1975 American Traditional Old-time Music Festival

cover of festival brochure, with illustration of a scarecrow holding a banjosecond page of festival brochure, describing the scope and intent of the festivalThe American Traditional Old-time Music Festival was a touring festival of old-time musicians directed by Mike Seeger in 1975-76. This brochure, Folder 2877 in the D.K. Wilgus Papers (20003), is from the April 17, 1975 stop at UCLA. Song and interview recordings from throughout the tour can be found in the Mike Seeger Collection (20009), most of which are digitized: FS-20009/9655-9662,9688-9696. Here is one to get you started: Dennis McGee and Sady Courville, April 20, 1975 (FS-20009/9693).
third and fourth pages of festival brochure, providing brief biographies for the artists to appearthe last two pages of the festival brochure, detailing other bicentennial events at UCLA; acknowledgments

“We seen it right here didn’t we?”: Austin through the art of Micael Priest

concert poster with illustration of the dancehall Broken Spoke with tour buses for Alvin Crow and the Texas Playboys parked out front and an oversize fiddle in between. The Southern Folklife Collection is honored to hold a number of collections of individual poster artists including the Ron Liberti Collection (20398), Casey Burns Collection (20415), Jason Lonon Poster Collection (20451), Matt Hart Poster Collection (20457), Steve Oliva Collection (20506), Skillet Gilmore Poster Collection (20468), Clark Blomquist Collection (20465), as well as the work of many other artists represented across the collections, like that of Micael Priest whose work can be found in Folders 3218-3240 in the Archie Green Papers (20002). Priest died yesterday at the age of 66.

Artist Micael Priest moved to Austin, Texas in 1969 and quickly became an active participant in the city’s growing counterculture. As a member of the famed music venue Armadillo World Headquarters’ Art Squad from 1972-1980, he created hundreds of iconic images that document the people, places, and activities of the music scene in the form of posters advertising upcoming shows, AWHQ calendars, advertisements, and record covers. With an instantly recognizable visual style, Priest’s posters distill the spirit of a community and, along with the work of his fellow AWHQ crew Jim Franklin and Kerry Awn, imbues such a strong sense of place that it serves as a simulacrum of an Austin that blurs the real and the remembered until the boundaries seem to disappear.

Folklorist Archie Green recognized the power of Priest’s work while teaching at UT Austin in the mid-1970s. Always an ethnographer, Green collected a number of posters, clippings, recordings and more documenting the “cosmic cowboy” scene at the Armadillo and around the city. In memory of Micael Priest we wanted to share a couple of these.

Below is the now famous poster for Willie Nelson’s first show at the club, August 12, 1972, arguably one of the most significant performances in Nelson’s career that marked his turn away from Nashville and toward his own unique sound. Above is one of my personal favorites featuring Alvin Crow and the Original Texas Playboys at the Broken Spoke. I had the fortune of growing 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 Shiner beer is still cold. Priest’s note handwritten on the bottom of the poster is a prescient comment on the importance of his work and of all poster artists in the historical record. A comment that celebrates the general sense of wonder those cosmic cowboys and post-hippie 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?”

Go on easy, Micael Priest.

Concert poster for Willie Nelson, August 12, 1972, a cowboy cries into his beer while a jukebox in the background plays Nelson's hit song "Hello Walls" Willie Nelson AWHQ concert poster by Micael Priest, Archie Green Papers (20002)

Cousin Emmy: Looking for a Name

CD Cover, Carolina Chocolate Drops seated with instruments, sepia-toned to appear oldLast year, while writing a final research paper on the Carolina Chocolate Drops’ wonderful 2012 album, Leaving Eden, I encountered the music of the late hillbilly performer Cousin Emmy. The Carolina Chocolate Drops had covered her single “Ruby” for the album, notably adding a beat boxer for their arrangement. I loved the song, and the difficulty of finding anything beyond variations on the same basic biography of Emmy was intriguing. Besides wondering how her actual childhood and life compared to the brief anecdotes I found mentioned constantly, I came upon a more simple question: what was her real name?

