Early in November, the Southern Folklife Collection wrapped up its two-part Folk Legacy Series celebrating great legacies in American vernacular music. The series was sponsored through generous support from the Martin Guitar Charitable Foundation.
In “Boom Boom! The Music of John Lee Hooker,” Alvin Youngblood Hart and Bobby Rush both gave foot stomping performances to boogie along to, and then, in a lively discussion with Wayne Goins, reflected on the career and influence of Hooker.
Our first event of the fall — “Won’t You Come and Sing For Me? The Music of Hazel Dickens & Alice Gerrard” — featured a set from Tatiana Hargreaves and Alison DeGroot, followed by Dudley Connell and Sally Love Connell. The evening finished with a roundtable discussion led by Laurie Lewis, and involving Gerrard, Peter Siegel – producer of the first Hazel & Alice record — Hargreaves, DeGroot, and Connell.
The Southern Folklife Collection is proud to hold a number of collections that document the life and work of John Lee Hooker, including audio and video recordings, interviews, and photographs.
The Rosebud Agency Collection , founded by Mike Kappus in 1976, represented Hooker for the latter part of his career, and includes a range of items from correspondence, publicity and promotional materials, as well as audio and video recordings.
This event is the second in the Southern Folklife Collection’s two-part Folk Legacy Series celebrating great legacies in American vernacular music. The series is sponsored through generous support from the Martin Guitar Charitable Foundation. The first event, Won’t You Come and Sing for Me? The Music of Hazel and Alice, was October 14, 2021, which you can rewatch here: Won’t You Come and Sing for Me? The Music of Hazel and Alice
In preparation for the upcoming event “Won’t You Come and Sing for Me? The Music of Hazel Dickens & Alice Gerrard” here are some thoughts on a recording of a Hazel Dickens & Alice Gerrard performance in 1973 by guest writer Tatiana Hargreaves.
Tatiana Hargreaves is a first year graduate student at UNC’s School of Information and Library Science Master of Science in Library Science program. She is a lecturer of bluegrass fiddle in the music department at UNC and performs internationally with banjo player Allison de Groot. She received her BA in ethnomusicology and music performance from Hampshire College in 2017.
Won’t You Come and Sing for Me? The Music of Hazel Dickens & Alice Gerrard
Thursday, October 14th at 7pm Eastern time.
This virtual event will feature performances by International Bluegrass Music Association vocalist of the year award winner Dudley Connell, fiddler Tatiana Hargreaves and clawhammer banjo player Allison de Groot. Following their performances, the musicians will participate in a panel discussion moderated by Laurie Lewis and Gerrard with record producer Peter Siegel. This event is the first in the Southern Folklife Collection’s two-part Folk Legacy Series celebrating great legacies in American vernacular music: bluegrass pioneers Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard and legendary blues musician John Lee Hooker. The virtual events are free and open to the public. The series is sponsored through generous support from the Martin Guitar Charitable Foundation. The second event, Boom Boom! The Music of John Lee Hooker, will take place November 4, 2021.
Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard, often described as “pioneering women of bluegrass,” are two of the most iconic and visible women in the bluegrass music community. Their first album released in 1965 is considered the first women duet-led bluegrass recording and as a duo they recorded three more albums and toured extensively throughout the 1960s and 1970s. They performed at festivals such as the Newport Folk Festival, Smithsonian Folk Festival and Bill Monroe’s Bean Blossom Festival and regularly participated in the Southern Folk Cultural Revival Project where they toured with artists such as Elizabeth Cotten, Dock Boggs, Ola Belle Reed, Johnny Shines, and many others. In 2017 they were the first women to be inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Association Hall of Fame. But even with musicians as visible as Hazel and Alice, there are so many details that go unnoticed.
