In tribute to B. B. King

20367_BKP_2527_King at YaleBy now I am sure that most of our readers have learned that the great Riley B. King, better known as B. B. King, died at his home in Las Vegas May 14, 2015 at the age of 89. At the Southern Follklife Collection, King’s presence is never far. Folklorist and great friend of the SFC, Bill Ferris, worked alongside B. B. King for many years and documented the time they spent together extensively. We couldn’t help but share the following letter where King writes to his friend Bill about his 1974 visit to Yale University, storing the memories of his visit “in the archives of my heart.”

BBKing025P20367_2528_Ferris_King_EncyclopediaThere is far too much content in the William R. Ferris Collection (20367) to share in a blog post, but we welcome all of you to visit The Wilson Library to see more and perhaps more importantly, hear more. Besides the more than 200 sound recordings featuring King in the SFC, there are also numerous field recordings, both interview and performance, as well as film and video documenting King’s life and career. Listen to B. B. King speaking to a class at Yale in 1974:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

BBKing026

BBKing027BBKing028

All of the images in this post except for the commercial sound recordings come from the Ferris collection. Already the internet is full of wonderful images, songs, and remembrances of King. Taken as a whole, they serve as a powerful reminder of King’s life and career, demonstrating the massive impact he has had on American music and culture while simultaneously pointing at the legacy that will reverberate far into the future.

BBKing021BBKing022BBKing023

We could not avoid posting some images of King in performance, cradling Lucille, King’s face twisted with emotion, images so powerful I can hear the music in my head just by looking.

20367_BKP_11_76_5_BB King_on stage20367_BKP_26_77_5_BB King_Yale_graduation20367_BKP_1_75_1_BB_King_onstage

But as with so many persons whose lives and works are documented and preserved in cultural institutions like the SFC, what stands out are the candid moments: quiet times between sets, casual conversations with fans (be they prison guards or inmates at Parchman Penitentiary), relaxing at home, or meetings with students.

20367_BKP_4_76_5_BB_King_dressing room 20367_BKP_S_74_BB_Ring20367_BKP_Parchman_King20367_BKP_Parchman_King_2 20367_40_111_071_BBKING at Yale

Thanks to Bill and many others who have shared their stories of King over the years, we’ve learned it’s these in-between moments that reflect the humble spirit, open heart and inimitable kindness that King demonstrated every day of his life. It was his love of humanity and love of life that fueled his music and we are all better because he so willingly shared his gifts around the world.

BBKing018 20367_BKP_31_77_05_BB_King_In Germany BBKing017

We extend our heartfelt condolences to King’s family, friends and fans. The King is dead. Long live the King.

Rest easy, B.

20367_BKP_6_76_5_BB King in repose

Workers of the World Unite! May Day in the Mike Seeger and Broadside Collections

flyer from album FC25202 in the Mike Seeger Collection, Southern Folklife Collection , UNC Chapel HillFor all workers, past, present, and future on this 126th International Workers’ Day we present this promotional flyer for the 1978 Folk Song Festival in Helsinki Finland, found inserted in a LP sleeve (along with miniature sticker versions of the flyer) in the SFC’s Mike Seeger Collection, FC-25202.

The 1978 festival and flyer honored Chilean activist singer-songwriter Victor Jara who was murdered, along with thousands of other victims, by the Chilean Army a day after the military coup September 11, 1973. Jara’s 1969 composition “Plegaria a un Labrador” (“Public Prayer to a worker”) remains a powerful call for solidarity in the struggle for human rights. Hear Jara perform “Plegeria a un Labrador” with his group Quilapayún here.

Open reel tape, FT9374, in the Broadside Collection (20289) includes recordings from a series of 1974 benefit concerts for Chile organized by Phil Ochs in New York City after the death of President Salvador Allende, Victor Jara, and countless others. Musicians included Larry Estrige, Bob Dylan, Dave Van Ronk, and Arlo Guthrie. The latter performed a song dedicated to the life of Victor Jara based on a poem written by Adrian Miller. Listen to that track below:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

And finally on this May Day we would like to leave you with one of Woody Guthrie’s protest ballads, “Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos).” The heartbreaking song memorializes the nameless migrants killed in a plane crash in Los Gatos canyon in 1948. It is sung by Sis Cunningham, recorded on FS5695 in the Broadside Collection (20289).

