Field Trip South: Picking Up The Bobby Patterson Collection

Album Cover for Old-time Fiddling and Clawhammer Banjo, Tommy Jarrell, Kyle Creed, Audine Lineberry, and Bobby Patterson, Mountain Records #

Welcome back to Field Trip South. This period of isolation is a great time for recollections of a couple of our own recent field trips—my first collection pickups as Collection Assistant with the SFC.  It might help during this time to remember ventures outside and connections with people, the history we all share, and the community that shared history creates.

Bobby Patterson (#20574) connected people for years from his hub in the Coal Creek Community near Galax, Virginia, as a musician, producer, and documenter of the old time mountain music of the region, operating Mountain Records with Kyle Creed before building his own studio and starting his Heritage Records label.

Bobby Patterson seated, holding a banjo with a mandolin and electric bass on either side of him
Bobby Patterson poses with banjo, mandolin, and electric bass

As another SFC connection Paul Brown (#20382) mentions in his excellent celebration of Patterson’s life and work here (Across the Blue Ridge – episode 95), many of the musicians recorded on both the Mountain and Heritage labels would not have been heard without Patterson’s dedication to recording and preserving this culture.  Patterson could also pick a bit himself, accompanying on a variety of instruments with a number of collaborators like Kyle Creed and the Camp Creek Boys, the Highlanders, Tommy Jarrell, and Fred Cockerham.  He later played regularly alongside his long-time musical partner Willard Gayheart, who offers his own recollections in the episode, which highlights not only Patterson’s playing, but a number of sessions recorded by him for the labels, and his documentation of performances at festivals and conventions throughout the region.

 

Album cover of the Heritage Records recording of the 1978 Brandywine Music Festival, showing a square dancing troupe
Heritage Records Release of the 1978 Brandywine Music Festival (Heritage Records #24); from the Norm Cohen Collection (#20480)

 

In 1987, Patterson was instrumental in launching the Old Time Herald (#20067) with founder and editor Alice Gerrard (#20006), a magazine that celebrates traditional music and dance, particularly in the southeastern United States, which still operates out of Durham.

SFC Curator Steve Weiss, AV Archivist Anne Wells, and I traveled to Galax in early Fall 2019 to pick up Patterson’s collection from the studio he built next to his home just outside Galax.  Our local guides Kilby Spencer and Mark Sanderford, without whom we would have struggled to navigate through this pickup, provided context to the collection and pointed out recordings and musicians that could be of particular significance. Steve and Anne assessed the condition of the different formats and began the organization process. I helped them pack, tote, and haul, and learned a great deal.

It was a rewarding and satisfying experience to work with these colleagues and friends, reminding me why we do what we do, and reinforcing the importance of this work, preserving not only the physical materials but the spirit they capture.  We would also like to thank Kelley Breiding, and—most of all—Janice Patterson, for their support of this project.

a guitar and two banjos leaning up against a desk in Patterson's studio
The house instruments of Patterson’s studio

We are happy and honored to host the Bobby Patterson Collection (#20574) at the SFC.

View of the Blue Ridge Mountains, outside Galax, VA

Documenting Gravel Springs, Mississippi, in the 1970s: Dr. Cheryl Thurber and Rising Star Fife and Drum

Othar Turner blowing fife at picnic 1973. Photographed by Cheryl Thurber.

One week from today, Monday February 25.

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.

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

AV Preservation Project Team Spotlight: Anne Wells

As of late 2015, SFC’s audiovisual preservation and access project team has grown to include three new members! To welcome them, I will be highlighting their work through a series of posts, starting with our AV Archivist, Anne Wells.
Anne is charged with increasing access to SFC collections, old and new, through the development of item level finding aids (for reference, check out the McCabe’s Guitar Shop Collection).  Currently, only 30% of SFC collections containing audiovisual materials are described through these finding aids, making the work Anne carries out extremely important to the visibility of SFC holdings. Additionally, as the primary location for streaming our digitized content, the increase in finding aids will allow us to serve more recordings to our patrons and the general public.
For this post I asked Anne to describe the type of work she is currently taking on…
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As Erica mentioned, I have been primarily working with SFC’s finding aids since I began last November. These finding aids provide comprehensive overviews of SFC’s unique collections. Thus far, I have spent the majority of my time cleaning up previously made finding aids, or more specifically, EAD XML schema, to make sure they meet specific requirements necessary for the linking of streaming digital access copies. During this process I have also created a standardized language to describe SFC’s audio visual items, including consistent descriptions of format, length, playback attributes and credits, when known.
I have also been lucky enough to get my hands on some of SFC’s AMAZING collections. For instance, I processed the McCabe’s Guitar Shop Collection, which includes over 2,000 live concert recordings on ¼” open reel, audiocassette, DAT and CD. I accessioned the collection, arranged the materials chronologically by format, and created a new item level finding aid for the collection. Just to give you a sense of the large scope of the collection, here’s a cropped glance at some of the audiocassettes within the collection:
McCabes_1
And here’s a personal favorite found in the collection:
McCabes_2
I am now transitioning into mostly creating new SFC finding aids from scratch. I find this kind of work super rewarding, since I personally have a hand in making these collections known and available to the general public for the first time. We’ll be sure to keep you posted on these new finding aids as they become published.
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Prior to Anne’s arrival, significant work was put into developing a prioritization model for SFC collections, both for digitization and description. In considering the number of variables that make a collection a high priority, a questionnaire was developed to rate collections on certain factors, including the following factors:

