Directed by Kenny Dalsheimer, You Gave Me A Song (http://www.alicegerrardfilm.com/) “offers an intimate portrait of old-time music pioneer Alice Gerrard and her remarkable, unpredictable journey creating and preserving traditional music.”
Check your local member stations for when it might air in your area, but North Carolina’s UNC-TV will air it in the coming days over its various stations:
Reel South – You Gave Me A Song
Thursday, May 14, 10:00 pm – UNC-TV
Friday, May 15, 04:00 am – North Carolina Channel
Sunday, May 17, 10:00 pm – North Carolina Channel
Explore a few of the SFC’s resources featured in the film and related to Alice Gerrard below:
Last year, while writing a final research paper on the Carolina Chocolate Drops’ wonderful 2012 album, Leaving Eden, I encountered the music of the late hillbilly performer Cousin Emmy. The Carolina Chocolate Drops had covered her single “Ruby” for the album, notably adding a beat boxer for their arrangement. I loved the song, and the difficulty of finding anything beyond variations on the same basic biography of Emmy was intriguing. Besides wondering how her actual childhood and life compared to the brief anecdotes I found mentioned constantly, I came upon a more simple question: what was her real name? In theory, the answer was as simple as the question: several credible sources mentioned Cynthia May Carver as Cousin Emmy’s real name. However, the 1946 Decca single that featured “Ruby” credited the songwriter as one “Joy May Creasy.” When the Osborne Brothers had their first hit on MGM Records in 1956 with their rendition of “Ruby Are You Mad,” the song was simply credited to Cousin Emmy, suggesting that Joy May Creasy and Cousin Emmy were one and the same. This seemed to be further confirmed by an oft-cited 1943 Time magazine profile that claims Cousin Emmy was christened Joy May Creasy outside Lamb, Kentucky. After searching pictures of gravestones, countless liner note mentions, copyright renewals, and census records, I had found many more instances of both names, including some minor variations (Mae instead of May, Jo rather than Joy, etc.). I felt that I could safely conclude that both these names held some truth, and the variation in reporting was probably due to a failed (and unmentioned) marriage, the use of pet names, and/or some other unknown factor.
This summer, I was fortunate to begin working here in the Southern Folklife Collection, where I have been exposed to a wealth of information on early hillbilly performers like Cousin Emmy. As I pulled items for researcher questions and digitization, I began to revisit Cousin Emmy and to try to add some more context to her story. I settled on a simple goal: find a resource that mentioned both Joy May Creasy and Cynthia May Carver, or at least something that explained the difference. In the SFC Song Folio Collection (30006), I found Chimney Corner Songs, FL-0137, which offered an interesting biography of Cousin Emmy and her fellow performers. Although it did not specifically mention her real name or a marriage, it led me to two different, illustrative sources in the Special Collections and Archives at Berea College. First, I searched a similar songbook collection and found a songbook that includes a biography for Johnny Creasy, the announcer on Cousin Emmy’s show, that also mentions his attraction to Cousin Emmy. Chimney Corner Songs was published and largely credited to John Lair, whose papers and correspondence are held at Berea. In that correspondence is a 1941 letter from Cousin Emmy, in which she champions herself and her husband, an announcer: “My husband is a very good announcer. We both work nice together.”
So, Cousin Emmy was born Cynthia May Carver outside Lamb, Kentucky. At least at some point, she also went by Joy. She was married to a Johnny Creasy (whose first name might have been Alfred) for some time, despite many claims, including in the Time article, that she had never married. Of course, I also found a scribbled note card in the SFC Artist Name File (30005) for Cousin Emmy, NF-538, that states “Cousin Emmy was married to Joe Fred White before she was in radio (He’s in Florida).” In the Entertainment Industry Magazine Archive, an online database, I found a small blurb in a 1949 issue of Variety magazine: “St. L.’s ‘Cousin Emmy’ Divorced St. Louis, June 14 Elmer Schaller, farmer living at Lenzburg, Ill., near here, last week won an uncontested divorce from his wife, who has been the “Cousin Emmy” of KMOX’s early a.m. hillbilly program. Couple was married April, 1945, and separated March, 1948. Mrs. Schaller has been a radio entertainer for seven years.”
Cousin Emmy’s on-stage persona and biographical information were constantly being tailored to her audience, from hillbilly music on the radio to the folk revival with Alan Lomax in the 1940s and the New Lost City Ramblers in the 1960s. Separating all the details of her life from the stories spinning all around her would surely be an impossible task, but I plan on putting on “Ruby” and digging around a little more.
Yep Roc Records and UNC Libraries’ Southern Folklife Collection Release Never-Before-Heard Live Album Recorded At Club 47 (Club Passim) February 10, 1963 Pre-order Doc Watson, Live At Club 47HERE! Yep Roc Records and the Southern Folklife Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Libraries announce the release of Doc Watson,Live at Club 47, set for a February 9 release on CD and digital, nearly 55 years to the date of the original recording. The LP release will follow April 27. The album is now available for pre-order.
