Photo of the week: Lightnin’ Hopkins, Kenny Whitson, Joe Chambers

Picture in school room in front of blackboard of three musicians, Joe Chambers on harmonica, Kenny Whitson on cornet, and Lightnin' Hopkins on guitar.
From left: Joe Chambers, Kenny Whitson, and Lightnin’ Hopkins. From the Mary Katherine Aldin Artist Files Collection, #20485.  Southern Folklife Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

This picture, courtesy of the Mary Katherine Aldin Artist Files (#20485), was scanned to be considered for inclusion in a documentary about the singer and activist Barbara Dane, about which you can read more (and support!) here:

We don’t know the photographer, but the picture was taken at the folk music club Ash Grove in Los Angeles in what was called “the classroom” — used for classes of the Ash Grove School of Traditional Folk Music during the day, and an extra hang out space for performers at night.  From left are Joe Chambers (of the Chambers Brothers) with a harmonica, Dane’s long time musical collaborator Kenny Whitson on cornet, and Lightnin’ Hopkins on guitar.

The picture had been hanging on the wall of Aldin’s office at Ash Grove when the club burned down for the first time in 1969.  With owner Ed Pearl’s permission, Aldin salvaged the picture from rubble and kept a framed version of it with Chambers cropped out.  It wasn’t until the scan request that Aldin recalled the presence of Chambers in the foreground.  Ed Pearl passed away in February of this year, and you can read more about his life and Ash Grove in his obituary in the Los Angeles Times:

Many live recordings from Ash Grove can be found in the Eugene Earle Collection (#20376), held by the SFC.

Barbara Dane first encountered the Chambers Brothers performing as a gospel group at Ash Grove on the same bill as her and Hopkins, and took them on the road, recording an album with them (Barbara Dane and the Chambers Brothers, released by Folkways) and performing at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival.  Dane also recorded a session with Hopkins in 1964 for Arhoolie Records that was released in 1996 as Sometimes I Believe She Loves Me.

The SFC has a small collection of sound recordings on instantaneous disc from Dane (Barbara Dane Collection, #20412), and the collection of her late husband, folklorist and longtime editor of Sing Out! (Sing Out! Collection, #20550), as well as co-founder of their record label Paredon Records, Irwin Silber (Irwin Silber Collection, #20432).  The Paredon Records archive can be found in the Ralph Rinzler Archives at the Smithsonian.

See the preview of the documentary, The Nine Lives of Barbara Dane, below:



Transcription Disc of the Week – The United States Army Presents "Country Express"

The United States Army Recruiting Service Presents "Country Express", shows 29-66 & and 30-66
Here’s another track from transcription disc TR-20376/1195 in the Eugene Earle Collection (20376). This 1966 promotional record for the US Army Recruiting Service features “Chime Bells” – a song by the hit country singer Warner Mack that features vocals that may best be described as “dub yodels”… definitely worth a listen.
Chime Bells

Transcription Disc of the Week – US Air Force's "Country Music Time"

The Eugene Earle Collection consists of commercial and non-commercial transcription discs documenting a wide array of radio programs and individual performers from 1939 through the early 1980s. A significant portion of the collection consists of Army V-Discs and Navy V-Discs from World War II. Other transcriptions include the Ralph Emery Show; the Lawrence Welk Show; and various government-sponsored radio shows, such as Country Roads, Navy Hoedown, Sounds of Solid Country, Here’s to Veterans, Country Music Time, Country Cookin’, and Country Express.
Here’s a cut from Program no. 311 of the US Air Force’s Country Music Time, featuring prodigious thumb-pickers Jackie Phelps and Odell Martin playing the Merle Travis standard “Cannonball Rag”
Cannonball Rag

Collection Spotlight: Glenn Campbell on transcription disc

Capitol Records released Glenn Campbell’s hit song, “Galveston,” on March 17, 1969 so we pulled out a version  from the Lawrence Welk radio series, Guest Spot, show number LW70-36, distributed to radio stations as transcription discs.  Guest Spot was one of many syndicated radio shows sponsored by the

Liner notes (click to zoom)