  1. Percentage of formats at risk of deterioration or obsolescence in the collection (including lacquer discs, polyester-based audiotape, and 2” Quadruplex video)
  2. Percentage of unique recordings in the collection
  3. Research value
  4. Previous or expected requests and use by patrons
  5. Previous digitization work
  6. Use and access restrictions

Using the questionnaire, we were able to determine a top-13 list to be prioritized for digitization and access. Fortunately, we found that a number of the collections had already seen some level of attention, so currently we are focusing on completing their digitization, while Anne polishes their finding aids.
Look out for more content in the following collections in the near future:
Southern Folk Cultural Revival Project
Anne Romaine
David and Beverly Patterson
George Hamilton IV
Tom Davenport
Guy and Candie Carawan
Bob Carlin
Archie Green
Mike Seeger
Goldband Recording Corporation
William R. Ferris
Eugene Earle
 
 
 

Domo Arigato Mike Seeger and Alice Gerrard

Blog MS 5
Two tapes from the Mike Seeger Collection (20009) preserved as part of the Southern Folklife Collection’s ongoing project “From Piedmont to Swamplands,” supported by the National Endowment of the Humanities, recently caught the attention of audio engineer John Loy. The first, call number FT14237, features an interview/performance by Mike Seeger and Alice Gerrard on November 21, 1970 at the Kinro Kaikan in Kyoto Japan. It contains 90 minute concert and interview with commentary in Japanese. The program intended provide Japanese listeners with an introductory survey of American old time and vernacular music styles. A wonderful document of cultural exchange.
Blog MS 1_LC
Blog MS 2_LC
Another recent find is a tape master sent to Mike in 1969 by the ‘Styx River Ferry ‘ a prominent “Hippy Country” group in the San Francisco/Berkeley area. This band features a who’s who of Bay area bluegrass fixtures rounded up by Bob and Ingrid Fowler. For this recording, call number FT14220, the group enlisted the help of legends of the day with guest performances by “Uncle Josh” Graves and “Cousin Jake” Tullock of the Foggy Mountain Boys. Of particular interest to us is the contextual information on the label, not only including song titles and band members, but also the recording studio, production personnel and a short list of bay area local venues at which the group was performing at the time. Catching Styx River Ferry at the Drinking Gourd would have been quite a time. Listen:Blog MS 3_LC
Blog MS 4_LC
FT14220Blog MS 7
 

All rise for the piping of the haggis: Burns Night at the SFC

FC18057
It’s Burns Day, and I hope you have been practicing your “Address tae the Haggis.” Folklorist, teacher, author, and friend of the Southern Folklife Collection, Burgin Mathews, hosts a Burns Supper that I will someday be lucky enough to attend, however this year I’ll have to offer the Immortal Memory address to myself in a quiet kitchen. Thankfully I found a wealth of supporting materials in the SFC to assist in my Burns Night activities. The LP pictured above, call no. FC18057, offers a great start with Frederick Worlock reading some of Robert Burns best, including “To a Louse (on seeing one on a lady’s bonnet at church).” Listen to the clip above.
Thanks to inspiration from the SFC’s recent Fiddle Concert and Symposium, I pulled out a record, call no. FC1508, produced by Mark Wilson that features some of his excellent recordings of Cape Breton musician Joseph CormierScottish Violin Music from Cape Breton Island, kicks off with a perfect set of reels for Burns Night, “Haggis; Glennville’s Dirk; Bird’s Nest.” Listen to “Haggis” here:FC1508_Southern Folklife Collection
Your guests will likely need some source material for their Burns recitations after dinner, so you may want to reference The Merry Muses of Caledoniacall no. PR4322.M42 1965, and possibly copy the glossary for those less familiar with the particulars of Scottish vocabulary.  (click images to enlarge)
 
 
 
 
Finally, no Burns Supper is complete without a rousing rendition of Robert Burns most famous and most misunderstood poems, “Auld Lang Syne.” I never imagined that I would someday offer the following advice, but take a cue from Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians and pour your heart and soul into the song (it may help if you have a cup of “uisge beatha,” aka the “water of life, aka Scotch whisky, in advance). Sing along won’t you? 45_2046

