First Impressions: Arhoolie Records

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title banner, Arhoolie Records, El Cerrito, California, 1960 to 2016

First Impressions is an ongoing series on the “first records” of several independent record labels releasing folk, blues, bluegrass, country, and other vernacular musics. Drawing from records and other materials in the Southern Folklife Collection, the focus of this virtual exhibition is on the albums that started it all for these labels in the LP era.

THE ALBUM

Album cover of Mance Lipscomb's Texas Sharecropper and Songster, features black and white photo of Mance playing guitar

Mance Lipscomb, Texas Sharecropper and Songster | FC-457

center LP label, Mance Lipscomb, featuring Arhoolie Reccords logo and track listing

In 1959, Chris Strachwitz, a high school teacher living in California, set out for Texas hoping to meet and record one of his heroes, Lightnin’ Hopkins. Unable to find him, he resolved to return the next year, this time with a longer list of musicians to find and record. He had been buying and selling old 78 rpm records for several years, providing him with a little extra cash to buy some basic recording equipment. In 1960, with Mack McCormick’s help and a few tips from people along the way, he managed to meet Mance Lipscomb at his Navasota home. Texas Sharecropper and Songster is the product of recordings made that day, with the 65-year-old singing 14 songs he had picked up over a lifetime of playing music for friends, family, and both white and African-American dances. This impromptu session was Lipscomb’s first recording, and Strachwitz was initially unimpressed: “To be honest, I didn’t like his music that much – I love tough, nasty, old blues, and Mance was so pretty” (Goodwin, 1981). Of course, as Mance’s music elevated Arhoolie Records to a full-time venture, it must have grown on him: Lipscomb recorded 5 more albums for the label before his passing in 1976.

Listen to “Shake, Shake, Mama” from Side 2 of Texas Sharecropper and Songster:

The label

covers of three Arhoolie Records catalogs, featuring album covers

Assorted Arhoolie Records catalogs from the SFC Discographical Files (30014), Folders 59-61.

Arhoolie Records takes its name from a word for a field holler, more often referred to as a “hoolie.” Chris Strachwitz founded the label in 1960, ultimately establishing its headquarters in El Cerrito, California. Arhoolie primarily released original recordings of living musicians, whereas two of Strachwitz’s later ventures, Blues Classics and Old Timey Records, were devoted to reissues of older recordings. Chris Strachwitz remained at the helm for the label’s lifetime, continuing to record and release all varieties of music, and leading the transition into the CD and digital realms. In May of 2016, Smithsonian Folkways acquired the Arhoolie catalog, and Texas Sharecropper and Songster was one of the first batch of albums re-released by the new label owners.

The Founder

The founding of Arhoolie Records marked Chris Strachwitz’s first big step into the world of traditional music, but the label will be far from his only legacy. After moving to the United States from Germany in 1947, Strachwitz could hardly seem to stay away from the music. His passion for collecting 78s evolved into the Arhoolie Foundation, a nonprofit devoted to preserving and sharing his extensive collection. He started the Old Timey and Blues Classics labels soon after founding Arhoolie to release out-of-print recordings of blues and old-time musicians. Through Arhoolie, he published the Arhoolie Occasional and The Lightning Express, periodicals devoted to spreading information about blues music and recordings. Through a long-time friendship with documentary filmmaker Les Blank, he supported the production of documentaries on Arhoolie musicians like Mance Lipscomb and Lightnin’ Hopkins. Below is a segment from a 1981 interview by Strachwitz with Moses Asch, founder of Folkways Recordings, from the Archie Green Collection (20002).

Chris Strachwitz (CS): I’d like to get some of this on tape about your feelings in regard to reissuing old material or, that is, recordings that are really historical that have not been used by the major labels. You were certainly one of the first people to take a stand on this, weren’t you?

Moses Asch (MA): That’s right.

CS: What’s your attitude on this?

MA: Well, there’s a section in the Constitution of the United States, in which it says, “People have a right to know.” It’s part of the copyright, first copyright law of the land. And in there it says that no one is permitted, if they want the people to benefit, to take something out of circulation. If you buy a car, the manufacturer must have a replacement part as long as the car is operational. Otherwise, they lose all rights to the car. And I apply that same attitude to recordings. Once I feel that the manufacturer or the producer or the one that had the recordings originally issued the record, and then the record is not available, and it’s left out of their catalog, they throw that record into public domain and anyone can use it.