Recorded live February 10, 1963 at Club 47 in Cambridge, MA, today known as Club Passim, this never-before-heard album features four previously unreleased songs from Doc’s early repertoire, in addition to performances of Doc’s favorite songs of the Carter Family, Frank Hutchison, Charlie Poole, and Merle Travis. Doc is accompanied by John Herald and Ralph Rinzler of The Greenbrier Boys on five of the album’s tracks. Here is the schedule from Club 47 as printed in The Broadside of Boston, volume 1, no. 24, Feb. 8, 1963 from the Southern Folklife Collection Serials (30017)
In celebration of the release, Club Passim, the UNC Libraries’ Southern Folklife Collection and Yep Roc Records present an evening with songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and IBMA guitarist of the year Molly Tuttle February 13. Tickets are on sale and available here.
“This recording documents a pivotal moment in virtuoso Doc Watson’s early solo career,” notes Steven Weiss, director of the Southern Folklife Collection. “This is Doc, paying his dues and playing his heart out, performing two sets of classic, old-time country songs he learned as a child from his family and from old 78 RPM records.”
Following the success of the Club 47 show, Doc was booked at the 1963 Newport Folk Festival and released his debut solo album on Vanguard Records in 1964. He went on to become America’s premier folk guitarist earning seven Grammy Awards, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, and in 1997 was presented with the National Medal of Arts at the White House by then-President Bill Clinton, who introduced him saying, “There may not be a serious, committed baby boomer alive who didn’t spend at least some of his or her youth trying to learn to pick guitar like Doc Watson.” Doc Watson, Live at Club 47 Track listing:
Wabash Cannonball – A.P. Carter
The House Carpenter — Traditional
I Wish I Was Single Again** – Traditional
Little Darling Pal of Mine – A.P. Carter
Train That Carried My Girl from Town – Doc Watson
The Worried Blues –Traditional
Old Dan Tucker** – Traditional
Sweet Heaven When I Die – Claude Grant
The Talking Blues – Chris Bouchillon
Little Margaret** — Traditional
Sitting on Top of the World – Lonnie Carter and Walter Jacobs
Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down – Doc Watson
Blue Smoke – Merle Travis
Deep River Blues – Doc Watson
Way Down Town (w/ Ralph Rinzler and John Herald) – Doc Watson
Somebody Touched Me (w/ Ralph Rinzler and John Herald) – Doc Watson
Billy in the Low Ground (w/ John Herald) – Traditional
Boil Them Cabbage Down – Traditional
Everyday Dirt – David McCarn
I Am a Pilgrim – Merle Travis
No Telephone in Heaven – A.P. Carter
Hop High Ladies the Cake’s All Dough** –Traditional
Little Sadie – Doc Watson
Black Mountain Rag (w/ John Herald) – Doc Watson
Blackberry Rag (w/ John Herald) – Doc Watson
Days of My Childhood Plays – Alfred G. Karnes
John Herald (guitar and harmony vocals). Tracks 15, 16 (second guitar) 17, 24, 25.
Ralph Rinzler (mandolin and harmony vocals). Tracks 15, 16.
**previously unreleased tracks.
Pre-order Doc Watson, Live At Club 47HERE!
This past month the SFC surpassed over 20,000 streaming files of digitized audiovisual recordings, all accessible through UNC Library finding aids. Digitized over the course of a number of years through in-house and outsourcing efforts, the content represents materials from over 75 different collections, ranging from Western North Carolina flatfoot dancers to Mississippi juke joint performances.
With the more recent addition of video content and the increase in production in our audio studios since starting our Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant in August 2015, there’s a lot to explore online. Since it might be overwhelming to know where to start, I thought I’d share my top 5 countdown of memorable moments from watching and listening over the last couple of months.
5. The time Dr. William R. Ferris panned across the Mississippi and framed the New Orleans skyline, from the vantage point of what is now the Crescent City Park in the Bywater (one of my favorite places in N.O!), while documenting his trip on the Delta Queen in 1987 (VT-20367/24).
Starts around the 33 minute mark Delta Queen, 17-24 April 1987: tape 1 of 4 Dr. William R. Ferris Collection, 20367 Video8
4. Finding this disc in the stacks during a conservation survey and spending many weeks curious about its contents before finally having it digitized. I’d be very curious if anyone knows the whereabouts of this band. (FD-20245/836) Chicken Way’s “Classy Lady ” Goldband Recording Corporation Collection, 20245
3. When James “Son” Thomas performed with George Thorogood and Ron Smith, and the video switcher employed some creative video effects (VT-20466/3) James “”Son Ford”” Thomas with George Thorogood and Ron Smith, 1978 Robert D. Bethke Collection, 20466
2. This SFC department favorite featuring Hazel Dickens, Alice Gerrard, Mike Seeger, Tracey Schwartz and a beautiful sunny backdrop (VT-20006/2). Bonus music videos by unidentified bands at the end! Woman Alive: Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard with Mike Seeger and Tracey Schwartz, November 1975 Alice Gerrard Collection, 20006
VHS dub from unknown format LAST, BUT NOT LEAST….
