Katie Phar: Songbird of the Wobblies

Phar’s Autograph | Green 385

During my work cataloging the many editions of the IWW’s Little Red Songbook in the Archie Green Collection, one particular autograph stood out and intrigued me time and time again. The Green Collection holds 13 different items—all songbooks of some sort—with the autograph of Katie Phar. Little is known about her and not much has been written on her or her role in the IWW. Phar joined the Industrial Workers of the World around the age of 11. She was often referred to as the “IWW songbird” or the “Songbird of the Wobblies.” A young Katie Phar wrote to IWW martyr Joe Hill during his imprisonment about their shared love of music and its importance to the labor movement. A handful of images of Katie Phar have been digitized by the University of Washington Libraries, but the details on Katie Phar and her life remain relatively few.

Fifth edition of Little Red Songbook with Katie Phar’s autograph | Green 432d c.2

In the twenty-eighth edition of the Little Red Songbook, published in July of 1945, I found a page devoted to Katie Phar. With a short tribute and an image in memory of Katie Phar, published just after her death in 1943, the Little Red Songbook paid its respects to one of its most ardent supporters of its music. Using this information and with a little help from census records and city directories, I was able to create an authority record for the voice that inspired so many members of the IWW “with her songs, her high courage” (Songs of the workers, 1945, page 4). City directories for Seattle in the early 1900s revealed Katie’s steady employment as a cashier for a theater, before she later devoted herself to the entertainment industry, presumably referring to her many hours spent singing for Wobblies and adding to the morale of the labor movement.

Tribute to Katie Phar in the twenty-eighth edition of the Little Red Songbook, issued July, 1945 | Green 451

While these autographs may mark the songbooks as her own, or they may simply be autographs for those who heard her sing and lead the singing at many an IWW meeting, Wilson Library also holds some fascinating traces of Katie Phar in its archival holdings. In the Archie Green Papers of the Southern Folklife Collection, there are three song scrapbooks related to Katie Phar. Two of the scrapbooks were compiled by Katie Phar herself, and the third was compiled by Herbert (Herb) Tulin, a prolific songwriter and member of the IWW.

An example of a labor song written down by Katie Phar in her 1926 notebook. The tune designation was added in blue ink by IWW song scholar John Neuhaus | Archie Green Papers, 1944-2009, Folder 6583

Pages from an undated song scrapbook that belonged to Katie Phar. | Folder 6584

It is in Tulin’s scrapbook that the importance of Katie Phar to the labor movement can be seen. Herb Tulin compiled a scrapbook of clippings and mimeographs of his songs for Katie Phar as a Christmas present in 1928.

Herbert Tulin’s presentation inscription to Katie Phar. The scrapbook is filled with songs written by Tulin. | Folder 6585

He writes:

To Katie Phar,

As you turn the pages o’er to sing
May your spirits soar the higher
To let your heart be light and on the wing
Remembering those you helped inspire.

Songs written by Herbert Tulin about Katie Phar | Folder 6585

The two final pages of the scrapbook are filled with the songs that Tulin wrote for Katie and reveal much about her and her role in the labor movement. These songs describe Katie Phar as a “bright star,” “an inspiration,” “a Rebel-girl,” and one who “lift[s] your thots to nobler things.” Tulin writes in one song: “Her voice brings joy to all who hear her sing.” Katie Phar’s voice and song-leading was an inspiration to many in the IWW and the greater labor movement, as they aspired to be more like her and “make the world more fair,” with these scrapbooks revealing more about her life and her role in the Industrial Workers of the World.

Masters of Cajun Accordion, Sunday Oct. 1

Getting super excited for the Masters of Cajun Accordion event coming up this weekend at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro. Tickets are available now. Jo-El Sonnier and Steve Riley are two of the finest button box players around. Be sure to come early to hear Professor Barry Jean-Ancelet present You can also pickup the Southern Folklife Collection’s newest release, a remastered reissue of Goldband records classic Swampland Jewels.  More information below. Follow the SFC on Facebook and Instagram to get ready for the show and hear some deep cuts from Jo-El’s discography over the next couple days. We’ll see you on Sunday!

Concert is ticketed: $17.50 Public, $26.50 CD Bundle, $30.50 LP Bundle.
(CD/LP bundles include a copy of the record 
Swampland Jewels.)
Tickets available at artscenterlive.org or (919) 929-2787

 

 

Reception and lecture are free and open to the public.
5:30 p.m. Reception
6:00 p.m. Lecture: Professor Barry Jean Ancelet, University of Louisiana, Lafayette
7:30 p.m. Concert: Jo-El Sonnier with Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys

 

SFC Hits 20,000 Streaming Recordings!

 

One of our first batches being prepped for shipment in February 2016

With the more recent addition of video content and the increase in production in our audio studios since starting our Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant in August 2015, there’s a lot to explore online. Since it might be overwhelming to know where to start, I thought I’d share my top 5 countdown of memorable moments from watching and listening over the last couple of months.

