I was reflecting on this crazy year recently, and feeling grateful for our Elizabeth Cotten event earlier in November, a heartwarming hour amid all the noise of the previous few months that was fun to share and experience with all who tuned in.
In case you missed it, the full event is available to stream below from the UNC Libraries YouTube channel.
Cotten’s great-grandson John Evans, Jr. and his family, along with Yasmin Williams, bookended the event with performances that recalled the origins of Cotten’s music, along with how it continues to inspire contemporary musicians.
There was also a glimpse and mention of Dick Waterman in Gerrard’s slideshow, and the SFC holds the Dick Waterman Photography Collection (https://finding-aids.lib.unc.edu/20533/), a rich resource of photographs documenting the blues, country, and rock music scenes from the 1960s to the early 2000s.
The Elizabeth Cotten appearance on Pete Seeger’s Rainbow Quest TV show that opened the event can be found here a little more smoothly than the video capture over Zoom. The SFC has the original 2″ quad video of that show in the Pete Kuykendall Collection (https://finding-aids.lib.unc.edu/20546/).
This hour-long virtual program will feature guitarist Yasmin Williams, musician and scholar Alice Gerrard, and Cotten’s great-grandson John W. Evans Jr., who is pictured above as a young boy listening to Cotten.
Many live concert recordings are held in the McCabe’s Guitar Shop Collection (https://finding-aids.lib.unc.edu/20511/), which also includes a video interview, from around 1984, of Cotten and some of her family. The Grammy-award winning Elizabeth Cotten, Live! recording (pictured above), a sampler of live performances from Cotten in her 80s, includes selections from sets recorded at McCabe’s and preserved in the collection.
The Stefan Grossman Collection (https://finding-aids.lib.unc.edu/20578/), picked up in December 2019, also offers some classic Cotten material through his Vestapol label, a deep source of a variety of video recordings of jazz, blues, country, and folk artists.
Perhaps the richest source of Cotten material is held in the Mike Seeger Collection (https://finding-aids.lib.unc.edu/20009/). It was while in employment as a housekeeper for the Seeger family that Cotten picked up a guitar again after a period of musical inactivity, and Mike Seeger’s reel-to-reel recordings of her playing propelled her to becoming a popular figure on the folk circuit, and a touring and performing career that lasted into her 90s.
And if you ever find yourself down our way in Elizabeth Cotten’s hometown, check out this recently installed mural by North Carolina artist Scott Nurkin, near the Chapel Hill/Carrboro border, as part of the Musician Murals Project.
We are happy to invite you to the second of our two virtual first-ever screenings of these films made possible by the grant, Tuesday, October 6th, at 7pm. To view A.R. Cole, Potter, 1969, by Terry W. Rushin (https://finding-aids.lib.unc.edu/20402/), click the link below to register and join us for this wonderful short film covering a day in the life of ceramicist A.R. Cole and his family’s multi-generational pottery shop in Sanford, NC.
UNC student and frequent Field Trip South contributor, Hunter Randolph, will be presenting a short film he made, “Stories in the Clay: The Pottery & Poetry of Neolia Cole Womack,” and discussing the eastern Piedmont’s pottery traditions.
Revisit Anne’s excellent post about the grant award below.
Documenting Gravel Springs, Mississippi, in the 1970s
Exhibition opening with lecture by Dr. Cheryl Thurber and performance by Rising Star Fife and Drum 5:30 p.m. Reception and exhibition viewing 6:00 p.m. Lecture 7:00 p.m. Performance
Scenes and sounds of African-American musical traditions from Mississippi will greet visitors to Wilson Library during the opening of a new photographic exhibition in the Pleasants Family Assembly Room.
“Cheryl Thurber Photographs: Documenting Gravel Springs, Mississippi, in the 1970s” will launch with a talk by the photographer and a performance by Rising Star Fife and Drum.
Thurber is an interdisciplinary scholar, cultural historian, folklorist and photographer whose images have been published in the New York Times and Rolling Stone, as well as in numerous music and folklore publications.
During the 1970s and 1980s, Thurber traveled through the South and California, documenting African-American communities, musicians and musical traditions, including in the small town of Gravel Springs, Mississippi. Thirty prints from Thurber’s time in Gravel Springs will be on view. They are part of the Cheryl Thurber Photographic Collection in the Southern Folklife Collection at the Wilson Special Collections Library.
Following Thurber’s talk, Rising Star Fife and Drum will take the stage for a traditional performance of this iconic form of blues music.
