David Massengill at SFC September 15

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Please join us at Southern Foklife Collection for a very special performance by Folk singer, songwriter, and storyteller David Massengill on September 15, 6-7 p.m., in the Pleasants Family Assembly Room at UNC’s Wilson Special Collections Library. The event is free and open to the public.

Massengill creates “story songs” deeply rooted in folk traditions, while incorporating keen observations of modern American life. He graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in the mid-1970s and moved to New York shortly after for Greenwich Village’s notable folk scene. Massengill’s songs have been covered and recorded by Joan Baez, The Roches, Nanci Griffith, and Dave Van Ronk.

In preparation for Massengill’s visit, we have been revisiting some of his performances recorded and distributed via Fast Folk Musical Magazine, a remarkable monthly publication featuring a complete LP of live recordings by artists from the Folk City and Songwriter’s Exchange scenes in New York in the early 1980s. Enjoy a couple of clips from one of our favorite Massengill compositions, “My Name Joe” and an early piece off one of the earliest Fast Folk releases, “Down Derry Down”

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Please join us tomorrown night!

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Dr. Ralph Stanley, 1927-2016

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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.

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

Merle Haggard, April 6, 1937-2016

Merle Haggard at Memorial Hall for SFC25. Photo by Mark Perry Photography.

Merle Haggard at Memorial Hall for SFC25. Photo by Mark Perry Photography.

The world lost another giant today when Merle Haggard left this earth for honky-tonk heaven. The Southern Folklife Collection was privileged to welcome Mr. Haggard at our 25th anniversary celebration in 2014. Seeing him perform at UNC’s Memorial Hall is an experience that will not be forgotten. It was a spectacular performance and I was practically giddy when Haggard picked up the fiddle.

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At the SFC, we would like nothing better to spend the foreseeable future exploring the collections for Merle Haggard content to geek out on and reminisce about the first time we heard one song or another, but, and I think Merle would agree, we have other work to do; other fiddle players to celebrate and mountains of music to share with the world. I discovered countless artists through Haggard, not the least of which was Bob Wills. Even though I come from Texas, it was Merle who introduced me to the “best damn fiddle player in the world.” But for today, I’ve got “Rainbow Stew” on the deck and I pulled out these pictures I have looked at many times from the John Edwards Memorial Foundation Records (20001) documenting the recording sessions for Bob Wills’s final album, For the Last Time. Sessions, produced by the legendary guitarist Tommy Allsup (another former Cricket like Bobby Durham), took place just outside of Dallas on December 3 and 4, 1973.

Haggard drove all night from Chicago to participate on the final day after begging permission from Wills to attend. Sadly, Wills was unable to complete the session after suffering a severe stroke on the night of December 3 and slipping into a coma the following day never to retain consciousness. Haggard and the band, the first reunion of the Texas Playboys since Wills disbanded the group in the 1960s, pressed on with noted successor of the Bob Wills sound Hoyle Nix stepping up into the boots of his hero to lead the group.

We are not positive, but we believe the photos above include Haggard, fiddlers Keith Coleman and Johnny Gimble, steel guitarist Leon McCauliffe, and the back of guitarist Eldon Shamblin’s head.

Rest easy, Merle. Hope the music is as good in the next place as you made it here.

George Hamilton IV “Behind the Iron Curtain”

"The International Ambassador of Country Music" (BILLBOARD MAGAZINE) in Red Square, Moscow, Soviet Union, March 1974.

“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

George Hamilton IV in Bangalore, India, 1986. P5034 in the George Hamilton IV Collection (20410), Southern Folklife Collection, UNC Chapel Hill

 

 

Friday Studio Surprise!: Chatham Co. hogs and Peg Leg Sam

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Walking past the John M. Rivers Audio Studio this morning, I was surprised to hear a pig being fed coming from behind the door. I was not surprised when I learned that SFC Audio Engineer, John Loy, was preserving an open reel tape of wild sound from Tom Davenport’s documentary with Peg Leg Sam, Born For Hard Luck. We love hearing raw, wild sound, at the Southern Folklife Collection and this clip of Sam feeding his pigs is just that. “Get it you lousy bums,” he growls. From FT-324 in the Tom Davenport Papers (20025). Below you can see an image from the making of the film, including the boom operator, Kip Lornell, who may have made the recording here. I’m ready for lunch:

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Directed by Tom Davenport and produced by Davenport Films and the Curriculum in Folklore at UNC with Daniel Patterson and Allen Tullos, Born For Hard Luck is a portrait of the last Black medicine-show performer, Arthur “Peg Leg Sam” Jackson, with brilliant harmonica songs, tales of hoboing, buck dances, and an authentic live medicine-show performance filmed at a North Carolina county fair in 1972.

In 2000, Davenport went on to create folkstreams.net, a free website that allows users to stream a massive array of documentary and ethnographic films about American folk culture, ranging in subjects from aging and agriculture to immigrant culture and music and covering all regions of the United States.

Working with folklorist Daniel Patterson and others on the Folkstreams committee, Davenport submitted a proposal to the National Endowment for the Humanities and received grant funds to build a prototype. Expansion of Folkstreams.net is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, regional and state Arts and Humanities organizations, private foundations, and contributions from filmmakers, scholars, and collaborating institutions. Preservation copies of films on Folkstreams.net are part of the SFC Folkstreams.net Collection (20384). 

