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.

78 of the week: Ida Cox and Lovie Austin on Paramount

78_11107_Kentucky_Man_Blues_Southern Folklife Collection, UNC Chapel HillSorry to be so quiet around here lately. Summer in Chapel Hill may be quiet, but activity at Wilson Library intensifies as the temperature goes up. We’ve got exciting news about the SFC 25 year anniversary coming up so stay tuned to Field Trip South over the next few days. You’re going to love it.

78_11107_Death_Letter_Blues_Southern Folklife Collection, UNC Chapel HillBut for this afternoon, to ease back into blogging this week I thought we could start slow with call no. 78-11107 by the remarkable Ida Cox accompanied by the one and only Lovie Austin. “Death Letter Blues” and “Kentucky Man Blues” are but two of 78 sides Cox recorded for Paramount between 1923 and 1929. Enjoy these segments, presented with no noise reduction or post-processing. Love the sound.

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Southern Folklife Collection Flamenco photo of the week

Carmen Rivas, photo by Aaron Rennert for Photo-Sound Associates. 20239_pf0022_0023_Ron Cohen Collection, Southern Folklife Collection, UNC Chapel Hill

Stunning photographs made by Aaron Rennert for Photo-Sound Associates, from the Ron Cohen Collection (20239). Shot in New York City, in the late 1950s, the images document a party attended by members of the famed Ballet Español de Ximenez-Vargas. Dancers include (from top to bottom): Carmen Rivas, an unidentified man, Maria Alba (Flamenco dance star who studied with Mariquita Flores and by 1957 or so was dancing with Ximenez-Vargas), and Antonio Hector de Jesus.

Unidentified dancer_photo by Aaron Rennert for Photo-Sound Associates. 20239_pf0022_0001Maria Alba, photo by Aaron Rennert for Photo-Sound Associates. 20239_pf0022_0040_Ron Cohen Collection, Southern Folklife Collection, UNC Chapel HillAntonio Hector de Jesus, photo by Aaron Rennert for Photo-Sound Associates. 20239_pf0022_0035_Ron Cohen Collection, Southern Folklife Collection, UNC Chapel Hill

Ham, corn and fiddle tunes at Tommy Jarrell’s

20006_pf0081_0029_Alice Gerrard Collection (20006)_Southern Folklife CollectionBack in 2009 we wrote about a field recording, call no. FS8341 from the Alice Gerrard Collection, documenting the Christmas she and Andy Cahan spent with Tommy Jarrell and his daughter Dena in 1983. For those who are interested, they had chicken and “it was so fine.”

That’s not the only holiday recording in the Alice Gerrard Collection. FS8205 was made in 1981 when Alice and a few others, including old-time musician Rusty Neithammer, spent Thanksgiving with Tommy. They had ham, and also some corn, according to the tape.

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How many other holiday menus and recipes were recorded in the process of doing field work that are now held in Wilson Library at UNC? These recordings and thousands more are available for research in the Southern Folklife Collection. There was quite a bit of music at that Thanksgiving celebration, listen to Jarrell’s solo banjo version of “Let Me Fall” and then Rusty Neithammer and Tommy Jarrell twin fiddle one of my favorites, “Rockingham Cindy.”

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The Southern Folklife Collection is thankful to be able to share this with all of you out there. Happy Thanksgiving.

SFC Spooky Spotlight: A “Mummie’s Curse” uncovered in the Goldband Recording Corporation Collection

OP20459_16_Jason Lonon Collection, Death-Ray Design!.  Continental Club PosterWith the Wilson Library live action Clue Game happening tonight and All Hallow’s Eve tomorrow, it’s no surprise that strange phenomena have been occuring in the Southern Folklife Collection studios. Just this morning, preservation audio engineer Brian Paulson digitized the Goldband Records master tape of Satan and the Deciples, call no. FT6891 in the Goldband Recording Corporation Collection (20245), as part of our current digitization project, From the Piedmont to the Swamplands: Preserving Southern Traditional Music.

FT6981_ Satan and Deciples_Mummie's Curse_Goldband Recording Corporation Collection (20245)_Southern Folklife Collection, Brian arrived to work this morning, having left the Rivers Studio in proper order when he left last night, to find this open reel tape spooled on the Otari ready for playback. No one knows how the tape got from the stacks to the studio or what could have loaded the tape onto the machine. Not one to question the will and ways of the supernatural, of course Brian played the tape, reavealing the following horrifying song, “Mummie’s Curse.”

