Cataloger’s Corner: Moondog!

During a recent cataloging session, we stumbled across this 1953 EP by composer/performer/inventor/poet/philosopher Moondog (born Louis Thomas Hardin, b.1916-d.1999), hidden in between recordings by Dizzy Dean & his Country Cousins and the Circuit Rider Quartet.

Moondog, Improvisations at a Jazz Concert, Brunswick, 1953

Moondog grew up in the Midwest and became blind at age 16 after playing with a dynamite cap. In the 1940s, he moved to New York City, renamed himself after an ex-pet (a dog who liked to wail at the moon), and stationed himself on a Times Square traffic median where he played his own compositions on instruments that he’d designed and built. Some time during the 1950s, increasing crowds at his performances drove him to relocate to a quieter spot near the corner of 53rd Street and 6th Avenue—and to switch from playing music to standing still for eight hours a day, sometimes reading and selling his poetry. He typically carried a spear, wore a Viking helmet, long beard, and a robe he made from pieces of army blankets. (In 1965, the New York Times reported that he’d changed to a green velvet outfit in order to avoid the “G.I. connotations” of the army blankets).

In the meantime, Moondog also recorded a number of albums for Decca, Prestige, and Columbia and gained recognition as a serious avant-garde composer. Improvisations at a Jazz Concert is the only Moondog record on the Brunswick label. It features two of his self-made, self-designed instruments—the oo (a sort of miniature dulcimer) and the trimba (two small triangular drums with a cymbal attached), as well as his characteristically elastic approach to tempo and meter that he sometimes referred to as “snake time.” Billboard magazine called the EP “one of the unusual recordings of the year” when it came out in 1953, the reviewer suggesting that “those who react to rhythm should be intrigued.”

We’ve included here an excerpt from Side 1, entitled “Improvisation in 7/4.” The EP is available at the SFC, call no. 78-16420.

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Moondog, Improvisation in 7/4

A Moondog documentary is soon to be released, the trailer for which is available here: http://thevikingof6thavenue.com/

 

 

Record of the Week: Alura Mack, “Beef Blood Blues”

Really nice to pull this out of the stacks, Female Country Blues Singers (1929-1931), SFC call number FC9785. Alura Mack, whose entire recorded output sadly makes up only 13 songs, was a legendarily bawdy blues pianist. “Beef Blood Blues” is perhaps the most macabre of all of her cuts, a sharp change in mood from uproariously immoral ditties such as “Loose Like That,” “Everybody’s Man is Mine,” and “I’m Busy, You Can’t Come In.” Check out the track below–a fittingly grim one for the worst day of the week.

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Sun Ra, “Dancing in the Sun”

With the anticipation of the 100th anniversary of Sun Ra’s appearance on Earth from his home on Saturn on May 29, we have inexplicably been called toward his music in the stacks, most recently to The Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra, SFC call number FC21135, a seminal 1965 release from legendary free-jazz and out music label ESP-Disk . Equal parts “unfree free jazz, afrofuturist storytelling, and detours into pop music (e.g. the gorgeous doo-wop track “Somebody’s in Love” or the very-NSFW anti-war lament “Nuclear War“), Sun Ra’s oeuvre defies easy summation. With that said, Heliocentric Worlds is about as good a place to dive into it any. Posted here is the final track from the record, “Dancing in the Sun.” As an added bonus, this particular rip of the record comes from an original (and rare) ESP-Disk pressing–check out those scans of this particularly well-worn copy below the track.

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Photos of the week: life according to Photo-Sound Associates

 

20239_pf0101_01_0002. Lee Hoffman and John Schuyler "Jock" Root at the races. Photo by Aaron Rennert, ca. 1957-1960.  Photo-Sound Associates, Ron Cohen Collection (20239). Southern Folklife Collection, UNC Chapel Hill

20239_pf0101_01_0002. Lee Hoffman and John Schuyler “Jock” Root at the races. Photo by Aaron Rennert, ca. 1957-1960.  Photo-Sound Associates, Ron Cohen Collection (20239).

It’s hard not to get drawn into the Photo-Sound Associates images in the Ron Cohen Collection (20239). My intention is always to grab a quick photo to share on the blog and before I know it, I’ve grabbed six. I started off with the image above including the Caravan magazine founder and renaissance woman Lee Hoffman (ed. note: I recommend reading her website, Ms. Hoffman led a remarkable life) at some car races. I was looking for a different Washington Square Park photo when I saw the image below with the enormous crowd on a spring day. I can’t imagine the sound of that environment in the middle of the city. The street scenes documented by Rennert and photographer Ray Sullivan provide a fascinating look into New York City in the late 1950s. Framing musician Eric Weissberg and his Puch/Allstate 250CC two-stroke motorbike in the distance allows for a wonderful view of the architecture and 1950s automobiles. Finally, the image of Izzy Young through the window at the Folklore Center seemed the perfect way to end the tour along with this tired cat, so sleepy. The folk scene in NYC was a happening place to be in the late 1950s.

