Katie Phar: Songbird of the Wobblies

Phar’s Autograph | Green 385

During my work cataloging the many editions of the IWW’s Little Red Songbook in the Archie Green Collection, one particular autograph stood out and intrigued me time and time again. The Green Collection holds 13 different items—all songbooks of some sort—with the autograph of Katie Phar. Little is known about her and not much has been written on her or her role in the IWW. Phar joined the Industrial Workers of the World around the age of 11. She was often referred to as the “IWW songbird” or the “Songbird of the Wobblies.” A young Katie Phar wrote to IWW martyr Joe Hill during his imprisonment about their shared love of music and its importance to the labor movement. A handful of images of Katie Phar have been digitized by the University of Washington Libraries, but the details on Katie Phar and her life remain relatively few.

Fifth edition of Little Red Songbook with Katie Phar’s autograph | Green 432d c.2

In the twenty-eighth edition of the Little Red Songbook, published in July of 1945, I found a page devoted to Katie Phar. With a short tribute and an image in memory of Katie Phar, published just after her death in 1943, the Little Red Songbook paid its respects to one of its most ardent supporters of its music. Using this information and with a little help from census records and city directories, I was able to create an authority record for the voice that inspired so many members of the IWW “with her songs, her high courage” (Songs of the workers, 1945, page 4). City directories for Seattle in the early 1900s revealed Katie’s steady employment as a cashier for a theater, before she later devoted herself to the entertainment industry, presumably referring to her many hours spent singing for Wobblies and adding to the morale of the labor movement.

Tribute to Katie Phar in the twenty-eighth edition of the Little Red Songbook, issued July, 1945 | Green 451

While these autographs may mark the songbooks as her own, or they may simply be autographs for those who heard her sing and lead the singing at many an IWW meeting, Wilson Library also holds some fascinating traces of Katie Phar in its archival holdings. In the Archie Green Papers of the Southern Folklife Collection, there are three song scrapbooks related to Katie Phar. Two of the scrapbooks were compiled by Katie Phar herself, and the third was compiled by Herbert (Herb) Tulin, a prolific songwriter and member of the IWW.

An example of a labor song written down by Katie Phar in her 1926 notebook. The tune designation was added in blue ink by IWW song scholar John Neuhaus | Archie Green Papers, 1944-2009, Folder 6583

Pages from an undated song scrapbook that belonged to Katie Phar. | Folder 6584

It is in Tulin’s scrapbook that the importance of Katie Phar to the labor movement can be seen. Herb Tulin compiled a scrapbook of clippings and mimeographs of his songs for Katie Phar as a Christmas present in 1928.

Herbert Tulin’s presentation inscription to Katie Phar. The scrapbook is filled with songs written by Tulin. | Folder 6585

He writes:

To Katie Phar,

As you turn the pages o’er to sing
May your spirits soar the higher
To let your heart be light and on the wing
Remembering those you helped inspire.

Songs written by Herbert Tulin about Katie Phar | Folder 6585

The two final pages of the scrapbook are filled with the songs that Tulin wrote for Katie and reveal much about her and her role in the labor movement. These songs describe Katie Phar as a “bright star,” “an inspiration,” “a Rebel-girl,” and one who “lift[s] your thots to nobler things.” Tulin writes in one song: “Her voice brings joy to all who hear her sing.” Katie Phar’s voice and song-leading was an inspiration to many in the IWW and the greater labor movement, as they aspired to be more like her and “make the world more fair,” with these scrapbooks revealing more about her life and her role in the Industrial Workers of the World.

Masters of Cajun Accordion, Sunday Oct. 1

Getting super excited for the Masters of Cajun Accordion event coming up this weekend at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro. Tickets are available now. Jo-El Sonnier and Steve Riley are two of the finest button box players around. Be sure to come early to hear Professor Barry Jean-Ancelet present You can also pickup the Southern Folklife Collection’s newest release, a remastered reissue of Goldband records classic Swampland Jewels.  More information below. Follow the SFC on Facebook and Instagram to get ready for the show and hear some deep cuts from Jo-El’s discography over the next couple days. We’ll see you on Sunday!

Concert is ticketed: $17.50 Public, $26.50 CD Bundle, $30.50 LP Bundle.
(CD/LP bundles include a copy of the record 
Swampland Jewels.)
Tickets available at artscenterlive.org or (919) 929-2787

 

 

Reception and lecture are free and open to the public.
5:30 p.m. Reception
6:00 p.m. Lecture: Professor Barry Jean Ancelet, University of Louisiana, Lafayette
7:30 p.m. Concert: Jo-El Sonnier with Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys

 

Between Midnight and Day: The Photography of Dick Waterman

Between Midnight and Day: The Photography of Dick Waterman, flier featuring Buddy Guy5:30 p.m. Reception and exhibit opening
4th Floor Reading Room

6:00 p.m. Film screening of Two Trains Runnin’
Pleasants Family Assembly Room

7:20 p.m. Q&A with Dick Waterman, moderated by author Peter Guralnick
Pleasants Family Assembly Room

The exhibit Between Midnight and Day: The Photography of Dick Waterman, is set to open September 26 in Wilson Library, featuring Waterman’s iconic photographs of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Son House, Howlin’ Wolf, Janis Joplin, and the Rolling Stones.

