Wonder what Moon Mullican song he liked?
Happy Friday everyone!
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”
Apparently yesterday was National Fried Chicken Day. We have to admit that we were caught unawares and unprepared for the celebration. Making it up today with this image from the D. Kent and Sue Meyer Thompson Collection (20479) featuring some of the world’s most studied fried chicken aficionados, Southern Culture on the Skids. Here is Rick Miller offering up snacks for appreciative fans at the Milestone in Charlotte. All photos by D. Kent Thompson.
Here’s another track from transcription disc TR-20376/1195 in the Eugene Earle Collection (20376). This 1966 promotional record for the US Army Recruiting Service features “Chime Bells” – a song by the hit country singer Warner Mack that features vocals that may best be described as “dub yodels”… definitely worth a listen.
Looking into correspondence in folder 220 from the Mike Seeger Collection (20009) today provided some fascinating reading from the desk of Dock Boggs. The letters offer numerous details into Boggs’ late recording and performing career.
I also noticed what appears to be a draft of Dock Boggs’ bio written in pencil on the back of multiple fliers advertising performances at the legendary Melrose Ave. music club, the Ash Grove. Looks like May, 1963 was a pretty awesome time to be hanging out in LA.
Archie played many roles throughout his career–folklorist, archivist, field worker, professor, and public sector advocate. His constant drive to document, archive, and curate is illustrated by his remarkable collection of work, the Archie Green Papers (20002), now housed at the Southern Folklife Collection. Archie was instrumental in the creation of the SFC as well as his advocacy and vision helped orchestrate the transfer of the John Edwards Memorial Foundation collections from UCLA to UNC Chapel Hill in 1983.
Green mentored and inspired countless ethnographers and activists. Archie was constantly engaged with the field, often interviewing fellow folklorists about their work. One interview that feels especially relevant today is one with eminent folklorist Dr. Roger D. Abrahams, who just recently passed away on June 21, 2017, SFC Audio Cassette FS-20002/11163. The interview, conducted in Austin, Texas sometime in the 1970s, while Abrahams is chair of the department and Archie is a professor, includes lots of interesting content about the Austin Cosmic Cowboy scene as well as African American folklore studied. You can hear the entire interview streaming in the SFC’s digital collections
|SFC Audio Cassette FS-20002/11163|
Archie (Aaron) Green grew up in southern California, began college at UCLA, and then transferred to the University of California at Berkeley from which he was graduated in 1939. After working in the shipyards in San Francisco, serving in the Navy in World War II, and becoming active in several labor organizations, Green returned to academia. He received his M.L.S. from the University of Illinois and his Ph.D. in folklore from the University of Pennsylvania.
Green joined the Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1960 and served there as librarian and later jointly as an instructor in the English Department until 1972. In 1973, Green took on a creative role at the Labor Studies Center in Washington, D.C., in part assisting with the Smithsonian Institution’s Festival of American Folklife and labor participation in the Bicentennial celebrations. At the same time, he was producing albums, conducting fieldwork, teaching, lecturing, and writing articles. He was active in the John Edwards Memorial Foundation (now Forum) from its inception and lobbied Congress to pass the American Folklife Foundation Act, which it did in 1976, establishing the Center for American Folklife.
Green retired as professor emeritus from the University of Texas at Austin in the early 1980s to his home in San Francisco, Calif., where he continued to work collaboratively on research and other projects with many individuals and institutions dedicated to the study of folklore and the preservation of folklife. He received an honorary degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1991. Archie Green died in March 2009.
Happy Birthday, Archie.
The Eugene Earle Collection consists of commercial and non-commercial transcription discs documenting a wide array of radio programs and individual performers from 1939 through the early 1980s. A significant portion of the collection consists of Army V-Discs and Navy V-Discs from World War II. Other transcriptions include the Ralph Emery Show; the Lawrence Welk Show; and various government-sponsored radio shows, such as Country Roads, Navy Hoedown, Sounds of Solid Country, Here’s to Veterans, Country Music Time, Country Cookin’, and Country Express.
Here’s a cut from Program no. 311 of the US Air Force’s Country Music Time, featuring prodigious thumb-pickers Jackie Phelps and Odell Martin playing the Merle Travis standard “Cannonball Rag”
A few months ago, I had the pleasure of making a research trip to The Wilson Library and the Southern Folklife Collection’s audiovisual archives. As a literary scholar whose research focuses on the intersections of literature, music, and social change, I was especially eager to review the SFC’s Highlander Research and Education Center Collection. The Highlander Folk School has served as a major hub for civil rights and labor activism since the 1930s. Under the guidance of musical directors like Zilphia Horton and Guy Carawan, the school also contributed to music’s pivotal role in the civil rights movement.