P0004_0681_0001 (1) (1)L-R: Peg Leg Sam, Kip Lornell (with boom mic), Bruce Bastin, and Tom Davenport (with camera). University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Image Collection (P0004), North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives.

Thank you, Starman

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I woke up this morning to learn that David Bowie had left the planet Earth. Like so many, I was unprepared for this news.  As the day progresses, the impact of the world’s loss cuts deeper with every youtube link shared by his seemingly endless legions of fans and the very poignant memorials shared by his closest friends. I think I need a day or two before I can handle Blackstar again, but what do you do when you can’t handle listening to your David Bowie catalog but you want to pay tribute to one of the most important artists of our time? Track down the recordings the man himself venerated.

In November 2003 Bowie selected 25 favorites from his collection in a Vanity Fair article called “Confessions of a Vinyl Junkie.” The list includes Toots and the Maytals’ Funky Kingston, Harry Partch’s Delusion of the Fury, and the Fugs’ 1966 self-titled record.

The Fugs, anchored by poets Ed Sanders and Tuli Kupferberg, recorded irreverent songs like “Group Grope” and “Kill for Peace,” with little regard for production values or flawless takes.

Bowie’s description:

“The sleeve notes were written by Allen Ginsberg and contain these prescient lines: ‘Who’s on the other side? People who think we are bad. Other side? No, let’s not make it a war, we’ll all be destroyed, we’ll go on suffering till we die if we take the War Door.’ I found on the Internet the text for a newsprint ad for the Fugs, who, coupled with the Velvet Underground, played the April Fools Dance and Models Ball at the Village Gate in 1966. The F.B.I. had them on their books as ‘the Fags.’ This was surely one of the most lyrically explosive underground bands ever. Not the greatest musicians in the world, but how ‘punk’ was all that? Tuli Kupferberg, Fugs co-writer and performer, in collaboration with Ed Sanders, has just finished the new Fugs album as I write. Tuli is 80 years old.”

That list was written twelve years ago and Kupferberg, too, has since shuffled off this mortal coil – but not before creating art in various media through several decades. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised Bowie, who released an album two days before his death, counted Tuli among his heroes. And so now we’ll listen to The Fugs, and imagine David Bowie listening to The Fugs, and imagine Tuli listening to David Bowie. And it won’t be forgotten. May the fantastic voyage continue.

 

Holiday in the Stacks: Dale Evans and Clancey

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The “Holiday in the Stacks” continues with two more holiday 78 rpm discs. First Dale Evans and the Roy Rogers Riders and Orchestra with a reindeer tune that plays off almost every Christmas trope they could fit in under two minutes. 

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On a totally different track, a holiday vignette from “Clancey’s”. Originally recorded and released on cylinder in 1908, “Christmas Morning at Clancey’s” chronicles the morning festivities of an Irish family in turn of the century New York. 

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Check in tomorrow for a special message from Rosemary Clooney and Ford motors.

 

This Week on Hell or High Water: Selections from the Newport Folk Festival

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This week on Hell or High Water, we’ll be featuring music from the three volumes of the 1964 Newport Folk Festival evening concerts, largely inspired by last Monday’s SFC lecture by Elijah Wald, “Dylan Goes Electric! Music, Myth, and History.”

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Dylan’s electric performance in 1965, according to Wald, “split the Sixties.” Previously, the Newport Folk Festival had been a time celebrating traditional folk music alongside popular “new wave” artists, like Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, and Phil Ochs. The hopes were that pairing these traditions with popular artists would draw a crowd and help new or unknown artists gain a following.

 

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The Newport Folk Festival showcased the many different types of traditional folk present in this country, from cajun to country to blues. We hope that featuring this record will, like the original festival, showcase the diversity of what constitutes folk music.

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To quote Stacey Williams on the 1964 festival, “And what was most remarkable was the homogeneity of the event as a whole, with all this wonderful variety adding up to a feeling of one brotherhood, as hard to define as it is easy to sense; ‘many branches from the same tree’ is a lame way to put it, but it hints at the idea.”

Tune in this Sunday from 1-2pm on WXYC-Chapel Hill, 89.3FM, or online via live stream. 

This Week: A Haunted Hell or High Water

Tune in this Sunday from 1-2pm for a special holiday edition of Hell or High Water on WXYC. In honor of Halloween this Saturday and Mexico’s El Día de Los Muertos (The Day of the Dead) on Sunday, we’ll be playing the YepRoc Records compilation album, Mondo Zombie Boogaloo (CD-13839), which features The Fleshtones, Southern Culture on the Skids, and Los Straitjackets.

Get into the spooky spirit for the most haunted weekend of the year with songs like “Haunted Hipster,” “Goo Goo Muck,” and “Dracula a Gogo.”

You can listen via 89.3FM or on the web at <http://www.wxyc.org/listen/>.

 

This Week on Hell or High Water: Dave Van Ronk

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Dave Van Ronk, concert sponsored by Anvil Magazine, 9 May 1958, photo by Ray Sullivan of Photo-Sound Associates, Ron Cohen Collection (20239), Southern Folklife Collection, The Wilson Library, UNC Chapel Hill

This Sunday on Hell or High Water, 1 to 2 pm, WXYC and the Southern Folklife Collection will be serving up some classic folk tunes from folk legend and king of Greenwich Village, Dave Van Ronk.

Tune in to hear some blues-, jazz-, and gospel-inspired folk from the man who served as an inspiration to likes of Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell.

You can listen on 89.3FM, or via online stream at http://www.wxyc.org/listen/.