Carolina Bluegrass Summit


Jimmy Martin Fan Club Newsletter, December, 1972, in Folder 78, Southern Folklife Collection Fan Club Newsletters (30023)

Please join us at UNC Chapel Hill on November 11 and 12, 2016 for the Carolina Bluegrass Summit. Sponsored by the UNC Department of Music and the Southern Folklife Collection. All events take place on the campus of UNC at Chapel Hill except for the closing social (which is at Linda’s Bar and Grill, just across Franklin street from campus). We are extremely excited to welcome musicians, scholars, writers, industry leaders, and especially bluegrass fans to celebrate the first year of the UNC Bluegrass Intiative. 

Exhibit and symposium are free and open to the public. Steep Canyon Rangers concert is a ticketed event. Concert tickets on sale via Carolina Performing Arts.

See more details and schedule below. We look forward to seeing you at UNC!

Friday, November 11, 2016

TBA — AFTERNOON WORKSHOP w/ Steep Canyon Rangers; Person Hall

5 pm — EXHIBIT OPENING: “Folk Music on Overdrive: Bluegrass Music in the Southern Folklife Collection” with music by Alice Gerrard; 4th Floor, Southern Folklife Collection, Wilson Special Collections Library

7 pm — LECTURE: Concerts in Context: A Pre-Concert Lecture Series
Jocelyn Neal, Associate Chair, Department of Music, and
W. Fitzhugh Brundage, Chair, Department of History; Gerrard Hall

8 pm — CONCERT: Steep Canyon Rangers w/ special guest the Carolina Bluegrass Band — Memorial Hall (Ticketed)

Saturday, November 12, 2016


Pleasants Family Assembly Room, 2nd floor, Wilson Special Collections Library

8:45 am — COFFEE

– Jordan Laney (Virginia Tech): “What’s Cooking in Kathleen’s Kitchen? Exploring Feminized Performances and Spaces in Bluegrass Festivals,”
– Erica Fedor (UNC Chapel Hill): “Sounding Out Against HB2: Music and Protest in Local North Carolina Perspectives”
– Respondent: C. Joti Rockwell, Associate Professor of Music (Pomona College)

10-10:30 am — Joseph Decosimo (UNC Chapel Hill): “‘This Train Has Got Two Tracks, and We’re Just on One’: Navigating Bluegrass/Old-Time Boundaries in Southeast Tennessee”

10:45 am-12 pm — PANEL: Bluegrass on Record
Dave Freeman (County and Rebel Records), Marian Leighton Levy (Rounder Records), and Ken Irwin (Rounder Records), and Barry Poss (Sugar Hill Records), with Allison Hussey (Associate Music Editor, INDY Week), moderator

12-1:15 pm — LUNCH (on your own)

1:30-2:15 pm — C. Joti Rockwell, Associate Professor of Music (Pomona College): “Acousticism’s Electric Roots”

2:15-3:45 pm — PANEL: Writing Bluegrass/Bluegrass Writers
Fred Bartenstein, Jack Bernhardt, Tommy Goldsmith, and Penny Parsons, with Art Menius, moderator

4-5 pm — KEYNOTE: Robert S. Cantwell, Professor Emeritus, Department of American Studies (UNC Chapel Hill)

6-8 pm — CLOSING SOCIAL: The Grass Cats, Linda’s Downbar, 203 E Franklin Street, Chapel Hill

From Tobacco Road to the Broadway Strip: remembering John D. Loudermilk

P-20418/2_John D. Loudermilk in his studio, Southern Folklife Collection_UNC Chapel Hill

Loudermilk in the Studio, in Image Folder P-20418/1, JOHN D. LOUDERMILK COLLECTION (20418), SOUTHERN FOLKLIFE COLLECTION

John D. Loudermilk, Jr. composing, recording, and working in his project studio is how we like to remember the North Carolina born singer, songwriter, performer, and producer. We scanned the image above from the John D. Loudermilk Collection (20418)  after spending some time looking through the photographs documenting Loudermilk’s remarkable career in country and pop music. Loudermilk died on September 21 at his home in Tennessee at the age of 82.

