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 —
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.
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”
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.
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)]
Finally, from the Dan and Beverly Bush Patterson Papers (20026), recorded songs and interview with Sister R. Mildred Barker in the Shaker community at Sabbathday Lake, Maine, in August of 1973. Patterson edited two LP collections of Early Shaker Spirituals that featured Sister R. Mildred Barker and other members of the church, including Sister Frances Carr, one of the last remaining members of the Shaker community who passed away on January 2 of this year. The LPs are highly recommended, and so is this interview conducted by Dr. Patterson. [*note around 7:00 where Patterson crosses over into the role of participant by demonstrating the pitch pipe on the recording!]
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.
You 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.
Ralph Stanley and His Clinch Mountain Boys, P1545 and P1548, in the John Edwards Memorial Foundation Records (20001), southern folklife Collection, UNC Chapel HIll
“The International Ambassador of Country Music” (BILLBOARD MAGAZINE) in Red Square, Moscow, Soviet Union, March 1974.
Looking into the George Hamilton IV Collection (20410) recently, we were reminded that this month is the 42nd Anniversary of George Hamilton IV being the first performer to take American folk-country music “Behind The Iron Curtain.” His 1974 performances and lecture concerts at the Palace of Railway Workers and Moscow University were the first for an American country music performer. Other “first” performances on this tour were in Hungary, Poland, and in former Czechoslovakia, where Hamilton performed four sold-out Concerts for over 28,000 fans at the Sports Arena in Prague. It’s no surprise that later that year, Billboard Magazine began to refer to Hamilton as the “International Ambassador of Country Music.” He would eventually tour around the world, performing multiple times in Japan, South Africa, the former Soviet Union, and India. See this April 2, 1974 New York Times review of the Moscow performances on the George Hamiton IV “Folksy Music Festival” page here.
George Hamilton IV in Bangalore, India, 1986. P5034 in the George Hamilton IV Collection (20410), Southern Folklife Collection, UNC Chapel Hill
Excited to be steered toward this folio of “Christian Love Songs” by the prolific and talented songwriter, and blind newsboy evangelist, Rev. Andrew Jenkins, FL-733 in the Southern Folklife Collection Song Folios (30006). Published in 1924 by Polk Brockman, the A&R man responsible for encouraging fellow producer Ralph Peer to record Fiddlin’ John Carson in 1923, the folio is an example of Brockman’s tendency to take full publication rights from the artists he worked with. This songbook was published early in the Jenkins Family’s recording career as Brockman looked to capitalize on the success of Jenkins’ popular broadcasts on Atlanta’s WSB radio station. For more information and to listen to music by the Jenkins Family (including their many secular songs, like the well known ballad, “The Death of Floyd Collins”), see these resources available at the Southern Folklife Collection. For more information on Polk Brockman, visit or contact the Southern Folklife Collection to listen to recorded interviews listed below from the Ed Kahn Collection (20360) and the Archie Green Papers (20002)
In late 2015, the Southern Folklife Collection received a UNC Library Innovation Grant to experiment with technology-driven cataloging for more than 100,000 sound recordings.
Current estimates project that it would take catalogers approximately 45 years to research and create a standard record for each of the thousands of discs. SFC curator, Steve Weiss, proposed a pilot to speed cataloging through automation.
The idea is to take a digital photograph of printed record labels, convert the images to text using optical character recognition (OCR) software, and then combine the text and images to help with workflow, discovery, and access. Crowdsourcing tags and comments may help to add even more information to the process.
Now you can be part of the process. Help us shine a light on these rare gems by visiting our Facebook page and taking a few minutes to give us a little information. For detailed instructions and examples of the process, see our new page “78 Crowdsourcing Project“linked to in the tabs in our header at the top of the page.
No prior cataloging experience required! All you need is a love of music and a desire to be part of the effort to help move these records out of semi-obscurity. See more details here.
There is more Billy Faier and Thornton Dial coming, I promise. Please do check back, we have been pulling materials from the Billiy Faier Collection (20380) to share with you, but until next week, we thought readers and listeners might enjoy a recording by the great Philadelphia based Irish ensemble, The Four Provinces. The group was founded and led by London-born, Irish pianist Edward Lee. Lee emigrated to the United States in 1916 and quickly put together an ensemble to play the lively Philadelphia dancehall scene, he also co-founded the Irish Musician’s Union (listen to this fascinating recording of Edward Lee’s brother, Joe Lee, at the British Library Sound Archive).
Released in 1924, “Reidy Johnson Reels” and “Kitty’s Wedding”, from 78 rpm disc call number 78-16498 in the UNC Libraries catalog are a wonderful collection of dance tunes. Enjoy a musical pick-me-up on a cold Friday afternoon.