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Not much is known about Satan and the Deciples (aka Satan and Satin’s Roses, aka Satin and the Deciples). The theory we agreed upon in the Rivers Studio accepts that the band rose out of the swamps around Lake Charles, called from eternal slumber to terrorize the honky-tonks of East Texas like so many of the undead. Other more likely theories suggest the band was a novelty project made up of a crew of local bar band musicians that liked scary movies. Considering the Deciples featured one Baldemar Huerta (aka Freddy Fender who co-wrote both tracks on this tape) on lead guitar, the latter theory is more plausible. We may never know the truth, but we were inspired to pull out Jason Lonon’s poster for a “Halloween Ho-down” (featured above) to share with you fine readers, call no. OP-20451/16 from the Jason Lonon Poster Collection (20451).

Happy Halloween.

78 of the week: Jesse Rodgers with Kama’s Moana Hawaiians

78_828_A_San Antonio Blues_Southern Folklife Collection (30001)_UNC Chapel Hill

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Two excellent sides for you by the great Jesse Rodgers (first cousin to Jimmie), from Southern Folklife Collection disc call no. 78-828. A successful musician who appeared on the “border-blaster” radio stations XERA and XERN in the late 20s and early 30s, Rodgers career took off in an unexpected direction after Jimmie’s untimely death in 1933. Always looking to repeat past successes, RCA-Bluebird picked up Jesse in hopes he would continue where Jimmie left off, even setting Jesse up to record with the great steel guitarist Charles Kama and his Moana Hawaiians who had recorded previous sides with Jimmie. These two tracks were recorded 28 Feburary 1936 at the Texas Hotel in San Antonio. Kama’s guitar work is superb and his musical arrangement wonderfully compliments the tune. Listen to the solo in the second clip below and note Kama’s masterful accompaniment to Rodger’s blue yodeling. Fantastic. 

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78_828_Old Pinto, My Pony, My Pal_Southern Folklife Collection (30001)_UNC Chapel Hill

78 rpm disc of the week: Red Kirk “The Voice of the Country”

78_9938_1

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Great pair of pure country tearjerkers from Southern Folklife Collection 78 rpm disc call no. 78-9938. I discovered these numbers thanks to a recent request and gladly spent some time in the studio while the great Red Kirk, known as “The Voice of the Country,” and the phenomenal steel guitar of Jerry Byrd played offered the soundtrack to my morning blues. Recorded in Cincinnati with Jerry Byrd’s String Dusters–Louis Innis on rhythm, Zeke Turner on lead guitar, Red Turner on bass, and Tommy Jackson on fiddle–all great session players that also performed the Midwestern Hayride on WLW. Side two, “It’s Raining in my Heart” is even better.

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78_9938_2

Zygote, 1970

Zygote_v1_n7_1970_Southern Folklife CollectionIt 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).

Right on.

Zygote_v1_n7_1970_Southern Folklife CollectionZygote_v1_n7_1970_Southern Folklife CollectionZygote_v1_n7_1970_Southern Folklife CollectionZygote_v1_n7_1970_Southern Folklife Collection

16-inch transcription disc of the week: The Prairie Ramblers

TR1180_1Another research query to share this week. I found the Standard Program Library 16-inch transcription disc pictured above, call number TR1180 from the Southern Folklife Collection Transcription Discs (#30024), while assisting a patron searching for a recording of a track called “Mussin’ Frets,” a novelty guitar instrumental by the excellent Prairie Ramblers [bio by Greensboro, NC resident Eugene Chadbourne!]. The group coalesced in the 1930s appearing on numerous radio stations before settling down at WLS in Chicago. Featuring mandolinist Charles Chick Hurt, bassist “Happy” Jack Taylor, fiddler Tex Atchison, and Floyd “Salty” Holmes, a multi-instrumentalist and master of the harmonica, the group rose to fame after partnering up with a young Patsy Montana. Comfortable jumping from old-time stringband music, to country, to western swing, they went on to appear in numerous cowboy films with Gene Autry and other singing cowboys before splitting up for good in 1947 (well after Montana left to pursue her solo career). But back to the disc, Here’s “Huckleberry Picnic” to wet your whistle.  

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TR1180_1_spinUnfortunately, we were unable to locate “Mussin’ Frets,” but fortunately we were able to digitze TR1180 to share with you fine readers and listeners. These recordings feature a Post-War incarnation of the Prairie Ramblers, aka The Westernaires at this time, after Atchison and Holmes had left the band. Rusty Gill, the vocalist on this disc, including the classic cowboy number “Ridin’ Old Paint in the Sky,” was married to Carolyn DeZurik of the remarkable DeZurik Sisters. If any of you have any information about “Mussin’ Frets,’ please do let us know. 

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