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.
All of us at the Southern Folklife Collection extend our most sincere gratitude to all the people that worked to make our 25th anniversary celebrations a wild success. To all the musicians, writers, library staff, volunteers, and especially to our researchers, patrons, and all those that attended our concerts and programs, we thank you. These photos by Mark Perry Photography are just a glimpse into the weekend events and we’ll have more to share in the future. The SFC 25th Anniversary exhibit detailing the history of the John Edwards Memorial Foundation and the birth and growth of the SFC will be open to visitors to Wilson Library through December 2014 so please do stop by for a viewing. Also, if you haven’t had a chance, our exhibit “Lard Have Mercy!: 30 years of Southern Culture on the Skids” has extended for three more weeks. It’s going to be a great Fall so keep in touch.
In just over one month, Southern Folklife Collection will celebrate our 25th Anniversary, August 21-August 23. As one of the nation’s foremost archives of Southern vernacular music, art, and culture, available for research in the University’s Wilson Special Collections Library, the Southern Folklife Collection is honored to had the opportunity to serve as an educational resource, an archive dedicated to collecting and preserving cultural heritage, and a focal point for the public appreciation of Southern art forms for 25 years.
Since its opening in 1989, the SFC has grown to contain over half a million items including sound recordings, moving images, photographs, manuscripts, books, song folios, serials, posters and ephemera. The Collection is especially rich in materials documenting old-time, country-western, bluegrass, blues, folk, gospel, rock, Cajun and zydeco music. The SFC holds numerous recordings on the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry, including Dolly Parton’s first recording “Puppy Love.”
As part of the Southern Folklife Festival, we are presenting a number of events. You can visit our event website, sfc25th.web.unc.edu for more details, and come back to Field Trip South where we’ll highlight the our programs over the coming weeks.
August 21-23 is going to be a really good time to be in Chapel Hill.
A benefit reception, dinner and concert (5:45pm, 8/21)
New Orleans Brass Band Symposium (5pm, 8/22)
Rebirth Brass Band and Dumpstaphunk (8pm, 8/22)
Big Star’s #1 Record and Third/Sister Lovers (9pm, 8/22)
SFC25 Festival at the Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro, NC (1-4pm 8/23)
Merle Haggard and Tift Merritt (8pm, 8/23)
A retrospective SFC25 Exhibit (8/21/14 – 1/15/15)
We hope you can join us!
The Southern Folklife Collection is pleased to announce our first exhibit and program of 2014, “Lard Have Mercy! 30 Years of Southern Culture on the Skids.” The exhibit opens Friday, March 14, 2014 at 6PM on the 4th floor of the Wilson Library at UNC-Chapel Hill. The exhibit opening will be followed by a concert at Historic Playmakers Theater featuring none other than Southern Culture on the Skids. Both events occur in conjunction with the annual conference of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM) taking place March 13-16 at UNC-Chapel Hill.
“Lard Have Mercy” traces the history of Chapel Hill’s “Legendary Bards of Downward Mobility,” Southern Culture on the Skids (SCOTS). Formed in 1983. SCOTS embody a raucous, sleazy, good-natured, good-time take on Southern traditions and traditional music playing a unique hybrid of Americana, surf, R&B, rockabilly, and swamp pop, driving fans into ecstatic, sweat-drenched paroxysms of joy.
Featuring photography by Kent Thompson and Michael Benson as well as instruments, posters, recordings, and other ephemera from the SCOTS collection in the Southern Folklife Collection.
Events are free and open to the public but seating is limited. Concert Tickets will be available via Memorial Hall Box Office (919) 843-3333 the week of March 3rd. More information about the concert below.
Ticket booth opens: 6pm
“A HELL RAISING ROCK AND ROLL PARTY” – ROLLING STONE