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.
In consideration of the #librariesofinstagram‘s themed #westernwednesdays, the Southern Folklife Collection pulled some of our favorite cowboy images from the John Edwards Memorial Foundation Records (20001), including this picture postcard featuring Big Slim the Lone Cowboy, aka Harry C. McCauliffe, call number PF20001_208. Likely born near Bluefield, WV around 1899, McCauliffe had a career as a cowboy and railroad man before appearing on the radio in Pittsburgh in 1929. He recorded for Decca as “Big Slim Aliff,” notably making the first recording of country standard “Footprints in the Snow.”
In 1937, McCauliffe joined WWVA and remained there for most of the remainder of his career. Along with the fine portrait of McCauliffe, the postcard is also an endorsement for Coco Wheats, a the first flavored-hot cereal introduced by Indiana company Little Crow Foods in 1930. So thanks to everybody for your continued support of Big Slim and Coco Wheats.
Stay tuned for more Western Wednesday posts throughout this month and be sure to follow UNC Library on Instagram to experience materials across our collections.
Today we are mourning the loss of another one of the greats, Dr. Ralph Stanley. There are a number of excellent obituaries and remembrances of Stanley across the news today and we would encourage you to read about Stanley’s remarkable life and career. Considering the mark he left on the world of traditional music and popular culture, It is no surprise that Stanley is such a prominent figure in the Southern Folklife Collection and we wanted to share a few of those items with you today in tribute. The photos above are from the Mike Seeger Collection (20009), featuring the Carters and the Clinch Mountain Boys at Valley View country music park in Hellam, PA in 1956. Another favorite from the Seeger Collection features the Carters with Roscoe Holcomb on tour in Bremen, Germany in 1966.
I couldn’t help but pull out some of the Rich-R-Tone 78 rpm discs from the SFC sound recordings. Recorded in 1947, these Stanley Brothers recordings, their first commercial recordings as a group, remain some of my favorite bluegrass of all time. Listen to “The Jealous Lover,” from 78-16252, and the classic “Little Maggie,” from 78-16253, here:78_16252_Jealous Lover_Stanley Brothers with the Clinch Mountain Boys_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC78_16253_little maggie_Stanley Brothers with the Clinch Mountain Boys_Southern Folklife Collection_UNCStanley Brothers with the Clinch Mountain Boys_Southern Folklife Collection_UNC You can listen to live performances throughout Stanley’s career, from country music parks, to radio performances, clubs like the Ash Grove, college tours, and more from recordings i in the Mike Seeger Collection (20009) and the Eugene Earle Collection (20376) in particular, but there are numerous recordings across the SFC collections. If you would like to hear more, please contact or visit us at the SFC. We were very lucky to welcome Ralph Stanley to The Wilson Library in 2006 for an extra special conversation and concert. Sitting 10 feet away from a legend in a special collections reading room as he sings acapella is something that we will never forget. Rest in peace, Ralph, I’m sure you and Carter’s harmonies sound even sweeter now.
Ralph Stanley and His Clinch Mountain Boys, P1545 and P1548, in the John Edwards Memorial Foundation Records (20001), southern folklife Collection, UNC Chapel HIll
The world lost another giant today when Merle Haggard left this earth for honky-tonk heaven. The Southern Folklife Collection was privileged to welcome Mr. Haggard at our 25th anniversary celebration in 2014. Seeing him perform at UNC’s Memorial Hall is an experience that will not be forgotten. It was a spectacular performance and I was practically giddy when Haggard picked up the fiddle.
At the SFC, we would like nothing better to spend the foreseeable future exploring the collections for Merle Haggard content to geek out on and reminisce about the first time we heard one song or another, but, and I think Merle would agree, we have other work to do; other fiddle players to celebrate and mountains of music to share with the world. I discovered countless artists through Haggard, not the least of which was Bob Wills. Even though I come from Texas, it was Merle who introduced me to the “best damn fiddle player in the world.” But for today, I’ve got “Rainbow Stew” on the deck and I pulled out these pictures I have looked at many times from the John Edwards Memorial Foundation Records (20001) documenting the recording sessions for Bob Wills’s final album, For the Last Time. Sessions, produced by the legendary guitarist Tommy Allsup (another former Cricket like Bobby Durham), took place just outside of Dallas on December 3 and 4, 1973.
