McCabes Guitar Shop Collection comes to UNC

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It’s a treat to go on an accession trip through the eyes and lens of Southern Folklife Collection curator, Steve Weiss. Just last month, Steve traveled to California to prepare the over 2000 audio cassettes and open reel tapes documenting performances from 1969 onward by the likes of Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, John Fahey, John Hammond, Bill Monroe, Odetta, Jean Ritchie, Dave Van Ronk, Mike Seeger, Ralph Stanley, Merle Travis, Kate Wolf, Townes Van Zandt, and North Carolina’s own Elizabeth Cotten and Doc and Merle Watson. They all took place at McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica, California.

More than 1,600 musical acts have played at McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica, California, over the last 45 years. The list on the store’s website even comes with a warning: “We lost track of a few names.”

Now Bob Riskin, the concert venue’s owner, has donated thousands of hours of recordings from those concerts to the Southern Folklife Collection (SFC) in the Wilson Special Collections Library. The SFC will preserve the recordings by creating and archiving digital copies of them.

The McCabe’s store, which first opened its doors in 1958 and specializes in selling folk and acoustic instruments, offers instrument rentals and repairs as well as books, lessons, and help for musicians and music aficionados alike.

We look forward to researchers, scholars, musicians, and fans to be able to access these historic recordings starting in September of 2016. For now, though, take a trip to McCabe’s through these photographs made by Steve Weiss on his recent trip.

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Thank you, Jean Ritchie

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Jean Ritchie, recording session, NYC, ca. 1959. Photo by Ray Sullivan for Photo Sound Associates. Ron Cohen Collection (20239), Southern Folklife Collection, UNC-Chapel Hill.

Jean Ritchie–singer, scholar, songwriter, activist, Kentuckian, “The Mother of Folk”–passed away June 1 at the age of 92. We wanted to share some images of Ritchie in remembrance of her life and in honor of her vitally important contributions to the promotion and preservation of traditional music in Appalachia, America, and beyond.

Ray Sullivan of the Photo Sound Associates team in New York City documented Ritchie in the late 1950s, recording herself in a small space on an open reel tape machine and performing at a concert of the Folksingers Guild. From the look on Ritchie’s face, it must have been a good session. Following are a few images from the Southern Folk Cultural Revival Project–including SFCRP founder Anne Romaine, Mike Seeger, Doc Watson, Rosa Lee Watson, Bessie Jones, and more–with whom Ritchie would occasionally tour.

Jean Ritchie, recorded at Renfro Valley Folk Festival, Renfro Valley, Kentucky, April 1946. 12 acetate disc, FD_0501, in the Artus Moser Papers (20004), Southern Folklife Collection, UNC-Chapel Hill.

Finally, for listening we pulled out a special recording of Ritchie from the Artus Moser Papers (20004). Ritchie was a senior at the University of Kentucky in April of 1946 when she attended the Renfro Valley Folk Festival and sang a number of ballads for Artus Moser collecting for the Library of Congress. The following, “Lord Grumble,” “I Married Me a Wife (Gentle Fair Jenny),” “Foggy Dew” and “The Little Old Woman” come from a 12″ acetate disc FD_0501. Thank you Jean Ritchie. Peace to you, your family, your friends, and your fans.

Jean Ritchie, recorded at Renfro Valley Folk Festival, Renfro Valley, Kentucky, April 1946. 12 acetate disc, FD_0501, in the Artus Moser Papers (20004), Southern Folklife Collection, UNC-Chapel Hill.

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Jean Ritchie, recording session, NYC, ca. 1959. Photo by Ray Sullivan for Photo Sound Associates. Ron Cohen Collection (20239), Southern Folklife Collection, UNC-Chapel Hill.

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Jean Ritchie, recording session, NYC, ca. 1959. Photo by Ray Sullivan for Photo Sound Associates. Ron Cohen Collection (20239), Southern Folklife Collection, UNC-Chapel Hill.

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Jean Ritchie, recording session, NYC, ca. 1959. Photo by Ray Sullivan for Photo Sound Associates. Ron Cohen Collection (20239), Southern Folklife Collection, UNC-Chapel Hill.

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Jean Ritchie at Folksingers Guild concert, 30 January 1959. Photo by Ray Sullivan for Photo Sound Associates. Ron Cohen Collection (20239), Southern Folklife Collection, UNC-Chapel Hill.

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Possibly a tour organized Anne Romaine, photo includes Bessie Jones, Jean Ritchie, Anne Romaine, Rosa Lee Watson, Mike Seeger, and Doc Watson. Mike Seeger Collection (20009), Southern Folklife Collection, UNC-Chapel Hill.

