SFC Spotlight: Kenny Baker

**click photo to enlarge**

World renowned fiddler Kenneth Clayton Baker of Jenkins, Kentucky passed away on July 8, 2011.  Master of the “long bow” style of bluegrass fiddling, Baker joined up with Bill Monroe in 1957, becoming the longest lasting member of The Bluegrass Boys when he left the group in 1984.  Best known as a bluegrass fiddler, Baker’s reputation as a musician reached far beyond bluegrass into swing, country, and beyond, earning him a National Heritage Award from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1993. Baker’s influence on American music is immeasurable.

We are fortunate to hold a wide array of Baker’s recordings a the Southern Folklife Collection spanning his entire career, including his fantastic solo LPs of fiddle tunes recorded for the County label in the 1970s, like Dry and Dusty, call no. FC_4221, pictured above.  The Becky Johnson Collection (#20405) includes some wonderfully candid performance photos of Baker and countless other bluegrass heroes, and the always astounding collection of materials assembled by the late Mike Seeger includes priceless recordings of performances by Baker and his fellow Bluegrass Boys.

While scanning through Seeger’s recordings, we came across a bluegrass fiddling workshop hosted by Seeger at Bill Monroe’s Bean Blossom festival, 21 June 1969, call no. FT_12857.  In the two clips below, Baker first expresses his love for the fiddling of legendary jazz violinist Stéphane Grappelli, and in the second, we are treated to Baker’s rendition of the classic fiddle tune “Fisher’s Hornpipe.”  May he rest in peace.

Kenny Baker, workshop at Bean Blossom, 21 June 1969

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Kenny Baker, “Fisher’s Hornpipe,” live at Bean Blossom, 21 June 1969

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SFC Spotlight: Special Golden Jubilee Edition

Did you ever wonder which songs will live forever?  We hadn’t ever really thought about it, but then we came across this January 1953 copy of a magazine by the Charlton Publishing Corporation that answered the question that we didn’t know we had twice every month.  For just $0.25 this information could have been yours.

Southern Folklife Collection Song Folios (#30006): Songs That Will Live Forever, Vol. X, no. 1, Charlton Pub. Corp: Derby, Conn, January 1953.

SFC Spotlight: Alva Greene, Fiddler’s Conventions, and Guthrie T. Meade

2nd Annual Old time Fiddlers and Bluegrass Convention, 1970, Marion, VA.  Guthrie T. Meade Collection, 1817-1991 (#20246). Subseries 6.4. Fiddle Contests and Conventions: General, 1889-1979. Folder 197: 1960s-1990s.

While looking for information about the great Kentucky fiddler Alva Greene, recorded by Kevin “Chris” Delaney (see SFC tapes call nos. FT-284 and FS-7169) as well as Guthrie Meade and Mark Wilson in the 1970s, I had the opportunity to spend a brief moment with a few of Guthrie Meade’s vast fiddle files.

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“Grampaw” performed by Alva Greene, from SFC open reel tape call no. FT-284, side 1. Recorded by Chris Delaney at Mr. Green’s home in Sandy Hook, Kentucky, Sept. 20 1973.  Mr. Green was 78 years old at the time of the recording.  He was born in Elliot Co., Kentucky.  For a fuller fiddle fix, hear more recordings of Alva Greene by Delaney at the Digital Library of Appalachia.

A seemingly inexhaustible scholar, Meade was constantly developing his discographical research, as documented by a page from this early 1970s spiral notebook (below). The notebook also chronicles some of Meade’s 1970s fieldwork exploring his lifelong interest with fiddling contests and fiddlers conventions so we pulled out a few fliers and programs from Meade’s festival files, including the “Creed of Civitan” according to the Marion Civitan Club, to share with you as well (further below).  Our continuing tribute to Hazel Dickens will conclude next week. Have a great weekend.

** CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE **

Fieldnotes, Guthrie T. Meade, 1970s. Guthrie T. Meade Collection, 1817-1991 (#20246). Subseries 6.3. Kentucky Fiddling, 1919-1990. Folder 178: Kentucky fiddlers and tunes: General research

Program, 1st Annual Old Time Fiddlers and Bluegrass Convention, Marion, VA, 1969. Guthrie T. Meade Collection, 1817-1991 (#20246). Subseries 6.4. Fiddle Contests and Conventions: General, 1889-1979. Folder 197: 1960s-1990s.
“Civitan Creed,” back of program, 1st Annual Old Time Fiddlers and Bluegrass Convention, Marion, VA, 1969. Guthrie T. Meade Collection, 1817-1991 (#20246). Subseries 6.4. Fiddle Contests and Conventions: General, 1889-1979. Folder 197: 1960s-1990s.

 

Flier, WHBN’s 3rd Annual Ole Time Fiddlers Contest, Harrodsburg, KY, 1990. Guthrie T. Meade Collection, 1817-1991 (#20246). Subseries 6.4. Fiddle Contests and Conventions: General, 1889-1979. Folder 197, 1960s-1990s.
Registration form, WHBN’s 3rd Annual Ole Time Fiddlers Contest, Harrodsburg, KY, 1990. Guthrie T. Meade Collection, 1817-1991 (#20246). Subseries 6.4. Fiddle Contests and Conventions: General, 1889-1979. Folder 197, 1960s-1990s.