In theory, the answer was as simple as the question: several credible sources mentioned Cynthia May Carver as Cousin Emmy’s real name. However, the 1946 Decca single that featured “Ruby” credited the songwriter as one “Joy May Creasy.” When the Osborne Brothers had their first hit on MGM Records in 1956 with their rendition of “Ruby Are You Mad,” the song was simply credited to Cousin Emmy, suggesting that Joy May Creasy and Cousin Emmy were one and the same. This seemed to be further confirmed by an oft-cited 1943 Time magazine profile that claims Cousin Emmy was christened Joy May Creasy outside Lamb, Kentucky. After searching pictures of gravestones, countless liner note mentions, copyright renewals, and census records, I had found many more instances of both names, including some minor variations (Mae instead of May, Jo rather than Joy, etc.). I felt that I could safely conclude that both these names held some truth, and the variation in reporting was probably due to a failed (and unmentioned) marriage, the use of pet names, and/or some other unknown factor.

Record label, Cousin Emmy's song "Ruby," Decca Records; LP Cover, Osborne Brothers sitting with instruments, stylized writing of Ruby

This summer, I was fortunate to begin working here in the Southern Folklife Collection, where I have been exposed to a wealth of information on early hillbilly performers like Cousin Emmy. As I pulled items for researcher questions and digitization, I began to revisit Cousin Emmy and to try to add some more context to her story. I settled on a simple goal: find a resource that mentioned both Joy May Creasy and Cynthia May Carver, or at least something that explained the difference.

In the SFC Song Folio Collection (30006), I found Chimney Corner Songs, FL-0137, which offered an interesting biography of Cousin Emmy and her fellow performers. Although it did not specifically mention her real name or a marriage, it led me to two different, illustrative sources in the Special Collections and Archives at Berea College. First, I searched a similar songbook collection and found a songbook that includes a biography for Johnny Creasy, the announcer on Cousin Emmy’s show, that also mentions his attraction to Cousin Emmy. Chimney Corner Songs was published and largely credited to John Lair, whose papers and correspondence are held at Berea. In that correspondence is a 1941 letter from Cousin Emmy, in which she champions herself and her husband, an announcer: “My husband is a very good announcer. We both work nice together.”

Song folio cover, drawing of fireplace and photos of Cousin Emmy and Frankie MooreBlack and white photograph of cousin emmy

So, Cousin Emmy was born Cynthia May Carver outside Lamb, Kentucky. At least at some point, she also went by Joy. She was married to a Johnny Creasy (whose first name might have been Alfred) for some time, despite many claims, including in the Time article, that she had never married.

Of course, I also found a scribbled note card in the SFC Artist Name File (30005) for Cousin Emmy, NF-538, that states “Cousin Emmy was married to Joe Fred White before she was in radio (He’s in Florida).” In the Entertainment Industry Magazine Archive, an online database, I found a small blurb in a 1949 issue of Variety magazine:

“St. L.’s ‘Cousin Emmy’ Divorced

St. Louis, June 14

Elmer Schaller, farmer living at Lenzburg, Ill., near here, last week won an uncontested divorce from his wife, who has been the “Cousin Emmy” of KMOX’s early a.m. hillbilly program. Couple was married April, 1945, and separated March, 1948. Mrs. Schaller has been a radio entertainer for seven years.”

handwritten notes on Cousin Emmy

Cousin Emmy’s on-stage persona and biographical information were constantly being tailored to her audience, from hillbilly music on the radio to the folk revival with Alan Lomax in the 1940s and the New Lost City Ramblers in the 1960s. Separating all the details of her life from the stories spinning all around her would surely be an impossible task, but I plan on putting on “Ruby” and digging around a little more.two posters, one featuring Cousin Emmy and other performers, the other is the Cousin Emmy Show

78 of the week: “Droan Waltz”

Labels for 78 rpm disc, Grapevine Coon Hunters. "Droan Waltz" and "The Grapevine Waltz", Brunswick Recording Co. GrThere is not much information about the Grapevine Coon Hunters, a stringband out of Grapevine, Texas that operated in the late 1920s and early 1930s. A research request put us onto a 78 rpm disc released on the Brunswick label in 1932. The disc includes two recordings from a November 1930 recording session in Dallas, Texas, including the mysteriously named “Droan Waltz”

Close up on text from Page 839 from "Country Music Sources" a discography of commercially recorded traditional music, entry 77. Droan WaltzWe checked Country Music Sources: A Biblio-Discography of Commercially Recorded Traditional Music by Gus Meade, Douglas Meade, and Dick Spottswood for other recordings, but only came up with this single disc. The recording on the opposite side is “Grapevine Waltz” but the label interestingly includes a Spanish title as well, “El Vals de la Vida.”