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

 

 

Graphic design of the Old Time Fiddlers’ Convention at Union Grove

20016_0069_Festival Program_1963001

Grateful for the opportunity to research in the Fiddlers’ Grove Collection (20016) this week, my eyes were drawn to the iconic graphic design of the 1960s era souvenir programs in Folder 69 of the collection. Especially ripe for analysis is the advertisement for the Davie Electric Membership Corp, “Serving 9000 in six counties,” including North Iredell. That electrical plug really knows how to swing on that banjo.

The 1964 program also included a list of the the performers from 1963, including Bascombe Lunsford, the Mountain Ramblers from Galax, Jim Craver, The Blue Sky Boys, J. E. Mainer, Grandma Pearly Davis, and more. See the full line up below. The 2015 festival is coming up May 22-24 in Union Grove, NC. For more information about the Old Time Fiddlers’ Convention and Fiddlers’ Grove Campground, visit the Southern Folklife Collection at the 4th floor reading room in The Wilson Library.

20016_0069_Festival Program_196300220016_0069_Festival Program_196300420016_0069_Festival Program_196300320016_0069_Festival Program_1963005

 

Songs from Limestone Country

78-178160B

We came across an interesting bit of American industrial history in a recent 78rpm cataloging session in the Southern Folklife Collection: a circa 1948 record promoting the Indiana Limestone Company, featuring on its label a relatively complex illustration of the limestone mining process. Celebrating the 100th anniversary of Indiana’s limestone industry, it includes two songs honoring the state’s favorite sedimentary rock : “Old Limestone Quarry” and “Girl from Oolitic.” (Oolitic is a town in Indiana known for its oolite, a kind of limestone).

We cannot find any information on this release, except that John H. McGee applied for copyright for the two songs in 1949.

We’ve included an excerpt from Side A here, which features an unknown vocalist and big band:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

The record is available at the SFC as call no. 78-17816.

78-17816A

Music Biographer Barry Mazor and Musician Dom Flemons at Wilson Library Feb. 6

Mazor_cover

Ralph Peer and the Making of Popular Roots Music

Friday, Feb. 6, 2015
Wilson Special Collections Library
Pleasants Family Assembly Room
5:30 p.m. Reception (program will begin at 6 p.m.)
6 p.m. Book Talk by Barry Mazor
7 p.m. Concert by Dom Flemons
Free and open to the public
Information: Liza Terll, Friends of the Library,
(919) 548-1203

 

Music scout, record producer, and industry visionary Ralph Peer helped shape and popularize American country and roots music from the 1920s through the ’40s. On Feb. 6, at 6 p.m., a new biography of Peer will be the topic of a talk by the author, Barry Mazor, at UNC’s Wilson Special Collections Library. A concert by musician Dom Flemons will follow at 7 p.m.

The Southern Folklife Collection (SFC) in Wilson Library is the program sponsor. Mazor and Flemons have both conducted extensive research in the Collection and are friends with one another, said SFC curator Steve Weiss.

Ralph Peer and the Making of Popular Roots Music was released in November to critical acclaim. The New York Times called it “a beautifully written portrait of an utterly fascinating man. One is continually astonished at how a shipping clerk from Independence, Mo., at various junctions in his life, made decisions that transformed American music by bringing new artists and forms of music — from country, blues and bluegrass to early rock ‘n’ roll — to millions of citizens who had not yet encountered them.”

Peer’s accomplishments include sparking the blues craze by recording Mamie Smith’s “Crazy Blues;” discovering the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers; and helping transform popular music well through the postwar years.

In the stacks of the SFC, Mazor — a winner of the 2008 Charlie Lamb Award for Excellence in Country Music Journalism — was able to draw on a unique recorded interview with Ralph Peer, as well as correspondence between Peer and musician Sara Carter of The Carter Family, found in the SFC’s Ed Kahn Collection. Those letters will be on display at the event.

Flemons_333Flemons, too, has deep ties to the SFC. In 2012, the Grammy-winning banjo player and former member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops described in an interview how video recordings and interviews in the Collection have informed his work. “There is something that a visual artifact can do that is greater than a mere recording,” he said. “You get to see the player and performer in the flesh and see how they played the music.”

