Mark J. O’Donnell Collection Tape Addition

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Photo of shelving in a room where archival materias are processed. Shelves are lined with cassette tapes that are a part of the O'Donnell collection within the Southern Folklife Collection at UNC Chapel Hill.

The workspace for Emma and Rae. The shelves of tapes seen here are only about half of the tapes that comprise the Mark J. O’Donnell Collection, 20555.

Tape collector Mark J. O’Donnell has collected and recorded live audio recordings of bluegrass, blues, jazz, and rock music in North Carolina and all across the country. The Mark O’Donnell Collection (#20555) consists of materials related to concerts and festivals at North Carolina area venues, including Cat’s Cradle, Arts Center, as well as some national venues and radio programs, including McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica, Calif. and the Los Angeles based syndicated music program, FolkScene.

Over the past two months, we have arranged and described an additional 1,929 audiocassettes and DATs that will be added to the collection as a part of the next phase of a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

While many of the performances recorded on these tapes are located at venues across the US, a number of these recorded performances are in the Tarheel State. We’ve chosen to highlight some of our favorite North Carolina recordings from these tapes here.

Photo of a box of cassette tapes from Merlefest performances. Labels on tapes include Merlefest logo, a racoon. Recordings are from various years, as indicated on tapes.

A sample of some of the Merlefest recordings you will find in the Mark J. O’Donnell Collection, (#20555).

This addition of tapes to the O’Donnell collection contains numerous recordings from Merlefest, specifically from the years 1992-2004. This festival has long buttressed the community for roots and traditional music by providing a space for performers such as Doc Watson, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Earl Scruggs, Gillian Welch, Alison Krauss and Steve Earle. According to the festival’s website, “MerleFest, considered one of the premier music festivals in the country, serves as an annual homecoming for musicians and music fans. Held on the campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, North Carolina, MerleFest was founded in 1988 in memory of the late Eddy Merle Watson, son of American music legend Doc Watson. MerleFest is a celebration of ‘traditional plus’ music, a unique mix of music based on the traditional, roots-oriented sounds of the Appalachian region, including bluegrass and old-time music, and expanded to include Americana, country, blues, rock and many other styles.” The annual event continues to grow and thrive, year after year, and is the primary source of funding for the Wilkes Community College Foundation.

You can experience Merlefest for yourself this April 25-28, 2019. Until then, you can listen to these iconic Merlefest recordings from the O’Donnell collection by visiting the Southern Folklife Collection at UNC. Visit the Merlefest website here.

Photo of a cassette tape next to its case. Also includes ticket stub that reads "Steve Earle and the Del McCoury Band live show at the Carolina Theatre in Durham, NC." Flyer with black and white picture of Steve Earle and Del McCoury Band.

Advertisement , ticket stub and recording of a 1999 Steve Earle and the Del McCoury Band live show at the Carolina Theatre in Durham, NC, FS-205555/414.

Tape on a table, also next to a black and white flyer for Buddy and Julie Miller at the Cat's Cradle. Flyer has photo of Buddy and Julie Miller.

Advertisement for a 2002 Buddy and Julie Miller show at the legendary Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro, NC. This flyer accompanies the recording of that show, FS-20555/932.

In addition to many other regional, national and international recordings, O’Donnell has also provided us with documentation of performances from our local music venues over the past few decades including: concert posters, fliers, artist photos, programs, and ticket stubs. Venues such as the Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro and the Carolina Theatre in Durham have provided a solid foundation for both local musicians to perform, and for the residents of the area to experience a wide breadth of styles and genres of live music. Visit our finding aid to find out more about the fantastic local recordings and more included in the Mark J. O’Donnell Collection. Due to copyright issues, the recordings in the O’Donnell collection will be available for research use in Wilson Library only. Rights for the recordings are held by the authors of the work. Information for interested researchers can be found on our website here