A side from SFC 78 call no. 78-17489 for a rainy Saturday.
A side from SFC 78 call no. 78-17489 for a rainy Saturday.
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.
Ghosts, haints, spirits, phantoms, specters, apparitions, poltergeists, phantasms, banshees, you name it, we are ready for you at the Soutehrn Folklife Collection. For your Halloween listening pleasure, we pulled out some of our favorite ghost tunes from our 78 rpm disc collection.
First up, Wayne Raney with “Jolie Blon’s Ghost” from 78-8747, the Tune Wranglers with “Look out for the Ghost, Red” from 78-0949, and the great Red Foley with the Anita Kerr Singers doing “Tennessee Hill-billy Ghost” from 78-3979. But that’s not all, it wouldn’t be Halloween if we didn’t haunt your dreams with Lonnie Johnson’s “Blue Ghost Blues” and “Lonesome Ghost Blues” from 78-10655 and 78-10638.
The Tune Wranglers
Red Foley and the Anita Kerr Singers:
Lonnie Johnson “Blue Ghost Blues”
“Lonesome Ghost Blues”
While pulling materials for a class instruction session, we came across these two strikingingly similar labels on 78s. Interested to know more, we did some research and found both labels were founded in the late 1940s in Chicago by former hillbilly comic Delbert “Deb” Dyer (for more details, see the always informative Hillbilly Researcher). He soon moved White Church offices from Chicago to Kansas in 1947 and eventually moved Red Barn there as well.
Odis “Pops” Echols was an original member of the original Stamps Quartet (aka Stamps Melody Boys), one of many white-gospel quartets supported by the Stamps-Baxter Music and Printing Company based in Dallas, Texas. His career took him across the country many times, from Chatanooga to Lubbock, Little Rock, Louisville, Los Angeles, and eventually Clovis, New Mexico. He formed many different iterations of the “Melody Boys,” including the one featured on the Red Barn record above which performed a mix of western music and gospel tunes.
The Blackwood Brothers remain a hugely popular gospel singing group. The original quartet was founded in Choctaw, Mississippi in 1934 by brothers Doyle Blackwood, James Blackwood, Roy Blackwood and his son, R. W. Blackwood. Like the Melody Boys, the Blackwood Brothers were affiliated with Stamps-Baxter and were featured on the radio out of Shenendoah, Iowa in the 1940s when they began recording for Dyer’s White Church label. With their post-WWII careers taking off, the Blackwoods left White Church and founded their own Blackwood Brothers label in 1948.
Dyer left White Church in 1949, but remained active with Red Barn until at least 1952. For a sample of the Red Barn / White Church sound, listen to Odis Echols and his Melody Boys from 78_11457 and the Blackwood Brothers from 78_14323 below.
Fellow inhabitants of the Southeast United States will be listening to the rain for a few more days now, and with the potential flooding, danger and damage that are likely to follow, the pitter patter of raindrops is not the most welcome of sounds. On this soggy day, we picked out one of the earliest recorded rain songs we could find issued on 78 rpm. Issued in 1911 by Victor Recording Co. and performed by soprano Elizabeh Wheeler, this “Rain Song” was part of the curriculum for first, second, and third grades, as outlined in the Modern Primer published by Silver, Burdett, & Co. in the early 20th century. Mrs. Wheeler’s affection for rain as expressed in the song are likely not widely shared by North and South Carolinians at this time, but perhaps it may serve as a brief respite from the deluge.
Elizabeth Wheeler was a vocal instructor and recording artist who appears on over 180 sides recorded for Victor as a solo artist, in a duet with her husband Wlliam Wheeler, and with the Victor Light Opera Company. This particular 78 rpm disc, call number 78-16182 , stood out because it also features a locked groove between the “A Dew Drop” and “Rain Song” on the A-side. If you would like to hear more rain songs, feel free to make a request. See the UNC Library Catalog here for a list.