Dick Waterman played a key role in the folk revival of the 1960s, helping to revive the career of Son House and managing many prominent blues artists including Skip James, Mississippi John Hurt, and Bonnie Raitt.

Join us for the exhibit opening which will also feature a screening of the Sam Pollard documentary Two Trains Runnin’, a film centered on an astonishing historical coincidence: on June 21, 1964, two lost giants of the Delta blues were located and three civil rights activists disappeared. A Q&A with Waterman will follow.

Complete Keynote Collection, Record 5- Charlie Shavers Quintet featuring Earl Hines

Despite what the name might suggest, holdings in the Southern Folklife Collection span the globe, including Japanese imports like today’s featured record (FC-21963). This the fifth volume of a rare Japanese 21-record box set released on Nippon Phonogram in 1986. The set compiles all of the jazz ever recorded for the Manhattan-based Keynote label, spanning from 1941 to 1947. This LP presents the recordings of the Charlie Shavers Quintet featuring Earl “Fatha” Hines, one of the most influential jazz pianists of his time. Among the recordings are three takes of the tune “Rosetta,” a Hines original.

Presented here is a portion of the second take, featuring portions of both Hines’ and Shavers’ solos

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Brownie McGhee – Blues

Brownie McGhee was a Tennessee-born bluesman (and very briefly an off-broadway actor) who recorded his fingerpicked delta-blues for hallowed labels such as Okeh and Savoy from the early 40’s all the way until his death in 1996. His second album Blues (FC-5898), was released on the short-lived 10-inch, 33 1/3 rpm album format by Folkways Recordings in 1955, and was accompanied by notes written by early influential jazz critic Charles Edward Smith and art by the prolific David Stone Martin

Here’s a snippet from the song “Me and Sonny,” referring to McGhee’s frequent collaborator and North Carolina native Sonny Terry —

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Happy National Fried Chicken Day (belated)!

D. Kent and Sue Meyer Thompson Collection 20479, Rick Miller, Southern Culture on the Skids at the Milestone, Charlotte, NC, photo by Kent Thompson

Apparently yesterday was National Fried Chicken Day. We have to admit that we were caught unawares and unprepared for the celebration. Making it up today with this image from the D. Kent and Sue Meyer Thompson Collection (20479) featuring some of the world’s most studied fried chicken aficionados, Southern Culture on the Skids. Here is Rick Miller offering up snacks for appreciative fans at the Milestone in Charlotte. All photos by D. Kent Thompson.

D. Kent and Sue Meyer Thompson Collection 20479, Southern Culture on the Skids at Sleazefest, 1994, Local506, Chapel Hill, NC, photo by Kent Thompson

Southern Culture on the Skids at Sleazefest, 1994, Local506, Chapel Hill, NC, photo by Kent Thompson, in the D. Kent and Sue Meyer Thompson Collection (20479)

Southern Culture on the Skids, Rick Miller, Dave Schmidt, and Mary Huff, photo by Kent Thompson, in the D. Kent and Sue Meyer Thompson Collection 20479

Southern Culture on the Skids, Rick Miller, Dave Schmidt, and Mary Huff, photo by Kent Thompson, in the D. Kent and Sue Meyer Thompson Collection (20479)

Transcription Disc of the Week – US Air Force’s “Country Music Time”

The Eugene Earle Collection consists of commercial and non-commercial transcription discs documenting a wide array of radio programs and individual performers from 1939 through the early 1980s. A significant portion of the collection consists of Army V-Discs and Navy V-Discs from World War II. Other transcriptions include the Ralph Emery Show; the Lawrence Welk Show; and various government-sponsored radio shows, such as Country Roads, Navy Hoedown, Sounds of Solid Country, Here’s to Veterans, Country Music Time, Country Cookin’, and Country Express.

Here’s a cut from Program no. 311 of the US Air Force’s Country Music Time, featuring prodigious thumb-pickers Jackie Phelps and Odell Martin playing the Merle Travis standard “Cannonball Rag”

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First day of class, get there faster with the Southern Folklife Collection

Get there faster with a fender, back cover, CountryMusic_jan1974_Russ Barnard Collection_20484_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC Chapel Hill

Snow and ice may have shuttered campus for a few days, but the Southern Folklife Collection is back on regular schedule and it’s the first day of classes for UNC’s Spring semester!

As we welcome students back to campus, we wanted to share this source of inspiration from the back cover of Country Music magazine, January, 1974 in the Russell D. Barnard Country Music Magazine Photograph Collection (20484). Like Fingers Galore, you have the right tools to leave this semester in the dust.