In folder 457 of the Guthrie T. Meade Collection (20246) we found some handwritten notes about the Grapevine Coon Hunters and another related stringband, The Grapevine Rabbit Twisters. Meade’s notes are citations from local newspapers, The Grapevine Sun and Dallas Morning News, about upcoming radio broadcast appearances and the songs performed on the air. If any readers out there have more information about the Grapevine stringband scene ca. 1930, or if you want to do more research into the Meade Collection, please contact the Southern Folklife Collection or visit at Wilson Library. handwritten notes on yellow legal paper, citations from newspapers that included Grapevine Coon Hunters and Grapevine Rabbit Twisters

Now Available for Research: Duck Kee Studio Collection

A selection of audio recordings found in the Duck Kee Studio Collection (20553) at the SFC. Recordings are pictured in the vault at Wilson Library.

A selection of audio recordings found in the Duck Kee Studio Collection (20553) at the SFC.

This week we published a new finding aid for the Duck Kee Studio Collection (20553), which contains multi-track and mixdown studio master tapes of Triangle favorites recorded at Duck Kee Studio from 1984-2009. Recordings are on 2″ open reel, 1/2″ open reel, and ADAT analog formats.

Duck Kee Studio was founded by musician and recording engineer, Jerry Kee (Dish, Regina Hexaphone, Cat Toy), who began recording local bands out of a house in Raleigh in the late 1980’s. In 1995, Kee relocated the studio to Mebane, N.C., its eighth location.

The studio has close ties to the Triangle’s indie rock music scene, recording early work by Archers of Loaf, Tift Merritt, Pipe, Polvo, and Superchunk, among others. Kee has historically relied on analog recording equipment, including a 4-track and later a 24-track tape machine.

In January 2018, Duck Kee Studio no. 8 was tragically damaged in a fire. Kee recently talked with WUNC’s “Songs We Love” podcast about the fire, which destroyed his recording equipment and severely damaged open reel tapes stored at the studio.

Thankfully Kee donated a large batch of master tapes (about 175 in total) to the Southern Folklife Collection before the studio fire. These tapes are featured in the newly published finding aid and include recordings by local acts, like Cobra Kahn, Dish, Eyes to Space, Jennyanykind, Malt Swagger, Picasso Trigger, Portastatic, Queen Sarah Saturday, Regina Hexaphone, Schooner, and Superchunk.

The back of an open reel tape box featuring a handwritten track listing of songs by Tift Merritt and the Carbines.

A 1/2″ open reel tape (FT-20553/34) featuring early recordings of Tift Merritt and her band, The Carbines.

The collection also includes an early recording of Tift Merritt with her full band, dubbed The Carbines, which included Margaret White on fiddle, Christopher Thurston on bass, Greg Readling on keyboard and pedal steel, and Zeke Hutchins on drums. Above is an image of their fall 1998 recording that resulted in a self-released 7-inch single featuring “Juke Joint Girl” and “Cowboy” (1999, Oil Rig Music).

Duck Kee Collection materials are available for research on-site at Wilson Special Collections Library. The collection is a nice addition to the SFC and its growing collection of materials related to the Triangle’s independent music scene (Ron Liberti Collection, Merge Records Collection, Tift Merritt Collection, and Craig Zearfoss Collection, to name a few).

Remember those fire damaged tapes I mentioned earlier? About 170 of them arrived at SFC this past spring via Jerry Kee. We are currently assessing the tapes conditions and crafting a plan of attack to help preserve and provide access to the them. Stay tuned. Sending lots of positive thoughts and energy Jerry Kee’s way. We are hopeful that most of the damaged tapes can be salvaged.

And last but not least, shout-out to our graduate research assistant, Rae Hoyle, who helped process the Duck Kee Studio Collection – thank you, Rae!