20239_pf0102_02_0003. Car races. Photo by Aaron Rennert, ca. 1957-1960.  Photo-Sound Associates, Ron Cohen Collection (20239). Southern Folklife Collection, UNC Chapel Hill20239_pf0102_02_0003. Car races. Photo by Aaron Rennert, ca. 1957-1960. Photo-Sound Associates, Ron Cohen Collection (20239).

 

20239_pf0082_01_0006. Crowd in Washington Square Park, 5 May 1959. Photo by Aaron Rennert. Photo-Sound Associates, Ron Cohen Collection (20239). Southern Folklife Collection, UNC Chapel Hill20239_pf0082_01_0006. Crowd in Washington Square Park, 5 May 1959. Photo by Aaron Rennert. Photo-Sound Associates, Ron Cohen Collection (20239).

 

20239_pf0082_01_0010. Listeners, small boy playing harmonica, Washington Square Park, 5 May 1959. Photo by Aaron Rennert. Photo-Sound Associates, Ron Cohen Collection (20239). Southern Folklife Collection, UNC Chapel Hill20239_pf0082_01_0010. Listeners, small boy playing harmonica, Washington Square Park, 5 May 1959. Photo by Aaron Rennert. Photo-Sound Associates, Ron Cohen Collection (20239).

 

20239_pf0098_01_0013. Eric Weissberg and his Puch/Allstate 250cc two-stroke motorbike. Photo by "LH," ca. 1957-1960.  Photo-Sound Associates, Ron Cohen Collection (20239). Southern Folklife Collection, UNC Chapel Hill20239_pf0098_01_0013. Eric Weissberg and his Puch/Allstate 250cc two-stroke motorbike. Photo by “LH,” ca. 1957-1960. Photo-Sound Associates, Ron Cohen Collection (20239).

 

20239_pf0100_0015. Izzy Young looking in the Folklore Center, 27 July 1959. Photo by Aaron Rennert. Photo-Sound Associates, Ron Cohen Collection (20239). Southern Folklife Collection, UNC Chapel Hill20239_pf0100_0015. Izzy Young looking in the Folklore Center, 27 July 1959. Photo by Aaron Rennert. Photo-Sound Associates, Ron Cohen Collection (20239).

 

20239_pf0097_0003. Photo by "LH," ca. 1957-1960.  Photo-Sound Associates, Ron Cohen Collection (20239). Southern Folklife Collection, UNC Chapel Hill

Tired Cat.Photo by “LH,” ca. 1957-1960. Photo-Sound Associates, Ron Cohen Collection (20239).

Cataloger’s Corner: The Dutch Hop Polka


Weingardt, Dutch Hops, Side A

The SFC has just cataloged two rare 10-inch EPs by Paul Weingardt and the Dutch Hop Boys (Vega Records, 1950, SFC call #s 78-16170, 78-16171. The first of these is pictured left.)

The polka on these records is of a special type known as the “Dutch Hop,” played and danced by the Volga Germans in the Great Plains region of the United States. (Eastern Colorado and western Nebraska are particular hotspots for the dance). The “Dutch” in “Dutch Hop” is thought to have started as a disguised version of the word “Deutsch.” During and after the World Wars, German-Americans were harshly stigmatized—and thus willing to portray their origins as Dutch rather than German.

Compared to standard polka, the Dutch Hop is faster, involves “bouncier” steps, and features a hammered dulcimer in addition to more standard instruments like the violin or the accordion. According to the Polka Page website, poor recording quality sometimes made the dulcimer hard to hear on Dutch Hop records. This may explain why the 1950 Billboard review of Weingardt’s Vega release only mentioned the “alternating accordion and violin.”Weingardt, Side B

In this excerpt from “Katy Katy Polka,” the dulcimer is indeed barely audible–one hears it as a faint plucking sound on the offbeats, at phrase endings, and under the violin solo at around 0:45.

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During his career, Weingardt also recorded with the Alpine Dutch Hoppers, the Alpine Polkadots, and the Polka Kings.

 

Folk Fashion from the Photo-Sound Associates

20239_pf0085_01_0028, Liz White in WNCN studios for the George Lorrie radio show, 25 May 1959. Photo by Aaron Rennert for Photo-Sound Associates. Ron Cohen Collection (20239), Southern Folklife CollectionReally enjoying the fashion of the folk scene in the Photo-Sound Associates photographs lately. We love these images of Liz White wearing an absolutely fabulous belt in the studio at WNCN-New York for George Lorrie’s radio show on May 25, 1959. Photo by Aaron Rennert for Photo-Sound Associates. See more in the Ron Cohen Collection (20239).