Presented by the Southern Folklife Collection at the Wilson Special Collections Library, the American Studies department and the Center for the Study of the American South.
We are very excited for next week’s Czech Bluegrass Residency – Banjo Romantika at UNC and Chapel Hill, February 8-10, 2018. See the complete schedule of events, including performances, film screening, and banjo workshop below.
Czech bluegrass might seem like a contradiction, but work by musician and ethnomusicologist Dr. Lee Bidgood and banjo virtuoso Richard Ciferský shows how this music that emerged from post-WWII America has come to flourish in the heart of Europe. Bidgood and Ciferský are bringing their research and music to UNC Chapel Hill for a special three-day residency.
The residency will feature a screening of Banjo Romantika, a feature length documentary film that Bidgood co-produced with filmmaker Shara Lange,at the Nelson Mandela Auditorium in the FedEx Global Education Center on UNC’s campus. Dr. Bidgood (East Tennessee State University) will discuss the film briefly at the screening.
Based on Bidgood’s fieldwork in the Czech Republic, the documentary explores the Czech musicians’ lives, connections to bluegrass, and understanding of their culture as they blend and reimagine a style imported from beyond the Iron Curtain in the 1950s and cultivate it as their own. Music in the film includes live concert and festival recordings, field recordings of jams and interviews, studio recordings. The film incorporates additional footage with Slovak banjo standout Richard Ciferský and faculty from the East Tennessee State University’s Bluegrass, Old Time, and Country Music Studies program including Dan Boner, Ed Snodderly, and contemporary mandolin master Adam Steffey.
A Chapel Hill native, Bidgood graduated from Chapel Hill High School then received a degree in viola performance at UNC Chapel Hill. While a student, he played mandolin with Steep Canyon Rangers during their early years. Bidgood traveled to the Czech Republic on a student Fulbright grant, and completed a PhD from the University of Virginia with a dissertation based on his fieldwork in the Czech Republic. Bidgood’s book, Czech Bluegrass: Notes from the Heart of Europe, was published in 2017 by University of Illinois Press. He also reaches audiences through his radio show on global country music, “Over the Waves,” that is broadcast on Bristol, VA station WBCM.
Richard Ciferský, born in Pezinok, Slovakia, brings a lifetime of musical experience that seems far greater than his age. He first encountered bluegrass through a scout troop. His first instrument was a guitar, but he soon switched to banjo and started playing in bands. Richard co-founded the Slovak Bluegrass Association (SkBMA) in 1999 and served as its president from 2000 to 2005. He has toured in Europe and the US and recorded with artists including The Chapmans, Dale Ann Bradley, and Becky Buller. Fluent in both traditional and progressive styles, his technique is dazzling, and his soulful expression runs deep.
In addition to events on campus, Bidgood and Ciferský will visit the Czech and Slovak School of North Carolina on Saturday morning to meet with adults and children who are renewing their language skills, or are working to make new connections through this language and its related cultures.
The Czech Bluegrass Residency with Dr. Bidgood and Mr. Ciferský is organized as part of UNC’s Bluegrass Initiative to integrate the study and performance of this music into the curriculum and artistic life of UNC. This residency will be a terrific opportunity to hear about their work and their music, and experience their playing live. Bidgood recognizes that a global awareness was one of the things he drew from his own undergraduate education at UNC, and he is eager to provide a new sense of the global dimensions of bluegrass to current students: “Gaining a global perspective is an important part of the college education experience, and considering Czech Bluegrass provides us with new insights on the processes, the problems and promise, of globalization.” It is also a chance to experience some fascinating music!
UNC Events – Banjo Romantika Residency
Thursday, February 8, 2018
12:30 p.m. Masterclass and Lecture with MUSC 144 Students, hosted by Dr. Jocelyn Neal, UNC Chapel Hill Hanes Auditorium
Friday, February 9, 2018
7:00 p.m. Banjo Romantika Band with Richard Cifersky perform at Vimala’s Curryblossom Cafe, 431 W Franklin St, Chapel Hill Free and open to the public.
Saturday, February 10, 2018
10:00 a.m. Visit to the Czech and Slovak School of North Carolina (contact: Marta McCabe: email@example.com)
2:00 p.m. Banjo Workshop with Richard Ciferský, UNC Chapel Hill, Person Recital Hall. Free and open to all banjo or bluegrass players.
4:00 p.m. Banjo Romantika, a film screening and Q&A with Dr. Bidgood, UNC Chapel Hill, Nelson Mandela Auditorium. Free and open to the public.