In tribute to Guy Carawan

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20008_PF20008_15_Carawan_Banjo_013Singer, folklorist, activist and organizer Guy Carawan is a hero. He died last week at the age of 87. At the Southern Folklife Collection, we are lucky to be in the presence of Guy and Candie through the legacy of his work archived in the Guy and Candie Carawan Collection (20008). Like many heroes, Guy and Candie Carawan worked tirelessly and constantly. Prior to their meeting at the Highlander Folk School in 1960 to present day, the Carawans dedicated their lives to fighting for social justice through political engagement, education, and organizing. They believed in the power of song and the unbreakable spirit forged when multiple voices rise up in harmony and solidarity. Numerous media outlets have detailed Guy Carawan’s legacy in obituaries this week. More people have learned of Carawan’s role in popularizing an anthem of the Civil Rights Movement, “We Shall Overcome,” teaching it to organizers at the first meeting of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in Raleigh in 1960, this week than ever before. Our hope is that the materials presented here can expand from that moment and expose more of the world to the life and work of our friend and hero, Guy Carawan.

Carawan's banjo head, signed by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Septima Clark, Fred Shuttlesworth and many more

Carawan’s banjo head, signed by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Septima Clark, Fred Shuttlesworth and many more.  (click to zoom)

Every year, scholars from around the world expose me to new facets of the Carawans’ work through their research. Choosing what to share to honor Guy’s life from a collection of almost 20,000 items is an impossible task. Hundreds of open reel and audio cassette tapes made by the Carawans document the cultures of various groups of people in the South including significant speeches, sermons, and musical performances recorded during major civil rights demonstrations and conferences in Nashville, Birmingham, Atlanta. These recordings include master tapes of several documentary albums released on Folkways Records and feature such influential figures as Ralph Abernathy, Fred Shuttlesworth, James Bevel, Len Chandler, the Georgia Sea Island Singers, and Nashville Mayor R. Benjamin West.

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Numerous field recordings of worship meetings, songs, stories, and recollections from Johns Island, S.C., document elements of the African American heritage of the rural South Carolina Low Country. Included are complete recordings of all-night Christmas and New Year’s watch meetings held in Moving Star Hall, a community praise house, as well as interviews with civic leader and activist Esau Jenkins about socio-economic improvements and efforts to overcome racial discrimination and poverty on Johns Island in the 1950s and 1960s. Listen to Esau Jenkins talk about his life on St. John’s Island followed by a prayer from the Moving Star Hall church, from open reel tape FT3617:

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Members of the Moving Star Hall Singers, Ruth Bligen, Janie Hunter, Bertha Smith, Mary Pinckney. photo by Wade Spees. 20008_PF20008_13

Members of the Moving Star Hall Singers, Ruth Bligen, Janie Hunter, Bertha Smith, Mary Pinckney. photo by Wade Spees. 20008_PF20008_13

20008_Folder156_JohnsIsland_FolkSongFestival_008Born 7 July 1927 in Santa Monica, Calif. Guy’s father was from Mesic, North Carolina in the Eastern part of the state. While pursuing a degree in mathematics at Occidental College, Carawan studied folklore with Austin Fife and began to perform as a folksinger. He subsequently completed a master’s degree in sociology at the University of California at Los Angeles, where he continued his study of folklore with Wayland Hand. During the early 1950s, Carawan grew interested in incorporating folk music and topical songs into progressive socio-political activism and became involved in the People’s Song movement, meeting such activist-musicians as Pete Seeger and Lee Hays. In the late 1950s, Carawan released albums on Folkways Records, including Songs By Guy Carawan, SFC call number FC5349, featuring the playing of John Cohen (who Carawan met at jam sessions in Washington Square Park).FC5379_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC_Chapel Hill002

Carawan released a number of albums with Folkways, his second featured liner notes by Alan Lomax. img001In 1959, after the death of his teacher and collaborator Zilphia Horton, he became the director of music at the Highlander Folk School, an institution that provided instruction in social organization and was a meeting place for people interested in the civil rights movement and related causes in the South.

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20008_Folder11_Highlander Folk School Map

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Candie Anderson, also from southern California, became interested in the black civil rights movement while in high school. She attended Pomona College near Los Angeles, but spent her junior year of college at Fisk University, a historically African American institution in Nashville, Tenn. While there, she participated in pro-integration demonstrations led by black students in Nashville. She became acquainted with Guy Carawan during a workshop at the Highlander School.20008_Folder06_Sit_In_Songs_010

Candie and Guy Carawan remained affiliated with the Highlander Center and with the predominantly black community of Johns Island, S.C., where they addressed issues of racial discrimination and rural poverty, particularly through a citizenship education program formulated by the Highlander School.