5. The time Dr. William R. Ferris panned across the Mississippi and framed the New Orleans skyline, from the vantage point of what is now the Crescent City Park in the Bywater (one of my favorite places in N.O!), while documenting his trip on the Delta Queen in 1987 (VT-20367/24).
Starts around the 33 minute mark
Inline image 2
Delta Queen, 17-24 April 1987: tape 1 of 4
Dr. William R. Ferris Collection, 20367
Video8

4. Finding this disc in the stacks during a conservation survey and spending many weeks curious about its contents before finally having it digitized. I’d be very curious if anyone knows the whereabouts of this band. (FD-20245/836)
Chicken Way’s “Classy Lady ”
Goldband Recording Corporation Collection, 20245
Instantaneous disc

3. When James “Son” Thomas performed with George Thorogood and Ron Smith, and the video switcher employed some creative video effects (VT-20466/3)
Inline image 1
James “”Son Ford”” Thomas with George Thorogood and Ron Smith, 1978
Robert D. Bethke Collection, 20466
U-Matic

2. This SFC department favorite featuring Hazel Dickens, Alice Gerrard, Mike Seeger, Tracey Schwartz and a beautiful sunny backdrop (VT-20006/2). Bonus music videos by unidentified bands at the end!

Woman Alive: Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard with Mike Seeger and Tracey Schwartz, November 1975
Alice Gerrard Collection, 20006
VHS dub from unknown format

LAST, BUT NOT LEAST….

1. When this nightmarish Barney joined a Mt. Airy dance contest (VT-20009/272).
The beloved dinosaur from our imagination appears around 5:20 minute markInline image 4
Mt Airy Fiddlers convention, dance contest Rufus Kasey, Molln part 2, 1997
Mike Seeger Collection, 20009
Video8

Happy Field Tripping!

Between Midnight and Day: The Photography of Dick Waterman

Between Midnight and Day: The Photography of Dick Waterman, flier featuring Buddy Guy5:30 p.m. Reception and exhibit opening
4th Floor Reading Room

6:00 p.m. Film screening of Two Trains Runnin’
Pleasants Family Assembly Room

7:20 p.m. Q&A with Dick Waterman, moderated by author Peter Guralnick
Pleasants Family Assembly Room

The exhibit Between Midnight and Day: The Photography of Dick Waterman, is set to open September 26 in Wilson Library, featuring Waterman’s iconic photographs of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Son House, Howlin’ Wolf, Janis Joplin, and the Rolling Stones.

Dick Waterman played a key role in the folk revival of the 1960s, helping to revive the career of Son House and managing many prominent blues artists including Skip James, Mississippi John Hurt, and Bonnie Raitt.

Join us for the exhibit opening which will also feature a screening of the Sam Pollard documentary Two Trains Runnin’, a film centered on an astonishing historical coincidence: on June 21, 1964, two lost giants of the Delta blues were located and three civil rights activists disappeared. A Q&A with Waterman will follow.

Roots of Fiddle Symposium

Red Clay Ramblers (Chapel Hill Stars Calendar)

Red Clay Ramblers from the Chapel Hill Stars Calendar (Dave Robert Papers, 20504)

A Roots of Fiddle Symposium starts tonight at Nightlight featuring a number of friends of the Southern Folklife Collection. The symposium features three nights (over 4 days) of old time fiddle music at the Nightlight organized by folklorist Cece Conway. We’re excited to be able to enjoy and learn from so many excellent musicians in 3 stacked shows. The final night features CRAVER HICKS WATSON & NEWBERRY who are 3 former RED CLAY RAMBLERS (piano player Mike Craver, fiddler Bill Hicks, Jim Watson on mandolin) and award winning songwriter Joe Newberry on banjo. We pulled some items from the Dave Robert Papers (20504) in honor of this rare event. Dave Robert was the owner of the Cats Cradle when it existed at 405 1/2 West Rosemary, the current location of Nightlight. As the Ramblers were something of a house band at that venue, the symposium is an opportunity for a welcome homecoming celebration.

Above is the Red Clay Ramblers page from a unique calendar of “Chapel Hill Stars” (Red Clay Ramblers were February, in case you are curious).  We also found this monthly calendar from the Cradle, which shows the Ramblers playing at the venue virtually the same days almost 40 years ago. (Also check out that four night run of Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee! WOW!).  Details on the Roots of Fiddle Symposium are below.

