The Southern Folklife Collection and UNC University Libraries are thrilled to bring you this Author Talk featuring Deke Dickerson, this coming Wednesday, February 15, from 12-1 PM EST. This virtual presentation and discussion is free to attend, and you can register in advance at go.unc.edu/Dickerson. Dickerson will be presenting on his book Sixteen Tons: The Merle Travis Story.
Kahn himself shows up around Travis in the Archie Green Collection (#20002), mentioned in this interview transcript. There is a trove of Merle Travis related items in Green’s papers for the research of his book Only A Miner.
There are also some holdings in Green’s archive around the release of Travis’ Folk Songs album, the first record released on the new Capitol Americana label.
Green had many pieces on Travis’ signature song, and the source for the title of Dickerson’s book, “Sixteen Tons.”
Here is a piece Travis wrote for the United Mine Workers Journal about his composing of the song, reprinted in the Sing Out! journal.
The cover of the issue of United Mine Workers Journal where the article first appeared:
We look forward to having you join us Wednesday the 15th for this event with Deke Dickerson to learn more about the Merle Travis’ life and career, and hope you are inspired to explore our collections for even more Travis treasures. Registration at go.unc.edu/Dickerson.
Excited to be steered toward this folio of “Christian Love Songs” by the prolific and talented songwriter, and blind newsboy evangelist, Rev. Andrew Jenkins, FL-733 in the Southern Folklife Collection Song Folios (30006). Published in 1924 by Polk Brockman, the A&R man responsible for encouraging fellow producer Ralph Peer to record Fiddlin’ John Carson in 1923, the folio is an example of Brockman’s tendency to take full publication rights from the artists he worked with. This songbook was published early in the Jenkins Family’s recording career as Brockman looked to capitalize on the success of Jenkins’ popular broadcasts on Atlanta’s WSB radio station. For more information and to listen to music by the Jenkins Family (including their many secular songs, like the well known ballad, “The Death of Floyd Collins”), see these resources available at the Southern Folklife Collection. For more information on Polk Brockman, visit or contact the Southern Folklife Collection to listen to recorded interviews listed below from the Ed Kahn Collection (20360) and the Archie Green Papers (20002)
The Digital Southern Folklife Collection continues to add content at a steady rate. One of the recent additions includes the photographs from the Ed Kahn Collection (#20360). Among numerous photos of the Carter Family and Merle Travis is the publicity shot of June Carter, mid-leap, featured above. Also note Ms. Carter’s manager, the Colonel himself, Tom Parker (aka Andreas Cornelis (“Dries”) van Kuijk).
Scholar and folklorist, Ed Kahn (1938-2004) spent much of his life devoted to the study of American folk songs and early country music, conducting extensive field research and writing at length about both Merle Travis and the Carter Family. Kahn was was involved in the creation of the John Edwards Memorial Foundation (JEMF), along with Archie Green, D. K. Wilgus, Fred Hoeptner, and Eugene Earle. He was initially appointed Executive Secretary of the JEMF and was instrumental in starting the JEMF Quarterly newsletter. The collection consists of papers, photographs, and audiovisual materials relating to Kahn’s research documenting American folk songs, Mexican border radio, and early country music and recording history.
Carter Family research materials include personal and professional correspondence; research files related to Ed Kahn‘s dissertation, “The Carter Family: A Reflection of Changes in Society”; transcripts documenting interviews with members of the Carter Family and people associated with them; letters to and from members of the Carter Family and their friends, family, and business associates; and handwritten songs found in a cabin where Sara Carter stayed after divorcing A. P. Carter.
Any ideas on what the autograph says?
Here’s an interesting song we came across recently in the Ed Kahn Collection: “The Strange Case of the DeAutremont Brothers”, recorded in 1928 by banjo and guitar duo The Johnson Brothers. It dramatized a sensational train robbery that took place outside of Medford, Oregon in 1923. The would-be robbers (brothers Hugh, Ray, and Roy DeAutremont) badly botched the job, murdering four innocent men in the process. The DeAutremont brothers escaped the scene with their lives, leading authorities on a international manhunt until they were finally apprehended, tried, and sentenced to life in prison in 1927. The Johnson brothers recording no doubt sought to turn some of the recent trial publicity into record sales.
Listen to a clip of “The Strange Case of the DeAutremont Brothers”: strange-case-of-the-deautremont-bros
The clip below is from a tape made in 1973 by Eugene area journalist Gary Williams (tape FT-12658, Ed Kahn Collection), including an interview with the by-then paroled Ray DeAutremont. Ray is reluctant to speak about the murders, but does offer a few interesting (though self-serving) words on the subject of regret.