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

Peg Leg Sam_20025_FT324_Tom Davenport Collection_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC Chapel Hill

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.

Peg Leg Sam On Folkstreams

Peg Leg Sam

Any fan of American folk music and culture should be sure to spend plenty of time at Folkstreams.net, a wonderful online collection of over 100 hard-to-find documentary films. The site is currently spotlighting the collaborative work of filmmaker Tom Davenport and UNC folklorist Dan Patterson, including a particular favorite of ours, 1976’s Born For Hard Luck, a portrait of the late great medicine show performer “Peg Leg Sam” Jackson. Including interviews and a live performance, it’s a fine tribute to both a great entertainer and the lost art of the medicine show. If you haven’t yet seen it, it’s well worth your time, as are any of the films you may find on Folkstreams.

Original tapes and films associated with the Folkstreams project are preserved in the SFC’s Folkstreams.net Collection.