Haggard drove all night from Chicago to participate on the final day after begging permission from Wills to attend. Sadly, Wills was unable to complete the session after suffering a severe stroke on the night of December 3 and slipping into a coma the following day never to retain consciousness. Haggard and the band, the first reunion of the Texas Playboys since Wills disbanded the group in the 1960s, pressed on with noted successor of the Bob Wills sound Hoyle Nix stepping up into the boots of his hero to lead the group.
We are not positive, but we believe the photos above include Haggard, fiddlers Keith Coleman and Johnny Gimble, steel guitarist Leon McCauliffe, and the back of guitarist Eldon Shamblin’s head.
Rest easy, Merle. Hope the music is as good in the next place as you made it here.
While pulling materials for a class instruction session, we came across these two strikingingly similar labels on 78s. Interested to know more, we did some research and found both labels were founded in the late 1940s in Chicago by former hillbilly comic Delbert “Deb” Dyer (for more details, see the always informative Hillbilly Researcher). He soon moved White Church offices from Chicago to Kansas in 1947 and eventually moved Red Barn there as well. Odis “Pops” Echols was an original member of the original Stamps Quartet (aka Stamps Melody Boys), one of many white-gospel quartets supported by the Stamps-Baxter Music and Printing Company based in Dallas, Texas. His career took him across the country many times, from Chatanooga to Lubbock, Little Rock, Louisville, Los Angeles, and eventually Clovis, New Mexico. He formed many different iterations of the “Melody Boys,” including the one featured on the Red Barn record above which performed a mix of western music and gospel tunes.
The Blackwood Brothers remain a hugely popular gospel singing group. The original quartet was founded in Choctaw, Mississippi in 1934 by brothers Doyle Blackwood, James Blackwood, Roy Blackwood and his son, R. W. Blackwood. Like the Melody Boys, the Blackwood Brothers were affiliated with Stamps-Baxter and were featured on the radio out of Shenendoah, Iowa in the 1940s when they began recording for Dyer’s White Church label. With their post-WWII careers taking off, the Blackwoods left White Church and founded their own Blackwood Brothers label in 1948.
Dyer left White Church in 1949, but remained active with Red Barn until at least 1952. For a sample of the Red Barn / White Church sound, listen to Odis Echols and his Melody Boys from 78_11457 and the Blackwood Brothers from 78_14323 below. 78_11457_1_Odis Echols and his Melody Boys 78_14323_1, Blackwood Bros. Quartet, “Won’t We Be Happy” Southern Folklife Collection, The Wilson Library, UNC Chapel Hill
UNESCO, in cooperation with the Co-ordinating Council of Audiovisual Archives Associations (CCAAA) and other partners, has adopted 27 October as the World Day for Audiovisual Heritage to better focus global attention on the significance of AV documents and to draw attention to the need to safeguard them. The theme for this year’s celebration is “Saving Our Heritage for the Next Generation.”
The Southern Folklife Collection works toward this goal daily in our efforts to preserve the hundreds of thousands of sound recordings, film and video housed in Wilson Library. Through grant-funded digitization projects and through research driven requests, the Southern Folklife Collection has digitized and made available tens of thousands of recordings documenting the vast riches of traditional expressive culture from the American South and around the world. The John M. Rivers, Jr. Studio (pictured above, right, and below) and the Ben Jones Audio and Video Studios constantly echo with the sounds, songs, and stories collected from centuries past through the 21st.
Audiovisual documents, such as films, radio and television programmes, are our common heritage and contain the primary records of the 20th and 21st centuries. They help to maintain the cultural identity of a people; but countless documentary treasures have disappeared since the invention of image and sound technologies that permit the peoples of the world to better share their experiences, creativity and knowledge.
All of the world’s audiovisual heritage is endangered. Nowhere can it be said to be preserved, but through initiatives such as theWorld Day for Audiovisual Heritage and the Memory of the World Programme, the precious work of preservation professionals is given impetus to manage a range of technical, political, social, financial and other factors that threaten the safeguarding of our heritage.
