Rivers Dispatch: Christmas in Clarksdale (in June)

Wade Walton, Dockery Farms (ABP-15 #26)_William R. Ferris Collection_20367We’re starting our holiday party in the stacks early this year with a track from the William R. Ferris Collection (20367). This tape, call no. FT-10407, was preserved in the Rivers Studio as part of a current Southern Folklife Collection digitization project, From the Piedmont to the Swamplands: Preserving Southern Traditional Music, funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Folklorist Bill Ferris celebrated Christmas in the summertime at Wade Walton’s barber shop in Clarksdale, Mississippi (pictured above). One of the patrons played a lively version of “Silent Night” before getting his hair cut. We’re not sure if the smoking monkey was involved, but one can hope. Happy holidays from the Southern Folklife Collection.

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Noble Ray Price, the Cherokee Cowboy

P3910_Standing from left to right: KBBQ disc jockey Hugh Jarrett, musicians Ray Price and Tex Williams, and tailor Nudie Cohn. The four are backstage at the KBBQ First Anniversary Show_Southern Folklife Collection Radio and Television Files (30015)P3910. Standing from left to right: KBBQ disc jockey Hugh Jarrett, musicians Ray Price and Tex Williams, and tailor Nudie Cohn. The four are backstage at the KBBQ First Anniversary Show. Southern Folklife Collection Radio and Television Files (30015).

Country legend, Ray Price died this week at his home in Texas at the age of 87. The “Ray Price Shuffle,” a 4/4 beat developed by the Cherokee Cowboy himself remains a staple of the honky tonk sound. Combined with his velvet voice and countrypolitan ballads, Price changed the sound of Nashville. We picked out a few items from the Southern Folklife Collection to share in remembrance of Price and his lasting legacy. The photo above, P3910 from the Southern Folklife Collection Radio and Television Files (30015) features Price along with one of his great friends, fashion designer Nudie Cohn. Price could often be found on stage wearing one of Cohn’s “Nudie Suits.”  Price’s visual style remained impeccable throughout his career, but it was always his voice that separated him from the rest of the crooners. Listen to his great rendition of the Harlan Howard tune, “Heartache by the Numbers” from call no. 45-1472. 

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45_1472_Ray Price_Southern Folklife CollectionAnother classic from Price’s massive catalog is his hit, “Take Me As I Am (or let me go). This Don Law produced single has the full “Nashville Sound,” a full orchestra and choral arrangement to back Price’s powerful voice and make the syrupy lyrics wonderfully bittersweet. We found a unique promotional flier for the song in the Southern Folklife Collection Artist Name Files (30005), NF1596. These items are but a blip in Price’s 65 year career. We’d love to show you more but you’ll have to make a visit to Wilson Library. For now, let’s sit back and enjoy one more song.

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Goldband Records approved “Sweet Potato Mash”

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Sweet potato patch in Cleveland County,

call no. P0072/0010, Commercial Museum Collection of North Carolina Photographs (P0072)

North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives.

Don’t forget your eat your sweet potatoes tomorrow. No matter whether you roast them, bake them, fry them, hasselback them, or cook them with marshmallows on top, the Southern Folklife Collection has your soundtrack covered thanks to a seasonally appropriate tape from the Goldband Recording Corporation Collection (20245) that came up in the Rivers Studio just this week.

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William Parker Guidry, Jr., came up in Southwest Louisiana and Lake Charles, performing and recording as Bill Parker for a number of labels, including Eddie Shuler’s Goldband Records. A drummer and bandleader, he appears all over the Goldband discography, and the man must have been a huge fan of the sweet potato because he wrote and recorded at least two tunes, including a cha-cha, dedicated to the noble tuber.

For you dear readers and listeners, we have “Sweet Potato Mash” by Bill Parker and his Showboat Band. FT7003 was digitized as part of the Southern Folklife Collection digitization project, From the Piedmont to the Swamplands: Preserving Southern Traditional Music, funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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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.