United States Armed Forces, the U. S. Navy and Naval Reserves for this series.
The copy in the Southern Folklife Collection, call no. TR-12/504, is part of the extensive and always fascinating Eugene Earle Collection (#20376). Track list and liner notes are included to the left.  The modulation in the last verse and the sound of the telecaster in the guitar solo where the string sounds so loose that it might fall off just gets us every time.  The first clip below is the introduction to the show itself, the second is a sample of “Galveston.”
“Intro” Lawrence Welk–Guest Spot
“Galveston” by Glen Campbell

New Addition: The Eugene Earle Collection

After almost a year in process, the latest addition to the Eugene Earle Collection finding aid is now available. The addition of July 2009 contains over 9,500 items from the collection of discographer, record collector, and founding president of the John Edwards Memorial Foundation, Eugene Earle (pictured, ca. 1960).
Included in the addition are hundreds of live recordings of performances by old-time and bluegrass musicians including  Doc Watson, Bill Monroe, the Stanley Brothers, the Osbourne Brothers, and the Country Gentlemen.
The collection also includes posters, films, printed music, photographs, serials, record label catalogs, promotional materials, and papers relating to Earle’s discographical and record collecting activities.
Processing of the Eugene Earle Collection has been made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, as part of the ongoing digitization project Fiddles, Banjos and Mountain Music: Preserving Audio Collections of Southern Traditional Music.

The Stanley Brothers Live At Ash Grove, 1962

StanleyBrosArmadillo World Headquarters, CBGB’s, The Bluebird Café, Tipitina’s, Whisky A Go-Go, the Village Gate, all names of landmark live music venues. These spaces are inseparable from the music scenes fermented inside their walls, and the proper names themselves have come to represent far more than the physical structures.  The words conjure structures of feeling of specific eras (whether the business is still open or not), reflecting cultural and musical histories that reach far beyond the individuals who actually experienced these spaces, becoming almost mythological in their stature. The lists of musicians who played on the stages, the performances and collaborations that seem out of fanboy dreams, and the glimpses into these worlds through scattered photographs, films, and audio recordings only add to the ethereal nature of their reputations.  The reality of struggling small businesses operating on the fringes of society and exhausted musicians toiling to keep their heads above water get lost in the narrative, but the influence of these venues depends more on the dream than the reality.
The Eugene Earle Collection is full of recorded artifacts that help fill out the narratives, exposing more of the reality but adding to the dream at the same time.  The country music parks like New River Ranch (featured here a week ago) offered one kind of performance opportunity for the traditional country and mountain music in the 1950s and 1960s, but the folk clubs, coffeehouses and college stages offered another.  The Ash Grove is one of the latter.
Founded in Hollywood by Ed Pearl in 1958, the Ash Grove was unprecedented in the variety of folk legends and young artists that shared the stage. The club offered many musicians from the South and East their first opportunities to find audiences on the West Coast.  Doc Watson, The Country Gentlemen, Mississippi John Hurt, Son House, Muddy Waters, Pete Seeger, June Carter, Johnny Cash, Phil Ochs, Joan Baez, Johnny Otis, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Ian and Sylvia, Sonny Terry, Brownie McGee, New Lost City Ramblers, The Weavers, The Greenbriar Boys, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Barbara Dane, Holly Near, Arlo Guthrie, Mance Lipscomb, Guy and Candie Carawan, John Jacob Niles, Bukka White, and Kris Kristofferson all played the Ash Grove.  As did Oscar Brown, Jr., Chuck Berry, James Booker, Ravi Shankar, Mongo Santamaria, Miriam Makeba , and the Virgin Islands Steel Band.  Ry Cooder had his first performance there when he was 16 and the Stanley Brothers, featured in the clips below, performed there numerous times throughout the 1960s. The Ash Grove closed in 1973, possibly as a result of arson attacks by those who disagreed with the venues left leaning social and political affiliations, but it’s legacy lives on in the collective cultural memory, thankfully bolstered by recordings like those in the Eugene Earl Collection here at the SFC.
Digitized for the project Fiddles, Banjos, and Mountain Music: Preserving Audio Collections of Southern Traditional Music, the following clips come from FT-12936 of the Eugene Earl Collection. The Stanley Brothers in this incarnation include Carter Stanley on guitar, Ralph Stanley on banjo, Vernon Derek on fiddle, Curly Lambert on mandolin, Roger Bush on bass.  Recorded August 30, 1962, the performance includes a variety of traditional mountain music, bluegrass standards, and Stanley Brothers originals.
More recordings from the Ash Grove to come, but for now enjoy the Ash Grove intro with the Stanley Brothers kicking off the show with “Late Last Night”: late last night_stanley bros
and Carter’s introduction of “Drifting too Far From the Shore” with a description of the “Monroe Sound” and a touching acknowledgement of Charlie Monroe’s contribution to country music: Drifting too far_Stanley Brothers_mo
The ongoing digitization project Fiddles, Banjos and Mountain Music: Preserving Audio Collections of Southern Traditional Music, is made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The Monroe Brothers Live at New River Ranch, 1955

