Zygote, 1970

Zygote_v1_n7_1970_Southern Folklife CollectionIt was a pleasure to dig into the Southern Folklife Collection‘s two issues of Zygote, an excellent alternative rag out of New York in the early 1970s. I also enjoyed imagining which member of the John Edwards Memorial Foundation originally collected the magazine for the periodical collection. These two issues feature some quality investigative journalism and radical political commentary mixed with record and film reviews, music features, pop-culture criticism, and a psychedelic visual style. The Southern Folklife Collection has but two issues from 1970, this one vol. 1, no. 7, from October 30, and vol. 1, no. 8 from November. If you subscribed for two years you could have picked up the latest Mother Earth LP and the soundtrack to The Strawberry Statement. Plus, Tina Turner and Wayne Cochran (scroll down to the bottom).

Right on.

Zygote_v1_n7_1970_Southern Folklife CollectionZygote_v1_n7_1970_Southern Folklife CollectionZygote_v1_n7_1970_Southern Folklife CollectionZygote_v1_n7_1970_Southern Folklife Collection

The films of Toshi Seeger

DVD_332_Southern Folklife CollectionWhile best known for her film Afro-American Work Songs in a Texas Prison, made along with her husband Pete, son Daniel, and folklorist Bruce Jackson, Toshi Seeger was an accomplished photographer and documentarian whose filmography reaches far beyond the Ellis Unit at the Huntsville prison. Rounder Records, along with Stefan Grossman’s Vestapol Productions, released a remarkable compilation of films by the Toshi and the Seeger family well before the documentary mentioned above was made.  Toshi and Pete describe these films as “home movies,” but they are a far cry from shaky video of Christmas morning. These films are available for viewing at the Southern Folklife Collection, call no. DVD_332, and are highly recommended.

Obituaries written in honor of Toshi Seeger, who died this week at the age of 91, describe her as being the “perfect compliment to Pete,” describing him as the visionary and her as the “grounded” member of their marriage. These films, however, demonstrate playfulness as well as a clarity of creative vision and attention to detail. Her camerawork captures the intensity of performance and communicates the wonder she must have felt in those moments of filming. From an interview made by Todd Harvey and Peggy Seeger in 2006 for the Library of Congress, Toshi shares the following memories (see more on Folkstreams here:

“Toshi Seeger: Most people, if they are filming have a storyboard or script or something. They know what is happening. I had no idea at any time. The boatsingers film footage we made in Ghana [1964], I saw that happening and I said, “let’s stop and get that.” But in the Texas prison I had no idea what was going to happen. We set up the cameras and began filming. At the point that we set the cameras up I saw that they were going to do work songs, so any of the framing is on the spur of the moment, done just as we saw it.

PS: And at the end of the day of filming, the guard, who was on a horse and who was often talking to a friend, wasn’t even watching us…

TS: Well you were talking to him and I was with all the prisoners with double-edged axes. I thought it was very humorous. I shot the film, with the guard on the horse looking away paying no attention to me. These men were telling me their life stories—why they were in there, about their children and wives, and so forth…”

To see the entire film Afro-American Work Songs in a Texas Prison, as well as Singing Fishermen of Ghana, visit Folkstreams.net.

 

RIP Robert Calvin “Bobby Blue” Bland

78_7247_2_Southern Folklife CollectionIt always saddens me that it takes the death of an artist to remind me to look for their work in the Southern Folklife Collection holdings, but then I find something like this excellent 78 from Bobby Blue Bland, call number 78-7247, and the bad feelings fade away. Bland passed on June 23, 2013 at his home outside Memphis, TN, but left behind a remarkable discography of some of the best R&B ever recorded. “Army Blues” features a beautifully woozy and cracked arrangement of “Taps” and Bland’s raw vocals offer a moving critique of the dismay that he and many others felt about the draft in 1952.

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“No Blow, No Show” picks things up and the tape echo sound awesome to our ears. Take a listen and have a great weekend. 

