Thank you, Starman


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


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. 78_13339_PM_LC

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. 78_17782_PM_LC

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


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.”


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.



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.


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 <>.


This Week on Hell or High Water: Dave Van Ronk


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


This Week on Hell or High Water…


Special post from “Hell or High Water” coordinator and SFC student Employee, Katherine Hjerpe

Greetings Southern Folklife followers and enthusiasts!

For those of you who don’t already know, every Sunday at 1PM on WXYC-Chapel Hill 89.3FM, “Hell or High Water” features music from the stacks of the Southern Folklife Collection archives in The Wilson Library.

This past weekend, I took a trip home to Connnecticut, home of Grateful Dead-themed music festival Gathering of the Vibes, and the old Dead records of my dad’s I picked up from  my grandmother’s house. Inspired, I looked into the SFC archives to prepare for this week’s broadcast.    


The SFC holds a number of unique Dead recordings (including The Golden Road pictured above and CD-9047 in our collection), as well as one of our favorite short-lived side projects of Jerry Garcia called Old & In The Way. Recorded in 1973, their self-titled album, call number FC-4257, was released on Durham’s own Sugar Hill Records in 1975  


The 5-piece group includes Garcia on vocals and banjo, mandolinist David Grisman, Peter Rowan on guitar and vocals, Vassar Clements on fiddle, and John Kahn on bass. Aside from Kahn, who is still featured as a musician on several albums, the Southern Folklife Collection also has a number of other recordings spanning the careers of members of Old and In the Way.


img009Showcasing the members country-bluegrass roots, the music of Old and in the Way is steeped in string band tradition, with just a little rock n roll, of course. Besides the self-titled debut, the supergroup released a good deal of live material — That High Lonesome Sound and Breakdown. All recordings are from 1973. Tune in to WXYC this Wednesday to hear songs from both volumes.


As a group, they perform traditional bluegrass songs, more popular covers including “Wild Horses” by The Rolling Stones, and plenty of originals. We hope you’ll tune in this Sunday to hear this aspect of our collection first-hand on WXYC! Start off your afternoon feelin’ fine with Hell or High Water.


Fall Break: Autumn in New York



As the weary students here at UNC-Chapel Hill celebrate and travel for the long weekend otherwise known as Fall Break, the Southern Folklife Collection remains open and active, inside Wilson Library at the base of the quad. To celebrate this mid-semester moment of repose, we dug through the stacks for some seasonal accompaniment, a few of the many versions of the 1934 Duke Vernon song, “Autumn in New York,” a popular destination for UNC students this weekend but a $35 Chinatown bus ride away.

Originally composed for the musical “Thumbs Up!” back in the 1930’s, the song is a jazz standard appearing on countless records and namesaking others, such as the 1956 Verve release by Greensboro’s own jazz guitarist Tal Farlow (FC-24443 in the UNC Library Catalog). Included below is an excerpt of the recording.


FC_24443_3, Autumn in New York, Tal Farlow, Southern Folklife Collection, UNC-Chapel Hill

Farlow’s guitar rendition may be one of the most popular, but one of our favoirites is probably this1976 by saxophonist Dexter Gordon, FC-19092 in our catalog.


FC_19092_5, Autumn in New York, Dexter Gordon, Southern Folklife Collection, UNC-Chapel Hill

Philadelphia jazz pianist Kenny Barron’s 1985 version is equally nostalgic, FC-24615. FC_24615_2, Autumn in New York, Kenny Barron, Southern Folklife Collection, UNC-Chapel Hill

Enjoy the Autumn weekend wherever you may be.




An evening with Joe Boyd at the Southern Folklife Collection

joe_portraitThe Southern Folklife Collection is honored to host producer, writer, and filmmaker Joe Boyd at The Wilson Special Collections Library on Thursday, September 24 at 5:30 PM. The producer of albums by Nick Drake, Fairport Convention, and Pink Floyd will discuss and screen his work in music documentaries.

We will be screening the acclaimed documentary Bayou Maharajah exploring the life and music of New Orleans piano legend James Booker. For more information about the film visit:

Please join us.
September 24, 2015
Wilson Library, Pleasants Family Assembly Room
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


Time for the National Folk Festival

30007_folder115_National Folk Festival_48th_002The National Folk Festival kicked off in Greensboro, North Caronlina today, the first of it’s three year stay in North Carolina. See their website for a complete schedule of events. Many once-in-a-lifetime performances in North Carolina for the first, and likely, only time.

To celebrate our colleagues at the NCTA and all those who made this year’s excellent event possible, we dug into the Southern Folklife Collection Festival Files (30007) for some documentation of past events. We especially like the postcard to Arthur Palmer Hudson inviting his participation at The Sixth Annual National Folk Festival at Constitution Hall in Washington, D. C.

We hope to see you in downtown Greensboro or here at Southern Folklife Collection real soon. 30007_folder115_National Folk Festival_24th_00130007_folder115_National Folk Festival_6th_003

Hoedowns, Reels, and Frolics at Wilson Library Aug. 25


We are excited for our first program of the 2015-2016 school year.

The South’s traditional folk dances will be the topic of a free public program on August 25 at UNC’s Wilson Special Collections Library.

Author Phil Jamison will discuss his new book, Hoedowns, Reels, and Frolics: Roots and Branches of Southern Appalachian Dance, at 5:30 p.m. in the Pleasants Family Assembly Room. Jamison will also demonstrate dance steps, with fiddle accompaniment by the excellent Joseph Decosimo. For details on the Phil Jamison Collection (20389) in the Southern Folklife Collection, see the finding aid.

Jamison is a nationally known dance caller, musician, and flatfoot dancer. His dancing was featured in the film Songcatcher, for which he also served as a dance consultant. Jamison teaches mathematics and Appalachian music and dance at Warren Wilson College in Asheville, North Carolina.

In Hoedowns, Reels, and Frolics, Jamison asserts that square dances, step dances, reels, and other dance forms of Southern Appalachia did not descend directly from the dances of early British settlers, but adopted and incorporated elements of other traditions.

Jamison’s talk is sponsored by the Southern Folklife Collection in Wilson Library, which is home to the Phil Jamison Collection, including numerous recordings he has made of traditional music and dance.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 5:30 p.m.
Pleasants Family Assembly Room
Wilson Special Collections Library
Free and open to the public.
Information: Liza Terll, Friends of the Library, (919) 548-1203