In tribute to Harper Van Hoy and Fiddler’s Grove

1970_Brochure_CoverWe were saddened to learn that Harper Van Hoy passed away this week at the age of 92. Harper Van Hoy and his wife Wanona founded the Fiddler’s Grove, an old-time-music and family-oriented campground, which hosts traditional music and dance events throughout the year in Union Grove, NC. The Ole Time Fiddler’s & Bluegrass Festival, a fiddling competition, has been held annually in the spring since Fiddler’s Grove’s founding in 1970, and the Square-Up, a clogging competition was held in the fall until 1982. The fiddling festival, however, traces its history in Union Grove to 1924 when Harper Van Hoy’s father, H. P. Van Hoy, founded the Old Time Fiddlers Convention as a school fundraiser. To learn more about the history of Fiddler’s Grove and the Van Hoy’s legacy in Iredell County, NC, see the Southern Folklife Collection online exhibit Fiddler’s Grove: Retrospective 1977-2000. Items include photos of each year’s “Fiddler of the Festival,” including Ann Warren (1977) and Billy C. Hurt, Jr. (1987) below [photos by Ann Hawthorne], as well as fliers, winner’s lists, and other ephemera, like the 1971 poster featuring Doc and Merle Watson [click images to enlarge].

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The Fiddler’s Grove Collection (20016) provides an overview of the history and operation of Fiddler’s Grove, and its main entertainment events, the Ole Time Fiddler’s & Bluegrass Festival and the Square-Up. The work of Harper Van Hoy and Wanona Van Hoy in building the reputation of Fiddler’s Grove as a gathering place for old-time music and family entertainment is documented throughout the collection. Also documented is the split between Harper Van Hoy and his brother, J. Pierce Van Hoy, which resulted in two competing Van Hoy-operated spring fiddling events in Union Grove, 1970-1979. General correspondence, newspaper clippings, promotional material, and other items go back to the founding of the Old Time Fiddlers Convention. Festival materials include participation registration information, lists of winners, judges’ notes, and correspondence, and other items. Also included are open-reel tapes, an eight-track tape, compact discs, and a videotape, all of which relate to the Ole Time Fiddler’s & Bluegrass Festival.

Harper Van Hoy, like his father H. P., was also a fine fiddler himself. Listen to him play “Soldier’s Joy” along with The Bluegrass Gentleman, recorded at the inaugural festival in 1970 and released as part of the excellent LP, Fiddler’s Festival 1970, Southern Folklife Collection call no. FC-787

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Photo-Sound Associates photo of the week: Mike Seeger, Bob Yellin, and Ralph Rinzler in Washington Square

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Image Folder PF-20239/090_01: Mike Seeger, Bob Yellin, and Ralph Rinzler, Washington Square jam session, NYC, ca. 1960. Photo by Ray Sullivan for Photo-Sound Associates.

Wilson Library has a new Tumblr!  To christen the site, the Southern Folklife Collection kicked off a weekly feature highlighting images from the Photo-Sound Associates photographs in the Ron Cohen Collection (20239). The Photo-Sound Associates photographs are black-and-white 35mm roll film negatives, documenting the folk revival movement in and around New York City that were taken by Aaron Rennert and Ray Sullivan. Photo-Sound Associates was organized by Rennert, Sullivan, and Joel Katz in Greenwich Village in connection with Lee Hoffman and Caravan magazine. Rennert and Sullivan did the photography, while Katz recorded the concerts. Bonus image, 20239_pf0090_01_0006, below. You didn’t need a banjo to join in at Washington Square Park. One string fiddle!  For more images, see the Ron Cohen Collection (20239).

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Rivers Studio Dispatch: Danny James and J. B. Fuselier

small_cfgTwo tracks this week from the Goldband Recording Corporation Collection (20245). These tapes were preserved in the Rivers Studio as part of a current Southern Folklife Collection digitization project, From the Piedmont to the Swamplands: Preserving Southern Traditional Music, funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

First, from FT6770, the great guitarist Danny James (née Danny James Sonnier). A skilled session player, James had a productive solo career as well, his signiture guitar tone sliding through swamp blues and boogie. Instrumentals like ”Switchit,” showcase James backed by a solid southern soul ensemble, including horns. 