SFC_p970To follow up on the recent photo-post with Bill Monroe, we offer a live recording of the Monroe Brothers from New River Ranch, May 8, 1955.
With the rise of Rock and Roll and Nashville’s turn towards hyper-stylized Countrypolitan, country music parks and campgrounds of the 1950s and 1960s acted as catch-all venues for performers and fans in the still very active hillbilly and honky-tonk music scenes. Located just across the Pennsylvania border in Rising Sun, Maryland, New River Ranch welcomed everyone: old-time legends, honky-tonk heroes, and homegrown fiddle bands.
With an open-air stage and wooden planks for seats, picnic suppers and rudimentary PA, what New River Ranch lacked in amenities, it made up tenfold with the music. On the urging of Mike Seeger, Ralph Rinzler first visited New River Ranch in 1954 to see Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys; an experience that profoundly affected the future of not only Rinzler and Monroe, but also the future of folk and country music in ways that continue to resonate today.
The Eugene Earle Collection holds a treasure trove of live recordings from New River Ranch and countless other parks and venues across the U. S. A. Digitized for the project Fiddles, Banjos, and Mountain Music: Preserving Audio Collections of Southern Traditional Music, these clips come from a reel-to-reel tape likely recorded by Gerald Mills on May 8, 1955, featuring a rare 1950s reunion by The Monroe Brothers, Charlie and Bill, whose bands both performed regularly at the park, just two years before Charlie’s retirement from music in 1957. The raw beauty of the setting and the enthusiasm of the audience and the performers shine through on these recordings. “Nine Pound Hammer” is the brothers’ classic rendition of the Merle Travis tune, including the ferocious first licks of Bill’s chiming mandolin solo. “This World is Not My Home” is their rendition of the gospel tune popularized by the Carter Family. The vocal harmonies are stunning. Please enjoy.
bill and charlie monroe_9 pound hammer_clip
bill and charlie monroe_this world is not my home_clip
Both clips from SFC field tape FT-12917 in the Eugene Earle Collection.
The ongoing digitization project Fiddles, Banjos and Mountain Music: Preserving Audio Collections of Southern Traditional Music, is made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

US Military V-Discs in the Eugene Earle Collection

VDISCDuring World War II, the U.S. military and American record companies collaborated to produce a series of records for the “V-Disc” program, a morale-boosting  effort designed to provide troops overseas with access to exclusive new music. Many of the top performers of the day, including Frank Sinatra and Duke Ellington, contributed recordings to the project. The V-Discs were produced exclusively for use by military personnel and the artists who volunteered their recordings insisted they not become commercially available, so when the program came to an end in 1949 the Army destroyed most of the original pressing plates and many of the existing discs, making V-Discs a rather collectible commodity today.
The 261 V-Discs in the Eugene Earle Collection represent a wide variety of popular music, including big band jazz, country and blues. Many of the songs were recorded with the military audience in mind, as you can hear in the clip below of Carson Robison performing “Nursery Rhymes of 1944”, from Army V-Disc 145 (SFC # TR/12-19). He really lets Hitler have it, in the classic schoolyard manner.
Nursery Rhymes of 1944

"Seeing Sound" Exhibit, Oct. 12, 2009 – Jan. 4, 2010

Before the widespread availability of recordings and record players, music publishers relied on visual representations to inform and entice consumers to buy sheet music of popular songs. The illustrator had to convey both the subject matter and the mood of a song, essentially capturing the sound of music in a single painting or drawing.


From October 12 to January 4, the Southern Folklife Collection will be hosting the exhibit Seeing Sound: Sheet Music Illustration From 1890 To 1940, featuring sheet music illustrations from the Eugene Earle Collection. The exhibit will be held on the 4th floor of the Wilson Library and is free and open to the public (9:00 AM – 5:00 PM Mon.-Fri., 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM on Sat.).