20008_PF20008_8_Dickens,_Carawan_Workman_011  Hazel Dickens, Guy Carawan, and Nimrod Workman, at Coal Workshop at Hindman, 1986

Hazel Dickens, Guy Carawan, and Nimrod Workman, at Coal Workshop at Hindman, 1986

They participated in major civil rights campaigns in Birmingham, Atlanta, and other southern cities. Participating in Freedom Rides and the Birmingham Mass Meeting.

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Through workshops at the Highlander Center and elsewhere, they collected variants of African American spirituals and other songs for use in civil rights demonstrations and shared them with other participants, publishing a number of books like the following We Shall Overcome(Oak Publications, 1963).M1629_C2_W4_We Shall Overcome_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC Chapel Hill

Throughout their careers, the Carawans have sought to document the music and culture of various groups of people with whom they have worked. They have been involved in the production of seventeen documentary recordings and seven films and have written five books, including three anthologies of songs associated with the civil rights movement. All the while, Guy continued to perform and record on his own as well as produce recordings by other artists. He will be missed but he will not be forgotten.

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Workers of the World Unite! May Day in the Mike Seeger and Broadside Collections

flyer from album FC25202 in the Mike Seeger Collection, Southern Folklife Collection , UNC Chapel HillFor all workers, past, present, and future on this 126th International Workers’ Day we present this promotional flyer for the 1978 Folk Song Festival in Helsinki Finland, found inserted in a LP sleeve (along with miniature sticker versions of the flyer) in the SFC’s Mike Seeger Collection, FC-25202.

The 1978 festival and flyer honored Chilean activist singer-songwriter Victor Jara who was murdered, along with thousands of other victims, by the Chilean Army a day after the military coup September 11, 1973. Jara’s 1969 composition “Plegaria a un Labrador” (“Public Prayer to a worker”) remains a powerful call for solidarity in the struggle for human rights. Hear Jara perform “Plegeria a un Labrador” with his group Quilapayún here.

Open reel tape, FT9374, in the Broadside Collection (20289) includes recordings from a series of 1974 benefit concerts for Chile organized by Phil Ochs in New York City after the death of President Salvador Allende, Victor Jara, and countless others. Musicians included Larry Estrige, Bob Dylan, Dave Van Ronk, and Arlo Guthrie. The latter performed a song dedicated to the life of Victor Jara based on a poem written by Adrian Miller. Listen to that track below:

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And finally on this May Day we would like to leave you with one of Woody Guthrie’s protest ballads, “Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos).” The heartbreaking song memorializes the nameless migrants killed in a plane crash in Los Gatos canyon in 1948. It is sung by Sis Cunningham, recorded on FS5695 in the Broadside Collection (20289).

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Fred Gerlach and Rev. Gary Davis at Town Hall, 1958

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A couple of weeks ago, friend of the Southern Folklife Collection, Bob Carlin, brought in a few reels of 16mm film, 35mm negatives, and open reel tapes from the Fred Gerlach estate. More on the film on a future date, but Bob’s visit had me looking into the music of Fred Gerlach. A remarkable and innovative 12-string guitar player I first heard on volume 2 of Tompkins Square‘s brilliantly curated multi-volume guitar series, Imaginational Anthem, Gerlach released only three albums throughout his career: Twelve-String Guitar – Folk Songs and Blues Sung and Played by Fred Gerlach (Folkways, 1962), Songs My Mother Never Sang (Takoma, 1968), and a cassette, Easy Rider (Eyrie, 1993).

An active participant in the 1950s New York folk scene, Gerlach spent time playing with and learning from Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie, and Tiny Ledbetter (Leadbelly’s niece). Along with Tiny Robinson, Gerlach made recordings Reverend Gary Davis in 1957 that later became the album Pure Religion and Bad Company (77 Records, 1961). Knowing he spent time in Washington Square Park and the Folklore Center, it was no surprise to find images of Gerlach in the Photo-Sound Associates images in the Ron Cohen Collection (20239). Photo-Sound Associates photographer, Ray Sullivan documented this concert by Gerlach, on his 12-string, and Reverend Gary Davis at Town Hall on 8 March,1958. For more images seeImage Folder PF-20239/007_02 in the finding aid for the Ron Cohen Collection (20239). Gerlach moved to California in the early 1960s and lived there until his death in 2009. He became well known woodworker, luthier, craftsman (he was reportedly building an airplane in his attic) and musician. He continued to play, if sporadically, around town, often at Los Angeles laundromats, and was a regular at McCabe’s Guitar Store where Ry Cooder and Taj Mahal likely picked up a few pointers.