Sponsors: UNC Bluegrass Initiative Southern Folklife Collection Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures Czech and Slovak School of North Carolina
Wikipedia edit-a-thon: North Carolina Heritage Award winners
Tuesday, April 5, 5:00 to 8:45 p.m.
Wilson Library, UNC-Chapel Hill
On April 5, the North Carolina Collection and the Southern Folklife Collection will host a Wikipedia edit-a-thon, with support from PineCone and the North Carolina Arts Council, an agency of the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. Join us for an evening of social Wikipedia editing in Wilson Library.
Everyone is welcome, even if you’ve never edited Wikipedia before. Staff will be on hand to help with Wikipedia edits, find books and articles on topics that interest you, and to help you with Wikipedia edits. We’ll provide a list of suggested topics, but participants may pursue any topic they choose.
We’ll have free pizza (and a few salad options) to fuel your research and we’ll be raffling off prizes throughout the evening.
The event will begin with a brief workshop on Wikipedia editing, but feel free to arrive and leave whenever it suits you.
The Southern Folklife Collection is honored to host producer, writer, and filmmaker Joe Boyd at The Wilson Special Collections Library on Thursday, September 24 at 5:30 PM. The producer of albums by Nick Drake, Fairport Convention, and Pink Floyd will discuss and screen his work in music documentaries.
We will be screening the acclaimed documentary Bayou Maharajah exploring the life and music of New Orleans piano legend James Booker. For more information about the film visit: http://www.bayoumaharajah.com/
Please join us.
September 24, 2015
Wilson Library, Pleasants Family Assembly Room
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
THIS EVENT IS FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
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.
The Southern Folklife Collection (SFC) in Wilson Library is the program sponsor. Mazor and Flemons have both conducted extensive research in the Collection and are friends with one another, said SFC curator Steve Weiss. Ralph Peer and the Making of Popular Roots Music was released in November to critical acclaim. The New York Times called it “a beautifully written portrait of an utterly fascinating man. One is continually astonished at how a shipping clerk from Independence, Mo., at various junctions in his life, made decisions that transformed American music by bringing new artists and forms of music — from country, blues and bluegrass to early rock ‘n’ roll — to millions of citizens who had not yet encountered them.”
Peer’s accomplishments include sparking the blues craze by recording Mamie Smith’s “Crazy Blues;” discovering the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers; and helping transform popular music well through the postwar years.
In the stacks of the SFC, Mazor — a winner of the 2008 Charlie Lamb Award for Excellence in Country Music Journalism — was able to draw on a unique recorded interview with Ralph Peer, as well as correspondence between Peer and musician Sara Carter of The Carter Family, found in the SFC’s Ed Kahn Collection. Those letters will be on display at the event. Flemons, too, has deep ties to the SFC. In 2012, the Grammy-winning banjo player and former member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops described in an interview how video recordings and interviews in the Collection have informed his work. “There is something that a visual artifact can do that is greater than a mere recording,” he said. “You get to see the player and performer in the flesh and see how they played the music.”
The Dom Flemons Papers, 2004-2009, are part of the Southern Folklife Collection, and consist of audio and video recordings, photographs, programs, and related materials that Flemons has donated. Approximately 200 photographs from the collection, including publicity stills of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, may be viewed online, via the UNC Library’s Carolina Digital Repository.
[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.
*Special guest post by Laura McPherson, UNC-SILS graduate student and SFC assistant*
As we wait with baited breath for the Southern Folklife Collection’s Steel Guitar Symposium and Concert [symposium is free to the public, tickets to the concert are available to purchase] to begin on Saturday, March 23, we’ve scoured our serials holdings to bring y’all some interesting items on the steel guitar, its history, and the musicians who love it.
Inside the magazine, an article penned by Byrd sets himself as the defendant in a courtroom drama where the prosecutor represents his fans, whose questions run the gamut from “amusing” to “accusing, and abusing.” Later in the article, Byrd claims that the steel guitar is the most controversial instrument and reacts to attempts to standardize the instrument, relegate its use to the genre of country music, and elevate technique above the musicians’s emotional expression.
The SFC also holds Volumes 1-3 of Steel Guitar World Magazine, whose tagline, “Just for the love of steel’en” (or steelin’, depending on the issue), can be seen below on this creative cover from the November 1992 issue.
So whether you call it the pedal steel, slide steel, lap steel, dobro, or just plain steel guitar, swing by the Southern Folklife Collection to check out some of these marvelous magazines and join us on Saturday, March 23, at the ArtsCenter in Carrboro for the final event in the Southern Folklife Collection’s Instrument Series!