August 31, 1873 -
September 22, 1951
Fannin County, Georgia
photo taken in 1895
North Georgia fiddler Robert Allen Sisson was the Tennessee State Fiddle Champion in 1921. He went by the name of Allen Sisson, and is buried as Allen R. Sisson.
Born in the North Georgia mountains, Allen was influenced to play by his uncle, Ira Arnold Sisson, a well-known fiddler in his own time, who had been a sergeant in the First Regiment of the Georgia Infantry, State Guards, Confederate States of America. It was said that Allen began playing the fiddle while still in "gowns". By age twelve, he was regarded as the best fiddler in North Georgia.
Allen Sisson was employed by DSC&J mines of Copperhill, Tennessee, as a section hand foreman on the mine railroad.
In 1925, Allen Sisson was invited to the Edison studios in East Orange, NJ, to record ten tunes he had written. The music was recorded on Edison Blue Amerbol Cylinders and on Edison's proprietary (thick) 78 rpm records.
On February 25, 1925, Sisson recorded Walking Water Reel, Kentucky Wagoners and The Rocky Road To Dublin. On February 26th, he recorded Grey Eagle, Katy Hill Reel, Cumberland Gap, Farewell Ducktown, Kaiser's Defeat March, Sally Brown and Rymer's Favorite. Existing recordings have been collected by, and are in the possession of grandson James Carson Sisson.
When Sisson returned home to New Jersey, he brought the first radio to the area. People would come from all around to hear both the radio and Allen's fiddling.
As a little girl, granddaughter Marily Garmony spent a good deal of time with Sisson and his wife Annie. Allen always had his fiddle handy, played Marily many tunes and tried as best he could remember to teach her how to do the "buck step".
The Sisson family tradition lives on. In June of 2000, a Sisson gathering was held in Florence, KY, and all of Allen's tunes were played in remembrance. The invitation advised all comers to "be sure and bring your clogging shoes".
Thanks to James Carson Sisson for the photo and biography
In 1976, Kathy Thompson published "Touching Home - A Collection of History and Folklore From the Copper Basin, Fannin County Area". On page 38, she wrote, "There were others from Fannin County who became well-known. Allen Sisson recorded several tunes, including 'Farewell Ducktown'. He went to New Jersey to record many songs, and the fiddle he took now belongs to Roy Chapman."
In 1978, New World Records produced "That's My Rabbit, My Dog Caught It - An Anthology of American Music". Included was Allen's "Rymer's Favorite". Liner notes included the comments, "The grace of Sisson's playing is deceptive; the piece is quite difficult...The eclectic set of tunes they were expected to master brought a uniformity in style and an emphasis on smooth technique toi American fiddling. A good example of a folk fiddler who can probably be linked to such a tradition is Allen Sisson. Although Sisson was probably self-taught, his studied and somewhat formal execution suggests the spirit, if not the form of the printed tune collections of the nineteenth century."
In 1988, a book called "Country - The Music and The Musicians" was published by the Country Music Foundation, and a section subtitled "Pickers, Slicers, Cheatin' Hearts & Superstars" listed the following caption, "For every bonafide star like Jimmie Rodgers or Vernon Dalhart, there were dozens like old-time fiddler Allen Sisson, who recorded ten tunes for Edison at East Orange, New Jersey in 1925. Record labels credited him as 'Champion Fiddler of Tennessee'. We know little else about him."