For auld lang syne, my jo,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

Cataloger's Corner

Michel Pruvot, Record Musette (1991), CD9567, Southern Folklife Collection

The Southern Folklife Collection has just cataloged a unique collection of French accordion music CDs. Some of them are re-releases of 1930s recordings, primarily accordion-plus-big band arrangements of foxtrots and waltzes. Others come from the 1980s and 1990s and feature the instrument in genres like disco, boogie, and samba.
Especially noteworthy among this group of CDs is the 1991 reissue of the album Record Musette by accordion virtuoso Michel Pruvot (originally released in 1984). Though he is perhaps best known as the host of the French television show Sur un Air d’Accordéon (On the Accordion), Pruvot has also distinguished himself as a repeat winner of the international Accordion Endurance Competition, able to play continuously for over 117 hours.

CD9567, Southern Folklife Collection

Record Musette features a combination of original Pluvot compositions and covers. The clip included here is his interpretation of “Orange Blossom Special,” a song originally for bluegrass fiddle.
“Orange Blossom Special”
The SFC is proud to be the only repository in North America to have a cataloged copy of Record Musette. 

Thursday 10": Leadbelly*

* the album title is “Leadbelly,” however, Mr. Ledbetter himself spelled his name as two words, “Lead Belly”
Earlier this week, we had the good fortune of revisiting this remarkable Huddie Ledbetter 10″ LP from the Capitol Records “Classics in Jazz” series, Southern Folklife Collection call number FC14651. Issued in 1953, almost four years after Lead Belly’s death, the album is remarkable not only because of the striking portrait of Ledbetter and his famous 12-string guitar, but also because of Ledbetter’s accompaniment on the recordings. In the liner notes, Paul Mason Howard is credited with playing the zither on “these historic performances.”  The interplay of zither with Ledbetter’s booming 12 string is highly enjoyable and these recordings (made in California in 1944) showcase Ledbetter in top form. Listen to the intro to “Back Water Blues” from side 2:BackWaterBlues_Leadbelly_FC14651_Southern Folklife Collection
Mr. Howard, a pianist and composer who worked in vaudeville and collaborated with Tin Man and Beverly Hillbilly, Buddy Ebsen, before working extensively as a songwriter for the Walt Disney Company, is actually playing the Dolceola. Mr. Howard supplemented his songwriting career performing on hybrid string instruments like the Dolceola and Cithare. These recordings of Lead Belly and Howard are likely the first commercial recordings of the Dolceola. The solo on the duo’s recording of “Ella Speed” highlights the unique tone of the Dolceola:EllaSpeed_Leadbelly_FC14651_Southern Folklife Collection
It was once thought that legendary Texas gospel singer Washington Phillips performed on the Dolceola, but his instruments were later confirmed to be two Celestaphones, More on Phillips and the Celestaphone another time, but for now we leave you with the final track from the LP, Lead Belly’s arrangement of the classic cowboy tune “Western Plain”. To recap, this is a recording of a performer identified as a blues musician, playing a cowboy song, released on a jazz record…. as another classic cowboy song says “Don’t fence me in.” Come a cow-cow yicky. come a cow-cow yicky, yicky yea.WesternPlain_LeadBelly_FC14651_Southern Folklife Collection

* the album title is “Leadbelly,” however, Mr. Ledbetter himself spelled his name as two words, “Lead Belly”

Bobby Rush Raw and in Person

Bobby Rush visited the Southern Folklife Collection yesterday and gave a fantastic solo performance to a few lucky listeners (I see you, “Clarksdale”) who braved the storm to attend the first concert in the 2012 Southern Journey Fall Concert Series.

It was a rare opportunity to see and hear Bobby Rush performing acoustic and sharing stories of his long and remarkable career as a bluesman, as a runner for Elmore James, getting guitar lessons from Howlin’ Wolf, riffing on Tony Jo White, and even a story of how he got his name, Bobby Rush.Bobby Rush Clip 1_mp3

We also picked up a copy of one of his recent albums (Bobby Rush has released over 250 albums in over 50 years of recording music).  Entitled Raw, Bobby Rush strips down the songs to their fundamentals, using only his guitar, harmonica, voice, and feet percussion. This is a different side of Bobby Rush, but we like it just as much as the master showman of southern R&B that we are used to (although we did kind of miss the costume changes and backup dancers).

Hear for yourself; listen to some more clips of Bobby Rush’s performance below and remember Tommy Edwards will be here playing North Carolina bluegrass in our second installment of the Southern Journey Concert Series on October 2. See you at Wilson Library at 11 AM, October 2!
 
Bobby Rush Clip 2_mp3
Bobby Rush_SFC Fall Concert Series_18 September 2012 Clip 3_mp3