Joan Fenton collection, 1952-1978.

Creator: Fenton, Joan.
Collection number: 20015
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Abstract: Folklorist and performer Joan Fenton earned a Masters degree in folklore at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1981. She is the owner of several stores in Charlottesville, Va., that feature traditional and contemporary handicrafts. Sound recordings and related documentation. Sound recordings include interviews, songs, and tall tales by artists in the southern roots traditions from North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Louisiana. Fenton’s folklore thesis fieldwork about Howard Cotten, an African American tall tale teller in North Carolina, is represented by his songs, anecdotes, and tales about fishing and hunting that were recorded between 1976 and 1978. Also included are recordings from the 1978 John Henry Folk Festival where Hazel Dickens, Viola Clark, the Badgett Sisters, Walter Phelps, Ethel Phelps, Sparky Rucker, Pigmeat Jarrett, and Sweet Honey in the Rock performed. Interviews and sound recordings relating to Jamie Alston, Wilber Atwater, Willie Brooks, Dona Gum, Maggie Hammons, Sherman Hammons, Guy B. Johnson, Everett Lilly, Mitchell “Bea” Lilly, Varise Conner, Phillippe Bruneau, Carl Rutherford, and the Balfa Brothers are included. Also included are interviews with and songs of Charles Williams, a washboard player from White Sulphur Springs, W. Va., and Nat Reese, a guitarist and blues singer from Princeton, W. Va. Fenton is the primary interviewer on these recordings, some of which were made in performers’ homes where she accompanied them on guitar, but there are also a few field tapes done by others, including some with the Reverend Gary Davis in Jamaica, N.Y., 1971-1972 and others done by John Cohen in New York in the 1950s. Documentation of field recordings includes transcription notes from interviews conducted by Fenton and notes compiled from the audio material. Note that artists important in the collection appear as access points in this record.

Repository: Southern Folklife Collection

Collection Highlights: Anecdotes and tales about fishing and hunting, animals (Rooster and Buzzard, etc.) as told by African-American storyteller Howard Cotten, recorded by Joan Fenton in 1978; n.p. [3 reels, FT1159]. Henry Johnson, an African-American musician, performs five unidentified country blues songs with guitar accompaniment, recorded by Joan Fenton, Michael Levine, and Steve Wolf in Union County, South Carolina, 1973 [1 reel, FT1282]. Country blues, gospel, fiddle tunes, and ballads performed by Jamie Alston and Wilbur Atwater, recorded by Joan Fenton, Michael Levine, Steve Wolf, and Bruce Bastin in Orange County, North Carolina in 1973 [2 reels, FT1298-FT1299]. Dubs of field recordings of Reverend Gary Davis [“Blind Gary Davis”] originally recorded by John Cohen at Davis’ apartment in New York City in 1952. Includes songs with guitar accompaniment and also features Reverend Peoples and Annie Davis [4 reels, FT1339-FT1342]. Interviews with and songs by Charles Williams, a washboard player from White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, and Nat Reese, a guitarist and blues singer from Princeton, West Virginia, recorded by Joan Fenton in 1978 [FT1493]. Recordings of an African-American church service with electric gospel music, biblical readings, chanted sermon, and congregational testimonies, recorded by Joan Fenton near Princeton, West Virginia, ca. 1975 [5 reels, FT1508-FT1512]. Interview with Elvie Johnson on topics including railroading, blues, and dancing. Johnson also plays songs with Travis style guitar accompaniment, recorded by Joan Fenton in Meadow Creek, West Virginia, 1975 [FT1514].