Stuart Hamblen is known today as a singing cowboy who produced radio programs such as “Covered Wagon Jubilee” and eventually “Cowboy Church of the Air.” He was also a major songwriter and recording star—one of the first C&W artists to record for Decca.
A Texas native, Hamblen moved to Los Angeles in the 1920s to start a career in radio. After a brief stint performing with the Beverly Hillbillies, he began hosting his own show. He also began making headlines for his drinking, gambling, and debt-related lawsuits, as well as for owning and training hunting dogs and racehorses. (Incidentally, he was the first person to send a horse to a race on an airplane–Flying Tiger was the name of the airline).
In 1938, Hamblen became one of a series of C&W celebrity-politicians when he ran as a Democrat for congressman of L.A.’s 11th district. (Other examples included W. Lee O’Daniel who served as governor of Texas, Jimmy Davis who served as governor of Louisiana, and Roy Acuff who ran for governor of Tennessee). Hamblen’s candidacy apparently disturbed many Democrats from his district, largely because he campaigned in character, incorporating his guitar and cowboy persona. One Los Angeles Times article referred to him as the “Bourbon candidate for Congress.” Not surprisingly, he did not win.
A decade later, in 1949, Hamblen attended one of evangelist Billy Graham’s tent meetings in Los Angeles—the meeting inspired him to quit drinking and to devote his life to the Christian faith. When his radio station KMTR subsequently asked him to promote a beer brand on air, he refused and lost his show. The beer ad incident put Hamblen on the radar of the Prohibition Party; after General Douglas MacArthur refused the invitation to run as the 1952 Prohibition presidential candidate, Hamblen was recruited for the role. With a retired professor (Enoch A. Holtwick) as a running mate, Hamblen came in 4th place, with 73,412 popular votes.
At the Prohibition Party’s convention, Hamblen played his hit song “It Is No Secret (What God Can Do),” treating it as the theme song of the campaign. At some point during 1951-1952, he used the song as well in a 78rpm recording (likely intended for radio play), entitled “Hamblen for President.” On each side, Hamblen explains his platform and emphasizes that prohibition would not be reinstated if he were elected. A few excerpts from both sides are below.
The recording is cataloged and available at the Southern Folklife Collection as 78-17711, along with many of Hamblen’s commercial recordings and reel-to-reel tapes of his radio show “Cowboy Church of the Air.”
We came across an interesting bit of American industrial history in a recent 78rpm cataloging session in the Southern Folklife Collection: a circa 1948 record promoting the Indiana Limestone Company, featuring on its label a relatively complex illustration of the limestone mining process. Celebrating the 100th anniversary of Indiana’s limestone industry, it includes two songs honoring the state’s favorite sedimentary rock : “Old Limestone Quarry” and “Girl from Oolitic.” (Oolitic is a town in Indiana known for its oolite, a kind of limestone).
We cannot find any information on this release, except that John H. McGee applied for copyright for the two songs in 1949.
We’ve included an excerpt from Side A here, which features an unknown vocalist and big band:
The record is available at the SFC as call no. 78-17816.
As Paramount’s best-selling artist of the early 1920s, vaudeville superstar and “The Mother of the Blues” Gertrude “Ma” Rainey was honored with her own “portrait label” disc, the first of its kind, marketed and sold as a special souvenir for her fans. Rainey is accompanied on these March 1924 recordings by the remarkable Pruitt Twins, Miles and Milas of Kansas City, on banjo and guitar. The disc above is call number 78-11104 from the John Edwards Memorial Collection (20001).
This item is one of many highlights pulled from across the collections in Wilson library currently featured in the exhibition An Alphabet of Treasures: Special Collections from A to Z, which can be seen in Wilson Special Collections Library until April 19, 2015.
Follow the Wilson Library tumblr for more highlights from the exhibit.
Ralph Peer and the Making of Popular Roots Music
Friday, Feb. 6, 2015
Wilson Special Collections Library
Pleasants Family Assembly Room
5:30 p.m. Reception (program will begin at 6 p.m.)