The Dom Flemons Papers, 2004-2009, are part of the Southern Folklife Collection, and consist of audio and video recordings, photographs, programs, and related materials that Flemons has donated. Approximately 200 photographs from the collection, including publicity stills of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, may be viewed online, via the UNC Library’s Carolina Digital Repository.

An Alphabet of Treasures: Special Collections from A to Z

78_11104_Ma Rainey_Dream Blues_John Edwards Memorial Foundation Records_20001_Southern Folklife Collection[if you like zooming in on record labels you should click on this photo]

Dream Blues,” 78 rpm disc, 1924
Gertrude “Ma” Rainey with The Pruitt Twins, Paramount Records

As Paramount’s best-selling artist of the early 1920s, vaudeville superstar and “The Mother of the Blues” Gertrude “Ma” Rainey was honored with her own “portrait label” disc, the first of its kind, marketed and sold as a special souvenir for her fans. Rainey is accompanied on these March 1924 recordings by the remarkable Pruitt Twins, Miles and Milas of Kansas City, on banjo and guitar. The disc above is call number 78-11104 from the John Edwards Memorial Collection (20001).

This item is one of many highlights pulled from across the collections in Wilson library currently featured in the exhibition An Alphabet of Treasures: Special Collections from A to Z, which can be seen in Wilson Special Collections Library until April 19, 2015.

Follow the Wilson Library tumblr for more highlights from the exhibit.

And remember to mark your calendars for our very special event with music biographer Barry Mazor and musician Dom Flemons coming up next week.

Ralph Peer and the Making of Popular Roots Music
Friday, Feb. 6, 2015
Wilson Special Collections Library
Pleasants Family Assembly Room
5:30 p.m. Reception (program will begin at 6 p.m.)
6 p.m. Book Talk by Barry Mazor
7 p.m. Concert by Dom Flemons
Free and open to the public
Information: Liza Terll, Friends of the Library, (919) 548-1203

Music scout, record producer, and industry visionary Ralph Peer helped shape and popularize American country and roots music from the 1920s through the ’40s. On Feb. 6, at 6 p.m., a new biography of Peer will be the topic of a talk by the author, Barry Mazor, at UNC’s Wilson Special Collections Library. A concert by musician Dom Flemons will follow at 7 p.m. We’ll have more about the program on Field Trip South tomorrow.

 

Little Jimmy Dickens, 1920-2015

Little Jimmy Dickens, portrait, 20001_pf0566_0001, John Edwards Memorial Foundation Records (20001), Southern Folklife Collection, The Wilson Library, UNC Chapel HillLittle Jimmy Dickens in one of his trademark suits, image from the John Edwards Memorial Foundation Records (20001), one of many images of country, folk, and traditional musicians now available for research online. He started as a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1948 and became a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1983. At the time of his death, he was the oldest living member of the Grand Ole Opry. Dickens passed away in Nashville on January 2, 2015.

Nice boots, Tater, nice boots.

The “5” Royales inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

P20286_012_J_Taylor_Doggett_Colleciton_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC_Chapel HillExcellent and exciting news this week that the “5” Royales are to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the “early influences” category. Many have supported their nominations in the past, the “5” Royales were recipients of the North Carolina Folk Heritage Award in 1992, but we were glad to see the band from Winston-Salem, NC recognized internationally for their significant contributions to American music. As the repository for the J. Taylor Doggett Collection (20286), the Southern Folklife Collection holds a variety of materials documenting the “5” Royales career and music. P20286_002_J_Taylor_Doggett_Colleciton_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC_Chapel HillThe “5” Royales series documents Doggett’s extensive research and collecting efforts relating to the careers of constituent members Lowman Pauling, Clarence Paul, Curtis Pauling, Obadiah Carter, Johnny Tanner, Eugene Tanner, Otto Jeffries, and William Samuels. There is also music of the Royal Sons, EL Pauling and the Royalton, and the Charlie “Little Jazz” Ferguson Orchestra. The “5” Royales were significant in providing a link between early R&B and early soul in their combination of doo wop, jump blues, and gospel styles influencing a number of R&B musicians, including Ray Charles, James Brown, and Ike and Tina Turner. Guitarist and songwriter, Lowman Pauling, who unfortunately died in 1973, remains one of the greatest unsung innovators in rock and roll. Over the past few years, a number of box sets chronicling the group’s career, as well as tribute albums by well known musicians like Steve Cropper and young North Carolina groups like Chapel Hill’s The Flesh Wounds have been released, exposing new audiences to the band’s unique sound.