Listen to the full interview here. Digitization and streaming access to this recording were made possible through the SFC’s ongoing audiovisual preservation grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation:

SFC Audio Cassette FS-20002/11183 (digitized)

Tape 28: Chris Strachwitz interviews Moses Asch, 1981

Audiocassette

The local connection

Album cover, Elizabeth Cotten's Live!, features close-up color photo of Cotten's face

Elizabeth Cotten, Live! | FC-17741

Elizabeth Cotten was born in Chapel Hill in 1893, the youngest of five children. After moving around the Southeast for many years, she settled as an adult in the Washington, D.C. area. Eventually, she came to work for the Seeger family of musicians, who, after hearing her play, helped expose her unique performance and songwriting abilities to the world. Most famous for her composition “Freight Train,” Cotten released just four solo albums in her lifetime: a series of three LPs for Folkways and Live!, a 1983 collection of live performances on Arhoolie Records.

Show me more!

The Southern Folklife Collection holds plenty of additional Arhoolie Records-related documentation, as well as a significant portion of the Arhoolie Records catalog on LP and other formats. Check out a few other documents and collections of interest below or search the collection yourself.

same black and white photo of Mance Lipscomb from album cover, holding guitar

Promotional photo from the release of Texas Sharecropper and Songster, from the John Edwards Memorial Foundation Records (20001).

Cover of the Lightning Express, no. 3 (1976). 0versize Paper OP-20245/16 in the Goldband Recording Corporation Collection (20245), with photographs of Clifton Chenier with accordion, Charlie Musselwhite with harmonica, and Narciso Martinex with accordion and group. Also features illustrations of traditional music genres illustrated by R. Crumb including: Blues, Tex-Mex, Jazz, Cajun, Novelty, Gospel, Polka, Folk

Lightning Express, no. 3 (1976). 0versize Paper OP-20245/16 in the Goldband Recording Corporation Collection (20245)

Cover of Arhoolie Occasional with photos of Lightning Hopkins, Mance Lipscomp, Clifton Chenier, Narciso Martinez, and others

Arhoolie Occational, no. 1 (1971). 0versize Paper OP-20245/16 in the Goldband Recording Corporation Collection (20245)

Front page of Arhoolie Occasional with articles about making Arhoolie LPs, Dr. Harry Oster's Folklyric Label

Arhoolie Occational, front page, no. 1 (1971). 0versize Paper OP-20245/16 in the Goldband Recording Corporation Collection (20245)

A witches’ spell has been cast on SFC!

Happy Halloween from the Southern Folklife Collection at Wilson Special Collections Library!

A few items in the collection allude to witchcraft – we were delightfully frightened to find a selection of ghost stories told by Ollie and Roy Coleman in Iredell County, N.C., and caught on tape by folklore student Connie Jean Stone in March of 1975. This item can be found at call number FT-354 in the Connie Jean Stone Collection (20247).Packaging for tape media, reads: "North Carolina Archives of Folk Lore and Music - Connie Jean Stone Collection - Ghost and Witch Tales - Told by Ollie and Roy Coleman - Recorded in Iredell County, N.C. in March 1975. Dubbings from cassette originals. Submitted in Folk 186 and 187, with transcriptions in termpapers.

One creepy story tells the tale of a witch who seems to have cast a spell on a poor dairy cow, cursing and drying the bewildered bovine’s milk supply. Below you can find a clip of the recording, as well as transcription from the original field notes submitted by Ms. Stone. Notes are in folder 421 in the Southern Folklife Collection Field Notes (30025):

My Grandma, once upon a time was a-lettin' a witch have milk, you know. And uh the cow got low on hermilk and couldn't givetoo much, so she told the witch one evening when she came after milk that she couldn't have no more -- until the cow picked back up on her milk. And the witch said, "Alright." She went on home, and started down the path and that cow followed her up just as far as she'd go, to the end of the fence. That night the cow wouldn't giveno milk. So Grandpa told Grandma to milk her and to get a skillet and pour the milk in -- there o'er the fireplace, and boil it and peck it with a reap hook -- and when it got ready to boil, to turn it over into the fireplace. And she had all the young'uns out around the house to see that nobody didn't come while she was a-doin' it. And about the time she got ready to turn that milk over, the ole witch stepped in at the door. And she asked Grandma, said she wanted to borrow something. Grandma told her no, she couldn't borrow nothing today. But the ole witch picked up a cake of soap as she went out the door so the spell wouldn't get back on her.

78rpm record label displaying artist name.

