On May 7, 1965, UCLA students Barry Hansen (who, as you know, would later find fame as radio’s Dr. Demento) and John Fahey (already an accomplished guitarist), along with Mark Levine, sat down for an interview with legendary Delta blues singer Son House in Venice, California. House, who had recorded some extremely influential sides for Paramount records in the 1930s before disappearing from the blues scene for almost a quarter of a century, had recently been “rediscovered” and at the time was widely regarded as the greatest Delta blues singer still actively performing (watch him sing “Death Letter” here to see why).
The interview has been preserved on field tape FT-2809 in the SFC’s John Edwards Memorial Foundation Collection. Many of the questions focus on House’s early career in Mississippi and memories of his blues contemporaries. In the clip below House explains the origins of Charley Patton‘s song “Charlie Bradley’s Ten Sixty-Six Blues”:
Big Slim McAuliffe, a featured performer on Wheeling, West Virginia’s WWVA Jamboree in the ’30s and ’40s. On the verso of this ca. 1938 photo, sent as a postcard from Wheeling to a (presumably) young fan in Moundsville, W.V., is printed:
I want to thank you for the support you give me on my Coco Wheats program and I sure hope you like this picture. My horse is a genuine registered Arabian stallion. I think he is the finest high school horse in the country and he does all kinds of tricks. I hope you will get to see us in person sometime. Thanks a million, million ways for your support and I hope you’ll continue to eat Coco Wheats.
Big Slim, The Lone Cowboy
On Friday, February 26th, the Southern Folklife Collection will be hosting legendary broadcaster Barry Hansen, aka “Dr. Demento”, longtime host of the nationally syndicated Dr. Demento Show. He will be presenting a lecture and spinning records on the subject of “Humor in the 20th Century: Country and Blues”. The program begins at 5:45 in Wilson Library’s Pleasants Family Assembly Room, to be preceded by a reception at 5:00, and is free and open to the public.
Mr. Hansen should have much to say on the subject of humor in country and blues music, as before he adopted his Dr. Demento persona to become radio’s greatest spinner of humorous songs he was a young musicology student at UCLA, the original home of the John Edwards Memorial Foundation. In the mid-sixties he began his radio career as the host of the “Old-time Record Review”, a scholarly program devoted to the folk, blues, and country music collected by the JEMF. When the JEMF Collection moved to UNC to become the basis of the Southern Folklife Collection , so too did open-reel tapes of 39 episodes of “Old-time Record Review”.
Listen below to a clip of novice DJ Barry Hansen introducing Hank Williams’ “Mind Your Own Business”, from a 1965 episode of “Old-time Record Review” (SFC# FT-1616):
The Binkley Brothers’ Dixie Clodhoppers, photographed in 1928 at the Bijou Theater in Nashville, Tennessee. (L-r: Tom Andrews, Gale Binkley, Jack Jackson, and Amos Binkley). Some of the Binkley Brothers’ 1928 Victor recordings can be heard on the County Records release Nashville: The Early String Bands (SFC CD-1500).
In celebration of Black History Month, we’ve added a new channel to the Southern Folklife Collection Streaming Radio project:
Channel 6: Southern Folklife Collection – African-American Music
While there are many examples of the African-American music of the South streaming on our other channels, this is the only stream that focuses solely on black musicians, with an emphasis on the string bands of the ’20s and ’30s, plus gospel quartets, country blues, jug band music, sacred steel guitar, the folk songs of the civil rights movement, and more.
Tune in all this February for a unique musical celebration of Black History Month, and happy listening!
The purpose of the Southern Folklife Collection Streaming Radio project is to make our holdings available to the general public for educational use. Links work best with iTunes, Winamp, or VLC media players.
Dock Walsh, known as the “Banjo King of the Carolinas”, shown here demonstrating his unique ‘Hawaiian’ banjo style, achieved by placing pennies under the bridge and sliding a pocket knife along the neck. Photo ca. 1962 by Archie Green, from the Archie Green Collection.
There aren’t a lot of classic songs about Groundhog Day (as opposed to, say, Christmas), but Nashville singer -songwriter Tom T. Hall made a valiant effort with “Happy Groundhog Day” from his 1977 album About Love. It’s not so much a song about Groundhog Day as it is, like many Tom T. Hall songs, a sad song about desperately lonely people. While there’s nothing unusual about a sad country song, something about Hall’s lyrics always struck me as more desperate and lonely than most. Ron Peterson, then-President of the Nashville Songwriters Association, addressed it in the original liner notes for About Love:
He’s got a built-in sadness… T.’s sadness is kind of like one fiddle trying to play over a whole band. When you finally get your ear where you can hear it, you wonder how you missed it before.