The J. Taylor Doggett Collection includes a number of important recordings, photographs, and ephemera of the group, but a few items that I am constantly drawn to are a series of cassettes compiled by Doggett, SFC call numbers FS9139 through FS9146, that document the bands lesser heard tunes and side projects. Obscure but essential_FS9139_FS9146_J_Taylor_Doggett_Colleciton_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC_Chapel HillBesides these remarkable tapes, we love the photographs of the “5” Royales at the Royal Peacock Club (see the sign pictured above and images below ). These images put the viewer almost onstage at what must have been a true rock and roll experience. Congratulations to the “5” Royales and many thanks to J. Taylor Doggett and so many others who dedicated themselves to preserving the legacy of one of North Carolina’s musical treasures. P20286_003_J_Taylor_Doggett_Colleciton_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC_Chapel HillP20286_004_J_Taylor_Doggett_Colleciton_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC_Chapel Hill P20286_005_J_Taylor_Doggett_Colleciton_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC_Chapel Hill P20286_007_J_Taylor_Doggett_Colleciton_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC_Chapel Hill P20286_009_J_Taylor_Doggett_Colleciton_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC_Chapel Hill P20286_010_J_Taylor_Doggett_Colleciton_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC_Chapel Hill

 

It don’t matter who’s in Austin, Bob Wills is Still the King (or is it Clifton Chenier)?

20002_Archie_Green_Broken Spoke_Southern Folklife CollectionA couple of posters from gigs I would have liked to attend. I was lucky to grow up not 1/2 mile from the Broken Spoke, and despite the best efforts of “New Austin,” I am very glad to report that it’s still there, still honky-tonkin, and the Lone Star is still cold. Both of these posters come from the Archie Green Papers (20002), collected by Archie while a professor at the University of Texas in the 1970s. I feel like artist Michael Priest’s comment written on the bottom of the poster reflects the general sense of wonder those cosmic cowboys and post-hippy hipsters must have felt to be able to attend shows like this on a regular basis, singular moments in music history that transcended the commercial drive of the social scene.

“We seen it right here didn’t we?”

I wish we had, Michael. Long live the kings. 20002_Archie_Green_Antones_Southern Folklife Collection

 

A song of personal thanksgiving

FC890_Chancey_Johnny_John_002

With all of the mythology surrounding contemporary celebrations of Thanksgiving, I often turn to field recordings to guide me through the gauntlet of caricatures that can seem to overwhelm the holiday experience. I like A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and the Macy’s Parade too, but this time of year always feels surreal until I pull down my collection of Native American music recordings from the record shelf and listen as I begin to prepare dinner for my family and friends.

FC890_cover_005Looking through the stacks this morning in the Southern Folklife Collection, I found a Library of Congress collection from the Archive of Folk Song, Songs from the Iroquois Longhouse, SFC call number FC890. Compiled by William Fenton from recordings made for the Bureau of American Ethnology at the Six Nations Reserve in Canada and the Allegany reservation in New York in 1941, the record is a powerful document of music from the Eastern Woodlands of North America.

FC890_notes_004The notes are extensive and detail the singers, songs, and performance of the music in a variety of contexts. Among the Seneca performers documented is Chancey Johnny John, called hau’no’on, “Cold-voice,” of the Turtle clan of the Cayuga. According to Fenton, Chancey came from a line of singers and knew more than 1000 verses of song. To be able to hear Chancey Johnny John sing is a remarkable gift and we hope you readers and listeners enjoy this short piece as you join together in body, mind, or spirit with your families and friends this weekend. Click on the bar below to listen to Chancey Johnny John recorded in 1941. 

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

The song of personal thanksgiving is an individual chant sung during the Midwinter festival, on the third day of the Green Corn Festival. According to Fenton, “every man should return thanks to the Creator that he has lived to see the ceremonies again and that so many people have once again returned to renew the faith of their ancestors.” A transcription of the chant follows. FC890_notes_personal_006FC890_recording_003