20239_pf0085_01_0021, Liz White in WNCN studios for the George Lorrie radio show, 25 May 1959. Photo by Aaron Rennert for Photo-Sound Associates. Ron Cohen Collection (20239), Southern Folklife Collection20239_pf0085_01_0022,Liz White in WNCN studios for the George Lorrie radio show, 25 May 1959. Photo by Aaron Rennert for Photo-Sound Associates. Ron Cohen Collection (20239), Southern Folklife Collection

Opening Friday, “Lard Have Mercy!: 30 years of Southern Culture on the Skids”

SCotS_2014_Ron Liberti Collection_Southern Folklife Collection

We’re putting the final touches on the exhibit. For a preview, see David Menconi’s article in the N&O.

Opening this Friday, the Southern Folklife Collection presents, “Lard Have Mercy! 30 Years of Southern Culture on the Skids.” The exhibit opens Friday, March 14, 2014 at 6PM on the 4th floor of the Wilson Library at UNC-Chapel Hill. The exhibit opening will be followed by a concert at Historic Playmakers Theater featuring none other than Southern Culture on the Skids. Both events occur in conjunction with the annual conference of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM) taking place March 13-16 at UNC-Chapel Hill. Silkscreened poster pictured above made by friend of the SFC, Ron Liberti.

See y’all on Friday.

What: “Lard Have Mercy! 30 Years of Southern Culture on the Skids” opening reception

When: 6 p.m. Friday; exhibit on display through Aug. 31

Where: Fourth floor of Wilson Library, UNC-Chapel Hill

Info: 919-962-7105 orwww2.lib.unc.edu/wilson/sfc

Following Friday’s opening reception, Southern Culture on the Skids will play a 7:30 p.m. concert at UNC’s Historic Playmakers Theatre. The show is free, but tickets are required. For details, call 919-548-1203 or the Memorial Hall box office at 919-843-3333.

 

 

78 rpm disc of the week: McFarland and Gardner

78_11592_McFarland and Gardner_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC Chapel HillSome excellent classic, old-time country from Robert McFarland and Lester Gardner for you readers today. Also known as “Mac and Bob,” the duo met at the Kentucky School for the Blind in the early 1920s and recorded over 200 songs for Brunswick and other labels. They appeared regularly on the WLS Barn Dance for twenty years, retiring in 1950. Originally recorded but rejected by Brunswick, we digitized these two tracks from a disc on the Australian imprint, Regal Zonophone, SFC call no. 78-11592. “The Hut on the Back of the Lot” is at the top of the list for one of my favorite songs of 2014. Life lessons from “Little Ned.” This one’s for dear old Dad.

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Lard Have Mercy! 30 Years of Southern Culture on the Skids

SCOTS1The Southern Folklife Collection is pleased to announce our first exhibit and program of 2014, “Lard Have Mercy! 30 Years of Southern Culture on the Skids.” The exhibit opens Friday, March 14, 2014 at 6PM on the 4th floor of the Wilson Library at UNC-Chapel Hill. The exhibit opening will be followed by a concert at Historic Playmakers Theater featuring none other than Southern Culture on the Skids. Both events occur in conjunction with the annual conference of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM) taking place March 13-16 at UNC-Chapel Hill.

“Lard Have Mercy” traces the history of Chapel Hill’s “Legendary Bards of Downward Mobility,” Southern Culture on the Skids (SCOTS). Formed in 1983. SCOTS embody a raucous, sleazy, good-natured, good-time take on Southern traditions and traditional music playing a unique hybrid of Americana, surf, R&B, rockabilly, and swamp pop, driving fans into ecstatic, sweat-drenched paroxysms of joy.

Featuring photography by Kent Thompson and Michael Benson as well as instruments, posters, recordings, and other ephemera from the SCOTS collection in the Southern Folklife Collection.

Events are free and open to the public but seating is limited. Concert Tickets will be available via Memorial Hall Box Office (919) 843-3333 the week of March 3rd. More information about the concert below.

Ticket booth opens: 6pm

Doors: 7pm

Concert: 7:30pm

“A HELL RAISING ROCK AND ROLL PARTY” – ROLLING STONE

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Holiday in the stacks: Doodily-doo edition

TR-12_245_Ralph Emery Show, 12_24_1971_Eugene Earle Collection One more tasty holiday treat from the Southern Folklife Collection. From the Eugene Earle Collection (20376), we have Del Reeves doodling’ away at his tune “Santa’s Boy.” This track appeared on transcription disc recording of the Ralph Emery Show, originally aired on Christmas Eve, 1971, call number TR-12-245.

Doodily-do everybody. We’ll see you next year.

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Transcription Disc TR/12-245

Ralph Emery Show No. 1184, 24 December 1971. Special Guest: Sonny James.

“Jingle Bells,” Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.
“Only Love Can Break a Heart,” Sonny James.
“Blue Christmas,” Elvis Presley.
“Kentucky,” Sammi Smith.
“Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” Gene Autry.
“I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day,” Ray Price.
“Santa’s Boy,” Del Reeves.
“Do You Hear What I Hear,” Sonny James.
“One’s on the Way,” Loretta Lynn.
“Here Was a Man,” Johnny Cash.
“Baby’s Smile, Woman’s Kiss,” Johnny Duncan.
“Silent Night,” Sonny James.