It was in this context, that the General Conference in 2005 approved the commemoration of a World Day for Audiovisual Heritage as a mechanism to raise general awareness of the need for urgent measures to be taken and to acknowledge the importance of audiovisual documents as an integral part of national identity. (UNESCO)
Regular readers of Field Trip South will not be surprised to see the Mike Seeger Collection featured here. Many of Seeger’s photographs are currently digitized and available for viewing online: iconic images of America’s musical treasures like Ralph and Carter Stanley, the Carter Sisters, Lesley Riddle, Dock Boggs, and of course, the beloved NC Piedmont picker and singer, Elizabeth Cotten.
The Southern Folklife Collection has preserved hundreds of hours of Seeger’s field recordings and his own master tapes. Every tape is a treat, but occasionally we come upon an especially outstanding track like this version of “Well May the World Go” featuring Mike performing with his brother, the legendary folksinger Pete, on 29 January 1973. They tore through three versions of the tune that day. Have a listen to the third take of that piece here, from FT14925 in the Mike Seeger Collection:FT14295_Mike_Seeger_&_Pete_Seeger
Another recent standout track comes from The New Tranquility String Band (FT14198.) This outtake of “Boatman” was recorded during sessions for the Berkley Farms: Oldtime and Country Style Music of Berkley LP originally released for Smithsonian Folkways in 1972. This version version has the jaw harp higher in the mix, giving it a striking old-time feel that we like. FT14198_Mike_Seeger_Berkley The Piedmont to the Swamplands grant also allowed us to digitize the majority of audio recordings collected by folklorist and UNC professor William R. Ferris. With thousands of audio recordings, photographs, and feet of film, the William R. Ferris Collection is an invaluable resource documenting the people and culture of the American South, an archival treasure trove reflecting the ineffable “sense of place” that makes the South such a compelling–and haunting–place. Many of Ferris’s photographs are available online. This performance by a young child, Don Singleton recorded on FT 9918, made our jaws drop. FT9918_BFC_FANNIE BELL CHILDRENS CONCERT
This next tape was recorded during the process of filming a documentary film about the remarkable Fannie Bell Chapman. The complete film can be viewed in full on Folkstreams.net.,Fannie Bell Chapman: Gospel Singer. The following version of “Now Sister Go Where I Send Thee” is from FT9974, the first of six tapes recording Chapman’s music recorded in August 1975. FT9974_BFC_Fannie Bell Chapman_Now Sister Go Where I Send Thee Ferris documented the secular as well as the sacred and his recordings of Mississippi blues artists are equally vital documents. The following track is from one of the first recordings of the bluesman “Big Jack” Johnson. From FT11151, this is Johnson performing on guitar with harmonica player Wash Herron. FT11151_BFC_Wash Herron_Big Jack_Johnson
These clips offer but a glimpse into the Southern Folklife Collection’s preservation efforts. The public is encouraged to explore our finding aids for detailed inventories and description of archival collections and the UNC Libraries online catalog for materials of interest and request that they be preserved and made available for research. Feel free to contact the SFC with any comments or questions at email@example.com. We also hope you will enjoy some music this Sunday, October 27, World Day for Audiovisual Heritage, and think about institutions like the Southern Folklife Collection, the Library of Congress, and countless other archives and institutions that are working to preserve our aural and visual history.
Life as a country musician has never been easy and Earl Scruggs spent grueling years on the road in the late 1940s pioneering the bluegrass sound with fellow road warriors Bill Monroe, Chubby Wise, Howard Watts, and Lester Flatt. After Flatt and Scruggs left the Blue Grass Boys in 1948, the popularity of Bluegrass music began to grow and through the resourceful management of Louise Certain, soon to be Louise Scruggs, the band secured the sponsorship of Martha White Flour and what was hopefully a more comfortable means of transportation. Still between radio performances, recording sessions, and live shows, the band often performed multiple times per day. The image below features The Foggy Mountain Boys on an unknown stage in the 1950s.