The SFC’s archives feature a range of music, stories, and interviews recorded at the school. These recordings offer insight into the kinds of hymns and music that Highlander collected and shared in its early years. Thanks to a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the work of the SFC team, many of these items are now available to stream online.
In this week’s “Field Trip South,” I wanted to share a few of the hymns and spirituals from these early recordings. Embracing the long-standing tradition of using religious music to protest worldly injustices, participants at Highlander gathered songs from across the South and arranged new adaptations. Indeed, the civil rights anthem “We Shall Overcome” came into the national spotlight thanks to collaborations between local leaders and the Highlander staff: factory workers Anna Lee Bonneau and Evelyn Risher taught a version ofthe song they’d learned on the picket line in Charleston, SC to Zilphia Horton, who rearranged the song and shared it with others. You can listen to two variations of the song, then titled “We Will Overcome,” below. These recordings were digitized from Highlander acetate discs call numbers FD-20361/750 and FD-20361/754. Though these recordings focus on a single verse, the verses were often listed and performed together, as reflected in the songbooks Highlander produced. Some of these songbooks are included in the SFC’s Guy and Candie Carawan Collection (20008):
Like “We Will Overcome,” most songs in these early recordings trace their roots to African American spirituals and hymns. Though many of the lyrics are quite similar to earlier versions, Horton and her collaborators often adapted the songs to fit contemporary concerns. The school routinely emphasized this adaptive practice, as you can hear in the prefatory remarks to 1937 broadcast of the spiritual “No More Mourning”:
In another recording, Horton pairs “No More Mourning” with the hymn “Farewell to All Below”:
By abridging “Farewell to All Below” to the opening verse which stresses “this land is not the land for me,” Horton highlights the shared concern of the two hymns: that the world leaves little space for many people, particularly the formerly enslaved and their descendants, who taught the songs to Horton. Coupled together, “Farewell” and “No More Mourning” stress the isolation of the present and gaze towards a better future. With the affirmation “before I’ll be a slave / I’ll be buried in my grave,” the song also expresses a determination to act. Furthermore, the declaration “I’ll take my place with those who loved and fought before” calls up and celebrates the emancipatory power of joining together. It is precisely these concerns that echo throughout the recordings in this collection: a balance of rallying optimism and engaged critique.
These are, of course, only a few examples from the SFC’s extensive collection of materials from and about Highlander. For more history and music from the Highlander school, check out the numerous streaming links available through the Highlander Collection finding aid. You can also browse the Guy and Candie Carawan Collection for more insight into Highlander’s later years, or take a look at Aaron’s previous post about Guy Carawan’s work at Highlander and across the South.
In consideration of the #librariesofinstagram‘s themed #westernwednesdays, the Southern Folklife Collection pulled some of our favorite cowboy images from the John Edwards Memorial Foundation Records (20001), including this picture postcard featuring Big Slim the Lone Cowboy, aka Harry C. McCauliffe, call number PF20001_208. Likely born near Bluefield, WV around 1899, McCauliffe had a career as a cowboy and railroad man before appearing on the radio in Pittsburgh in 1929. He recorded for Decca as “Big Slim Aliff,” notably making the first recording of country standard “Footprints in the Snow.”
In 1937, McCauliffe joined WWVA and remained there for most of the remainder of his career. Along with the fine portrait of McCauliffe, the postcard is also an endorsement for Coco Wheats, a the first flavored-hot cereal introduced by Indiana company Little Crow Foods in 1930. So thanks to everybody for your continued support of Big Slim and Coco Wheats.
Explore the complex cultural history of American folk music with a free lecture and concert on March 9 from the Southern Foklife Collection at Wilson Library.
Ronald D. Cohen, author and professor emeritus of history at Indiana University Northwest, will deliver the talk “Depression Folk: Grassroots Music and Left-Wing Politics in 1930s America.” Cohen will discuss how the interplay of musicians, government agencies, and record companies had a lasting impact on the decade and beyond.
Following the lecture, old-time string band The Down Hill Strugglers will perform. The trio—Walker Shepard, Jackson Lynch, and Eli Smith—uses folk instruments to bring old rural America to listeners.
The talk will begin at 5 p.m in the Pleasants Family Assembly Room. The concert will follow immediately at 6 p.m
Depression Folk: Grassroots Music and Left-Wing Politics in 1930s America
Thursday, March 9, 2017
5 p.m. — Book Talk by Ronald D. Cohen
6 p.m. — Concert by the Down Hill Strugglers
Wilson Special Collections Library, Pleasants Family Assembly Room
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Free and open to the public
Information: Liza Terll, Friends of the Library, (919) 548-1203