P-20418/2_John D. Loudermilk in his studio, Southern Folklife Collection_UNC Chapel HillBorn and raised in Durham, and a cousin of Ira and Charlie Loudermilk (better known as the Louvin Brothers), John D. Loudermilk started his music career under the pseudonym Johnny Dee (the “D” in his name does not stand for anything). Loudermilk’s mother learned to play the guitar while serving as a missionary in Cherokee and taught her young son how to play so that he could join her with the Salvation Army band gatherings at Durham’s Five Points. By age 13, Loudermilk appeared weekly on the “Little Johnny Dee” radio show on WTIK singing country hits. After graduating from Durham High School in 1954, Loudermilk attended Campbell University and was known as an adept local musician performing with with a variety of different groups playing across popular music styles. He recorded novelty songs under the name of “Ebe Sneezer” with “The Epidemics,” Johnny Dee_45rpmsharpening his songwriting skills while finding a niche with sugary teen pop like  “A-plus in Love,” released on Colonial Records, a Chapel Hill label owned and operated by Orville B. Campbell. Loudermilk is backed by some of Colonial’s best session musicians, Asheboro’s Bluenotes with Joe Tanner on the Guitar,  

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1954 Durham High school graduation program, in Folder 250, John D. Loudermilk Collection (20418), Southern Folklife Collection

While working as a set painter at Durham television station WTVD, another rising country music star, George Hamilton IV, heard a sacharrine sweet pop number penned by Loudermilk, “A Rose and a Baby Ruth,” and recorded it for Colonial Records in 1956. The song was a hit for Hamilton and for Loudermilk, launching both of their careers.

Loudermilk continued to sing and record his own songs throughout his career; however, he is primarily known for his work as a songwriter. After scoring another hit in 1956 when Eddie Cochran sang Loudermilk’s tune “Sitting on the Balcony,” his musical path was set. In 1958, Loudermilk moved to Nashville, where he was hired as Chet Atkins’s assistant. After a brief period with Cedarwood Publishing, Loudermilk spent the 1960s writing for the publishing behemoth Acuff-Rose, founded by country star Roy Acuff and songwriter Fred Rose in 1942.

One of his most popular songs and a 1964 hit for British band the Nashville Teens, is the semi-autobiographical “Tobacco Road.” It has been recorded by a huge range of artist including Lou Rawls, Hank Williams Jr, David Lee Roth, Shawn Colvin, and many more. We particularly love thisunexpectedly funky 1978 version by Richie Lecea (SFC 45-5754)

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  Over 300 Loudermilk songs have been recorded by over 1,000 artists in the last 60 years. His song “Abilene” was another hit for George Hamilton IV in 1963 and became a country music staple. Listen to the recording by Sonny James with his Tennessee State Prison Band from a 1977 Columbia 45 rpm disc, call number 45-5543 in the Southern Folklife Collection:

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Another hit, “Indian Reservation,” originally recorded by Marvin Rainwater in 1959, the went to the top of the charts when released by Paul Revere and the Raiders in 1971. The song laments the forced removal of Native Americans from tribal lands to reservations and Loudermilk was honored with the first Cherokee Medal of Honor in 1999.

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During the 1960s and 1970s, Loudermilk became one of the most prolific of the Nashville songwriters; his songs were recorded by Roy Acuff Jr., Ernie Ashworth, Chet Atkins, Glen Campbell, Johnny Cash, the Everly Brothers, Marianne Faithfull, George Hamilton IV, Stonewall Jackson, Robert Mitchum, the Nashville Teens, Paul Revere & the Raiders, Sue Thompson, Johnny Tillotson, Tracey Ullman, Bobby Vee, Porter Wagoner, and others.Here’s a favorite Chet Atkins tune, written by Loudermilk, from SFC 45-5570. 

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   Loudermilk was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Association International’s Hall of Fame in 1976. As a sign he had truly made it in country music, Loudermilk appeared on Hee Haw in 1981.

