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!

Transcription Disc of the Week – The United States Army Presents “Country Express”

The United States Army Recruiting Service Presents "Country Express", shows 29-66 & and 30-66

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.

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From the desk of Dock Boggs

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.20009_Mike Seeger Collection_Folder220_Dock Boggs notes

 

 

Happy Birthday to Archie Green

Image_Folder_0658_Dorsey_Dixon_Archie_Green_Portrait_circa_November_1962_Scan_1

Archie Green, Dorsey Dixon, and an unidentified MulE, East Rockingham, North Carolina, 1962, John Edwards Memorial Foundation Records (20001)

It’s Archie Green‘s birthday today, he would have been 100 years old. The photo above was taken while Green was recording Dixon’s Babies in the Mill (Testament, 1963) album.

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

Tape 8: Archie Green and Roger Abrahams, Austin, Tex. (part 1

Audiocassette

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.

Image_Folder_1789_02_Archie_Green_and_Dock_Walsh_with_banjo_Portrait_Negative_undated

Archie Green and Dock Walsh

John Edwards Memorial Foundation Records (20001)

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.

Image_Folder_2239_Eugene_Earle_and_Archie_Green_Portrait_undated

Archie Green and Eugene Earle

John Edwards Memorial Foundation Records (20001)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Transcription Disc of the Week – US Air Force’s “Country Music Time”

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”

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Big Slim the Lone Cowboy says “Eat your Coco Wheats”

Big Slim the Lone Cowboy with horse: Portrait: Publicity photograph for Coco Wheats, undated, PF20001_208_John Edwards Memorial Foundation Records (20001) Southern Folklife Collection, UNC Chapel Hill

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.

Stay tuned for more Western Wednesday posts throughout this month and be sure to follow UNC Library on Instagram to experience materials across our collections.

Big Slim the Lone Cowboy with horse: Portrait: Publicity photograph for Coco Wheats, undated, PF20001_208_John Edwards Memorial Foundation Records (20001) Southern Folklife Collection, UNC Chapel Hill

Lacquer disc of the week: Dorothea Joan Moser, “Swannanoa Tunnel”

FD20005_537_Dorothea Joan Moser_Artus Moser Papers_Southern Folklife Collection

Excited to walk into the John M. Rivers recording studio at the Southern Folklife Collection this afternoon and observe the transfer of lacquer disc, FD-20005/537 from the Artus Moser Papers (20005). Possibly recorded to provide supplementary materials for folklorist Dorothea Joan Moser’s Fulbright scholarship application, we were excited to hear Moser perform an acapella version of “Swannanoa Tunnel,” a tune we were only familiar with as performed by Bascom Lamar Lunsford. Moser’s version may be closer to that sung by African American convicts that were conscripted to perform the dangerous work of digging the tunnel. By the tunnel’s completion in 1879, 125 men had lost their lives to cave-ins, mudslides, and mistreatment.

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Dr. Ralph Stanley, 1927-2016

pf-20009_121_Stanley Brothers_Mike Seeger Collection_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC

Today we are mourning the loss of another one of the greats, Dr. Ralph Stanley. There are a number of excellent obituaries and remembrances of Stanley across the news today and we would encourage you to read about Stanley’s remarkable life and career. Considering the mark he left on the world of traditional music and popular culture, It is no surprise that Stanley is such a prominent figure in the Southern Folklife Collection and we wanted to share a few of those items with you today in tribute. The photos above are from the Mike Seeger Collection (20009), featuring the Carters and the Clinch Mountain Boys at Valley View country music park in Hellam, PA in 1956. Another favorite from the Seeger Collection features the Carters with Roscoe Holcomb on tour in Bremen, Germany in 1966. pf-20009_122_02_r_Mike Seeger Collection_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC

I couldn’t help but pull out some of the Rich-R-Tone 78 rpm discs from the SFC sound recordings. Recorded in 1947, these Stanley Brothers recordings, their first commercial recordings as a group, remain some of my favorite bluegrass of all time. Listen to “The Jealous Lover,” from 78-16252, and the classic “Little Maggie,” from 78-16253, here:

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18_16252_78_16253_Stanley Brothers_Rich_R_Tone_Southern Folklife Collection_UNCYou can listen to live performances throughout Stanley’s career, from country music parks, to radio performances, clubs like the Ash Grove, college tours, and more from recordings i in the Mike Seeger Collection (20009) and the Eugene Earle Collection (20376) in particular, but there are numerous recordings across the SFC collections. If you would like to hear more, please contact or visit us at the SFC. We were very lucky to welcome Ralph Stanley to The Wilson Library in 2006 for an extra special conversation and concert. Sitting 10 feet away from a legend in a special collections reading room as he sings acapella is something that we will never forget. Rest in peace, Ralph, I’m sure you and Carter’s harmonies sound even sweeter now.

20001_pf1548_pf1545_Ralph Stanley_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC

Ralph Stanley and His Clinch Mountain Boys, P1545 and P1548, in the John Edwards Memorial Foundation Records (20001), southern folklife Collection, UNC Chapel HIll