Several well-known people have roots in Arkansas. The
list runs the gamut from Johnny Cash to Jermain Taylor. Check here every Monday
as we highlight a new Famous Arkansan each week. Today, Meet: Jimmy Driftwood
James Morris 1907-1998) was a noted folk singer and songwriter who was born on
a farm near Mountain View. While serving as superintendent at Snowball, he
wrote his big hit The Battle of New Orleans. He is also known for another
composition, The Tennessee Stud. Over his career, Driftwood wrote over 6,000
songs. In the 1960s he formed the Rackensack Folklore Society, which was created
to keep alive the sound and spirit of local traditional folk music. He was also one of the visionaries behind the Arkansas Folk Festival in Mountain View and the Ozark Folk Center,
which is also in town.
Driftwood learned to play
guitar at a young age on his grandfather’s homemade instrument. He used the
unique guitar throughout his career.
Driftwood also became
involved in environmental issues. He helped secure the designation of the
Buffalo River as the first national river and helped persuade the US Forest
Service to develop Blanchard Springs Caverns. He was a member of the Advisory
Committee of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the
National Advisory Board for the National Endowment for the Arts, and
musicologist for the National Geographic Society, producing Music of the Ozarks,
the society’s first album of American folk music. Today, Jimmy Driftwood’s Barn
in Mountain View is the setting for performances by the Rackensack Folklore
Society. A branch of the group also performs in Little Rock.