September Cat's Cradle PosterThursday, September 21
7:30-8:45 round robin featuring: JON NEWLIN, PETER WHITE, JOSEPH DECOSIMO, BOB HERRING, CARY MOSKOVITZ, ANDREW SMALL, and ASHLEE WATKINS

8:45-10:30 ANDREW SMALL and ASHLEE WATKINS with BOB HERRING – Presenting a range of traditional dance music from North Carolina and Virginia, mountain ballads, and early country songs, the New Macedon Rangers offer a fresh and compelling take on classic repertoire. The duo, comprised of Ashlee Watkins and Andrew Small, taps into the essence of traditional mountain music while also moving the tradition forward with original songs and instrumentals. Performances feature stirring vocal harmonies accompanied by driving fiddle, mandolin, banjo, and guitars.

Friday, September 22
7:30-9:30 – round robin featuring JOSEPH DECOSIMO, PETER WHITE, BOB HERRING, CARY MOSKOVITZ, JAKE BLOUNT, and TATIANA HARGREAVES.

9:30-10:30 fiddle and banjo duo TATIANA HARGREAVES & JAKE BLOUNT. Their “Reparations” CD presents tunes from Black and Native American communities as stripped-down duets for banjo, fiddle, and voice. In 2016, Jake became the first African American to win in the traditional band category at Clifftop, WV and in 2009, Tatiana was the second woman to win the Clifftop Fiddle contest.

Sunday, September 24
We’ll start with a round robin of fiddlers:
7:00-7:20 – PETER WHITE – “Native American Roots & Spanish Influences on Fiddle.” Peter teaches fiddle making at the University of New Mexico. In 1989 in Albuquerque, Peter’s fiddle shop had a shrine to NEA Heritage Fiddler Tommy Jarrell. He has a fascinating theory that New Mexico Native Americans, taught by Jesuits, may have been the first makers and players of the fiddle in this country.

7:20-7:30 – JON NEWLIN

7:30-8:10 – fiddle and banjo duo TATIANA HARGREAVES & JAKE BLOUNT. Their “Reparations” CD presents tunes from Black and Native American communities as stripped-down duets for banjo, fiddle, and voice. In 2016, Jake became the first African American to win in the traditional band category at Clifftop, WV and in 2009, Tatiana was the second woman to win the Clifftop Fiddle contest.
plus: CARY MOSKOVITZ and FIDDLIN’ AL McCANLESS !!!

8:30-10:00 – CRAVER HICKS WATSON & NEWBERRY featuring 3 original members of the RED CLAY RAMBLERS (piano player Mike Craver, fiddler Bill Hicks, Jim Watson on mandolin) and award winning songwriter Joe Newberry on banjo!!! Do not miss!!!

Record of the Week – Hopscotch Edition: Charles Rouse’s “Two is One”

Before I head off to see Run the Jewels and Kaytranada this evening at Raleigh’s Hopscotch Music Festival, we at the SFC thought we’d mark the occasion by sharing an aptly-titled tune from another funk disciple – Charles Rouse’s “Hopscotch” from his 1974 album Two is One (FC-24141). “Hopscotch” has its own link to hip-hop history in its brief appearance in the Beastie Boys’ “B-Boys Makin With the Freak Freak” from their 1994 classic Ill Communication. 

Check it out here –

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Complete Keynote Collection, Record 5- Charlie Shavers Quintet featuring Earl Hines

Despite what the name might suggest, holdings in the Southern Folklife Collection span the globe, including Japanese imports like today’s featured record (FC-21963). This the fifth volume of a rare Japanese 21-record box set released on Nippon Phonogram in 1986. The set compiles all of the jazz ever recorded for the Manhattan-based Keynote label, spanning from 1941 to 1947. This LP presents the recordings of the Charlie Shavers Quintet featuring Earl “Fatha” Hines, one of the most influential jazz pianists of his time. Among the recordings are three takes of the tune “Rosetta,” a Hines original.

Presented here is a portion of the second take, featuring portions of both Hines’ and Shavers’ solos

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Brownie McGhee – Blues

Brownie McGhee was a Tennessee-born bluesman (and very briefly an off-broadway actor) who recorded his fingerpicked delta-blues for hallowed labels such as Okeh and Savoy from the early 40’s all the way until his death in 1996. His second album Blues (FC-5898), was released on the short-lived 10-inch, 33 1/3 rpm album format by Folkways Recordings in 1955, and was accompanied by notes written by early influential jazz critic Charles Edward Smith and art by the prolific David Stone Martin

Here’s a snippet from the song “Me and Sonny,” referring to McGhee’s frequent collaborator and North Carolina native Sonny Terry —

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12″ transcription disc of the Week – Novelty Inst. Group’s “Oklahoma Stomp”

 

As we continue our dig through the Eugene Earle Collection (20376) we’ve found an outlier amongst the transcription discs of government-issued country music. This 12″, 78 rpm, transcription disc, call no. TR-20376/1948,  was originally manufactured for use in Seeburg Select-O-Matic jukeboxes that were produced in the late ’40s. The bright red color of the vinyl certainly added to the spectacle of watching the mechanism in action.
Here’s a swinging track from the record by the Novelty Inst. Group, entitled “Oklahoma Stomp”

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