We would love to have been at this concert in 1958. You can hear at least one tune by Gerlach online, his version of Gallows Pole.”

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The “5” Royales inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

P20286_012_J_Taylor_Doggett_Colleciton_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC_Chapel HillExcellent and exciting news this week that the “5” Royales are to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the “early influences” category. Many have supported their nominations in the past, the “5” Royales were recipients of the North Carolina Folk Heritage Award in 1992, but we were glad to see the band from Winston-Salem, NC recognized internationally for their significant contributions to American music. As the repository for the J. Taylor Doggett Collection (20286), the Southern Folklife Collection holds a variety of materials documenting the “5” Royales career and music. P20286_002_J_Taylor_Doggett_Colleciton_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC_Chapel HillThe “5” Royales series documents Doggett’s extensive research and collecting efforts relating to the careers of constituent members Lowman Pauling, Clarence Paul, Curtis Pauling, Obadiah Carter, Johnny Tanner, Eugene Tanner, Otto Jeffries, and William Samuels. There is also music of the Royal Sons, EL Pauling and the Royalton, and the Charlie “Little Jazz” Ferguson Orchestra. The “5” Royales were significant in providing a link between early R&B and early soul in their combination of doo wop, jump blues, and gospel styles influencing a number of R&B musicians, including Ray Charles, James Brown, and Ike and Tina Turner. Guitarist and songwriter, Lowman Pauling, who unfortunately died in 1973, remains one of the greatest unsung innovators in rock and roll. Over the past few years, a number of box sets chronicling the group’s career, as well as tribute albums by well known musicians like Steve Cropper and young North Carolina groups like Chapel Hill’s The Flesh Wounds have been released, exposing new audiences to the band’s unique sound.

The J. Taylor Doggett Collection includes a number of important recordings, photographs, and ephemera of the group, but a few items that I am constantly drawn to are a series of cassettes compiled by Doggett, SFC call numbers FS9139 through FS9146, that document the bands lesser heard tunes and side projects. Obscure but essential_FS9139_FS9146_J_Taylor_Doggett_Colleciton_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC_Chapel HillBesides these remarkable tapes, we love the photographs of the “5” Royales at the Royal Peacock Club (see the sign pictured above and images below ). These images put the viewer almost onstage at what must have been a true rock and roll experience. Congratulations to the “5” Royales and many thanks to J. Taylor Doggett and so many others who dedicated themselves to preserving the legacy of one of North Carolina’s musical treasures. P20286_003_J_Taylor_Doggett_Colleciton_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC_Chapel HillP20286_004_J_Taylor_Doggett_Colleciton_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC_Chapel Hill P20286_005_J_Taylor_Doggett_Colleciton_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC_Chapel Hill P20286_007_J_Taylor_Doggett_Colleciton_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC_Chapel Hill P20286_009_J_Taylor_Doggett_Colleciton_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC_Chapel Hill P20286_010_J_Taylor_Doggett_Colleciton_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC_Chapel Hill

 

It don’t matter who’s in Austin, Bob Wills is Still the King (or is it Clifton Chenier)?

20002_Archie_Green_Broken Spoke_Southern Folklife CollectionA couple of posters from gigs I would have liked to attend. I was lucky to grow up not 1/2 mile from the Broken Spoke, and despite the best efforts of “New Austin,” I am very glad to report that it’s still there, still honky-tonkin, and the Lone Star is still cold. Both of these posters come from the Archie Green Papers (20002), collected by Archie while a professor at the University of Texas in the 1970s. I feel like artist Michael Priest’s comment written on the bottom of the poster reflects the general sense of wonder those cosmic cowboys and post-hippy hipsters must have felt to be able to attend shows like this on a regular basis, singular moments in music history that transcended the commercial drive of the social scene.

“We seen it right here didn’t we?”

I wish we had, Michael. Long live the kings. 20002_Archie_Green_Antones_Southern Folklife Collection

 

A song of personal thanksgiving

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With all of the mythology surrounding contemporary celebrations of Thanksgiving, I often turn to field recordings to guide me through the gauntlet of caricatures that can seem to overwhelm the holiday experience. I like A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and the Macy’s Parade too, but this time of year always feels surreal until I pull down my collection of Native American music recordings from the record shelf and listen as I begin to prepare dinner for my family and friends.

