Mr. Garfield and Charles Guiteau

On June 30th, 1882, the assassin Charles Guiteau was hanged in Washington, DC, almost a year to the day after his fatal shooting of President James A. Garfield. In March of 1949, North Carolina musician and folk song collector Bascom Lamar Lunsford traveled to Washington to record for the Library of Congress, and the many songs he recorded there included two topical ballads concerning the assassination of Garfield and execution of Guiteau. The epic narrative of the assassination “Mr. Garfield”, recorded on March 23rd, would later be popularized by Johnny Cash (you can watch him perform it on The Johnny Cash Show here). Lunsford  introduces it:

I first heard it about 1903 when I visited the home of Mr. A.W. Williams, who lived on the edge of Henderson County, North Carolina… Anderson Williams, a young man, picked it and played it on the banjo… Once after I heard one stanza by another person. That’s the only two people I ever heard sing the song, besides myself.”

Mr. Garfield clip
The very next day Lunsford recorded  a ballad sung from the perspective of the condemned man:

This is another  assassination song, known as “Charles Guiteau”. I’ve known this all my life.”

Clips from Emrich Duncan’s Songs and Ballads of American History and the Assassination of Presidents (SFC FC-545 and CD-906).

Iry LeJeune Recordings Added to National Recording Registry

The Library of Congress has named two recordings by Cajun accordionist and singer Iry LeJeune to the National Recording Registry. “Evangeline Special” and “Love Bridge Waltz” were both recorded for Goldband Records in 1948 and the original master tapes are housed in the SFC’s Goldband Records Collection.
From  the Library of Congress press release:

“The post-World War II revival of traditional Cajun music began with accordionist Iry LeJeune’s first single, his influential recordings of “Evangeline Special” and “Love Bridge Waltz.” Le Jeune’s emotional and deeply personal style was immensely popular with Louisiana Cajuns returning home from the war, eager to hear their own music again. His recordings marked a distinct move away from the style influenced by Western Swing that had dominated commercial Cajun recordings for over a decade and a return to the older sound of Cajun music. This sound featured the accordion, prominently and unrestrained, and a blues-influenced singing in French. LeJeune is regarded as one of the best Cajun accordionists and singers of all time.”

Listen below to clips of both songs:
Evangeline Special clip
Love Bridge Waltz clip
Clips from SFC CD-713, The Legendary Iry Lejeune.

Photo of the Week: Marshall Claiborne

One-armed fiddler Marshall Claiborne of Hartsville, Tennessee, ca. 1926. Claiborne placed second in the 1926 old-time fiddlers’ contest at Nashville, utilizing an unusual technique of holding the bow between his knees and moving the fiddle against it with his left arm. Photo from the Guthrie T. Meade Collection.

Jimmy Dean's Breakfast, ca. 1957

We were saddened to learn of the passing of Jimmy Dean, the country singer behind the 1961 hit “Big Bad John” and host of the long-running country music showcase The Jimmy Dean Show (he’s pictured here with the show’s frequent guest muppet, Rowlf).

Jimmy Dean was perhaps best known to this generation as a sausage magnate, and it’s clear from this October 7, 1957 Columbia Records press bio that, even before he entered the sausage business, breakfast had always been a central element of his persona:

Possibly the earliest riser in Arlington, Virginia these mornings is a tall, lanky ex-Texan who gets up at 3:30 a.m, makes his own breakfast (a goulash involving a pint of cream, two eggs, some sugar and a dash of vanilla) and rides off to CBS’ Broadcast House Studios in Washington, D.C. to do “The Jimmy Dean Show”. The early riser — and high-rated star — is Jimmy Dean himself.”

(click to enlarge)

Press release from SFC’s Artist Name File Collection, picture of Dean with “Rowlf the Muppet Hound” from Thurston Moore’s 1965 book The Pictorial History of Country Music.

Photo of the Week: The Farr Brothers

Texas-born brothers Hugh Farr, Glen Farr, and Karl Farr (along with their brother-in-law Billy Weir, wearing the hat), photographed in 1927 in Van Nuys, California. Hugh and Karl would later join Roy Rogers in the Sons of the Pioneers and record an obviously autobiographical fiddle tune called “The Texas Crapshooter”: Texas Crapshooter

Clip from TR-873 in the Sons of the Pioneers Transcription Disc Collection.

Bluegrass Throwdown

One of the great things about archives is that you can run across interesting information in places you’d never expect.  For example, the Mike Seeger tape logs in the Southern Folklife Collection Field Notes (30025) are largely comprised of long lists of the song titles and performers which make up the track listings of his numerous field recordings.  But hidden among the pages and pages of track listings are occasional gems of personal musings, background stories, or random anecdotes like the following:

In August 1988, I spoke with Bud Reed about the Monroe Brothers engagement in the 1950s at the New River Ranch.  . . He said that they booked them separately for the same day, then somehow they sang together on stage. . . Bud said that some of the public attended because of the widely circulated folklore that they had fought and broken up – and that the big scar on Charlie’s neck was from a knife wound from Bill.  These people wanted to see them fight again. I’ve heard many such stories about these two.”

Listen below to a clip from the brothers’ (fratricide-free) collaboration that day:
Lonely Little Robin
The  entire concert is recorded on SFC field tape FT-12917.