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FT6770_Goldband Recording Corporation Collection (20245)Another treat in the studio last week was a tape by Cajun fiddler J. B. Fuselier and his Merrymakers. Fuselier was a popular and innovative musician, recording a number of popular Cajun hits in the 1930s and 1940s, adding drums and steel guitar to his traditional Cajun ensemble. After WWII, Fuselier joined with Iry LeJune and the Calcasieu Playboys and the two ruled the dance hall circuit until 1955 when LeJune was killed and Fuselier severely injured when hit by a car while changing a tire at night on a dangerous South Louisiana highway. Despite his injuries, Fuselier never stopped playing and recorded a number of sides for Goldband in the 1960s, including “Think of Me,” from FT6857. We love the steel guitar and accordion arrangement, and Fuselier’s lonsome vocals make this a Cajun honkytonk heartbreaker perfect for Monday morning. 

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78s of the week: Clayton McMichen and Gid Tanner together again on Field Trip South

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Nice pair of discs for a Fall day, or any day really. A couple of pristine copies, 78-3448, Gid Tanner and His Skillet Lickers, and 78-12590, McMichen and his Georgia Wildcats. Yum, yum. 

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“Saving Our Heritage for the Next Generation”: 7th World Day for Audiovisual Heritage

Southern Folklife Collection audio preservation engineer, John Loy, in the John M. Rivers, Jr. Studio. Photo by Dan SearsUNESCO, in cooperation with the Co-ordinating Council of Audiovisual Archives Associations (CCAAA) and other partners, has adopted 27 October as the World Day for Audiovisual Heritage to better focus global attention on the significance of AV documents and to draw attention to the need to safeguard them. The theme for this year’s celebration is “Saving Our Heritage for the Next Generation.”ICA_WorldDay for Audiovisual Heritage

RIVERSGRID3The Southern Folklife Collection works toward this goal daily in our efforts to preserve the hundreds of thousands of sound recordings, film and video housed in Wilson Library. Through grant-funded digitization projects and through research driven requests, the Southern Folklife Collection has digitized and made available tens of thousands of recordings documenting the vast riches of traditional expressive culture from the American South and around the world. The John M. Rivers, Jr. Studio (pictured above, right, and below) and the Ben Jones Audio and Video Studios constantly echo with the sounds, songs, and stories collected from centuries past through the 21st.
From the UNESCO statement:

Audiovisual documents, such as films, radio and television programmes, are our common heritage and contain the primary records of the 20th and 21st centuries. They help to maintain the cultural identity of a people; but countless documentary treasures have disappeared since the invention of image and sound technologies that permit the peoples of the world to better share their experiences, creativity and knowledge.

All of the world’s audiovisual heritage is endangered. Nowhere can it be said to be preserved, but through initiatives such as theWorld Day for Audiovisual Heritage and the Memory of the World Programme, the precious work of preservation professionals is given impetus to manage a range of technical, political, social, financial and other factors that threaten the safeguarding of our heritage.

It was in this context, that the General Conference in 2005 approved the commemoration of a World Day for Audiovisual Heritage as a mechanism to raise general awareness of the need for urgent measures to be taken and to acknowledge the importance of audiovisual documents as an integral part of national identity. (UNESCO)

In honor of the 7th World Day for Audiovisual Heritage, we wanted to highlight some of the recordings recently digitized as part of one of our current projects, From the Piedmont to the Swamplands: Preserving Southern Traditional Music, funded in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities. The multi-year effort will preserve and make accessible online up to 3,019 hours of sound recordings and 4,500 related photographs dating from the 1920s to 1980s, drawn from the Southern Folklife Collection holdings in the William R. Ferris Collection (20367), Mike Seeger Collection (20009), John Edwards Memorial Foundation Records (20001), and the Goldband Recording Corporation Collection (20245).

20009_Mike Seeger Collection_pf00017_Southern Folklife Collection, UNC Chapel HillRegular readers of Field Trip South will not be surprised to see the Mike Seeger Collection featured here. Many of Seeger’s photographs are currently digitized and available for viewing online: iconic images of America’s musical treasures like Ralph and Carter Stanley, the Carter Sisters, Lesley Riddle, Dock Boggs, and of course, the beloved NC Piedmont picker and singer, Elizabeth Cotten.