FC890_cover_005Looking through the stacks this morning in the Southern Folklife Collection, I found a Library of Congress collection from the Archive of Folk Song, Songs from the Iroquois Longhouse, SFC call number FC890. Compiled by William Fenton from recordings made for the Bureau of American Ethnology at the Six Nations Reserve in Canada and the Allegany reservation in New York in 1941, the record is a powerful document of music from the Eastern Woodlands of North America.

FC890_notes_004The notes are extensive and detail the singers, songs, and performance of the music in a variety of contexts. Among the Seneca performers documented is Chancey Johnny John, called hau’no’on, “Cold-voice,” of the Turtle clan of the Cayuga. According to Fenton, Chancey came from a line of singers and knew more than 1000 verses of song. To be able to hear Chancey Johnny John sing is a remarkable gift and we hope you readers and listeners enjoy this short piece as you join together in body, mind, or spirit with your families and friends this weekend. Click on the bar below to listen to Chancey Johnny John recorded in 1941. 

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The song of personal thanksgiving is an individual chant sung during the Midwinter festival, on the third day of the Green Corn Festival. According to Fenton, “every man should return thanks to the Creator that he has lived to see the ceremonies again and that so many people have once again returned to renew the faith of their ancestors.” A transcription of the chant follows. FC890_notes_personal_006FC890_recording_003

Cataloger’s Corner: Bluegrass on Blue Ridge Records

The Church Brothers & their Blue Ridge Ramblers, "No One to Love Me" (Blue Ridge, 1952)

The Church Brothers & their Blue Ridge Ramblers, “No One to Love Me” (Blue Ridge, 1952), call no. 78-16864

Newly cataloged at the SFC (call no. 78-16864) is a 1952 release by the Church Brothers & their Blue Ridge Ramblers, a short-lived ensemble on a short-lived label, both based out of Wilkes County, North Carolina.

The oldest of the three Church Brothers, Bill Church, had played during the 1940s with Roy Hall & his Blue Ridge Entertainers and on a radio show in Asheville, N.C. called “Farm and Fun Time.” After serving in World War II, he and his brother Ralph began playing with cousin Ward Eller and a few other locals—Drake Walsh (son of Dock Walsh), Gar Bowers and Elmer Bowers. Eventually a third Church brother (Edwin) joined the group. Calling themselves the Wilkes County Entertainers, they played on the local radio stations WILX and WKBC and at schoolhouse shows.

The Church Brothers & their Blue Ridge Ramblers, with songwriter Drusilla Adams (center)

The Church Brothers & their Blue Ridge Ramblers with songwriter Drusilla Adams

By the 1950s they were performing as the Church Brothers and their Blue Ridge Ramblers and making recordings with a lineup featuring Bill Church (guitar), Edwin Church (fiddle), Ralph Church (mandolin), Ward Eller (guitar), Ralph Pennington (bass), and Johnny Nelson (banjo). They also began recording songs written by a local lyricist, Drusilla Adams. Initially the band planned to have these recordings come out on Rich-R-Tone Records (at the time based in Johnson City, TN). Because of various delays, Drusilla and her father decided expedite the process by setting up their own Wilkesboro-based label called Blue Ridge Records, which issued several Church Brothers singles. Blue Ridge Records went on to record the Stanley Brothers and Bill Clifton; the label lasted until 1958 when Noah Adams passed away and it was sold.

The single “No One to Love Me,” featured here, received a somewhat mixed review from Billboard magazine: “A lively performance by the Church Brothers with hoedown accompaniment of a so-so piece of material.” About the B-side, “You’re Still the Rose of my Heart,” the critic simply stated: “More of the same.”

We’ve provided an excerpt from “No One to Love Me” here:

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In addition to their releases on Blue Ridge, the Church Brothers & their Blue Ridge Ramblers eventually did go on to sign a contract with Rich-R-Tone, recording several tracks for that label. In 1952, the group disbanded—though the members continued to play on their own at various dance events in the Wilkesboro area.

The Church Brothers’ output on Blue Ridge Records and was later released on LP compilations by Gerd Hadeler Productions and Rounder Records. These LPs are also available at the SFC, as FC-4743 and FC-2046, pictured below.

Church Brothers compilation released on GHP Records

Church Brothers compilation released on GHP Records, call no. FC-4743

Church Brothers compilation on Rounder Records

Church Brothers compilation on Rounder Records, call no. FC-2046

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An article and video feature on former Rambler Ward Eller’s experiences with the band appeared in the March 2014 issue of Mountain Music Magazine.