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.
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.
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We 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
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.”
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
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.
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.
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.
By 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.”
There 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
We extend our heartfelt condolences to King’s family, friends and fans. The King is dead. Long live the King.
Rest easy, B.
For 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:
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).
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.
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:
The record is available at the SFC as call no. 78-17816.