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Friday Yodeling

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Some days, there’s just no other option but to yodel. Today is one of those days. Pardon the brief hiatus here at Field Trip South, but we’re working on big plans in the Southern Folklife Collection. Stay tuned to Field Trip South for future announcements. But until then, feel free to yodel along. Above is a fine mix by the great George P. Watson, from 78-12828. Even better to my ears is this fine Romeo release of Frankie Wallace and His Guitar scatting through “My Hulu Girl” in 1926, from 78-12017.78_12017

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But I had to save the best for last, the remarkable voice and piano stylings of Roy Evans. Put this one on repeat, “The New St. Louis Blues” from 78-11488. Welcome to the weekend. 

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SFC Spotlight: Jack Bernhardt Papers

http://www.lib.unc.edu/mss/inv/b/Bernhardt,Jack.htmlWhen Southern Folklife Collection curator, Steve Weiss, suggested we highlight the Jack Bernhardt Papers (20061) on Field Trip South I happily offered to write the post. I’m not proud to say that conversation was over two months ago. Every time I began to research the collection, I fell down one rabbit hole after another. Should the focus be on the in-depth fieldwork and oral histories with regional gospel bluegrass band Jimmy and Tammy Sullivan?  Or Bernhardt’s excellent documentation of old-time music, with a list of recordings that include performances and interviews with some of Appalachia’s most remarkable musicians and folklorists recorded in the 1980s: Alice Gerrard, Andy Cahan, Matokie Slaughter, Ernest East, Cece Conway, Rafe Brady, Alan Jabbour, Tommy Thompson, Bill Hicks, Nimrod Workman and more. Bernhardt collected hours of interviews and recorded hours of vibrant musical performances, including many informal jam sessions, taking the listener directly into the living room of North Carolina’s legendary musicians like Tommy Jarrell and Bertie Dickens. Each of these recordings deserves consideration, and we welcome you to visit Wilson Library to listen, however it’s Bernhardt’s collection of interviews largely made in his role as critic of contemporary country music that I have been most drawn to.

An addition of 131 tapes in July 2012 to the Bernhardt collection provide a unique perspective on the landscape of country and bluegrass music in the decades straddling the turn of the century. From 1986 to 2011, Bernhardt interviewed variety of contemporary country musicians and composers. Artists include Trace Adkins, Sam Bush, Guy Clark, Susanna Clark, Vassar Clements, J.D. Crowe, Jerry Douglas, Vince Gill, John Hartford, Alan Jackson, Naomi Judd, Alison Krauss, Doyle Lawson, Charlie Louvin, Patty Loveless, Loretta Lynn, Jimmy Martin, Kathy Mattea, Martina McBride, Del McCoury, Reba McEntire, Ricky Scaggs, Earl Scruggs, the Steep Canyon Rangers, Rhonda Vincent, and Gretchen Wilson. With the assistance of SFC research assistant Laura McPherson, we have picked out a few of our favorites and over the next few days we’ll share highlights here on Field Trip South.

We’ll start with The First Lady of Country Music, the legendary Loretta Lynn.  Bernhardt’s interview of Lynn, call number FS-12132, was conducted on 20 April 2001. Bernhardt is a warm conversationalist, however he is also a pointed and professional interviewer, asking pointed and probing questions touching on the broad scope of Lynn’s life and career.  The pair kick off the interview with a frank discussion about politics and reflections on the beginnings of the Iraq War, sounding like two old friends meeting over coffee before switching over to music. Bernhardt and LynnListen as Lynn surveys American country music, frustrated with the industry push to either “go back to sitting on heybales” or going all out pop:

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Later, Lynn’s ever-present charm and humble appreciation is on full display when describing one of her most memorable moments receiving an achievement award in Washington D. C. in the late 1980s.  Ed Asner was the MC. 

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Bernhardt’s questions inspire Lynn to reflect on the her early recording career, touching on the sexism and chauvinism of the Nashville scene and Lynn’s opposition to it from the start:

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We’ll leave you with a great soundbite of Lynn talking about her role as a pioneer artist, paving the way for women in country music. Recounting an interview her daughter gave where the younger Lynn exclaimed “Momma didn’t open the doors, she kicked them down!”

