forest service and have worked for three or four carnivals. I have made moonshine between most of these jobs. My life hasn’t been as easy as it may sound, but I would like to live it all over again."
Hamper McBee, 1964
Prestige/Folklore PF LP 14008
*reproduced with permission
Check out Hamper's calling card. He took these to identify himself whenever he travelled to festivals.