Florida Folklife Program

Folk Heritage Awards Recipient: Neal "Pappy" McCormick


Neal
Neal "Pappy" McCormick

Neal "Pappy" McCormick (1909 - 1998) - 1994 Florida Folk Heritage Award

Neal “Pappy” McCormick was born on October 3, 1909. He grew up in a sharecropping family in Alabama, but has spent most of his life in Florida and Georgia. As a youth he learned to play steel guitar from an African American man he met at a local sawmill. In the late l930s, McCormick formed a dance band called The Hawaiian Troubadours, which featured his steel guitar playing. The Hawaiian Troubadours played Hawaiian, western, and country tunes. However, the McCormick family relates, the name was also used because in the days of segregation it was necessary to camouflage the fact that they were of Creek heritage. In the early 1940s, McCormick built a dance hall in Panama City in order to have a permanent venue in which to perform. Later, the group’s name was changed to The Barndance Troubadours.

As a musician, McCormick became well-known in country and western circles for his patented “contraption,” a revolving electric steel guitar. The invention allowed the player to rapidly change tunings simply by rotating the instrument. For many years the McCormick “contraption” was on display at Roy Acuff’s museum in Nashville.

McCormick led a varied life. He gave the young Hank Williams his first regular job in music, and they became life-long friends. He also served for years as the Principal Chief of the Lower Creek Nation East of the Mississippi River. Throughout his life, McCormick performed his music for benefit events and at regular local dances.