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Check back in with Field Trip South for more from the Jack Bernhardt Papers including interviews with John Hartford, Townes van Zandt, and Gordon Stoker from the Jordanaires.

 

 

The one and only, George Jones

P1072_Southern Folklife Collection_John Edwards Memorial FoundationCountry music legend George Jones died Friday in Nashville at the age of 81. Few artists have lived as hard as a character in a country song as The Possum. Born and raised in Texas, George Glenn Jones grew up with the roughnecks, cowboys, and lonely hearts of the East Texas oil-fields that populated the honky-tonk bars of Beaumont where Jones first made his mark.

In tribute to old Possum, we pulled out his first single recorded in 1954 for Pappy Daily’s Starday Records, the classic “No Money In this Deal,” Southern Folklife Collection call number 78-12324. Listen to that guitar intro (and what kind of name is “Loyce”?):

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78_12324_George Jones_Southern Folklife CollectionJones’s incomparable knack for phrasing and brilliant vocal slides are already on full display. We listened to it three times in a row because it’s just so darn good. For me, however, it’s the b-side, “You’re In My Heart,” that made me a lifelong fan so many years ago. Play this one and let it sink in deep. The next time you are confronted with turmoils of the heart, ask yourself, what would George Jones do? Rest in peace, George Jones.

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Visualizing American Roots Music: THE BYRDS

P303

The Byrds, 1968

(Kevin Kelly, Gram Parsons, Roger McGuinn, Chris Hillman)

P303. JOHN EDWARDS MEMORIAL COLLECTION (#20001)

The photo above appears as part of Visualizing American Roots Music, an exhibit presented by the Southern Folklife Collection of twenty rare and unique photographs of iconic musicians. On view in the Pleasants Family Assembly Room of the Wilson Special Collections Library through Dec. 31, 2013.

Cataloger’s Corner

The SFC has recently cataloged over 1,000 CDs from Europe and Argentina, mostly re-issues of songs recorded during the 1930s-1940s. This means we are now one of the world’s largest repositories of recordings by:  Nazi-era singing sextets, British and German dance orchestras, French accordion virtuosi, and mid-century tango ensembles. Put into perspective, this includes 38 albums by Argentinean guitarist Oscar Alemán, 33 albums featuring the German singing troupe the Comedian Harmonists, and 25 albums featuring the French accordion master Will Glahé.

Last week we stumbled upon an anomaly among these historical reissues: a sampler from the Swiss label West Side Studios containing a rare track by the Swiss country group Monday Morning.

West Side Studios sampler

West Side Studios sampler

Monday Morning was, of course, fronted by vocalist and steel guitar wizard Helmut Schoeni, who sounds almost authentically Oklahoma-born in this cover of “Tulsa Straight Ahead.”

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Schoeni may be best known for his solo album Countreeeeeeeee Music (1999) or for his duo-album with Joe Schwach A New Tropical Breeze: Counga Infection (2003). “Tulsa Straight Ahead” gives us a perhaps wider glimpse into his musical range–and especially the ease with which he is able to approximate a “boogie” feeling. We are proud to now be able to provide access to this track, as well as to the other Swiss country gems featured on the West Side Studios sampler (CD-10421).

Track listing for West Side Studios sampler

Track listing for West Side Studios sampler

Visualizing American Roots Music: BUCK OWENS AND THE BUCKAROOS

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Buck Owens and the Buckaroos, 1966

(Buck Owens, Don Rich, Willie Cantu, Tom Brumley, Doyle Holly)

P1157. JOHN EDWARDS MEMORIAL COLLECTION (#20001)

The photo above appears as part of Visualizing American Roots Music, an exhibit presented by the Southern Folklife Collection of twenty rare and unique photographs of iconic musicians. On view in the Pleasants Family Assembly Room of the Wilson Special Collections Library through Dec. 31, 2013.