It’s not Boston, but here in North Carolina we’ve had an unexpected, late winter, one-two punch the past couple of weeks with ice and snow. The amount of school and work that has been cancelled has certainly fueled some cabin fever creativity in our own households, but not sure if anyone has gone so far as Paul Clayton, Bob Brill, Dave van Ronk, Lee Hoffman, and their friends did at this party in New York circa 1959. We’re really not sure what’s going in these images–a game, a collaborative sculpture, a ceremonial practice, building a diorama? Let us know if you have any ideas. All images in this post were photographed by Ray Sullivan, a partner in Photo-Sound Associates along with photographer Aaron Rennert and sound-recordist Joel Katz, a team dedicated to documenting the folk scene in New York City in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Over 4000 images from the Photo-Sound Associates have been digitized and can be viewed through Ron Cohen Collection (20239) finding aid via the Southern Folklife Collection.
No matter what’s going on, it looks pretty fun. And Bob Brill is providing musical accompaniment on the kazumpet while Dave van Ronk and Paul Clayton harmonize accompaniment. We hope you had at least as much fun during your last “weather event.” Looking forward to Spring!
Our Photos of the Week this time feature 2 examples of tobacco barns taken from the CD-ROM companion to John Michael Vlach’s 2003 book Barns (Norton/Library of Congress). The book and accompanying disc feature black & white photos of barns across the U.S., taken by a variety of photographers, and currently housed the Prints & Photographs Division of the Library of Congress.
Air-cured tobacco barn, Lexington, KY. Marion Wolcott, 1940. (From Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division)
The photo above shows an air-cured tobacco barn in Lexington, KY and was taken in 1940 by Marion Wolcott. The one below shows a flue-cured tobacco barn (with advertising for Lucky Strike) near Gordonton in Person County, NC. It was taken by Dorothea Lange in 1939.
Flue-cured tobacco barn, Person County, NC. Dorothea Lange, 1939. From the Prints & Photographs Division of the Library of Congress.
20239_pf0101_01_0002. Lee Hoffman and John Schuyler “Jock” Root at the races. Photo by Aaron Rennert, ca. 1957-1960. Photo-Sound Associates, Ron Cohen Collection (20239).
It’s hard not to get drawn into the Photo-Sound Associates images in the Ron Cohen Collection (20239). My intention is always to grab a quick photo to share on the blog and before I know it, I’ve grabbed six. I started off with the image above including the Caravan magazine founder and renaissance woman Lee Hoffman (ed. note: I recommend reading her website, Ms. Hoffman led a remarkable life) at some car races. I was looking for a different Washington Square Park photo when I saw the image below with the enormous crowd on a spring day. I can’t imagine the sound of that environment in the middle of the city. The street scenes documented by Rennert and photographer Ray Sullivan provide a fascinating look into New York City in the late 1950s. Framing musician Eric Weissberg and his Puch/Allstate 250CC two-stroke motorbike in the distance allows for a wonderful view of the architecture and 1950s automobiles. Finally, the image of Izzy Young through the window at the Folklore Center seemed the perfect way to end the tour along with this tired cat, so sleepy. The folk scene in NYC was a happening place to be in the late 1950s.
20239_pf0102_02_0003. Car races. Photo by Aaron Rennert, ca. 1957-1960. Photo-Sound Associates, Ron Cohen Collection (20239).
20239_pf0082_01_0006. Crowd in Washington Square Park, 5 May 1959. Photo by Aaron Rennert. Photo-Sound Associates, Ron Cohen Collection (20239).
20239_pf0082_01_0010. Listeners, small boy playing harmonica, Washington Square Park, 5 May 1959. Photo by Aaron Rennert. Photo-Sound Associates, Ron Cohen Collection (20239).
20239_pf0098_01_0013. Eric Weissberg and his Puch/Allstate 250cc two-stroke motorbike. Photo by “LH,” ca. 1957-1960. Photo-Sound Associates, Ron Cohen Collection (20239).
20239_pf0100_0015. Izzy Young looking in the Folklore Center, 27 July 1959. Photo by Aaron Rennert. Photo-Sound Associates, Ron Cohen Collection (20239).
Tired Cat.Photo by “LH,” ca. 1957-1960. Photo-Sound Associates, Ron Cohen Collection (20239).
Pete Seeger performing at Folk Festival at Town Hall, 8 March 1958. Photo by Ray Sullivan for Photo-Sound Associates. 20239_pf0002_0022. Ron Cohen Collection (20239). Southern Folklife Collection.
We were deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Pete Seeger early this morning. Certainly the Southern Folklife Collection could not exist without the singular vision and dedication of remarkable individuals like Pete Seeger. His efforts to collect, preserve, and celebrate the musical heritage of the peoples of the world reflects the core of our mission. We consider it an honor to be able to contribute to the celebration of Seeger’s life and legacy with the resources we hold at Wilson Library and we encourage anyone interested in more research to visit us Wilson Library where the Southern Folklife Collection has hundreds of images, publications, recordings, and manuscript materials documenting Pete Seeger. With such a diverse and extensive career, it was difficult to choose what to share, however these images from the Photo-Sound Associates materials in the Ron Cohen Collection (20239) immediately came to mind.
The first four were made by Ray Sullivan in the late 1950s, after Seeger’s 1957 indictment for standing up to congress and the House Un-American Activities Committee. They all feature Seeger at the heart of the early folk revival in New York City doing what he loved, singing and playing music for people. The final image shows Seeger, Rambling Jack Elliot (in the top hat) and a crew of musicians on the deck of the Clearwater, the sloop Seeger built to advocate for clean water on his beloved Hudson River. We hope you find these images as joyful and moving as we do. Sing a song today for Pete.
Pete Seeger with the Drexel Singers (front row: Lela Royster, Edith Drexel, Elizabeth “Liz” Dargan, and unknown male singer). Folksong ’59 at Carnegie Hall, 3 April 1959. Photo by Ray Sullivan for Photo-Sound Associates. 20239_pf0079_01_0028. Ron Cohen Collection (20239). Southern Folklife Collection.
Pete and Mike Seeger. Folksong ’59 at Carnegie Hall, 4/3/59. 20239_pf0079_02_0028.Photo by Ray Sullivan for Photo-Sound Associates. Ron Cohen Collection (20239).Southern Folklife Collection.
Pete Seeger, presumably hootenanny at Carnegie Hall, 22 February 1958. Photo by Ray Sullivan for Photo Sound Associates. 20239_pf0132_02_0006. Ron Cohen Collection (20239). Southern Folklife Collection.
Pete Seeger, Jack Elliott, and crew performing for children on the Clearwater, ca. 1969. Photo-Sound Associates. 20239_pf0201_03_0015. Ron Cohen Collection (20239). Southern Folklife Collection.
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).
It was a pleasure to dig into the Southern Folklife Collection‘s two issues of Zygote, an excellent alternative rag out of New York in the early 1970s. I also enjoyed imagining which member of the John Edwards Memorial Foundation originally collected the magazine for the periodical collection. These two issues feature some quality investigative journalism and radical political commentary mixed with record and film reviews, music features, pop-culture criticism, and a psychedelic visual style. The Southern Folklife Collection has but two issues from 1970, this one vol. 1, no. 7, from October 30, and vol. 1, no. 8 from November. If you subscribed for two years you could have picked up the latest Mother Earth LP and the soundtrack to The Strawberry Statement. Plus, Tina Turner and Wayne Cochran (scroll down to the bottom).
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.
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.