Music Biographer Barry Mazor and Musician Dom Flemons at Wilson Library Feb. 6

Mazor_cover

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.

The Southern Folklife Collection (SFC) in Wilson Library is the program sponsor. Mazor and Flemons have both conducted extensive research in the Collection and are friends with one another, said SFC curator Steve Weiss.

Ralph Peer and the Making of Popular Roots Music was released in November to critical acclaim. The New York Times called it “a beautifully written portrait of an utterly fascinating man. One is continually astonished at how a shipping clerk from Independence, Mo., at various junctions in his life, made decisions that transformed American music by bringing new artists and forms of music — from country, blues and bluegrass to early rock ‘n’ roll — to millions of citizens who had not yet encountered them.”

Peer’s accomplishments include sparking the blues craze by recording Mamie Smith’s “Crazy Blues;” discovering the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers; and helping transform popular music well through the postwar years.

In the stacks of the SFC, Mazor — a winner of the 2008 Charlie Lamb Award for Excellence in Country Music Journalism — was able to draw on a unique recorded interview with Ralph Peer, as well as correspondence between Peer and musician Sara Carter of The Carter Family, found in the SFC’s Ed Kahn Collection. Those letters will be on display at the event.

Flemons_333Flemons, too, has deep ties to the SFC. In 2012, the Grammy-winning banjo player and former member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops described in an interview how video recordings and interviews in the Collection have informed his work. “There is something that a visual artifact can do that is greater than a mere recording,” he said. “You get to see the player and performer in the flesh and see how they played the music.”

The Dom Flemons Papers, 2004-2009, are part of the Southern Folklife Collection, and consist of audio and video recordings, photographs, programs, and related materials that Flemons has donated. Approximately 200 photographs from the collection, including publicity stills of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, may be viewed online, via the UNC Library’s Carolina Digital Repository.

An Alphabet of Treasures: Special Collections from A to Z

78_11104_Ma Rainey_Dream Blues_John Edwards Memorial Foundation Records_20001_Southern Folklife Collection[if you like zooming in on record labels you should click on this photo]

Dream Blues,” 78 rpm disc, 1924
Gertrude “Ma” Rainey with The Pruitt Twins, Paramount Records

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.

And remember to mark your calendars for our very special event with music biographer Barry Mazor and musician Dom Flemons coming up next week.

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.

 

Steel Guitar Serials in the Southern Folklife Collection

*Special guest post by Laura McPherson, UNC-SILS graduate student and SFC assistant*

As we wait with baited breath for the Southern Folklife Collection’s Steel Guitar Symposium and Concert [symposium is free to the public, tickets to the concert are available to purchase] to begin on Saturday, March 23, we’ve scoured our serials holdings to bring y’all some interesting items on the steel guitar, its history, and the musicians who love it.

Fretts_1963_vol5_steelguitarcover

Jerry Byrd and his steel guitar grace this cover of this 1963 issue of Fretts. The Southern Folklife Collection holds a number of Byrd’s recordings, including Admirable Byrd: The Steel Guitar Music of Jerry Byrd.

Fretts_1963_vol5_steelguitarjerrybyrd

 

Inside the magazine, an article penned by Byrd sets himself as the defendant in a courtroom drama where the prosecutor represents his fans, whose questions run the gamut from “amusing” to “accusing, and abusing.” Later in the article, Byrd claims that the steel guitar is the most controversial instrument and reacts to attempts to standardize the instrument, relegate its use to the genre of country music, and elevate technique above the musicians’s emotional expression.

 

The SFC also holds Volumes 1-3 of Steel Guitar World Magazine, whose tagline, “Just for the love of steel’en” (or steelin’, depending on the issue), can be seen below on this creative cover from the November 1992 issue.

SteelGuitarWorld_Nov1992_cover

 

SteelGuitarWorld_Nov1992_backcover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So whether you call it the pedal steel, slide steel, lap steel, dobro, or just plain steel guitar, swing by the Southern Folklife Collection to check out some of these marvelous magazines and join us on Saturday, March 23, at the ArtsCenter in Carrboro for the final event in the Southern Folklife Collection’s Instrument Series!

