[if you like zooming in on record labels you should click on this photo]
Dream Blues,” 78 rpm disc, 1924
Gertrude “Ma” Rainey with The Pruitt Twins, Paramount Records
As Paramount’s best-selling artist of the early 1920s, vaudeville superstar and “The Mother of the Blues” Gertrude “Ma” Rainey was honored with her own “portrait label” disc, the first of its kind, marketed and sold as a special souvenir for her fans. Rainey is accompanied on these March 1924 recordings by the remarkable Pruitt Twins, Miles and Milas of Kansas City, on banjo and guitar. The disc above is call number 78-11104 from the John Edwards Memorial Collection (20001).
This item is one of many highlights pulled from across the collections in Wilson library currently featured in the exhibition An Alphabet of Treasures: Special Collections from A to Z, which can be seen in Wilson Special Collections Library until April 19, 2015.
Follow the Wilson Library tumblr for more highlights from the exhibit.
And remember to mark your calendars for our very special event with music biographer Barry Mazor and musician Dom Flemons coming up next week. Ralph Peer and the Making of Popular Roots Music Friday, Feb. 6, 2015 Wilson Special Collections Library Pleasants Family Assembly Room 5:30 p.m. Reception (program will begin at 6 p.m.) 6 p.m. Book Talk by Barry Mazor 7 p.m. Concert by Dom Flemons Free and open to the public Information: Liza Terll, Friends of the Library, (919) 548-1203
Music scout, record producer, and industry visionary Ralph Peer helped shape and popularize American country and roots music from the 1920s through the ’40s. On Feb. 6, at 6 p.m., a new biography of Peer will be the topic of a talk by the author, Barry Mazor, at UNC’s Wilson Special Collections Library. A concert by musician Dom Flemons will follow at 7 p.m. We’ll have more about the program on Field Trip South tomorrow.
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.”
Sorry to be so quiet around here lately. Summer in Chapel Hill may be quiet, but activity at Wilson Library intensifies as the temperature goes up. We’ve got exciting news about the SFC 25 year anniversary coming up so stay tuned to Field Trip South over the next few days. You’re going to love it. But for this afternoon, to ease back into blogging this week I thought we could start slow with call no. 78-11107 by the remarkable Ida Cox accompanied by the one and only Lovie Austin. “Death Letter Blues” and “Kentucky Man Blues” are but two of 78 sides Cox recorded for Paramount between 1923 and 1929. Enjoy these segments, presented with no noise reduction or post-processing. Love the sound.78_11107_Ida_Cox_Death_Letter_Blues78_11107_Ida_Cox_Kentucky_Man_Blues