And if you are curious, Roy Clark is on the cover. But if you want to know what Waylon knows about Hipbillys, you will have to visit the Southern Folklife Collection at The Wilson Library and find out.

Cover_Ray Price_CountryMusic_jan1974_CountryMusic_jan1974_Russ Barnard Collection_20484_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC Chapel Hill

Fiddling around on a snow day

10th floor stacks, Southern Folklife Collection, The Wilson LibraryUNC Chapel Hill campus is closed today due to the weather, but thanks to the great work by the Audiovisual Preservation and Access Team, online access to SFC collections has never been easier. The now has well over 10,000 streaming audio files of digitized archival recordings. Recent additions have been made possible through support from a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

We’ve shared streaming recordings from the William R. Ferris Collection (20367), Goldband Recording Corporation Collection (20245) and the Mike Seeger Collection (20009), Alice Gerrard Collection (20008), Bob Carlin Collection (20050), and Tom Davenport Collection (20025)John Loy works in the studio of the Southern Folklife Collection at Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. in the past, but we have since more than doubled the amount of streaming content. We’d love to hear your favorites, but as an introduction, we pulled a few recordings from recent additions that we found particularly fascinating. Click on the link to go directly to a streaming audio file:

  • First up from the Andy Cahan Collection (20018), some fantastic tunes performed by musician and folklorist Andy Cahan and Carlie Marion recorded during a July, 1998 visit to Marion’s home in Elkin, NC. There are seven tapes total, any and all are excellent listening but tape 2, side 1 is a great place to start.

SFC Audio Open Reel 2755: Recordings of Carlie Marion and Andy Cahan performing in Marion’s home, Elkin, N.C., 9 July 1988: reel 2 of 7: Side 1ft20018_2755_scrnsht_Recordings of Carlie Marion and Andy Cahan performing in Marion's home, Elkin, N.C., 9 July 1988: reel 2 of 7 1/4" Open Reel Audio

  • From the Tom Carter and Blanton Owen Collection (20029), stories and twin fiddling by Luther Davis and Huston Caudill recorded in Dalhart, Grayson Co., VA in February 1974. [* note you can also hear a number of recordings of Davis streaming via the Alice Gerrard Collection (20008)]
ft20029_1013_scrnsht_Luther Davis and Huston Caudill, Dalhart, Grayson County, Va., 8 February 1974 1/4" Open Reel Audio

ft20026_18858_scrnshot_SFC Audio Open Reel 11858: Shaker interview, Sister R. Mildred Barker, Sabbathday Lake, Me., 18 August 1973: Side 1

If you have any questions or comments about accessing streaming media, be sure to contact the Southern Folklife Collection at wilsonlibrary@unc.edu. Stay warm and safe out there!

Dr. Ralph Stanley, 1927-2016

pf-20009_121_Stanley Brothers_Mike Seeger Collection_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC

Today we are mourning the loss of another one of the greats, Dr. Ralph Stanley. There are a number of excellent obituaries and remembrances of Stanley across the news today and we would encourage you to read about Stanley’s remarkable life and career. Considering the mark he left on the world of traditional music and popular culture, It is no surprise that Stanley is such a prominent figure in the Southern Folklife Collection and we wanted to share a few of those items with you today in tribute. The photos above are from the Mike Seeger Collection (20009), featuring the Carters and the Clinch Mountain Boys at Valley View country music park in Hellam, PA in 1956. Another favorite from the Seeger Collection features the Carters with Roscoe Holcomb on tour in Bremen, Germany in 1966. pf-20009_122_02_r_Mike Seeger Collection_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC

I couldn’t help but pull out some of the Rich-R-Tone 78 rpm discs from the SFC sound recordings. Recorded in 1947, these Stanley Brothers recordings, their first commercial recordings as a group, remain some of my favorite bluegrass of all time. Listen to “The Jealous Lover,” from 78-16252, and the classic “Little Maggie,” from 78-16253, here:

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18_16252_78_16253_Stanley Brothers_Rich_R_Tone_Southern Folklife Collection_UNCYou can listen to live performances throughout Stanley’s career, from country music parks, to radio performances, clubs like the Ash Grove, college tours, and more from recordings i in the Mike Seeger Collection (20009) and the Eugene Earle Collection (20376) in particular, but there are numerous recordings across the SFC collections. If you would like to hear more, please contact or visit us at the SFC. We were very lucky to welcome Ralph Stanley to The Wilson Library in 2006 for an extra special conversation and concert. Sitting 10 feet away from a legend in a special collections reading room as he sings acapella is something that we will never forget. Rest in peace, Ralph, I’m sure you and Carter’s harmonies sound even sweeter now.

20001_pf1548_pf1545_Ralph Stanley_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC

Ralph Stanley and His Clinch Mountain Boys, P1545 and P1548, in the John Edwards Memorial Foundation Records (20001), southern folklife Collection, UNC Chapel HIll