Fred Cockerham and Tommy Jarrell, 8 July 1971, 16mm film by Blanton Owen

This morning, I had the great privilege of inspecting some 16mm film with AV Archivist Anne Wells and AV Conservator Erica Titkemeyer. The film is part of an unfinished documentary project created by folklorist Blanton Owen and features Tommy Jarrell and Fred Cockerham playing music and talking on the front porch at the Cockerham home in Low Gap, North Carolina on July 8, 1971. For more details see the Blanton Owen Collection (20027) finding aid. The collection includes an edited ten minute segment that Owen created from original elements. This unsynced segment consists of a 16mm magnetic soundtrack (F-20027/9) and a silent 16mm reversal print (F-20027/10), so we put the elements up on a Steenbeck flatbed editor to review the contents and shoot some quick cell phone video for documentation.

Owen recorded the image on 16mm film and recorded the audio on 1/4″ open reel using Nagra sync-sound. Owen then transferred these original 1/4″ open reels to 16mm magnetic soundtrack for editing purposes. The series includes both these original 1/4″ open reel audio recordings (FT-20027/16006-16011) and 16mm magnetic soundtrack film elements (F-20027/8-9) along with the original 16mm picture elements and outtakes (F-20027/1-7, F-20027/10), and field notes associated with the master 1/4″ open reel audio recordings (Folder 1).

The film is not currently digitized for access, however, the quality of the image and the sound recordings are such that we could not help but share.


NC Folk Heritage Awards Wikipedia-edit-a-thon, April 5

wikieditathonOne week from today!

Wikipedia edit-a-thon: North Carolina Heritage Award winners

Tuesday, April 5, 5:00 to 8:45 p.m.

Wilson Library, UNC-Chapel Hill

On April 5, the North Carolina Collection and the Southern Folklife Collection will host a Wikipedia edit-a-thon, with support from PineCone and the North Carolina Arts Council, an agency of the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. Join us for an evening of social Wikipedia editing in Wilson Library.

We’ll use collection materials to create, update, and improve articles about North Carolina Heritage Award winners, in anticipation of the Heritage Awards ceremony presented by PineCone and the North Carolina Arts Council:

Everyone is welcome, even if you’ve never edited Wikipedia before. Staff will be on hand to help with Wikipedia edits, find books and articles on topics that interest you, and to help you with Wikipedia edits. We’ll provide a list of suggested topics, but participants may pursue any topic they choose.

We’ll have free pizza (and a few salad options) to fuel your research and we’ll be raffling off prizes throughout the evening. 

The event will begin with a brief workshop on Wikipedia editing, but feel free to arrive and leave whenever it suits you.

Please bring a laptop if possible.

More details and RSVP at our Facebook event or on the Wikipedia page at

This edit-a-thon is part of a series that will be hosted by UNC Libraries in March and April.

George Hamilton IV “Behind the Iron Curtain”

"The International Ambassador of Country Music" (BILLBOARD MAGAZINE) in Red Square, Moscow, Soviet Union, March 1974.

“The International Ambassador of Country Music” (BILLBOARD MAGAZINE) in Red Square, Moscow, Soviet Union, March 1974.

Looking into the George Hamilton IV Collection (20410) recently, we were reminded that this month is the 42nd Anniversary of George Hamilton IV being the first performer to take American folk-country music “Behind The Iron Curtain.” His 1974 performances and lecture concerts at the Palace of Railway Workers and Moscow University were the first for an American country music performer. Other “first” performances on this tour were in Hungary, Poland, and in former Czechoslovakia, where Hamilton performed four sold-out Concerts for over 28,000 fans at the Sports Arena in Prague. It’s no surprise that later that year, Billboard Magazine began to refer to Hamilton as the “International Ambassador of Country Music.” He would eventually tour around the world, performing multiple times in Japan, South Africa, the former Soviet Union, and India. See this April 2, 1974 New York Times review of the Moscow performances on the George Hamiton IV “Folksy Music Festival” page here.
George Hamilton IV in Bangalore, India, 1986. P5034 in the George Hamilton IV Collection (20410), Southern Folklife Collection, UNC Chapel Hill

