Gid Tanner was a farmer in Dacula, Georgia, and played the fiddle on the side. By 1926, he and other musicians such as Clayton McMichen on fiddle and Riley Puckett on guitar, created a group called Gid Tanner and the Skillet Lickers, recording country and bluegrass music from 1924 to 1934. The men sold millions of records for their songs, like “Down Yonder” and “Pass Around the Bottle and We’ll All Take a Drink.” The original group members eventually dispersed while Tanner’s son Gordon took the reins with a new round of performers until he passed away in 1982. Four generations later, thanks to the younger Tanners wanting to take over, The Skillet Lickers are still alive and well and performing on a regular basis.
“According to historians, they were one of the most famous string bands of that era,” said Phil Tanner, who is a third generation member of the group. “My dad (Gordon) continued the group on. He was 15 or 16 years old when The Skillet Lickers had their last recording session in San Antonio, Texas, and he was the lead fiddle player.”
Nowadays, Phil Tanner and his son Russ still meet with friends in the “Chicken House” behind the Tanner house off Auburn Avenue in Dacula to pick, string and sing old-time tunes from Gid Tanner’s time.
Phil Tanner’s been playing since his high school days, and to this day – over half a century later – is still performing with the Skillet Lickers. In addition to playing rhythm guitar, Phil can also play the fiddle, and he builds them, too. His son Russ was born and raised in Dacula, and he’s a fourth-generation Skillet Licker who resides on the land originally purchased by his great-grandfather Gid. Russ is widely known as a masterful musician, comparable to his grandfather, Gordon, but also as a comedic showman, like that of his great-grandfather, Gid.