 

All rise for the piping of the haggis: Burns Night at the SFC

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It’s Burns Day, and I hope you have been practicing your “Address tae the Haggis.” Folklorist, teacher, author, and friend of the Southern Folklife Collection, Burgin Mathews, hosts a Burns Supper that I will someday be lucky enough to attend, however this year I’ll have to offer the Immortal Memory address to myself in a quiet kitchen. Thankfully I found a wealth of supporting materials in the SFC to assist in my Burns Night activities. The LP pictured above, call no. FC18057, offers a great start with Frederick Worlock reading some of Robert Burns best, including “To a Louse (on seeing one on a lady’s bonnet at church).” Listen to the clip above.

Thanks to inspiration from the SFC’s recent Fiddle Concert and Symposium, I pulled out a record, call no. FC1508, produced by Mark Wilson that features some of his excellent recordings of Cape Breton musician Joseph CormierScottish Violin Music from Cape Breton Island, kicks off with a perfect set of reels for Burns Night, “Haggis; Glennville’s Dirk; Bird’s Nest.” Listen to “Haggis” here:

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Your guests will likely need some source material for their Burns recitations after dinner, so you may want to reference The Merry Muses of Caledoniacall no. PR4322.M42 1965, and possibly copy the glossary for those less familiar with the particulars of Scottish vocabulary.  (click images to enlarge)

 

 

 

 

Finally, no Burns Supper is complete without a rousing rendition of Robert Burns most famous and most misunderstood poems, “Auld Lang Syne.” I never imagined that I would someday offer the following advice, but take a cue from Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians and pour your heart and soul into the song (it may help if you have a cup of “uisge beatha,” aka the “water of life, aka Scotch whisky, in advance). Sing along won’t you? 

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For auld lang syne, my jo,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

Bobby Rush Raw and in Person

Bobby Rush visited the Southern Folklife Collection yesterday and gave a fantastic solo performance to a few lucky listeners (I see you, “Clarksdale”) who braved the storm to attend the first concert in the 2012 Southern Journey Fall Concert Series.

It was a rare opportunity to see and hear Bobby Rush performing acoustic and sharing stories of his long and remarkable career as a bluesman, as a runner for Elmore James, getting guitar lessons from Howlin’ Wolf, riffing on Tony Jo White, and even a story of how he got his name, Bobby Rush.

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We also picked up a copy of one of his recent albums (Bobby Rush has released over 250 albums in over 50 years of recording music).  Entitled Raw, Bobby Rush strips down the songs to their fundamentals, using only his guitar, harmonica, voice, and feet percussion. This is a different side of Bobby Rush, but we like it just as much as the master showman of southern R&B that we are used to (although we did kind of miss the costume changes and backup dancers).

Hear for yourself; listen to some more clips of Bobby Rush’s performance below and remember Tommy Edwards will be here playing North Carolina bluegrass in our second installment of the Southern Journey Concert Series on October 2. See you at Wilson Library at 11 AM, October 2!

 

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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

 

 

A Tribute Concert to Rev. Gary Davis: November 17, 2011

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Jorma Kaukonen will headline a Nov. 17 tribute concert and symposium in honor of blues legend Reverend Gary Davis. Schedule and information follows at the end of this post.

The Southern Folklife Collection and the Friends of the Library will sponsor the evening devoted to the master of finger-style guitar who influenced musicians such as Blind Boy Fuller, Taj Mahal, and Bob Dylan.

The 7:30pm concert will feature musicians who studied with Davis or were directly inspired by him, including Hot Tuna and former Jefferson Airplane member Jorma KaukonenStefan Grossman, and Ernie Hawkins. Tickets to the concert can be purchased from the Carolina Union Box Office.

Prior to the concert, a free public symposium will take place in Wilson Library. At 5:30 p.m., blues scholar Elijah Wald will give a keynote lecture on Davis’s life and music. A panel discussion at 6:30 will include Kaukonen, Grossman, and Hawkins.