The Southern Folklife Collection has preserved hundreds of hours of Seeger’s field recordings and his own master tapes. Every tape is a treat, but occasionally we come upon an especially outstanding track like this version of “Well May the World Go” featuring Mike performing with his brother, the legendary folksinger Pete, on 29 January 1973. They tore through three versions of the tune that day. Have a listen to the third take of that piece here, from FT14925 in the Mike Seeger Collection:

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Another recent standout track comes from The New Tranquility String Band (FT14198.) This outtake of  ”Boatman” was recorded during sessions for the Berkley Farms: Oldtime and Country Style Music of Berkley LP originally released for Smithsonian Folkways in 1972. This version version has the jaw harp higher in the mix, giving it a striking old-time feel that we like. 

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FT9918_Fanny_Bell_Chapman_Children's concert. Reel 28 of 42. FCT 28-72-7_William R. Ferris Collection_UNC_Chapel HillThe Piedmont to the Swamplands grant also allowed us to digitize the majority of audio recordings collected by folklorist and UNC professor William R. Ferris. With thousands of audio recordings, photographs, and feet of film, the William R. Ferris Collection is an invaluable resource documenting the people and culture of the American South, an archival treasure trove reflecting the ineffable “sense of place” that makes the South such a compelling–and haunting–place. Many of Ferris’s photographs are available online. This performance by a young child, Don Singleton recorded on FT 9918, made our jaws drop.

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This next tape was recorded during the process of filming a documentary film about the remarkable Fannie Bell Chapman. The complete film can be viewed in full on Folkstreams.net., Fannie Bell Chapman: Gospel Singer. The following version of “Now Sister Go Where I Send Thee” is from FT9974, the first of six tapes recording Chapman’s music recorded in August 1975. 

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FT11151_Wash Herron on harmonica and "Big Jack" Johnson on guitar__William R. Ferris Collection_UNC_Chapel HillFerris documented the secular as well as the sacred and his recordings of Mississippi blues artists are equally vital documents. The following track is from one of the first recordings of the bluesman “Big Jack” Johnson.  From FT11151, this is Johnson performing on guitar with harmonica player Wash Herron. 

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These clips offer but a glimpse into the Southern Folklife Collection’s preservation efforts. The public is encouraged to explore our finding aids for detailed inventories and description of archival collections and the UNC Libraries online catalog for materials of interest and request that they be preserved and made available for research. Feel free to contact the SFC with any comments or questions at wilsonlibrary@unc.edu. We also hope you will enjoy some music this Sunday, October 27, World Day for Audiovisual Heritage, and think about institutions like the Southern Folklife Collection, the Library of Congress, and countless other archives and institutions that are working to preserve our aural and visual history. Southern Folklife Collection John M. Rivers, Jr. Studio. Photo by Dan Sears

Domo Arigato Mike Seeger and Alice Gerrard

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Two tapes from the Mike Seeger Collection (20009) preserved as part of the Southern Folklife Collection’s ongoing project “From Piedmont to Swamplands,” supported by the National Endowment of the Humanities, recently caught the attention of audio engineer John Loy. The first, call number FT14237, features an interview/performance by Mike Seeger and Alice Gerrard on November 21, 1970 at the Kinro Kaikan in Kyoto Japan. It contains 90 minute concert and interview with commentary in Japanese. The program intended provide Japanese listeners with an introductory survey of American old time and vernacular music styles. A wonderful document of cultural exchange.

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Another recent find is a tape master sent to Mike in 1969 by the ‘Styx River Ferry ‘ a prominent “Hippy Country” group in the San Francisco/Berkeley area. This band features a who’s who of Bay area bluegrass fixtures rounded up by Bob and Ingrid Fowler. For this recording, call number FT14220, the group enlisted the help of legends of the day with guest performances by “Uncle Josh” Graves and “Cousin Jake” Tullock of the Foggy Mountain Boys. Of particular interest to us is the contextual information on the label, not only including song titles and band members, but also the recording studio, production personnel and a short list of bay area local venues at which the group was performing at the time. Catching Styx River Ferry at the Drinking Gourd would have been quite a time. Listen:

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