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Jimmie Driftwood
Jimmie Driftwood
   July 12, 1998
Age 91 
Heart Attack
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OBITUARY 
       

                        Folk singer-songwriter Jimmy Driftwood dies at 91 

                        July 12, 1998 
       

                        FAYETTEVILLE, Arkansas (AP) -- Folk 
                        singer-songwriter Jimmy Driftwood, whose 
                        penning of "The Battle of New Orleans" 
                        vaulted him to fame 40 years ago, died 
                        Sunday. He was 91. 

                        Driftwood had a stroke several weeks ago 
                        and had been recuperating at a hospital 
                        when he suffered a heart attack that proved 
                        fatal. 

                        Born James Corbett Morris, he changed his 
                        name to Jimmy Driftwood and went on to write 
                        some 6,000 folk songs, 300 of which were published  or recorded.

                        He taught school before his music career and said he wrote "The Battle of 
                        New Orleans" as part of a history lesson for his students. Driftwood 
                        recorded the song in 1957, but a 1960 version by the late Johnny Horton 
                        made the tune a huge hit. 

                        He won Grammy awards for "The Battle of New Orleans," "Wilderness 
                        Road," "Songs of Billy Yank and Johnny Reb" and "Tennessee Stud," which 
                        was a big hit for Eddy Arnold. 

                        Driftwood performed with the Grand Ole Opry at Nashville, Tennessee, and 
                        on stages across the United States and Europe, but he spent most of his life 
                        at the family farm in Timbo, west of Mountain View in north Arkansas' 
                        Ozark Mountains. 

                        He came up with the idea for the Ozark Folk Center at Mountain View and 
                        helped establish the annual Ozark Folk Festival. 

                        Driftwood also helped save the Buffalo River in northern Arkansas from 
                        damming in the 1950s and 1960s. The river remains free-flowing and is now 
                        the Buffalo National River. 

                        He and his wife, Cleda, opened the Driftwood Barn near Mountain View to 
                        give him a permanent place to perform on weekends. He never charged 
                        admission but did pass the hat to help cover expenses. 

                        The barn was deeded to the Arkansas State Teachers College in Conway, 
                        now the University of Central Arkansas, with the understanding that the barn 
                        would be preserved for students to study the history of folk music. 

                        Survivors include his wife of almost 62 years, a brother and two sisters. 
                        Three sons preceded him in death. 

                    Copyright 1998   The Associated Press. 
       
       

 

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BIOGRAPHY
        Jimmie Driftwood 

        (b. James Morris, 20 June 1907, Mountain View, Arkansas). 

        His name first came to prominence as a result of the Johnny Horton 
        recording of Driftwood's song, The Battle Of New Orleans in 1959. 
        The single made the top of both the USA pop and country charts, 
        but only the Top 20 in the UK. Lonnie Donegan reached number 2 in 
        the UK with the song in the same year. Driftwood himself had recorded 
        a version of the song the previous year for RCA Victor. With a strong 
        musical heritage Driftwood learned to play guitar, banjo and fiddle while 
        still young. Picking up old songs from his grandparents, and other 
        members of his family, he later travelled about collecting and recording 
        songs. While still performing at folk festivals, Jimmy continued to teach 
        during the '40s. With the '50s, came the growing folk boom, and he found 
        himself reaching a wider audience. RCA signed him to record NEWLY 
        DISCOVERED EARLY AMERICAN FOLK SONGS, which included 
        the aforementioned Battle Of New Orleans. While the song's popularity 
        grew, Driftwood was working for the GRAND OLE OPRY, but left in 
        order to work on a project to establish a cultural centre at his home in 
        Mountain View. The aim was to preserve the Ozark Mountain peoplesí 
        heritage. Having later joined the Rackensack Folklore Society, he 
        travelled the USA, talking at universities to pass on the importance of 
        such a project. The first Arkansas Folk Festival, held in 1963, was 
        successful and, in 1973, the cultural centre was established. One 
        performer at such events organized by the Rackensack Folklore 
        Society was Glenn Ohrlin. 
         

         
 
 
 

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