Wald, a musician and writer, has written for The Boston Globe and the Los Angeles Times, and his books include How the Beatles Destroyed Rock ‘n’ Roll: An Alternative History of American Popular Music (Oxford University Press, 2009), The Blues: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2010), and Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues (Amistad, 2004). In 2001, he won a Grammy award for his liner notes for The Arhoolie Records 40th Anniversary Collection: The Journey of Chris Strachwitz 1960-2000.

The concert is the second event in the Southern Folklife Collection’s Blues Legacy Series. A third event is planned for Feb. 2012 for Eddie James “Son” House.

Davis was born in 1896 in Laurens, S.C., and lost his vision before adulthood. He moved to Durham, N.C., in the 1920s, and worked with a number of musicians in the Piedmont blues scene. In 1933, he became an ordained minister of the Washington, N.C., Free Baptist Connection Church. His best-known songs include “Baby, Can I follow You Down,” “Candy Man,” and “Samson and Delilah.”

The Southern Folklife Collection is fortunate to hold a variety of recordings and materials related to Rev. Gary Davis, including FT-4600 from the Bob Carlin Collection (#20050).  This open reel audio tape features a young Carlin interviewing one mentor (and former camp counselor) Roy Book Binder, a friend, student, and chauffeur of Gary Davis. The interview includes live concert recordings of Davis and Book Binder offering contextual information and sharing his personal experiences with Davis.

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 FT_4600_Roy Book Binder interviewed by Bob Carlin, WBRC New Milford, Connecticut, Summer 1969 

SymposiumWilson Special Collections Library, (Free and open to the public)
5 p.m. Reception
5:30 p.m. Keynote with Elijah Wald
6:30 p.m. Panel Discussion with Jorma Kaukonen, Stefan Grossman, and Ernie HawkinsConcertStudent Union, Great Hall, with Jorma Kaukonen, Stefan Grossman, and Ernie Hawkins
7:30 p.m.
Purchase concert tickets from Carolina Union Box Office, ($5 for students; $12.50 for others)Information: Liza TerllFriends of the Library, (919) 548-1203

Facebook event

Tommy Edwards Performing Tuesday, Oct. 5

Please join us on Tuesday, Oct 5, from Noon to 1:00 PM in the Wilson Library’s Pleasants Family Assembly Room for free, live bluegrass music with Tommy Edwards and Friends.

This event is co-sponsored by UNC’s Departments of History and American Studies,Folklore, and Music, the Southern Folklife Collection, the Institute for the Arts and Humanities, the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History, and Center for the Study of the American South.

Wade Mainer Event On Tuesday

Please join us on Tuesday, September 21, for Banjo On The Mountain: A Tribute To Wade Mainer. The event, to be held in the Pleasants Family Assembly Room in UNC’s Wilson Library, will begin with a catered reception at 5:00 PM. At 5:45, writer Dick Spottswood will be reading from his book Banjo on the Mountain: Wade Mainer’s First Hundred Years.

At 6:30 the tribute concert kicks off, featuring performances by Joe Newberry, The Happy Valley Pals (Gail Gillespie, Margaret Martin, Dwight Rogers and Wayne Martin), Andy Cahan, Joseph DeCosimo, and other area musicians. As always, the event is free and open to the public.

This event is sponsored by the Old-Time Herald, the North Carolina Folklife Institute, Pinecone, and the Southern Folklife Collection.

“Carolina Soul” Lecture September 10

On Friday, September 10, the Southern Folklife Collection will be hosting a lecture by DJ and collector Jason Perlmutter, founder of the website CarolinaSoul.org.

A UNC-Chapel Hill graduate (and former WXYC station manager) Perlmutter has been collecting soul recordings from the Carolinas since 2002, and compiled the 2008 Jazzman Records/Now-Again release Carolina Funk: First in Funk, 1968-1977.

Please join us in the Wilson Library Pleasants Family Assembly room (directions here) on September 10 for a reception at 5:00, to be followed by the lecture at 5:45.  The event is free and open to the public (click to enlarge the flyer above for more details).