Excited to share some research from one of my favorite collections in The Wilson Special Collections Library on this All Hallows’ Eve, The M. Ruth Little Stokes Collection (20065). Architectural historian Margaret Ruth Little-Stokes received a Ph.D. in Art History and a minor in Folklore at UNC-Chapel Hill in 1984. She served as principal investigator for the North Carolina Cemetery as Cultural Artifact Project, 1981-1982, an initiative funded by National Endowment for the Humanities and directed by Terry Zug, professor in the Curriculum in Folklore at UNC-Chapel Hill.
The Project was intended to be “the first investigation in the state of historic cemeteries and graveyards as cultural benchmarks with aesthetic characteristics and iconographical content,” and focused on photographic documentation, recording, and cataloging of cemeteries in three counties: Cumberland County, N.C.; Davidson County, N.C.; and New Hanover County, N.C. The intensive survey covered Cumberland, New Hanover, and Davidson counties completely, and Lincoln County, N.C., and Catawba County, N.C., on a selective basis. Other counties were added for comparison. Intended to link demographic and cultural traits with regional practices, one of the Project’s primary focus points was to identify gravemarker artisans and carvers throughout the region and to trace their movements within, and influences over, the carving tradition.
Included are master cards with cemetery survey information and topographical maps used in the research and identification process. Each master card contains the cemetery name; location; inclusive dates; topography; landscaping; boundaries; marker descriptions and design motifs; an overall site plan; and a brief history, if known.
Newly cataloged at the SFC is an obscure bluegrass release on Cozy Records by Curley Parker and the Garvin Brothers, call number 78-17403.
Cozy Records was based in Davis, West Virginia and named after a restaurant in nearby Grafton. It was founded by coal miner and minister John Bava, who’d played and sung along with his wife Lucy in a band called the Country Cousins.
In addition to his record label, Bava also started a magazine called Musical Echoes (printing facilities for which sat in a converted chicken coup), and a music publishing company under his own name. It seems that Bava may have used Musical Echoes partly to promote his compositions among musicians who might perform them. For example, in the SFC’s Sheet Music and Song Lyrics collection, we found this copy of Bava’s composition “Upon the Cross of Calvary” which has a red-and-white sticker referring to Musical Echoes as “song book for the entertainer.”
The back cover has been addressed and stamped, with Musical Echoes as the return address. At the bottom, the recipient is told to “request Hank the Cowhand of WMMN, Fairmont, W. Va. to sing ‘Would You Care.’” (Hank recorded this song for Cozy as Hank Stanford & the Sagebrush Round-up some time in the early 1950s; the song was written by Bava).
Cozy recorded local, West Virginia-based talent, as well as musicians who appeared regularly on radio but who’d had trouble making inroads with bigger labels. Besides Hank the Cowhand, Cozy artists included Cherokee Sue, Rita Flory, Rex Parker’s Merry Men, Chuck Palmer & the Cornmuffins, and eventually the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers.
Curley Parker and the Garvin Brothers only made one recording for Cozy Records, “My Guiding Star” / “Cotton Eyed Joe”, released in 1950. Originally from Gilmer County, Georgia, Parker is today best known for having played fiddle with the Blue Sky Boys during the 1940s, as well as for the duo he started with Pee Wee Lambert in 1951. In addition to his musical career, Parker also worked as a land surveyor; ultimately, he phased out professional music appearances in order to focus on his “day job.”
Side A, “My Guiding Star,” features singing by Parker and Earnst Garvin in a song about the unexpected death of the narrator’s fiancé. We’ve included an excerpt here:
My Guiding Star
Side B, “Cotton Eyed Joe,” is an instrumental, and showcases Parker’s fiddling technique (as well as that of an unnamed banjoist, presumably one of the Garvin Brothers). The virtuosity is especially apparent towards the end when the tempo verges on breakneck.
Cotton Eyed Joe
It does not appear that the Garvin Brothers have any surviving output beyond this release.
Our copy of the Parker-Garvin Brothers release came from SFC donor Guthrie Meade and was autographed by Parker. In the image below, you can (sort of) see the inscription on the lefthand side of the label: “To Gus, Curley Parker.”