Hee Haw P-20418/2_John D. Loudermilk in his studio, Southern Folklife Collection_UNC Chapel Hill

In addition to maintaining his songwriting career, Loudermilk also actively supported folk and country music through his participation in folk festivals. He participated in a number of tours as part of Southern Folk Cultural Revival Project, an organization created by Anne Romaine and Bernice Johnson Reagon dedicated to presenting black and white traditional musicians together on stage. He produced albums by a number of artists recording traditional music, including a 1980 album by Chet Atkins and Doc Watson.

Throughout his career, Loudermilk also worked with young artists, providing opportunities to record as well as support of musicians he saw as unique. In 1966, he saw a young group called the Allman Joys, led by brothers Duane and Greg, perform at a small Nashville club called the Briar Patch. He invited the group to the studio to cut some sides, one of which “Spoonful” became a regional hit. P-20418/2_John D. Loudermilk and Duane Allman, Southern Folklife Collection_UNC Chapel Hill

Loudermilk and Duane Allman, from P20418/2_John D. Loudermilk Collection (20418), Southern FOlklife COllection, UnC Chapel Hill

with a telescope P-20418/2_John D. Loudermilk in his studio, Southern Folklife Collection_UNC Chapel HillAs the 1980s wore on, Loudermilk turned his attention to other interests including ethnomusicology and meteorology. The John D. Loudermilk collection (20418) includes papers, photographs, audio recordings, posters, and artifacts, including a paper dress with from 1957 with the Baby Ruth printed on the side. Papers consist of sheet music, newspaper clippings and other memorabilia, correspondence, and other printed materials. Besides those included in this post, photographs include images of John D. Loudermilk alone or with others, as well as a few images related to album covers. or venues at which Loudermilk made appearances. Audio recordings in the collection include 45s, 78s, LPs, acetate discs, 8-track tapes, cassette tapes, CDs, and a reel-to-reel tape.

While he moved to Nashville early in his career, Loudermilk always kept North Carolina close to his heart. We leave you with his celebration the trials and tribulations of life on I-40 from his 1965 album, John D. Loudermilk Sings a Collection of the Most Unusual Songs. Remember be careful out there out on Interstate 40, we’ll see you on the road. 

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David Massengill at SFC September 15


Please join us at Southern Foklife Collection for a very special performance by Folk singer, songwriter, and storyteller David Massengill on September 15, 6-7 p.m., in the Pleasants Family Assembly Room at UNC’s Wilson Special Collections Library. The event is free and open to the public.

Massengill creates “story songs” deeply rooted in folk traditions, while incorporating keen observations of modern American life. He graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in the mid-1970s and moved to New York shortly after for Greenwich Village’s notable folk scene. Massengill’s songs have been covered and recorded by Joan Baez, The Roches, Nanci Griffith, and Dave Van Ronk.

In preparation for Massengill’s visit, we have been revisiting some of his performances recorded and distributed via Fast Folk Musical Magazine, a remarkable monthly publication featuring a complete LP of live recordings by artists from the Folk City and Songwriter’s Exchange scenes in New York in the early 1980s. Enjoy a couple of clips from one of our favorite Massengill compositions, “My Name Joe” and an early piece off one of the earliest Fast Folk releases, “Down Derry Down”

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Please join us tomorrown night!


Lacquer disc of the week: Dorothea Joan Moser, “Swannanoa Tunnel”

FD20005_537_Dorothea Joan Moser_Artus Moser Papers_Southern Folklife Collection

Excited to walk into the John M. Rivers recording studio at the Southern Folklife Collection this afternoon and observe the transfer of lacquer disc, FD-20005/537 from the Artus Moser Papers (20005). Possibly recorded to provide supplementary materials for folklorist Dorothea Joan Moser’s Fulbright scholarship application, we were excited to hear Moser perform an acapella version of “Swannanoa Tunnel,” a tune we were only familiar with as performed by Bascom Lamar Lunsford. Moser’s version may be closer to that sung by African American convicts that were conscripted to perform the dangerous work of digging the tunnel. By the tunnel’s completion in 1879, 125 men had lost their lives to cave-ins, mudslides, and mistreatment.