Another fun find from the collection is this 78rpm disc credited to Bakersfield country artist Alvadean Coker, entitled “Witch’s Waltz,” on the Abbott label, at call number 78-186. Alvadean’s countrified bad dream involves a grandmotherly spell cast due to bad behavior. Find a clip below:

 

We here at the SFC hope you have an enjoyable and safe Halloween!

World Day for Audiovisual Heritage 2018

inspecting 16mm film with a magnifying loop on a light table on left and a bay of cassette playback decks on the right UNESCO, in cooperation with the Co-ordinating Council of Audiovisual Archives Associations (CCAAA) and other partners, has adopted 27 October as the World Day for Audiovisual Heritage to better focus global attention on the significance of AV documents and to draw attention to the need to safeguard them. The theme for this year’s celebration is “Your Story is Moving” described in a statement from the CCAAA Board.

Every year millions of people record stories of all varieties on audiovisual media, ranging from narratives of everyday life to historic events. These moments are chronicled and stored each day on multiple formats and media, whether they are digital or analogue. How do we ensure that this ever-growing corpus that is our cultural history today is preserved and exists in the future? And how do we guarantee that this rapidly accumulating, collective moving story of ours is not lost, as much of our history on these fragile media has been over the past 150 years? 

Reliably, thousands of archivists, librarians and preservationists around the world strive to make our world’s cultural heritage accessible and safeguard it for the future. In addition to their daily efforts to provide access to historic collections housed in established archives, archivists actively rescue collections in danger of loss or destruction due to poor climates, less than ideal storage conditions, political unrest or the economic challenges that many countries are confronted with daily.

…stories move us emotionally. We see this every year on Home Movie Day, an event that provides a moment for publics around the world to bring their visual cultural heritage to archives and libraries, to view, sometimes for the first time in decades. As they see lost family members, loved ones and ancestors long gone come to life on the screen, tears flow, emotions are high, and these moments of our captured history transport us to new heights as our histories unfold before our eyes. History too comes to life through the power of the moving image and in sound recordings which connect us personally with those events and moments in time which have shaped our memories and who we are.

A selection of audio recordings found in the Duck Kee Studio Collection (20553) at the SFC. Recordings are pictured in the vault at Wilson Library.

A selection of audio recordings found in the Duck Kee Studio Collection (20553) at the SFC.

The Southern Folklife Collection at Wilson Special Collections Library and the University Libraries at UNC Chapel Hill have many moving parts working daily in our efforts to preserve and make accessible the hundreds of thousands of sound recordings, film and video housed in our special collections.

Thanks to a series of generous grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Grammy Foundation, the Southern Folklife Collection (SFC) has been able to complete a significant amount of digitization of its historic analog audiovisual holdings,

Most recently, UNC University Libraries received a $1.75 Million Grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the largest ever made to the University Libraries, to allow the SFC to continue to preserve, digitize and share unique audio and moving image recordings. Collections targeted through the grant will come from the SFC and other curatorial departments within Wilson Special Collections Library, as well as six partner institutions across the state.

The regional partnerships will take place through the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center, a statewide digitization and publishing program based at Wilson Library. The State Archives of North Carolina, the Southern Appalachian Archives at Mars Hill University and the Forest History Society in Durham have already committed to work with the SFC.

In honor of the 2018 World Day for Audiovisual Heritage, we wanted to highlight some of the recordings recently digitized as part of one of our current projects. These selections are just a few from materials that have moved through this workflow in the last few month. As of Friday,. October 26, thanks to the work of our incredible Mellon Project Team, Wilson Library has 29,857 streaming AV files made from 23,322 preserved audio recordings, and 1,191 preserved video and film items. 

Click through the links below to listen or to view to streaming AV files.

SFC Audio Open Reel FT-20106/6113

(digitized)

Algia Mae Hinton

1/4″ Open Reel Audio

Raw field recording used as source material for “North Carolina Traditions: Algia Mae Hinton: Blues Woman of Zebulon” (FT-20106/3413)

