U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd, Mountain Fiddler

FC-13991Congratulations to West Virginia Senator Robert C. Byrd, who today marks his 20,774th day in office, making him the longest-serving member of Congress in U.S. history. To fully appreciate how long Byrd has served, note that he has had time to both filibuster the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and to endorse (and, presumably, vote for) the first African-American to be elected President. He has come a long way.
Though hampered now by his age and health problems (he will be 92 years old on Friday), Byrd has been an avid country fiddler for most of his life, heavily influenced by the recordings of legendary West Virginia fiddler Clark Kessinger. In 1978, while Byrd was Senate Majority Leader, he recorded an album for County records titled U.S. Senator Robert Byrd: Mountain Fiddler (SFC # FC-13991).
Listen below to a clip from that album of Sen. Byrd, on fiddle and vocals, performing “Rye Whiskey” with Doyle Lawson on guitar, James Bailey on banjo, and Spider Gilliam on bass.
Rye Whiskey

Archie Green Memorial Symposium This Saturday, Nov. 21

This Saturday Wilson Library will be remembering folklorist and union activist Archie Green with a day-long symposium and concert event. “Work’s Many Voices: A Memorial Symposium in Honor of Archie Green” will pay tribute to Green’s interest in the life, culture, and art of workers in the United States.
Symposium, 8:30 AM- 5:00 PM
Featuring Julie Ardery, Robert Cantwell, Brendan Greaves, Janet Hoshour, John Hubble, Pat Huber, Adam Machado, Daniel Patterson, Tim Prizer, Patricia Sawin, Chris Strachwitz, Kieran Taylor, David Whisnant, and Jack Wright.
Norm Cohen, author of All This for a Song and Long Steel Rail: The Railroad in American Folksong, will deliver the keynote address at 11:00 AM.
Reception at 5:00 PM
Concert at 6:30 PM
Performances by traditional ballad singer Elizabeth LaPrelle, old-time musicians Stephen Wade and Mike Craver, and the New North Carolina Ramblers.
The event is free and open to the public, but registration is required. To sign up, email Liza Terll at the Friends of the UNC Library, liza_terll@unc.edu.
Sponsored by the Southern Folklife Collection, the University Library, and the  UNC Folklore Program.

US Military V-Discs in the Eugene Earle Collection

VDISCDuring World War II, the U.S. military and American record companies collaborated to produce a series of records for the “V-Disc” program, a morale-boosting  effort designed to provide troops overseas with access to exclusive new music. Many of the top performers of the day, including Frank Sinatra and Duke Ellington, contributed recordings to the project. The V-Discs were produced exclusively for use by military personnel and the artists who volunteered their recordings insisted they not become commercially available, so when the program came to an end in 1949 the Army destroyed most of the original pressing plates and many of the existing discs, making V-Discs a rather collectible commodity today.
The 261 V-Discs in the Eugene Earle Collection represent a wide variety of popular music, including big band jazz, country and blues. Many of the songs were recorded with the military audience in mind, as you can hear in the clip below of Carson Robison performing “Nursery Rhymes of 1944”, from Army V-Disc 145 (SFC # TR/12-19). He really lets Hitler have it, in the classic schoolyard manner.
Nursery Rhymes of 1944

All This For A Song

All this for a song We are  happy to announce the publication of Norm Cohen’s All This for a Song, the second volume in the Southern Folklife Collection’s Vernacular Music Reference Shelf series. All This for a Song gathers  together an important collection of sixteen case studies, originally published between 1895 and 2003, demonstrating the variety of approaches scholars have used in studying and analyzing American traditional songs and ballads. The volume also includes an extensive bibliography of more than 1,000 song, ballad, and tune studies published from the mid-19th century to the early 21st.
All This for a Song is currently available at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Bull’s Head Bookshop, or you can call the Bull’s Head at 919-962-5066 to order.

Photo of the Week: Goober

SFC_p3902 George “Goober” Lindsey, promoting his 1968 album “Goober Sings” at KBBQ radio in Burbank, California. He’s flanked by KBBQ music director Larry Scott, Don Grierson of Capitol Records, and disc jockeys Bob Jackson and  Hugh Jarrett.  One of 56 KBBQ press release photographs found in the Southern Folklife Collection Radio and Television Files.

Louis Dotson Plays The One-String


Pictured is farmer and musician Louis Dotson of Lorman, Mississippi, photographed by Bill Ferris in 1973, constructing a “one-string guitar” on the wall of his front porch. The traditional instrument, sometimes referred to as a “diddley-bow”, is made by stretching a single guitar string between two nails and played as a slide guitar with a bottle neck or other object used to adjust the pitch. Dotson is quoted extensively in Ferris’ new book, Give My Poor Hear Ease:

“My daddy used to play music. He used to play all the time. That’s how I learned to play the guitar. After he died, the other boys, they took the guitar. I couldn’t get another one. So I decided to put me up a wire. I just call it ‘part of a guitar.’ It’s a one-string guitar, but it sounds like it’s got six strings on it. …Nobody else around here can play it but me. People, they come and listen to me. They say they don’t see how I can do it.”

Listen to a clip of Louis Dotson play “Bottle Up and Go” on the front porch of his farm (complete with crowing rooster), from SFC field tape #FT-10105: Bottle Up and Go
Clip and photo from the William R. Ferris Collection.