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Dr. Ralph Stanley, 1927-2016

pf-20009_121_Stanley Brothers_Mike Seeger Collection_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC

Today we are mourning the loss of another one of the greats, Dr. Ralph Stanley. There are a number of excellent obituaries and remembrances of Stanley across the news today and we would encourage you to read about Stanley’s remarkable life and career. Considering the mark he left on the world of traditional music and popular culture, It is no surprise that Stanley is such a prominent figure in the Southern Folklife Collection and we wanted to share a few of those items with you today in tribute. The photos above are from the Mike Seeger Collection (20009), featuring the Carters and the Clinch Mountain Boys at Valley View country music park in Hellam, PA in 1956. Another favorite from the Seeger Collection features the Carters with Roscoe Holcomb on tour in Bremen, Germany in 1966. pf-20009_122_02_r_Mike Seeger Collection_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC

I couldn’t help but pull out some of the Rich-R-Tone 78 rpm discs from the SFC sound recordings. Recorded in 1947, these Stanley Brothers recordings, their first commercial recordings as a group, remain some of my favorite bluegrass of all time. Listen to “The Jealous Lover,” from 78-16252, and the classic “Little Maggie,” from 78-16253, here:

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18_16252_78_16253_Stanley Brothers_Rich_R_Tone_Southern Folklife Collection_UNCYou can listen to live performances throughout Stanley’s career, from country music parks, to radio performances, clubs like the Ash Grove, college tours, and more from recordings i in the Mike Seeger Collection (20009) and the Eugene Earle Collection (20376) in particular, but there are numerous recordings across the SFC collections. If you would like to hear more, please contact or visit us at the SFC. We were very lucky to welcome Ralph Stanley to The Wilson Library in 2006 for an extra special conversation and concert. Sitting 10 feet away from a legend in a special collections reading room as he sings acapella is something that we will never forget. Rest in peace, Ralph, I’m sure you and Carter’s harmonies sound even sweeter now.

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Ralph Stanley and His Clinch Mountain Boys, P1545 and P1548, in the John Edwards Memorial Foundation Records (20001), southern folklife Collection, UNC Chapel HIll

Video for your Memorial Day Weekend

Greetings from the Audiovisual Preservation and Access team!

Starting today we have another fresh batch of streaming video, so I thought I’d share some highlights gathered from my time reviewing the footage.

Click on any of the images below to view the video they were captured from. All other content mentioned can be found by going directly to the collection link and searching the collection finding aid.

Mike Seeger Collection (20009): Video from various music and dance events in Mt. Airy, NC, an interview with Snuffy Jenkins, recording of Almeda Riddle, and a 1975 broadcast performance with Hazel Dickens, Alice Gerrard, Mike Seeger and Tracey Schwartz

Screen Shot 2016-05-27 at 1.07.01 PMAlmeda Riddle and Mike Seeger deep in thought at Almeda’s home in Greers Ferry, AR on May 3, 1984 (VT-20009/137)


William R. Ferris Collection (20367): Interviews with Eudora Welty, Cleanth Brooks, Pete Seeger, and James “Son” Thomas, concert footage of Bobby Rush, and video documentation of Dr. Ferris’ trip down the Mississippi river aboard the Delta Queen

Screen Shot 2016-05-27 at 1.16.20 PMBobby Rush in concert at the Hoka in Oxford, MS on July 25, 1987 (VT-20367/31)


Anne Romaine (20304): Various appearances and concerts with Anne Romaine on auto harp and footage of the Blue Ridge Mountain Dancers

Screen Shot 2016-05-27 at 1.24.35 PM“Take me for a ride in your car car” – Anne Romaine performs for Langly Park-McCormick Elementary school children (VT-20304/14)


Archie Green (20002): Video of the Archie Green Symposium held at UNC-Chapel Hill in 2009 and an interview with Archie Green on labor culture in 2001

Screen Shot 2016-05-27 at 2.11.22 PMArchie Green talking about laborlore in San Francisco on September 20, 2001 (VT-20002/43)


J Taylor Doggett (20286): Performance by T-Bone Pruitt, tribute to John Tanner, various Five Royales television appearances, and video of the 1992 North Carolina Folk Heritage Awards Ceremony

Screen Shot 2016-05-27 at 1.36.55 PMThe dedication of Five Royales Drive on August 23, 1991 in Winston-Salem, NC (VT-20286/23)

In addition to the 4 collections listed above, we have also made available streaming content from the George Hamilton IV (20410) collection, which can be viewed online if you are on campus here at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. This collection contains a number of appearances, interviews, and performances with George Hamilton IV, as well as a handful of Grand Ole Opry shows.