10" cardboard container box for open reel tape, call no. FT-20106_6113The  North Carolina Foklife Media Project Collection (20106) consists of radio programs and associated field recordings, 1982-1983, produced by the North Carolina Folklife Media Project, a National Endowment for the Arts funded media project directed by folklorist Cecelia (Cece) Conway. As project director, Conway headed the production of North Carolina Traditions, an 8-part radio series featuring North Carolina based musicians that aired on WUNC, the flagship National Public Radio station for the Research Triangle area of North Carolina. The collection primarily consists of master recordings but also includes associated field recordings. Programs feature such artists as Etta Baker, a nationally-recognized African-American Piedmont blues guitarist from Caldwell County, N.C.; traditional Anglo-American fiddler Ike Rochelle, singer and accordion player Worth Mason, and fiddler Otha Willard, all from the coastal region of N.C.; Dorsey Dixon (1897-1968), Anglo-American singer and composer of textile and other songs from Richmond County; African-American gospel quartet the Golden Echoes of Granville County; Big Boy Henry (1921- ), African-American blues guitarist and singer from Beaufort County; Algia Mae Hinton (1929- ), African-American blues singer and guitarist and buck dancer from Johnston County; and John (“Frail”) Joines (1914- ), Anglo-American traditional storyteller from Brushy Mountain, Wilkes County.

Digital Folder DF-20402/1

A. R. Cole, Potter, 1969

Digitized version of F-20402/1 with added title cards and countdown. Digital Folder includes original DVD files and an access copy.

Processing information: The digital files were extracted from DVD-R. Original DVD files are dated October 2005. An access .mp4 file was made from the DVD files in August 2018 for viewing purposes.

Side view of blue, plastic film can for 16mm film, call number F-20402_1, with "Cole, the Potter" written in black markerThe twenty-five minute film, titled A. R. Cole, Potter, documents the artistic practice and pottery shop of Arthur Ray “A. R.” Cole, whose family has worked in the ceramic arts for more than three generations. The film is shot entirely at A. R. Cole’s pottery shop in Sanford, N.C. (Lee County, N.C.), and includes footage of A. R. Cole grinding clay and throwing a pot on the wheel, as well as scenes of A. R. Cole’s daughters, Celia and Neolia, storing and preparing pottery orders. The non-synchronous soundtrack of the film consists of audiotaped interviews with A. R. Cole and his daughters, who discuss the family’s long history with the ceramic arts, A. R. Cole’s use of natural, or raw materials, and the evolving business of the pottery shop. The collection contains a 16mm moving image print of the film, as well as a digitized version with added title cards and countdown.

  • From the Archie Green Papers (20002), Sarah Ogan Gunning “goes through a series of songs for potential educational use,” singing and speaking with Green at a union meeting at Solidarity House in 1964, possibly in Chicago.
SFC Audio Open Reel FT-20002/15344

(digitized)

Sarah Ogan Gunning at Solidarity House

1/4″ Open Reel Audio

7" open reel box for Burgess brand magnetic recording tape, call number FT-20002/15344.The Archie Green Papers also include correspondence, interviews, a discography, research notes, and other items relating to Green’s involvement in three performance events in Gunning’s life between 1964 and 1970. These include the production of a Folk-Legacy album, Girl of Constant Sorrow; Gunning’s performance at Carnegie Hall as part of the New York Folk Festival; and her appearance at the Newport Folk Festival. In his work with Gunning, Green collaborated to some extent with folklorist Ellen Stekert. Gunning was the half-sister of Aunt Molly Jackson and sister of Jim Garland.

SFC Audio Cassette FS-20024/1199

(digitized)

Interview with Lesley Riddle, 3 February 1973: tape 1 of 2

Format: Audiocassette

Recorded by Kip Lornell

An extensive interview with Riddles, a blues guitarist from Kingsport, Tenn. About his own music and his relationship with older blues musicians and early country performers in the Kingsport area during the 1930s.

A list of topics discussed by Riddles can be found in Folder 145 within the Southern Folklife Collection Field Notes Collection (#30025).

Cassette tape with handwritten label, Leslie Riddle, Rochester NY,The Kip Lornell Collection consists of audio recordings, 1932-1976, created and compiled by ethnomusicologist, Christopher “Kip” Lornell, while he was a graduate student of Folklore at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The recordings are primarily field tapes featuring performances and interviews with African American blues and pre-blues secular musicians from North Carolina. Music performed includes blues, old-time songs and tunes, boogie-woogie, and gospel songs, played on banjo, guitar, and piano. Performers featured in the field recordings include Jamie Alston, Wilbert Atwater, Pernell Charity, George Letlow, Arthur Lyons, Lesley Riddle, Dink Roberts, John Snipes, Leo Strowd, Joe Thompson (1918- ), Odell Thompson (1911- ), Willy Trice (1910-1976), and Clarence Tross (1884-1977). Also included in the collection are an interview with Guy B. Johnson, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill sociologist who studied African American musical traditions; interviews with the Chapel Hillbillies, an African American string band in the 1920s and 1930s; a lecture on folk medicine by Wilbert C. Jordan, medical doctor and sixth generation voodoo priest; a re-recording of Primitive Baptist singing by Elder Golden Harris and others, ca. 1932; and performances by Anglo-American fiddler and hammered dulcimer player Virgil Craven (1902-1980).