Forever A Spirit in the Dark: peace to the Queen of Soul

two covers of Aretha Franklin LPs, on the left is Queen of Soul with an extreme close up of Franklin's face, on the right is Lady Soul with a close up of Franklin sinking into a microphone

Peace to the Queen of Soul, may she rest in power. The love she brought to this world will forever be a spirit in the dark for so many. We had an emotional listening session in the studio this morning, sharing some of our favorite tracks from LPs in the Southern Folklife Collection. We started with one of her early recordings from 1962, a selection of spirituals released on Battle records that also featured singer Sammie Bryant and Franklin’s father, Rev. C. L. Franklin. Listen to her intro to “Precious Lord, Part 2” here:

With a voice that resonated with sounds from the past and into future of American music, she used her gifts to lift people up. Her voice commanded attention, and she used it to communicate a call to freedom rooted in feminism and the remarkable power of her being. When Franklin sang a song, she made it her own, whether it’s Otis Redding’s “Respect” or Nina Simone’s “Young Gifted and Black” from the 1972 album of the same name. Listen to a clip here:

Photocopy of handwritten session notes from "Spirit in the Dark" by Aretha Franklin, Folder 8, Jerry Wexler Collection (20393), Southern Folklfie Collection, UNC Chapel Hill

It’s “Spirit in the Dark,” one of Franklin’s original compositions that we turn to again and again. In the Jerry Wexler Collection (20393) there are some photocopies of Franklin’s session notes for mixing the 1970 album of the same name. We loved reading her concise notes clearly directing the session according to her artistic vision-“Up the bass in spots, some turn arounds!  Tambourines on fast part…”  We wrapped the session with her live recording of the song from her 1971 album Live at Fillmore West. Looking at the gatefold image from the LP, we can only imagine what that night must have been like. Going to return to this one again and again as we remember the one and only Queen of Soul.

Inside gatefold of LP with photo of Aretha Franklin and band performing onstage, photo taken from behind the band looking at the audience.

Sounds of ’68: Cheap Thrills


LP Cover, cartoon panels for each song by Robert Crumb

Cheap Thrills, Big Brother and the Holding Company (Columbia, August 1968)

Following their show-stopping performance at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, Big Brother and the Holding Company’s Cheap Thrills was one of 1968’s most eagerly anticipated albums. The San Francisco band featured the raw ecstatic vocals of Janis Joplin, a 24-year old from Port Arthur, Texas who had deeply absorbed blues influences and traditions while singing in clubs in Houston and Austin. Cheap Thrills topped the album charts for eight weeks, featuring songs “Piece of My Heart” (U.S. #12) and “Ball and Chain.” The album also featured cover art by underground cartoonist Robert Crumb, founder of Zap Comix.

[THIS ITEM WAS ON DISPLAY DURING THE WILSON SPECIAL COLLECTIONS LIBRARY EXHIBITION, “SOUNDS OF ’68: REVOLUTION IN THE AIR,” JANUARY – APRIL, 2018. DRAWING FROM THE DEEP HOLDINGS OF UNC LIBRARIES’S NORTH CAROLINA COLLECTION PHOTOGRAPHIC ARCHIVESMUSIC LIBRARY, AND SOUTHERN FOLKLIFE COLLECTION, THE EXHIBIT CELEBRATES THE RECORDINGS AND THE ARTISTS THAT DEFINED AN ERA.]

Sounds of ’68: Electric Ladyland

jimi hendrix experience, electric ladyland cover, closeup of face in orange

Electric Lady Land, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Released on Reprise, August 1968

Electric Ladyland, the Experience’s third and final album, marked a new direction as Jimi took took greater control. Sessions held in London’s Olympic Studios and the Record Plant in New York City were looser, more jam oriented, and took on a party-like atmosphere, causing friction between Jimi and co-manager/producer Chas Chandler and bassist Noel Redding, ultimately leading to Chandler’s exit and the disintegration of the band. In addition to the two versions of Voodoo Chile, the sprawling 15-minute jam with Steve Winwood and Jack Cassidy, and the tighter pop Voodoo Chile (Slight Return), Ladyland is best known for Hendrix’s reinvention of Bob Dylan’s All Along the Watchtower (U.S. # 20), which Dylan performed in Jimi’s style thereafter.

[This item was on display during the Wilson Special Collections Library exhibition, “Sounds of ’68: Revolution in the Air,” January – April, 2018. Drawing from the deep holdings of UNC Libraries’s North Carolina Collection Photographic ArchivesMusic Library, and Southern Folklife Collection, The exhibit celebrates the recordings and the artists that defined an era.]

jimi hendrix experience, electric ladyland backcover, the three men of the experience seated

jimi hendrix experience, electric ladyland left gatefold, b&w collage w/ text

jimi hendrix experience, electric ladyland right gatefold, b&w collage w/ text

Sounds of ’68 at Wilson Special Collections Library

poster for Sounds of '68 exhibit including clip-art cut outs of musicians in the exhibit. 1968 was a year that reshaped American society and American music. It was the year that Marvin Gaye heard it through the grapevine, Janis Joplin gave away another piece of her heart, James Taylor went to Carolina in his mind, and Johnny Cash recorded a landmark concert at Folsom Prison.