The standard Hazel and Alice narrative focuses on their powerful harmony singing and repertoire choice. What isn’t recognized as much is their instrumental performances, attention to detail in song arrangements and overall artistry. On their professional recordings, you hear a selected and curated outcome of both traditional and original material, mostly in the context of a full band. Their last album has some more stripped down duo arrangements, but listening to this live performance of Hazel and Alice from 1973 shows another side of the duo. This concert recording of just the two of them demonstrates the versatility of their musicianship. Throughout the performance, you can hear Gerrard playing lead guitar, lead banjo, and lead autoharp in addition to both Alice and Hazel being featured as solo vocalists.
Hearing their stage banter and tuning on stage also gives a more intimate perspective on the duo. Sometimes you can hear Dickens say “too fast” at the beginning of a song as they adjust their speed during the performance. Other times you can hear the two of them moving around, deciding where to stand and how close to the mic to get. Other times, you can even hear them reminding each other how a tune starts or what the next verse of a song is. Dickens does most of the talking as she shares stories about her family, touring anecdotes and the backgrounds of the songs. Meanwhile, Gerrard tunes the various instruments that she plays and adds in commentary, only introducing a few of the songs such as her banjo feature “Fortune.”
While Gerrard tunes the banjo in between the songs “Train on the Island” and “Steals of the White Man,” Dickens talks about changing their song choices when they started doing the Southern Folk Festival (https://finding-aids.lib.unc.edu/20004/). She adds, “I don’t want to say ‘repertoire’, that’s too uptown” and laughs. The tours couldn’t afford to pay for the full band, so they rearranged their material as a duo and added new repertoire (I know, too uptown). You can hear some of the practicing recordings of Hazel and Alice working on these arrangements on the 2018 release ‘Hazel Dickens & Alice Gerrard – Sing Me Back Home: The DC Tapes, 1965-1969’s.
Some of the stage banter is humorous, such as Dickens’ story about her father who used to play banjo. She talks about how he would play square dances, barn raisings, apple butter makings, and many other events but stopped once he “got religion.” When Dickens and her brother encouraged their father to play the banjo again by getting him a new instrument, she says, “he got up in the middle of the night one night and destroyed it.”
Dickens and Gerrard also include anecdotes about their song choices. For example, before singing “Steals of a White Man,” Dickens talks about the influence of the Southern Folk Festival tours (https://finding-aids.lib.unc.edu/20004/) on her conception of class. She jokes, “I never even knew that I belonged to the working class [before these tours]. I didn’t even know I had a class.” Although she’d been singing working class songs her whole life, she just didn’t know that they were called that. Later, when Dickens announces “Mining Camp Blues,” she talks about Trixie Smith being the only Black woman singer she knew of who wrote a song about mining. On the second tape, Gerrard introduces her song “Hey, Mr. Nixon” by saying “I wrote it after I saw the Indo-China peace campaign with Jane Fonda.” She also adds that she has only performed it once before and needs a lyric sheet, which you then hear her try to pin up on the mic stand.
One of my favorite moments from the performance is when Gerrard plays the tune “Fortune” on banjo. She announces the tune with, “This is my favorite fiddle tune”, to which Dickens replies, “that doesn’t look much like a fiddle to me, Alice.” Alice admits, “I wish I could play it on the fiddle, but I can’t play it on the fiddle so I decided to try and learn it on the banjo.” Gerrard is in fact a fiddle player, and you can hear some of her playing throughout her collection. (Check out this footage of Alice playing fiddle with Bertie Dickens playing banjo https://dc.lib.unc.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/sfc/id/56594/rec/1)
These spontaneous moments of Alice and Hazel in concert reveal a nuanced version of themselves that gets lost in the “pioneering women of bluegrass” narrative. Having never seen Hazel and Alice perform as a duo, I found that the talking, tuning and spaces in between each song offered a more complete perspective of the duo than I had heard before. I look forward to joining Alice Gerrard, Laurie Lewis, Dudley Connell, Allison de Groot and Peter Siegel in conversation about the music of Hazel and Alice on October 14th at 7pm. You can sign up for the event here: https://lnkd.in/dzmhHcZf
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: firstname.lastname@example.org)
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