Earlier this month we began streaming videos from the Nancy Kalow and Wayne Martin collection (20047) and the Nancy Kalow Collection (20113), which you can read about in our last post from Aaron here.

Enjoy your weekend! Signing off with another one of my favorites:

Screen Shot 2016-05-27 at 2.28.52 PMCorey Harris, July 1994 (VT-20009/150, Mike Seeger Collection)


SFC videos of the week: Bertie Dickens and Enoch Rutherford

20113_VT0005_0001_Nancy Kalow Collection_Videotape 5: Bert Dickens, Ennice, N.C., 31 January 1987, 3 of 3

You read the title correctly, “SFC videos of the week.” We have been slowly rolling out streaming archival videos held in the Southern Folklife Collection, but now there are just too many not to share widely. These first two videos, Videotape VT-20113/5 featuring Bert Dickens (above) and Videotape VT-20113/8 Enoch Rutherford (below) are part of the Nancy Kalow Collection (20113).  To go directly to the streaming video click on the images in this post or visit the finding aid for the finding aid for the Nancy Kalow Collection (20113) here.

The Nancy Kalow Collecion collection comprises 29 videotapes of various aspects of North Carolina folklife recorded by Kalow between 1987 and 1991. These two tapes, Videotape VT-20113/5 are part of a series documenting traditional North Carolina musicians that Kalow made in association with musician and founder of The Old-Time Herald Alice Gerrard as part of a project for the North Carolina Arts Council. Originally recorded on Hi-8 video, digitization and streaming of these videos and others is made possible through support from a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Old-time banjo player and North Carolina Heritage Award recipient, Bertie (Bert) Caudill Dickens spent most of her life the community of Ennice in Alleghany County, North Carolina. The video was recorded in her home on Jan 31, 1987.

Recordings of Enoch Rutherford were also made on January 31, 1987 at his home in Independence, Virginia (for an excellent article on Enoch Rutherford, see this remembrance written by musician Martha Spencer in 2013 from Mountain Music Magazine). Accompanied by Alice Gerrard and Andy Cahan, Rutherford’s hard-driving clawhammer style is in full force. The versions of “Sugar Hill” and “Whoa, Mule” on this tape are spectacular (as noted by an enthusiastic audience member off camera hollering support). 20113_VT0005_0001_Nancy Kalow Collection_Videotape 8: Enoch Rutherford, Independence, Va., 31 January 1987, 3 of 3

Other musicians documented in the collection include Thomas Burt, Calvin Cole, Walter Raleigh Babson, Joe and Odell Thompson, Piedmont blues musicians George Higgs and James Bud Powell, and John Rector. There are also tapes documenting a 1987 performance at the UNC Forest Theatre by storyteller Steven Henegar and Uncle Eli’s Quilting Bee, an annual event that has taken place in Alamance County since 1931 and which Kalow recorded on 7 April 1988 at Eli Whitney Recreation Center.

Stay tuned to Field Trip South for more streaming media updates or browse our collections and finding aids through our website here.


Record of the week: Red Clay Ramblers with Fiddlin’ Al McCanless

FC1581_Red Clay Ramblers and with Fiddlin' Al McCanless_Southern Folklife Collection_001

left photo, April 1974, Chapel Hill, NC, by Chuck Lewis, l to R: Jim Watson, tommy Thompson, Mike Craver, Bill HIcks; right photo, March 1973, Durham, NC, by John Menapace, L to R: Tommy Thompson, Al McCanless, Jim Watson, Bill Hicks

Thinking about this record this morning, the Red Clay Ramblers’ first, with the Fiddlin’ Al McCanless released in 1974 on Folkways records, FC1581 in the Southern Folklife Collection. Growing out of the Durham old-time music scene previously dominated by the instrumental dance music of the Hollow Rock and Fuzzy Mountain string bands, the early Red Clay Ramblers–Jim Watson, Tommy Thompson, Al McCanless,Bill Hicks, and Mike Craver–looked to experiment more with style, instrumentation and song selection than their predecessors and forged their own “old-timey” sound based on what they wanted to hear.