The musical legacy of that year was the topic of an exhibition at UNC’s Wilson Library earlier this year. “Sounds of ’68: Revolution in the Air” draws from the deep holdings of UNC Libraries’s North Carolina Collection Photographic ArchivesMusic Library, and Southern Folklife Collection. It celebrates the recordings and the artists that defined an era.

While the exhibit is no longer up, we thought we would use Field Trip South to offer a virtual exhibit experience.

of the album covers of classic LPs, reproductions of advertisements published in Billboard magazine and Cashbox, and rare photographs of artists such as Johnny Cash, Odetta, and Thelonious Monk during their North Carolina tours.

1968 was a highly charged year. A divisive presidential campaign, the Vietnam War and protests against it, and the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy all rocked the nation. The exhibition captures a musical scene that reflected deep changes in culture and society—from psychedelic blues to country, and from soul to musical theater and classical composition.

We’ll post a new album every week so check back next week. Up first, a pair of albums pushing blues into the outer limits, Electric Ladyland and Cheap Thrills.

 

 

Field recordings and Folklife

cover of Jayme Stone's Lomax Project CD. A banjo, open reel tapes, photographs, and a folder of notes are viewed from above.

Our friends at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro are hosting banjo musician Jayme Stone and his Folklife Project on Friday, April 27. Continuing the practice from 2014’s Lomax Project, CD-15287 in the Southern Folklife Collection, Stone and his collaborators continue to look to recordings made by folklorists and field recorders for songs to reimagine. While Alan Lomax made recordings across the globe, opening up the source material allows for Stone to explore the work of other folklorists and song collectors, presenting that work to new listeners.

cover of 2018 LP by Anna & Elizabeth, "The Invisible Comes to Us". Photo of the two artists leaning on each other with square designs superimposed.The Smithsonian Folkways recording artists Anna & Elizabeth have also looked to archival recordings for source material, and during a recent performance at Chapel Hill’s Nightlight, the duo performed along with a field recording of Margaret Shipman singing “Jeanno and Jeanette”  recorded by Helen Hartness Flanders, a folklorist from Vermont whose collection is at Middlebury College Davis Family Library. The Flanders collection is digitized and you can hear her recordings of Margaret Shipman streaming online via the Internet Archive

The Southern Folklife Collection is the repository for thousands of field recordings and many of these stream online thanks to the Audiovisual Preservation and Access Team and grant support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. I hope these recordings can inspire artists to create new and reassembled works as well. Remember that Wilson Library does offer fellowships!

There are well over 20,000 streaming audio recordings streaming online through the Southern Folklife Collection finding aids. Field recordings are made in the field, taking the listener to a specific time and place. With that in mind I selected a few recordings made in North Carolina. Be sure you click through to the streaming file to listen.

  • For some old time inspiration, the Paul Brown Collection (20382) includes many recordings made at the home of fiddler Benton Flippen. Audio cassette FS-6582 was recorded 22 October 1980 along with Paul Brown and Paul Sutphin.
  • For some blues, the Joan Fenton Collection (20382) includes open reel tape recordings she made of Howard Cotten, bluesman and storyteller from Goldston, NC. Audiotape FT-0891 was made 6 August 1976 and includes Mr. Cotten performing the Piedmont blues classic “Step it Up and Go” as well as sharing memories about Blind Boy Fuller.
  • Field recordings in the Artus Moser Papers (20005) were made on instantaneous discs. Listening through some of those recordings recently, I fixed on disc FD-0705. Songs on the recording, including a driving and lightly swinging version of “John Henry.” are performed by an unidentified female singer, recorded to instantaneous disc by Artus Moser in the 1930s.

If you are interested in other field recordings in the Southern Folklife Collection and Wilson Library, contact us anytime! And remember you can hear Jayme Stone’s Folklife interpret field recordings at The ArtsCenter this Friday.