George Hamilton IV in Bangalore, India, 1986. P5034 in the George Hamilton IV Collection (20410), Southern Folklife Collection, UNC Chapel Hill



Friday folio: Rev. Andrew Jenkins, Atlanta’s Blind Newsboy Evangelist

30006_FL0733_Southern Folklife Collection_001_Christian Love Songs, Rev. Andrew JenkinsExcited to be steered toward this folio of “Christian Love Songs” by the prolific and talented songwriter, and blind newsboy evangelist, Rev. Andrew Jenkins, FL-733 in the Southern Folklife Collection Song Folios (30006). Published in 1924 by Polk Brockman, the A&R man responsible for encouraging fellow producer Ralph Peer to record Fiddlin’ John Carson in 1923, the folio is an example of Brockman’s tendency to take full publication rights from the artists he worked with. This songbook was published early in the Jenkins Family’s recording career as Brockman looked to capitalize on the success of Jenkins’ popular broadcasts on Atlanta’s WSB radio station. For more information and to listen to music by the Jenkins Family (including their many secular songs, like the well known ballad, “The Death of Floyd Collins”), see these resources available at the Southern Folklife Collection. For more information on Polk Brockman, visit or contact the Southern Folklife Collection to listen to recorded interviews listed below from the Ed Kahn Collection (20360) and the Archie Green Papers (20002)

Audiotape FT-12660

Interview with Polk Brockman, Atlanta, Ga., 11 August 1961. Tape 1.

Audiotape FT-12661

Interview with Polk Brockman, Atlanta, Ga., 11 August 1961. Tape 2.

Audiotape FT-12662

Interview with Polk Brockman, Atlanta, Ga., 11 August 1961. Tape 3.

SFC Audio Open Reel FT-20002/4064

Interview with Polk Brockman, recorded by Hoeptner and Pinson, Atlanta, GA, 10 July 1959

1/4″ Open Reel Audio

SFC Audio Open Reel FT-20002/4065

Interviews with Polk Brockman, 27 April 1961; Stoneman, 24 May 1962; Mike Seeger, 22 June 1962; Charlie Bowman, Mike Seeger, Union City, Ga., 22 June 1962

1/4″ Open Reel Audio

SFC Audio Open Reel FT-20002/4066

Interview with Polk Brockman, Atlanta, GA, 11 August 1961 Reel 1 of 2

1/4″ Open Reel Audio

SFC Audio Open Reel FT-20002/4067

Interview with Polk Brockman, Atlanta, GA, 11 August 1961 Reel 2 of 2

1/4″ Open Reel Audio

Join the SFC 78 Cataloging Project!

78 project_collageBe a part of our 78 rpm disc identification project!

In late 2015, the Southern Folklife Collection received a UNC Library Innovation Grant to experiment with technology-driven cataloging for more than 100,000 sound recordings.

Current estimates project that it would take catalogers approximately 45 years to research and create a standard record for each of the thousands of discs. SFC curator, Steve Weiss, proposed a pilot to speed cataloging through automation.

IMG_2549The idea is to take a digital photograph of printed record labels, convert the images to text using optical character recognition (OCR) software, and then combine the text and images to help with workflow, discovery, and access. Crowdsourcing tags and comments may help to add even more information to the process.

Now you can be part of the process. Help us shine a light on these rare gems by visiting our Facebook page and taking a few minutes to give us a little information. For detailed instructions and examples of the process, see our new page 78 Crowdsourcing Project linked to in the tabs in our header at the top of the page.

No prior cataloging experience required! All you need is a love of music and a desire to be part of the effort to help move these records out of semi-obscurity. See more details here.

Friday Studio Surprise!: Chatham Co. hogs and Peg Leg Sam

Peg Leg Sam_20025_FT324_Tom Davenport Collection_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC Chapel Hill

Walking past the John M. Rivers Audio Studio this morning, I was surprised to hear a pig being fed coming from behind the door. I was not surprised when I learned that SFC Audio Engineer, John Loy, was preserving an open reel tape of wild sound from Tom Davenport’s documentary with Peg Leg Sam, Born For Hard Luck. We love hearing raw, wild sound, at the Southern Folklife Collection and this clip of Sam feeding his pigs is just that. “Get it you lousy bums,” he growls. From FT-324 in the Tom Davenport Papers (20025). Below you can see an image from the making of the film, including the boom operator, Kip Lornell, who may have made the recording here. I’m ready for lunch:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Directed by Tom Davenport and produced by Davenport Films and the Curriculum in Folklore at UNC with Daniel Patterson and Allen Tullos, Born For Hard Luck is a portrait of the last Black medicine-show performer, Arthur “Peg Leg Sam” Jackson, with brilliant harmonica songs, tales of hoboing, buck dances, and an authentic live medicine-show performance filmed at a North Carolina county fair in 1972.