FC1581_Al McCanless and Jim Watson_Southern Folklife Collection_left photo, April 1974, by Chuck Lewis; right photo, March 1973, Durham, NC, by John MenapaceRecorded over 40 years ago, the Ramblers approach to old-time music on this first record still sounds remarkably subversive to me. Not many groups have been able to walk the line between innovation and creative imitation and come out with something that sounds completely their own. We are lucky to have a rare opportunity to hear two of these performers tonight in Chapel Hill. Al McCanless and Jim Watson will be joining together for a set at the same physical location where the photo of the left of the record above was taken, the Nightlight, formerly Cats Cradle.

Watson and McCanless will be followed by the Down Hill Strugglers, an active band based in Brooklyn who are comitted to a similar aesthetic and approach to performance as the early Red Clay Ramblers, and perhaps a more direct influence, the New Lost City Ramblers (the Down Hill Strugglers have performed and recorded with NLCR founder John Cohen).

Show starts at 8PM tonight at Nightlight. 405 1/2 West Rosemary, Chapel Hill. Fans of old-time music will not want to miss.

In memory of Eddie Watkins

OP20398_63_Ron Liberti Collection_Polvo CD release 1994_Southern Folklife Collection_001

Last week the news of Eddie Watkins’ sudden passing circulated through the Triangle music community and beyond. We have lost many musical giants in 2016; here’s hoping Bowie, Merle, Phife, Billy Paul, Papa Wemba, Steve Young, and Prince are all enjoying a big pancake party right now. There will be room at the table for Eddie Watkins as well.

A lifelong musician, first with local legends (as much as that descriptor might confound them) Polvo and later with Dr. Powerful and Strangers in the Valley of the Kings, Watkins touched as many lives in his roles as a chef, librarian, friend and father as detailed in a recent article by Danny Hooley in the Indy and celebrated on WXYC Chapel Hill 89.3FM “Thursday Night Feature” on April 28. Watkins may not be as famous as those listed above, but his absence cuts as deep and his impact on the expressive culture of the Triangle community is equally profound.

Parts of Polvo’s early career and the musical communities and scenes where they operated are documented in the Southern Folklife Collection. These early Polvo posters made by Ron Liberti, whose band Pipe played the CD relase for the stunning 1994 EP Celebrate the New Dark Age (Merge) at Cats Cradle (then located on Franklin St. in Chapel Hill), call numbers OP-20398/63 and OP/20398/70 in the Ron Liberti Collection (20398). Also on the bill that night, Shiny Beast, whose drummer, artist Brian Walsby, would later replace Watkins in Polvo for a short time. Considering three of the four original members of Polvo formed at UNC, the basketball imagery is no surprise (guitarist Dave Brylawski has spoken about his love for basketball before) and reflects Polvo’s grounding with a particular sense of place even when their music demonstrated far ranging global influences.

Part of the Merge Records roster since their “El Cid” split 7″ with Erectus Monotone in 1992 (that included the track “Anything’s Fine” by Erectus Polvotone), Polvo can also be found in the Merge Records Collection (20473). Besides master tapes, test pressings, and videos (including VT20479/162, Superchunk, Polvo, Taintskins, Grifters: Live at the Antenna Club, Memphis, Tenn., 5 September 1992) there are documents detailing the artwork change for Today’s Active Lifestyles (Merge, 1993), artwork samples for other releases, correspondence, tour documentation, and even a mastering note from the Southern Folklife Collection’s own Brian Paulson in Folder 50. Anyone interested to see more from the Merge or Ron Libarti collections or other materials about our vibrant musical communities, please visit the Southern Folklife Collection or contact us at The Wilson Library. We offer our sincerest condolences to Eddie Watkin’s loved ones, family, and friends.

OP20398_70_Ron Liberti Collection_Polvo_Southern Folklife Collection_002 - Copy

78 of the week: Arthur Smith and His Dixie Liners

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A side from SFC 78 call no. 78-17489 for a rainy Saturday.

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