Curley Parker & the Garvin Brothers on Cozy Records

Cotton Eyed Joe, Curley Parker & the Garvin Bros.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.”

SFC Sheet Music and Song Lyrics Collection #30013, folder 97

SFC Collection 30013, folder 97

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).

BAVA-SFC004Cozy 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:

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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.

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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.”

My Guiding Star, Curley Parker & the Garvin Brothers

Photo of the week: The Shanty Boys

I20239_pf0018a: Roger Sprung, Mike Cohen, and Lionel Kilberg, from their monthly CBS broadcast. Photo by Ray Sullivan of Photo-Sound Associates. From the Ron Cohen Collection (20239). Southern Folklife Collection, Wilson Library, UNC Chapel Hill.

The Shanty Boys (Roger Sprung, Mike Cohen, and Lionel Kilberg), from their monthly CBS broadcast. Photo by Ray Sullivan of Photo-Sound Associates. From the Ron Cohen Collection (20239). Southern Folklife Collection, Wilson Library, UNC Chapel Hill.

In the early 1950s, Roger Sprung spent time in Asheville, NC, meeting and learning from banjo greats Bascom Lamar Lunsford and Samantha Bumgarner. He returned to New York and is often credited with introducing bluegrass banjo style to the northern folk revival through his playing in Washington Square park. For more information on Sprung and the Shanty Boys, see Ron Cohen’s excellent book on the folk revival, Rainbow Quest: The Folk Music Revival and American Society, 1940-1970 (Culture, Politics, and Cold War), (University of Massachusetts Press, 2002).

Southern Folklife Collection Banjo Symposium: Schedule, Saturday August 25

The inaugural event in the Southern Folklife Collection Instrument Series, The Banjo: Southern Roots American Branches is coming up in just three days. Many people have asked for a schedule of the daytime symposium in Wilson Library.  Please see below.  Tickets are still available for the free concert, Saturday August 25 in Memorial Hall on UNC’s campus, featuring master pickers Tony TrischkaDom Flemons of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, and Riley Baugus with Kirk Sutphin. This is a free but ticketed event. Contact the Memorial Hall Box Office, 919.843.3333 for information.

Banjo Symposium – Pleasants Family Assembly Room, 2nd Floor, Wilson Library, UNC-Chapel Hill

9:30am:  Reception

10:00am:  Phillip Gura, UNC Professor of American Studies; Author of America’s Instrument: The Banjo in the 19th Century

10:45am:  Coffee break

11:00am:  Bob Carlin, Musician and Author of The Birth of the Banjo & Jim Mills, musician (Ricky Scaggs, Vince Gill) Six time winner of IBMA Banjo Player of the Year Award.

11:30am:  Robert Cantwell, UNC Professor of American Studies; Author of Bluegrass Breakdown

12:15pm – 2:00pm:  lunch

2:00pm:  Stephen Wade, Musician and Author of The Beautiful Music All Around Us: Field Recordings and the American Experience

2:45 – Coffee break

3:00pm:  Panel discussion–Laurent Dubois, Duke Professor of Romance Studies and History; Cecelia Conway, Appalachian State University Professor of English; Author of African Banjo Echoes in Appalachia; Dom Flemons, musician (Carolina Chocolate Drops)

4:00pm – End

7:30pm: Concert in UNC Memorial Hall

 

 

The Banjo: Southern Roots, American Branches

BILL BIRCHFIELD OF THE ROAN MOUNTAIN HILLTOPPERS, PHOTO BY ALICE GERRARD.

The Southern Folklife Collection is pleased to announce The Banjo: Southern Roots, American Branches, Saturday, August 25, 2012. This exhibit, symposium and concert is the first of the three-part Southern Folklife Collection Instrument Series. Panels, exhibits, and concerts in 2013 will feature the pedal steel guitar and the fiddle. The series seeks to provide an opportunity for music lovers to learn from leading musicians and scholars about the music, history, and culture of the American South.

Please join us first for the banjo symposium Saturday, August 25 from 10am to 4pm in the Pleasants Family Assembly Room, Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-CH, followed by a free concert in UNC’s Memorial Hall including master pickers Tony Trischka, Dom Flemons of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, and Riley Baugus with Kirk Sutphin. This is a free but ticketed event. Tickets are now available at the Memorial Hall Box Office, 919.843.3333.

The symposium features lectures and panel discussions on the history of the banjo with:

  • Robert Cantwell, UNC Professor of American Studies; Author of Bluegrass Breakdown
  • Bob Carlin, Musician and Author of The Birth of the Banjo
  • Cecelia Conway, Appalachian State University Professor of English; Author of African Banjo Echoes in Appalachia
  • Laurent Dubois, Duke Professor of Romance Studies and History
  • Dom Flemons, musician (Carolina Chocolate Drops)
  • Phillip Gura, UNC Professor of American Studies; Author of America’s Instrument: The Banjo in the 19th Century
  • Jim Mills, musician (Ricky Scaggs, Vince Gill) Six time winner of IBMA Banjo Player of the Year Award.
  • Stephen Wade, Musician and Author of The Beautiful Music All Around Us: Field Recordings and the American Experience

Don’t miss the accompanying exhibit tracing the history and development of the banjo, featuring instruments, photographs, recordings and ephemera from the Southern Folklife Collection.The exhibit opens August 25th and runs through Dec 31, 2012. on the 4th Floor, Wilson Library. Follow the Southern Folklife Collection on facebook or come back to Field Trip South for updates.

And now a couple more photos from the same roll as the one featured above from the Alice Gerrard Collection (#20006). These photos feature Joe and Bill Birchfield of the great family stringband from Carter, Tennessee, The Roan Mountain Hilltoppers. Bill is demonstrating his unique banjo style, playing backwards, upside-down, and left-handed.