Friday Folios: Brought to you by the Letter “B” and the Southern Folklife Collection

A few folios for you this Friday. First the famous Bailes Brothers from West Virginia. Only two of the brothers are featured here, although Walter and Kyle were certainly in the group at the time of the publication of this folio in the mid-1940s. That Johnnie and Homer would soon go their separate ways makes the image of them as apparently conjoined twins that much more poignant.

While Johnnie and Homer look happy together, the King of Western Swing, Bob Wills looks downright menacing on the cover of this 1946 folio. While Wills’s iconic grin often gives him the appearance of a mad man (and his happy hollers help to reinforce the diagnosis), here the bright red background an Wills’s laconic eyes makes him look especially dangerous. Featuring some hit songs like “Texas Playboy Rag” and “Faded Love,” along with patriotic propaganda-pop like “G. I. Wish” and heartfelt memorial ballads penned by Wills like “White Cross on Okinawa,” this folio was certainly a hit although it might have given some players pause when they pulled if from their parlor piano bench.

For more fantastical folio flights of fancy see collection #30006, the Southern Folklife Collection Song Folios, circa 1882-1983.

Thursday 10″: Leadbelly*

* the album title is “Leadbelly,” however, Mr. Ledbetter himself spelled his name as two words, “Lead Belly”

Earlier this week, we had the good fortune of revisiting this remarkable Huddie Ledbetter 10″ LP from the Capitol Records “Classics in Jazz” series, Southern Folklife Collection call number FC14651. Issued in 1953, almost four years after Lead Belly’s death, the album is remarkable not only because of the striking portrait of Ledbetter and his famous 12-string guitar, but also because of Ledbetter’s accompaniment on the recordings. In the liner notes, Paul Mason Howard is credited with playing the zither on “these historic performances.”  The interplay of zither with Ledbetter’s booming 12 string is highly enjoyable and these recordings (made in California in 1944) showcase Ledbetter in top form. Listen to the intro to “Back Water Blues” from side 2:

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Mr. Howard, a pianist and composer who worked in vaudeville and collaborated with Tin Man and Beverly Hillbilly, Buddy Ebsen, before working extensively as a songwriter for the Walt Disney Company, is actually playing the Dolceola. Mr. Howard supplemented his songwriting career performing on hybrid string instruments like the Dolceola and Cithare. These recordings of Lead Belly and Howard are likely the first commercial recordings of the Dolceola. The solo on the duo’s recording of “Ella Speed” highlights the unique tone of the Dolceola:

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It was once thought that legendary Texas gospel singer Washington Phillips performed on the Dolceola, but his instruments were later confirmed to be two Celestaphones, More on Phillips and the Celestaphone another time, but for now we leave you with the final track from the LP, Lead Belly’s arrangement of the classic cowboy tune “Western Plain”. To recap, this is a recording of a performer identified as a blues musician, playing a cowboy song, released on a jazz record…. as another classic cowboy song says “Don’t fence me in.” Come a cow-cow yicky. come a cow-cow yicky, yicky yea.

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* the album title is “Leadbelly,” however, Mr. Ledbetter himself spelled his name as two words, “Lead Belly”

Photo of the Week: Bascom Lamar Lunsford

It is hard to pick a favorite from the remarkable portraits of Bascom Lamar Lunsford from the John Edwards Memorial Foundation Records (#20001), but I always come back to this one, call no. P1651.  See this photo and many others in our upcoming exhibit, The Banjo: Southern Roots, American Branches.

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 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.

Photo of the week: Matokie Slaughter

 

The end of UNC’s school year came up on us extremely fast. We are sad to see our student assistants, upon whom we depend to keep the SFC machine running smooth, graduate and go on to other things. We can’t thank them enough. Recently, one of these intrepid employees digitized a great number of photographs from the Alice Gerrrard Collection (#20006). The image above, a beautiful portrait of legendary old time banjo player Matokie Worrell Slaughter, came from a set of 35mm slides.

Originally from Pulaski, Virginia, Matokie Slaughter performed with her family on local radio during the 1940s and became a regular at fiddler’s conventions. She is featured on a number of recordings, including a band she formed with her sister, Virgie Richardson, and Alice Gerrard called the Back Creek Buddies.

The SFC holde many recordings of Slaughter in the form commercial releases, like the excellent 1978 County LP, Clawhammer Banjo, vol. 3, and field recordings from the Alice Gerrard and Paul Brown collections. Check back for another photo tomorrow.

More photos of the week: Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs with the Foggy Mountain Boys

Life as a country musician has never been easy and Earl Scruggs spent grueling years on the road in the late 1940s pioneering the bluegrass sound with fellow road warriors Bill Monroe, Chubby Wise, Howard Watts, and Lester Flatt. After Flatt and Scruggs left the Blue Grass Boys in 1948, the popularity of Bluegrass music began to grow and through the resourceful management of Louise Certain, soon to be Louise Scruggs, the band secured the sponsorship of Martha White Flour and what was hopefully a more comfortable means of transportation. Still between radio performances, recording sessions, and live shows, the band often performed multiple times per day. The image below features The Foggy Mountain Boys on an unknown stage in the 1950s.

 

 

SFC Photo of the Week: Mike Seeger and Elizabeth Cotten

Another image from the Mike from the Mike Seeger Collection, this time playing guitar with his dear friend, Chapel Hill’s beloved Libba Cotten, in 1978 or 1979.

Join us tonight, March 23, 2012, in Wilson Library on UNC’s campus for a discussion and concert in celebration of the life and work of musician, documentarian, and scholar Mike Seeger.

SFC Photo of the Week: Mike Seeger

We wanted to share a few photos from the Mike Seeger Collection in advance of the tribute concert and lecture on Friday, March 23. The image above, featuring Seeger recording William Bragg along with a group of interested students, was captured in Widen, West Virginia by Alice Gerrard in 1967.

Gerrard will perform at the tribute concert along with Ginny Hawker and Mike Seeger’s former band mates from the New Lost City Ramblers, John Cohen and Tracy Schwarz.

Photo of the Week: Merle Haggard and the Texas Playboys

P2998, from the John Edwards Memorial Foundation Collection (#20001), is but one of a series of photographs documenting the recording sessions for Bob Wills’s final album, For the Last Time. Sessions, produced by the legendary guitarist Tommy Allsup (another former Cricket like Bobby Durham), took place just outside of Dallas on December 3 and 4, 1973.

Haggard drove all night from Chicago to participate on the final day after begging permission from Wills to attend. Sadly, Wills was unable to complete the session after suffering a severe stroke on the night of December 3 and slipping into a coma the following day never to retain consciousness. Haggard and the band, the first reunion of the Texas Playboys since Wills disbanded the group in the 1960s, pressed on with noted successor of the Bob Wills sound Hoyle Nix stepping up into the boots of his hero to lead the group.

We are not positive, but we believe the photo above includes Haggard, fiddlers Keith Coleman and Johnny Gimble, steel guitarist Leon McCauliffe, and the back of guitarist Eldon Shamblin’s head.