During the 1920s and '30s, the state of Georgia produced some of the wildest records in old-time or "hillbilly" music. Compared with the relatively steady, subtle, and sedate recordings by such groups as Charlie Poole's North Carolina Ramblers, the Georgia string bands, defined by flamboyant fiddlers like Gid Tanner, produced screeching strings and vocals on the brink of a masterful chaos. Of the Georgia fiddlers, Earl Johnson was one of the most chaotic. Born Robert Earl Johnson on August 24, 1886, in Gwinnett County, GA, he learned to play the fiddle from his father and spent his formative years playing with his two brothers, banjo-player Albert and guitarist Ester. Though both Albert and Ester died in 1923, Earl had by then begun playing with other nearby musicians, including the legendary Fiddlin' John Carson, who released the first commercial hillbilly record, also in 1923, thus paving the way for Johnson's own commercial success. Johnson made his recording debut in 1925 for Paramount, performing under the auspices of the Dixie String Band on some sides and backing banjoist Arthur Tanner on others. He also appeared as second fiddler and vocalist on several of Carson's records, with whom he continued to perform and record sporadically throughout his career. Johnson finally began recording under his own name and with his own bands in February of 1927, and over the next four years he produced close to 50 sides for the Okeh label.