In 2000, Davenport went on to create, a free website that allows users to stream a massive array of documentary and ethnographic films about American folk culture, ranging in subjects from aging and agriculture to immigrant culture and music and covering all regions of the United States.

Working with folklorist Daniel Patterson and others on the Folkstreams committee, Davenport submitted a proposal to the National Endowment for the Humanities and received grant funds to build a prototype. Expansion of is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, regional and state Arts and Humanities organizations, private foundations, and contributions from filmmakers, scholars, and collaborating institutions. Preservation copies of films on are part of the SFC Collection (20384). 

P0004_0681_0001 (1) (1)L-R: Peg Leg Sam, Kip Lornell (with boom mic), Bruce Bastin, and Tom Davenport (with camera). University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Image Collection (P0004), North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives.

Four Provinces Orchestra: 78 of the week

78_16498_Southern Folklife Collection

There is more Billy Faier and Thornton Dial coming, I promise. Please do check back, we have been pulling materials from the Billiy Faier Collection (20380) to share with you, but until next week, we thought readers and listeners might enjoy a recording by the great Philadelphia based Irish ensemble, The Four Provinces. The group was founded and led by London-born, Irish pianist Edward Lee. Lee emigrated to the United States in 1916 and quickly put together an ensemble to play the lively Philadelphia dancehall scene, he also co-founded the Irish Musician’s Union (listen to this fascinating recording of Edward Lee’s brother, Joe Lee, at the British Library Sound Archive).

Released in 1924, “Reidy Johnson Reels” and “Kitty’s Wedding”, from 78 rpm disc call number 78-16498 in the UNC Libraries catalog are a wonderful collection of dance tunes. Enjoy a musical pick-me-up on a cold Friday afternoon.

“Reidy Johnson Reels” 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“Kitty’s Wedding” 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

78_16498_Southern Folklife Collection_full

Billy Faier, 1930-2016

20380_P4508_BillyFaier_promo_Picasso_Southern Folklife Collection_001

We were saddened to hear that pioneering musician, banjoist, artist, writer, raconteur, and friend of the Southern Folklife Collection, Billy Faier, passed away on January 29 in Alpine, Texas. We are preparing a longer tribute to Billy’s career with some wonderful items from the Billy Faier Collection (20380) to appear on Field Trip South later this week, but as I was looking through his papers this afternoon, I couldn’t help but fixate on one of Billy’s non-musical passions, juggling.

After mastering the skill, Billy developed a notation system, much like music tablature, to teach others juggling techniques. He called the notation system “juglature.” From folder “OP-20380/8: Juglature Notes”, I scanned a few drawings that show the earliest sketches and experimental development of “juglature” that Faier would continue to develop for the instruction books he later wrote. Like so much of my favorite folklore, I love these drawings as much for their abstract and simple beauty as the utility and complexity of the narratives embedded within. Please do revisit Field Trip South this week for more in-depth tribute (with music, of course) to the remarkable Billy Faier. Rest in peace, Billy. 20380_OP20380_8_BillyFaier_jugglature_Southern Folklife Collection_00120380_OP20380_8_BillyFaier_jugglature_Southern Folklife Collection_00320380_OP20380_8_BillyFaier_jugglature_Southern Folklife Collection_002

Thornton Dial, 1928-2016

20491_ 063_Thornton Dial_Souls Grown Deep Foundation Photographic Collection_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC Chapel Hill We were saddened to learn that artist Thornton Dial passed away yesterday at his home in McCalla, Alabama. Our thoughts are with his loving family and friends. Dial will certainly be remembered as one of the most important artists of the last fifty years. Thanks to the early efforts of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation, founded by William Arnett, the Southern Folklife Collection holds a number of slides that document Mr. Dial, his artwork, and workspace where he created the fantastic assemblages such as those pictured here, all from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation Photographic Collection (20491) in the Southern Folklife Collection.20491_ 079_Thornton Dial_Souls Grown Deep Foundation Photographic Collection_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC Chapel Hill

