The Farmers Federation String Band, performing at the Essex Hotel in Philadelphia, November 1953. Left to right: Gaither Robinson, banjo; “Panhandle Pete” Nash, bass; Clarence Greene, fiddle; Steve Ledford, fiddle; Herman Jones, guitar.
The SFC has taken yet another step into the 21st century with the creation of our first digital collection, The Casey Burns Collection. (To view digital images, just click the call number link in the finding aid).
The collection features posters designed and printed by poster artist and illustrator Casey Burns, a native of North Carolina and graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill. The posters were created between 1997 and 2006, primarily for Chapel Hill area venues Cat’s Cradle, Local 506, and Go!, and include announcements for Tift Merritt, Two Dollar Pistols, Southern Culture on the Skids, Lucinda Williams (pictured, OP-20415/28), and many others.
From 1970 to 1974 Kevin Delaney, a Duke University graduate with a keen interest in folk music, traveled across Ireland and the United States recording scores of local fiddlers and old-time musicians, including many whose music may have otherwise gone undocumented.
These field tapes, now preserved in the SFC’s Kevin Delaney Collection, contain hundreds of tunes performed by traditional Irish musicians, primarily fiddlers from the counties of Clare, Donegal, Dublin, Galway, Kerry, Meath, Sligo, and Tipperary, as well as Irish fiddlers working in the US. The collection is an invaluable resource for students of Irish and American fiddling traditions.
Listen below to clips of Irish fiddler John Kelly, of Dublin, performing a tune recorded by Delaney as “The Humours of Castlefinn” on July 31, 1972:
Humours of Castlefinn
and Paddy Glacken, also of Dublin, performing “The Apples in Winter” a few days later:
Apples in Winter
Both clips from field tape FT-272 in the Kevin Delaney Collection.
In August of 1931, police arrested a Quiet Dell, West Virginia shopkeeper named Harry Powers on suspicion of murder. Powers had been exchanging love letters with an Illinois widow who had responded to a “lonely hearts” ad he had posted under the pseudonym Cornelius O. Pierson, and the widow was now missing. Police searching his garage found blood stains and a noose, prompting them to excavate a drainage ditch near Powers’ yard. In the ditch were found the bodies of the widow, her three children, and another woman who had answered Powers’ personal ad.
News of the sensational murders quickly swept the country (Powers was called “The Bluebeard of Quiet Dell”), and West Virginia song publishers Leighton D. Davies and A.H. Grow were quick to capitalize with a murder ballad, “The Crime At Quiet Dell”. In an apparent attempt to convince fellow West Virginians their venture was not purely exploitative, they wrote:
… it was not written to appeal to the morbid fancies of some at all, but altogether to the contrary. (The scene has been carefully viewed, and every possible detail of the gruesome crime learned on the ground first hand). It is designed to put right the idea that some people in other states may possibly entertain, that West Virginia is not a good State.
The ballad was published and performed live on West Virginia radio stations prior to Powers’ trial, to the great consternation of his lawyer. Powers was unsurprisingly convicted and hanged for his crimes on March 19, 1932.
More on “The Crime at Quiet Dell” can be read in Donald Lee Nelson’s article in the Winter 1972 issue of JEMF Quarterly, which also contains a complete reproduction of the original sheet music (above) from the Southern Folklife Collection Sheet Music and Song Lyrics Collection.
The Kentucky Girls, ca. 1928. At least two different duos went by this name in the late ’20s: sisters Jo and Alma Taylor performed as The Kentucky Girls on Cincinnati area radio stations, while a mother and daughter group from Missouri used the same name on KMBC in Kansas City.
People had children at an earlier age back then, but it seems safe to say this is a photo of the sister act from Cincinnati.
The SFC is proud to announce our latest addition: The David Holt Collection, containing material relating to the career of musician, storyteller, and historian of Appalachian music David Holt. The collection includes correspondence, photographs, and press clippings documenting four decades of Holt’s performing career, as well as audio-visual material relating to the many television and radio shows he has hosted since the 1980s, including TNN’s Fire on the Mountain and American Music Shop, Public Radio’s Riverwalk Jazz, and UNC-TV’s long-running Folkways program.
The collection also contains documentation relating to Holt and Doc Watson’s 2002 Grammy award winning album of performance and conversation, Legacy.
Listen below to clips from the Legacy album (SFC CD-7936), wherein the old friends discuss the proper term for a guitar-banjo hybrid instrument and Holt plays his arrangement of “Don’t Get Weary”:
bantar vs gitjo
Don’t Get Weary