1. When a nightmarish Barney joined a Mt. Airy dance contest (VT-20009/272). The beloved dinosaur from our imagination appears around 5:20 minute mark Mt Airy Fiddlers convention, dance contest Rufus Kasey, Molln part 2, 1997 Mike Seeger Collection, 20009
Happy Field Tripping!
Looking into correspondence in folder 220 from the Mike Seeger Collection (20009) today provided some fascinating reading from the desk of Dock Boggs. The letters offer numerous details into Boggs’ late recording and performing career.
I also noticed what appears to be a draft of Dock Boggs’ bio written in pencil on the back of multiple fliers advertising performances at the legendary Melrose Ave. music club, the Ash Grove. Looks like May, 1963 was a pretty awesome time to be hanging out in LA.
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
Greetings from the Audiovisual Preservation and Access team!
Starting today we have another fresh batch of streaming video, so I thought I’d share some highlights gathered from my time reviewing the footage.
Click on any of the images below to view the video they were captured from. All other content mentioned can be found by going directly to the collection link and searching the collection finding aid. Mike Seeger Collection (20009): Video from various music and dance events in Mt. Airy, NC, an interview with Snuffy Jenkins, recording of Almeda Riddle, and a 1975 broadcast performance with Hazel Dickens, Alice Gerrard, Mike Seeger and Tracey Schwartz Almeda Riddle and Mike Seeger deep in thought at Almeda’s home in Greers Ferry, AR on May 3, 1984 (VT-20009/137)
William R. Ferris Collection (20367): Interviews with Eudora Welty, Cleanth Brooks, Pete Seeger, and James “Son” Thomas, concert footage of Bobby Rush, and video documentation of Dr. Ferris’ trip down the Mississippi river aboard the Delta Queen Bobby Rush in concert at the Hoka in Oxford, MS on July 25, 1987 (VT-20367/31)
Anne Romaine (20304): Various appearances and concerts with Anne Romaine on auto harp and footage of the Blue Ridge Mountain Dancers “Take me for a ride in your car car” – Anne Romaine performs for Langly Park-McCormick Elementary school children (VT-20304/14)
Archie Green (20002): Video of the Archie Green Symposium held at UNC-Chapel Hill in 2009 and an interview with Archie Green on labor culture in 2001 Archie Green talking about laborlore in San Francisco on September 20, 2001 (VT-20002/43)
J Taylor Doggett (20286): Performance by T-Bone Pruitt, tribute to John Tanner, various Five Royales television appearances, and video of the 1992 North Carolina Folk Heritage Awards Ceremony The dedication of Five Royales Drive on August 23, 1991 in Winston-Salem, NC (VT-20286/23)
In addition to the 4 collections listed above, we have also made available streaming content from the George Hamilton IV (20410) collection, which can be viewed online if you are on campus here at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. This collection contains a number of appearances, interviews, and performances with George Hamilton IV, as well as a handful of Grand Ole Opry shows.
Earlier this month we began streaming videos from the Nancy Kalow and Wayne Martin collection (20047) and theNancy Kalow Collection (20113), which you can read about in our last post from Aaron here.
Enjoy your weekend! Signing off with another one of my favorites: Corey Harris, July 1994 (VT-20009/150, Mike Seeger Collection)
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)
Jean Ritchie–singer, scholar, songwriter, activist, Kentuckian, “The Mother of Folk”–passed away June 1 at the age of 92. We wanted to share some images of Ritchie in remembrance of her life and in honor of her vitally important contributions to the promotion and preservation of traditional music in Appalachia, America, and beyond.
Ray Sullivan of the Photo Sound Associates team in New York City documented Ritchie in the late 1950s, recording herself in a small space on an open reel tape machine and performing at a concert of the Folksingers Guild. From the look on Ritchie’s face, it must have been a good session. Following are a few images from the Southern Folk Cultural Revival Project–including SFCRP founder Anne Romaine, Mike Seeger, Doc Watson, Rosa Lee Watson, Bessie Jones, and more–with whom Ritchie would occasionally tour.
Finally, for listening we pulled out a special recording of Ritchie from the Artus Moser Papers (20004). Ritchie was a senior at the University of Kentucky in April of 1946 when she attended the Renfro Valley Folk Festival and sang a number of ballads for Artus Moser collecting for the Library of Congress. The following, “Lord Grumble,” “I Married Me a Wife (Gentle Fair Jenny),” “Foggy Dew” and “The Little Old Woman” come from a 12″ acetate disc FD_0501. Thank you Jean Ritchie. Peace to you, your family, your friends, and your fans. Father Grumble_FD0501_Artus Moser Papers_20004I Married Me a Wife_Gentle Fair Jenny_FD0501_Artus Moser Papers_20004The Foggy Dew_FD0501_Artus Moser Papers_20004The Little Old Woman_FD0501_Artus Moser Papers_20004