 

Master tape of the week: Chester Randle’s Soul Sender’s

A recent patron inquiry about Chester Randle’s Soul Sender’s got us digging through the masters in the Goldband Recording Corporation Collection, 1930-1995 (#20245) to find this open reel tape of Soul Sender’s alternate takes and practice jams.  These tracks are rough and the arrangements are only just coming together, but Randle’s heavily distorted guitar cuts through the mud-sludge bass while Milford Scott’s hammond B-3 organ practically pours over the raw funk of Bill Parker’s drumbeat.  The full weight of Lake Charles’ humid swamp air lays heavy on this boogie.  Sounds great to us.

There are three different versions of each “Sweet Potato” and “Soul Brother’s Testify” on FT-6694.  Unlike the final versions, these rehearsal tapes do not feature horns as part of the ensemble.  It’s great to hear the band try on licks and solos, developing the lyrics and arrangements, and laying down some seriously noisy sounds.  These tracks eventually saw release on Eddie Shuler’s ANLA imprint. “Soul Brother’s Testify, parts 1 and 2,” (ANLA 102) is a sought after release by funk and soul record collectors and the opening breakbeat has been heavily sampled by hip hop artists.  For more information on ANLA releases in the collection see the Goldband finding aid, the SFC Goldband online exhibit, and the list below, but for now, some music.

- “Sweet Potato,” take 3, intro

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- “Sweet Potato,” take 2, guitar solo

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- “Soul Brother’s Testify,” take 3, intro

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- “Soul Brother’s Testify,” take 3, end

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The Soul Sender’s ensemble appears on recordings under a few different names with only slight variation–The Original Soul Sender’s, Charles Randle’s Soul Sender’s, sometimes without apostrophes.  Guitarist Charles Randle performed with Bill Parker, Milford Scott, and likely the unknown musicians as well, in a variety of groups like Clarence Garlow & His Accordion and the Chester Randle Orchestra.  Bill Parker was himself a local R&B star in the early 1960s with his Showboat Band, a group that also occasionally featured young guitarist Chester Randle.  Parker recorded numerous other sides for ANLA and Goldband and eventually founded his own Showboat Records.

Eddie Shuler started ANLA in the 1960s to feature soul and R&B artists from South Louisiana and East Texas as an extension of the blues, cajun, swamp pop, and zydeco music he released on his Goldband Record label.  Shuler founded Goldband in the 1940s initially to release country, cajun, and western swing records, including those by his own band, the All Star Reveliers.  In the early 1950s, Shuler bought an old holiness Church at 313 Church Street in north Lake Charles, Louisiana and developed the Goldband Complex, including a recording studio, record shop, and Shuler’s television repair business, Eddie’s Quick Service TV.

Shuler recorded regional artists for a regional market, distributing the recordings from the back of his car to record stores and to jukebox operators who placed the records on jukeboxes leased to local clubs, dancehalls, and restaurants.  Shuler had an ear for talent and for the changing tastes of his audience, building an impressive roster of artists over the years, including the first recordings of legendary Cajun accordionist Iry LeJune, the first hit record by then 13 year old Dolly Parton, Rockin’ Sidney, Boozoo Chavis, Cookie and the Cupcakes, and Cleveland Crochet, whose 1961 recording “Sugar Bee” became the first Cajun tune to break the Billboard Top 100.  Shuler’s accomplishments and struggles in the music industry are too many to list here, but for one of the best written histories the music of South Louisiana, see John Broven’s 1983 book South to Louisiana: the music of the Cajun bayous.

Original/Chester Randle’s Soul Senders materials in the Southern Folklife Collection include both 45 rpm records and open reel tape.  Follow the following link for more information on the materials listed below, Goldband Recording Corporation Collection, 1930-1995 (#20245):

45-8083, ANLA AL-102, “Soul Brother’s Testify”/”Soul Brother’s Testify”

45-8085 ANLA AL-118. “Low Blow, Part I”/”Low Blow, Part II”

45-8088 ANLA AN-105. “Take a Little Nip”/”Why did I let you go,”

Open reels: FT-6694; FT-6695; FT-7031; FT-7758; FT-7774; FT-7861; FT-7896; FT-7933; and FT-7968.

Collection Spotlight: Glenn Campbell on transcription disc

Capitol Records released Glenn Campbell’s hit song, “Galveston,” on March 17, 1969 so we pulled out a version  from the Lawrence Welk radio series, Guest Spot, show number LW70-36, distributed to radio stations as transcription discs.  Guest Spot was one of many syndicated radio shows sponsored by the

Liner notes (click to zoom)

United States Armed Forces, the U. S. Navy and Naval Reserves for this series.

The copy in the Southern Folklife Collection, call no. TR-12/504, is part of the extensive and always fascinating Eugene Earle Collection (#20376). Track list and liner notes are included to the left.  The modulation in the last verse and the sound of the telecaster in the guitar solo where the string sounds so loose that it might fall off just gets us every time.  The first clip below is the introduction to the show itself, the second is a sample of “Galveston.”

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