6 p.m. Book Talk by Barry Mazor
7 p.m. Concert by Dom Flemons
Free and open to the public
Information: Liza Terll, Friends of the Library, (919) 548-1203
Music scout, record producer, and industry visionary Ralph Peer helped shape and popularize American country and roots music from the 1920s through the ’40s. On Feb. 6, at 6 p.m., a new biography of Peer will be the topic of a talk by the author, Barry Mazor, at UNC’s Wilson Special Collections Library. A concert by musician Dom Flemons will follow at 7 p.m. We’ll have more about the program on Field Trip South tomorrow.
Newly cataloged at the SFC is an obscure bluegrass release on Cozy Records by Curley Parker and the Garvin Brothers, call number 78-17403.
Cozy Records was based in Davis, West Virginia and named after a restaurant in nearby Grafton. It was founded by coal miner and minister John Bava, who’d played and sung along with his wife Lucy in a band called the Country Cousins.
In addition to his record label, Bava also started a magazine called Musical Echoes (printing facilities for which sat in a converted chicken coup), and a music publishing company under his own name. It seems that Bava may have used Musical Echoes partly to promote his compositions among musicians who might perform them. For example, in the SFC’s Sheet Music and Song Lyrics collection, we found this copy of Bava’s composition “Upon the Cross of Calvary” which has a red-and-white sticker referring to Musical Echoes as “song book for the entertainer.”
The back cover has been addressed and stamped, with Musical Echoes as the return address. At the bottom, the recipient is told to “request Hank the Cowhand of WMMN, Fairmont, W. Va. to sing ‘Would You Care.’” (Hank recorded this song for Cozy as Hank Stanford & the Sagebrush Round-up some time in the early 1950s; the song was written by Bava).
Cozy recorded local, West Virginia-based talent, as well as musicians who appeared regularly on radio but who’d had trouble making inroads with bigger labels. Besides Hank the Cowhand, Cozy artists included Cherokee Sue, Rita Flory, Rex Parker’s Merry Men, Chuck Palmer & the Cornmuffins, and eventually the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers.
Curley Parker and the Garvin Brothers only made one recording for Cozy Records, “My Guiding Star” / “Cotton Eyed Joe”, released in 1950. Originally from Gilmer County, Georgia, Parker is today best known for having played fiddle with the Blue Sky Boys during the 1940s, as well as for the duo he started with Pee Wee Lambert in 1951. In addition to his musical career, Parker also worked as a land surveyor; ultimately, he phased out professional music appearances in order to focus on his “day job.”
Side A, “My Guiding Star,” features singing by Parker and Earnst Garvin in a song about the unexpected death of the narrator’s fiancé. We’ve included an excerpt here:
Side B, “Cotton Eyed Joe,” is an instrumental, and showcases Parker’s fiddling technique (as well as that of an unnamed banjoist, presumably one of the Garvin Brothers). The virtuosity is especially apparent towards the end when the tempo verges on breakneck.
It does not appear that the Garvin Brothers have any surviving output beyond this release.
Our copy of the Parker-Garvin Brothers release came from SFC donor Guthrie Meade and was autographed by Parker. In the image below, you can (sort of) see the inscription on the lefthand side of the label: “To Gus, Curley Parker.”
Sorry to be so quiet around here lately. Summer in Chapel Hill may be quiet, but activity at Wilson Library intensifies as the temperature goes up. We’ve got exciting news about the SFC 25 year anniversary coming up so stay tuned to Field Trip South over the next few days. You’re going to love it.
But for this afternoon, to ease back into blogging this week I thought we could start slow with call no. 78-11107 by the remarkable Ida Cox accompanied by the one and only Lovie Austin. “Death Letter Blues” and “Kentucky Man Blues” are but two of 78 sides Cox recorded for Paramount between 1923 and 1929. Enjoy these segments, presented with no noise reduction or post-processing. Love the sound.