The complete collection of Thornton Dial images will soon be digitized available for research through the Souls Grown Deep Foundation Photographic Collection (20491) finding aid. Already, you can view work by Dial’s colleagues and contemporaries like Asberry Davis, Mary T. Smith, Lonnie Holley (who introduced Dial to Arnett), and Dial’s cousin, Ronald Lockett. We will link to more of Dial’s work in the Souls Grown Deep Foundation Photographic Collection (20491) finding aid when that content goes live. For now, we pulled a few scans currently in progress that show a but a few examples of the remarkable variety of Dial’s oeuvre in the space where they were created. 20491_ 052_Thornton Dial_Souls Grown Deep Foundation Photographic Collection_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC Chapel Hill _220491_ 072_Thornton Dial_Souls Grown Deep Foundation Photographic Collection_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC Chapel Hill 20491_ 081_Thornton Dial_Souls Grown Deep Foundation Photographic Collection_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC Chapel Hill 20491_ 077_Thornton Dial_Souls Grown Deep Foundation Photographic Collection_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC Chapel Hill

Folklife in Motion

20408_p0026_4_02_Robert Bolton Collection_20408_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC Chapel Hill

One of the reasons we love hearing from all of you brilliant researchers out there is that your questions give us the opportunity to explore parts of the collection we may not have seen in a while. One recent query led me back into into the Robert Bolton Collection (20408). When I opened the folder of negatives, my eyes were immediatly drawn to the one-word description of five sleeves of negatives, “GYROCOPTER.”

Our attention to Bolton’s work in the past has generally led us to his mid-1960s documentary work covering music performances like Bob Dylan’s first tour with The Band, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk and more at the 1965 Chicgago Jazz Festival, and the Ole Time Fiddler’s & Bluegrass Festival in Union Grove, N.C. However, the nearly 2000 images in Bolton’s collection reach far beyond cultural events. Bolton frenquently traveled from his home in Knoxville throughout the Eastern United States, photographing the people he met and the places he stopped along the way, documenting the social landscape of the American South from the mid 1950s through the early 1980s. Apparently, at some point along the way, Bolton ran into Al Cudney, a Canadian-born gyronaut and engineer who worked, at least temporarily, for the rotorcraft pioneer, Dr. Igor Bensen. The Bensen Aircraft Corporation was located near the Raliegh-Durham Airport, possibly resulting in a higher-than-average percentage of gyrocoptor owners in North Carolina compared to other states. Bensen organized clubs and associations of rotorcraft builders and perhaps these photographs docment a local club gathering. For an excellent review of Igor Bensen and gyrocopters in NC, see this excellent post by Harry McKown on our sibling blog from the North Carolina Collection, North Carolina Miscellany.

_Robert Bolton Collection_20408_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC Chapel Hill

Bolton’s photos of Cudney (and possibly others) flying the autogyro in the clear skies over this rural airfield in North Carolina in 1968 are magnificent, but they raise so many questions: Where exactly is this airfield? What is the nature of this exposition or event? Who is flying that thing? And especially: How can we get our hands on one of those?. If you are rotorcraft hobbyist or researcher, we would love to hear what you think!
20408_p0026_3_08A_Robert Bolton Collection_20408_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC Chapel Hill

Something else we love about queries from intrepid researchers that lead us to discoveries like Bolton’s 1968 gyrocopter session, is the push to constantly review and reassess the “the stuff” of folklore. Music and stories surely come to mind first for most students we work with at UNC, but students of material culture can also find many wonderful resources in the Southern Folklife Collection‘s holdings documenting architecture, quilts, gravestones, sculpture, woodworking, and more. Bolton’s photographs push the boundaries even further, revealing communities and the craftmanship of makers and machinists experimenting with technology and tradition like Cudney and Benson’s rotorcraft enthusiats.

20408_p0026_2_12Robert Bolton Collection_20408_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC Chapel Hill