One of the pleasures of collecting 78 RPM records is the frequent discovery of musicians you had never heard or heard of before. You listen, connect to their music and their voices, and would like to know more. But often there’s very little published online about these people. Peg Moreland is one of those musicians whose life is something of a mystery. We know he had a wooden leg because of the appellation “Peg.” We know he was born Arnot (or Arnet) Jackson Moreland. And until we stumbled across an 11-year-old post on a country music newsgroup, that’s all we could find out about him. Check out the post. It’s brief, but it puts a little bit of life behind the delightful recording we have of Moreland singing “When I Had But Fifty Cents.”
This is a wonderful version of Moreland’s arrangement of “When I Had But Fifty Cents.” He recorded this in Atlanta Georgia on November 20, 1929 for Victor Records (V-40209). And it’s a soft and gentle and fun version of a tale about a man who takes a little wisp of a girl out to dinner (“to a fancy ball”) and she eats and drinks everything in sight.
The title is the plaintive refrain. It’s just Peg and his guitar. And he starts out with a thoughtful little phrase on his guitar that he doesn’t quite repeat again and I wonder if it’s just a little intro he throws in there to get himself started. We have R. Crumb and his Cheap Suit Serenaders on LP doing a great version of this same song with a different arrangement, but Peg just does something to it that gets under your skin.
And if you want something to watch while you’re listening, we uploaded this one to YouTube: