Thornton Dial, 1928-2016

20491_ 063_Thornton Dial_Souls Grown Deep Foundation Photographic Collection_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC Chapel Hill We were saddened to learn that artist Thornton Dial passed away yesterday at his home in McCalla, Alabama. Our thoughts are with his loving family and friends. Dial will certainly be remembered as one of the most important artists of the last fifty years. Thanks to the early efforts of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation, founded by William Arnett, the Southern Folklife Collection holds a number of slides that document Mr. Dial, his artwork, and workspace where he created the fantastic assemblages such as those pictured here, all from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation Photographic Collection (20491) in the Southern Folklife Collection.20491_ 079_Thornton Dial_Souls Grown Deep Foundation Photographic Collection_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC Chapel Hill

The complete collection of Thornton Dial images will soon be digitized available for research through the Souls Grown Deep Foundation Photographic Collection (20491) finding aid. Already, you can view work by Dial’s colleagues and contemporaries like Asberry Davis, Mary T. Smith, Lonnie Holley (who introduced Dial to Arnett), and Dial’s cousin, Ronald Lockett. We will link to more of Dial’s work in the Souls Grown Deep Foundation Photographic Collection (20491) finding aid when that content goes live. For now, we pulled a few scans currently in progress that show a but a few examples of the remarkable variety of Dial’s oeuvre in the space where they were created. 20491_ 052_Thornton Dial_Souls Grown Deep Foundation Photographic Collection_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC Chapel Hill _220491_ 072_Thornton Dial_Souls Grown Deep Foundation Photographic Collection_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC Chapel Hill 20491_ 081_Thornton Dial_Souls Grown Deep Foundation Photographic Collection_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC Chapel Hill 20491_ 077_Thornton Dial_Souls Grown Deep Foundation Photographic Collection_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC Chapel Hill

Folklife in Motion

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One of the reasons we love hearing from all of you brilliant researchers out there is that your questions give us the opportunity to explore parts of the collection we may not have seen in a while. One recent query led me back into into the Robert Bolton Collection (20408). When I opened the folder of negatives, my eyes were immediatly drawn to the one-word description of five sleeves of negatives, “GYROCOPTER.”

Our attention to Bolton’s work in the past has generally led us to his mid-1960s documentary work covering music performances like Bob Dylan’s first tour with The Band, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk and more at the 1965 Chicgago Jazz Festival, and the Ole Time Fiddler’s & Bluegrass Festival in Union Grove, N.C. However, the nearly 2000 images in Bolton’s collection reach far beyond cultural events. Bolton frenquently traveled from his home in Knoxville throughout the Eastern United States, photographing the people he met and the places he stopped along the way, documenting the social landscape of the American South from the mid 1950s through the early 1980s. Apparently, at some point along the way, Bolton ran into Al Cudney, a Canadian-born gyronaut and engineer who worked, at least temporarily, for the rotorcraft pioneer, Dr. Igor Bensen. The Bensen Aircraft Corporation was located near the Raliegh-Durham Airport, possibly resulting in a higher-than-average percentage of gyrocoptor owners in North Carolina compared to other states. Bensen organized clubs and associations of rotorcraft builders and perhaps these photographs docment a local club gathering. For an excellent review of Igor Bensen and gyrocopters in NC, see this excellent post by Harry McKown on our sibling blog from the North Carolina Collection, North Carolina Miscellany.

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Bolton’s photos of Cudney (and possibly others) flying the autogyro in the clear skies over this rural airfield in North Carolina in 1968 are magnificent, but they raise so many questions: Where exactly is this airfield? What is the nature of this exposition or event? Who is flying that thing? And especially: How can we get our hands on one of those?. If you are rotorcraft hobbyist or researcher, we would love to hear what you think!
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Something else we love about queries from intrepid researchers that lead us to discoveries like Bolton’s 1968 gyrocopter session, is the push to constantly review and reassess the “the stuff” of folklore. Music and stories surely come to mind first for most students we work with at UNC, but students of material culture can also find many wonderful resources in the Southern Folklife Collection‘s holdings documenting architecture, quilts, gravestones, sculpture, woodworking, and more. Bolton’s photographs push the boundaries even further, revealing communities and the craftmanship of makers and machinists experimenting with technology and tradition like Cudney and Benson’s rotorcraft enthusiats.

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Holiday in the Stacks: It’s a postcard! It’s a 78! It’s both!

20002_Archie Green Papers_FD_1289_RosemaryClooney_flexi_Southern Folklife Collection_001Southern Folklife Collection audio engineer, John Loy, found this amazing postcard/78 rpm disc in the Archie Green Papers (20002) just last month. Serendipity! Notice the grooves and the center hole in the middle of the windshield. We were amazed by the sound quality and the excellent condition considering folklorist Pete Tamony, Archie’s mentor, received this in the mail 60 years ago. Listen to this special message from Ford Motors as sung by the great Rosemary Clooney backed by the Mitch Miller Orchestra. May you all be well this holiday season, whether you take Rosemary Clooney’s advice or not. We wish you enjoyment and year-round satisfaction no matter what. One more post from the 2015 “Holiday in the Stacks” tomorrow so be sure to check back in with Field Trip South. 

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Holiday in the stacks: cards from the Sailors’ Union of the Pacific

20002_ArchieGreenPapers_F3823_Holiday Cards_Sailors Union of the Pacific_Southern Folklife Collection_01Running toward the finish line of 2015, it’s been a great year at the Southern Folklife Collection. We pulled a bunch of items to share with you all over the next two weeks for our annual “Holiday in the Stacks” feature. Can’t wait for you to hear some of the 78 rpm discs we pulled so be sure to come back to Field Trip South to hear some special tunes. 20002_F3823_Sailors Union of the Pacific_xmas_Archie Green Papers_Southern Folklife Collection_005

But first, a tribute to the workers of the world. Archie Green worked with countless unions and labor organizers over the years, but I beleive as he was a Journeyman Shipwright and a sailor in the Navy, that the sea always held a special place in his heart. So in honor of Archie and all those who help to move the material goods that make the world go round, we pulled these holiday cards from the Sailors’ Union of the Pacific from Folder 3823 in the Archie Green Papers (20002)20002_ArchieGreenPapers_F3823_Holiday Cards_Sailors Union of the Pacific_Southern Folklife Collection_02

This Week on Hell or High Water: William Faulkner and the Blues

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Tune into Hell or High Water this Sunday, 1-2pm, for a special episode focusing on renowned Mississippi author William Faulkner’s connection to and use of blues music in his writing. Hell or High Water features music from the Southern Folklife Collection every Sunday on WXYC-Chapel Hill 89.3FM. Turn your radio on or stream online at http://www.wxyc.org/listen/.
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We’ll be reading aloud his 1931 short story “That Evening Sun,” which deals primarily with the ignored and invalidated suffering of a black woman named Nancy in the Reconstruction South.
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The story gets its name from the W.C. Handy song “Saint Louis Blues,” and we’ll play several variations of the song as well as others dealing with “that evening sun.” We’ll also discuss the blues motifs present in Faulkner’s work, and how in the case of “That Evening Sun,” the short story could be interpreted as a sort of blues song in and of itself.
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Artists that will be featured include Duke Ellington, Van Morrison, Ted Lewis, and Mississippi John Hurt. Tune in on WXYC-Chapel Hill 89.3FM or stream online at http://www.wxyc.org/listen/.
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Dylan Goes Electric! with Elijah Wald at the Southern Folklife Collection

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The Southern Folklife Collection is thrilled to welcome back Elijah Wald to discuss his new book, Dylan Goes Electric! Newport, Seeger, Dylan, and the Night that Split the Sixties (Dey Street/Harper Collins, 2015).

In Dylan Goes Electric! Elijah Wald explores the cultural, political, and historical context of Bob Dylan‘s 1965 performance at the Newport Folk Festival. He delves deep into the folk revival and its intersections with the civil rights movement, the rise of rock, and the tensions between traditional and groundbreaking music to provide new insights into Dylan’s artistic evolution, his special affinity to blues, his complex relationship to the folk establishment and his sometime mentor Pete Seeger, and the ways he reshaped popular music forever.

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Join us on Monday, November 16 for a book talk by Wald and view related materials from the Southern Folklife Collection, including the 1965 Newport program featured here (top and bottom) from the Southern Folklife Collection Festival Files (30007), folder 518, and the brochure and schedule from the Guy and Candie Carawan Collection (20008), folder 172 (above). The Carawans were traveling with the Moving Star Hall Singers from Johns Island, South Carolina (notice the notation on the program by Guy Carawan to make note of the Moving Star Hall Singers performance times). Even after looking at this schedule countless times, we still can’t believe that a single event could feature such a remarkable schedule of performers: Cousin Emmy, Roscoe Holcomb, Gary Davis, Lightning Hopkins, Mance Lipscomb, Fannie Lou Hamer, Eck Robertson, Memphis Slim, Mississippi John Hurt, Dylan, Donovan, Pat Sky, Kweskin Jug Band, Bill Monroe, Ed Young (!), Sam and Kirk McGee with Arthur Smith (!!!), and so many more.20008_0172_Newport1965_schedule__001_Guy and Candie Carawan Collection_20008_Southern Folklife Collection_The Wilson Library_UNC Chapel Hil

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We’ve got much more to share with you so check back on Field Trip South and mark your calendar for November 16 at 5:30PM in The Wilson Library. Event is free and open to the public. 30007_0518_Newport1965_program_bios__Southern Folklife Collection Festival Files_30007_The Wilson Library_UNC Chapel Hill

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Lessons from the Ghosts of Saint Simons

BF1472.U6 G48 1970z_Ghost Stories and Superstitions of Old Saint Simons_Southern Folklife Collection_The Wilson Library_UNC Chapel HillBF1472.U6 G48 1970z_Ghost Stories and Superstitions of Old Saint Simons_Southern Folklife Collection_The Wilson Library_UNC Chapel HillWe were lucky to find this short manuscript of stories and superstitions collected by Burnette Vanstory from the sea island of Saint Simons off the coast of Georgia just in time for Halloween (call no. BF1472.U6 G48 1970z). Vanstory lived on Saint Simons for over 40 years, publishing one of of the first histories of the Georgia coast, Georgia’s Land of the Golden Isles. Along with the delightful illustrations featured here, Ghost Stories and Superstitions of Old Saint Simons, features six short stories, including “The Ghosts of Ebo Landing” in which hundreds of enslaved Africans from the Ibo tribe from southeastern Nigeria drowned themselves in Dunbar Creek while singing and chanting in solidarity rather than become slaves.

“The Ghost with the Long Arms” warns travelers from looking too long into the twisted branches of a the liveoak trees, mistaking a haunting apparition for the Spanish moss waving in the wind with terrifying results and the legend of Mary de Wanda (or “Mary the Wanderer”) who roams the banks of the Frederica River searching for her love lost in the hurricane of 1824

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The final four pages, “Superstitions of Old St. Simons,” include the most important information, and if you pay attention, information that may well just save your life. You will have to visit the library to examine all of the techniques and methods of protection from supernatural forces and evil curses. Note well what a “smutty-nosed cat” can do for you and remember “A sassafras root carried in the pocket guarded against illness.”BF1472.U6 G48 1970z_Ghost Stories and Superstitions of Old Saint Simons_Southern Folklife Collection_The Wilson Library_UNC Chapel Hill

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

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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

McCabes Guitar Shop Collection comes to UNC

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It’s a treat to go on an accession trip through the eyes and lens of Southern Folklife Collection curator, Steve Weiss. Just last month, Steve traveled to California to prepare the over 2000 audio cassettes and open reel tapes documenting performances from 1969 onward by the likes of Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, John Fahey, John Hammond, Bill Monroe, Odetta, Jean Ritchie, Dave Van Ronk, Mike Seeger, Ralph Stanley, Merle Travis, Kate Wolf, Townes Van Zandt, and North Carolina’s own Elizabeth Cotten and Doc and Merle Watson. They all took place at McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica, California.

More than 1,600 musical acts have played at McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica, California, over the last 45 years. The list on the store’s website even comes with a warning: “We lost track of a few names.”

Now Bob Riskin, the concert venue’s owner, has donated thousands of hours of recordings from those concerts to the Southern Folklife Collection (SFC) in the Wilson Special Collections Library. The SFC will preserve the recordings by creating and archiving digital copies of them.

The McCabe’s store, which first opened its doors in 1958 and specializes in selling folk and acoustic instruments, offers instrument rentals and repairs as well as books, lessons, and help for musicians and music aficionados alike.

We look forward to researchers, scholars, musicians, and fans to be able to access these historic recordings starting in September of 2016. For now, though, take a trip to McCabe’s through these photographs made by Steve Weiss on his recent trip.

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Thank you, Jean Ritchie

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Jean Ritchie, recording session, NYC, ca. 1959. Photo by Ray Sullivan for Photo Sound Associates. Ron Cohen Collection (20239), Southern Folklife Collection, UNC-Chapel Hill.

Jean Ritchie–singer, scholar, songwriter, activist, Kentuckian, “The Mother of Folk”–passed away June 1 at the age of 92. We wanted to share some images of Ritchie in remembrance of her life and in honor of her vitally important contributions to the promotion and preservation of traditional music in Appalachia, America, and beyond.

Ray Sullivan of the Photo Sound Associates team in New York City documented Ritchie in the late 1950s, recording herself in a small space on an open reel tape machine and performing at a concert of the Folksingers Guild. From the look on Ritchie’s face, it must have been a good session. Following are a few images from the Southern Folk Cultural Revival Project–including SFCRP founder Anne Romaine, Mike Seeger, Doc Watson, Rosa Lee Watson, Bessie Jones, and more–with whom Ritchie would occasionally tour.

Jean Ritchie, recorded at Renfro Valley Folk Festival, Renfro Valley, Kentucky, April 1946. 12 acetate disc, FD_0501, in the Artus Moser Papers (20004), Southern Folklife Collection, UNC-Chapel Hill.

Finally, for listening we pulled out a special recording of Ritchie from the Artus Moser Papers (20004). Ritchie was a senior at the University of Kentucky in April of 1946 when she attended the Renfro Valley Folk Festival and sang a number of ballads for Artus Moser collecting for the Library of Congress. The following, “Lord Grumble,” “I Married Me a Wife (Gentle Fair Jenny),” “Foggy Dew” and “The Little Old Woman” come from a 12″ acetate disc FD_0501. Thank you Jean Ritchie. Peace to you, your family, your friends, and your fans.

Jean Ritchie, recorded at Renfro Valley Folk Festival, Renfro Valley, Kentucky, April 1946. 12 acetate disc, FD_0501, in the Artus Moser Papers (20004), Southern Folklife Collection, UNC-Chapel Hill.

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Jean Ritchie, recording session, NYC, ca. 1959. Photo by Ray Sullivan for Photo Sound Associates. Ron Cohen Collection (20239), Southern Folklife Collection, UNC-Chapel Hill.

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Jean Ritchie, recording session, NYC, ca. 1959. Photo by Ray Sullivan for Photo Sound Associates. Ron Cohen Collection (20239), Southern Folklife Collection, UNC-Chapel Hill.

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Jean Ritchie, recording session, NYC, ca. 1959. Photo by Ray Sullivan for Photo Sound Associates. Ron Cohen Collection (20239), Southern Folklife Collection, UNC-Chapel Hill.

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Jean Ritchie at Folksingers Guild concert, 30 January 1959. Photo by Ray Sullivan for Photo Sound Associates. Ron Cohen Collection (20239), Southern Folklife Collection, UNC-Chapel Hill.

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Possibly a tour organized Anne Romaine, photo includes Bessie Jones, Jean Ritchie, Anne Romaine, Rosa Lee Watson, Mike Seeger, and Doc Watson. Mike Seeger Collection (20009), Southern Folklife Collection, UNC-Chapel Hill.