Collections and Resources, Gifts and Grants, Music, Photography, Southern Folklife Collection, Special Collections

Grant Will Preserve Rare American Music Recordings

Photograph of Dolly Parton from Goldband collection

Early Dolly Parton publicity photo, from the Goldband Recording collection in the Southern Folklife Collection.

Dolly Parton’s first recording is among the items that the Southern Folklife Collection (SFC) in the Wilson Special Collections Library will preserve, thanks to a new grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The $131,765, three-year grant is called “From the Piedmont to the Swamplands: Preserving Southern Traditional Music.” It will help the SFC digitize and make available more than 1,650 hours of rare sound recordings and 4,500 photographs of musical figures from the 1920s to the 1980s.

The Parton recording dates from 1960, when the 13-year-old Dolly traveled by bus from Tennessee to Lake Charles, La. There she recorded “Puppy Love” for the Goldband Recording Corporation. The SFC holds the original master tape for the recording.

Other rarities to be preserved include:

  • Studio and field recordings of musicians B.B. King, Elizabeth Cotten, Hazel Dickens, Bob Dylan, Iry LeJune, and Tommy Jarrell;
  • African-American musician “Boozoo” Chavis’s “Paper in My Shoe,” the first commercial recording of Zydeco music (1954); and
  • Early photographs of the musical Seeger family, whose members include musician and folklorist Mike Seeger and his sister Peggy and half-brother, Pete.

“This grant allows us to preserve national treasures and provide online access to our collections for the first time,” says Steve Weiss, curator of the Southern Folklife Collection.

The SFC will use the grant to preserve materials from four of its most significant collections:

Goldband Recording Corporation Collection, 1930 – 1995 – The Goldband Recording Corporation has played a key role in documenting American musical traditions and shaping tastes since 1944. The grant will digitize the Parton recording and an additional 550 hours of recordings and 1,500 photographs from the Goldband collection.

William R. Ferris Collection, 1910s – 2003 – Ferris is professor of history at UNC and a former director of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Ferris collection, consisting of music and oral history interviews that he conducted in the 1960s and 1970s, is one of the most comprehensive archival collections documenting the music of the Delta.

Mike Seeger Collection, 1955 – 2002 –  The Seeger collection contains photographs, interviews, performances, and studio and field recordings that document Southern traditional musicians; Seeger’s group, the New Lost City Ramblers; and unedited masters for some of Seeger’s commercial recordings.

John Edwards Memorial Foundation Records, 1960 – 1988 – The SFC acquired the collection of the Foundation dedicated to American folk music in 1983. Its photograph holdings document key figures in Southern traditional music, including artists such as the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers.

Once digitized, the materials will be accessible online through the UNC Library website.

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