Driftwood, Jimmy [Morris, James Corbitt]
- Michael Luster
[Morris, James Corbitt]
(b West Richwoods, AR, June 20, 1907; d Fayetteville, AR, July 12, 1998). American songwriter and folksinger. Raised in the rural Ozarks of Stone County, Arkansas, he learned fiddle from his grandfather, and his father, Neil Morris, was a noted traditional singer. He trained as a schoolteacher and eventually became a principal, but maintained an interest in songwriting. After pitching songs to several publishers, he was invited to go to Nashville in 1957 where he recorded Jimmie Driftwood Sings Newly Discovered Early American Folk Songs (1958) for RCA Victor. Appearances on the “Grand Ole Opry,” the “Ozark Jubilee,” and the “Louisiana Hayride” eventually led to a successful recording of his song “The Battle of New Orleans” by Johnny Horton in 1959. He received a Grammy Award for the song that year, and another of his songs, “Tennessee Stud,” as recorded by Eddie Arnold, was nominated as well. He was also invited that year by Alan Lomax to be a featured performer at a concert at Carnegie Hall and was instrumental in Lomax’s fall recording trip to Arkansas. Driftwood recorded for RCA, Vanguard, Folkways, and Monument in the 1960s, but his primary attentions were on the promotion of Ozark folk music in Stone County through the formation of the Rackensack Society, the Ozark Folk Center, and later the Jimmy Driftwood Barn. He is credited with writing 6,000 songs, 300 of them recorded by various other artists....