16" Lacquer Disc on Turntable, the middle of the disc shows what the disc looked like prior to cleaning. Ralph Font, "Habanera," 25 June 1947

16″ Lacquer Disc on Turntable, the middle of the disc shows what the disc looked like prior to cleaning. Recording features pianist, Ralph Font, “Habanera,” 25 June 1947

  • And one last item from the Apollo Records Collection (20539). The Apollo Records Collection consists of 16″ master lacquer disc audio recordings, 1943-1958, affiliated with Apollo Records, a record company and label founded in New York City in 1944. Bess Berman, one of the few women executives in the recording industry, ran Apollo Records from 1948 until it closed in 1962. The company and label was known for their rhythm and blues, doo-wop, gospel, jazz, and rock and roll releases. Notable artists featured on the recordings found in the collection include jazz saxophonist and composer, Charlie Barnet; African American comedian and film actor, Stepin Fetchit; African American male vocal group, The Four Vagabonds; African American gospel singer, Georgia Peach; African American male vocal group, The Larks; female vocal group, The Murphy Sisters; country and western singer, Merle Travis; harmonica instrumentalists, The Three Harpers; and African American blues singer and guitarist, Josh White. The collection also includes scattered memos and tape logs found with the lacquer disc recordings. Conservators recently cleaned a number of discs for preservation and digitization, including this recording of the great pianist Ralph Font with his ensemble doing a wonderfully rhythmic version of “Habanera” from the opera “Carmen”
Instantaneous Disc FD-20539/112

(digitized)

Ralph Font, “Habanera,” 25 June 1947

16″ Lacquer Disc

Issue number: AP 3106

These clips offer but a glimpse into the Southern Folklife Collection’s preservation efforts. The public is encouraged to explore our finding aids for detailed inventories and description of archival collections and the UNC Libraries online catalog for materials of interest and request that they be preserved and made available for research. Feel free to contact the SFC with any comments or questions at wilsonlibrary@unc.edu. While you explore the content shared above, we hope think about institutions like the Southern Folklife Collection, Wilson Special Collections Library, the Library of Congress, and countless other archives and institutions that are working to preserve our aural and visual history in communities around the world. Southern Folklife Collection John M. Rivers, Jr. Studio. Photo by Dan Sears

Now Available for Research: Duck Kee Studio Collection

A selection of audio recordings found in the Duck Kee Studio Collection (20553) at the SFC. Recordings are pictured in the vault at Wilson Library.

A selection of audio recordings found in the Duck Kee Studio Collection (20553) at the SFC.

This week we published a new finding aid for the Duck Kee Studio Collection (20553), which contains multi-track and mixdown studio master tapes of Triangle favorites recorded at Duck Kee Studio from 1984-2009. Recordings are on 2″ open reel, 1/2″ open reel, and ADAT analog formats.

Duck Kee Studio was founded by musician and recording engineer, Jerry Kee (Dish, Regina Hexaphone, Cat Toy), who began recording local bands out of a house in Raleigh in the late 1980’s. In 1995, Kee relocated the studio to Mebane, N.C., its eighth location.

The studio has close ties to the Triangle’s indie rock music scene, recording early work by Archers of Loaf, Tift Merritt, Pipe, Polvo, and Superchunk, among others. Kee has historically relied on analog recording equipment, including a 4-track and later a 24-track tape machine.

In January 2018, Duck Kee Studio no. 8 was tragically damaged in a fire. Kee recently talked with WUNC’s “Songs We Love” podcast about the fire, which destroyed his recording equipment and severely damaged open reel tapes stored at the studio.

Thankfully Kee donated a large batch of master tapes (about 175 in total) to the Southern Folklife Collection before the studio fire. These tapes are featured in the newly published finding aid and include recordings by local acts, like Cobra Kahn, Dish, Eyes to Space, Jennyanykind, Malt Swagger, Picasso Trigger, Portastatic, Queen Sarah Saturday, Regina Hexaphone, Schooner, and Superchunk.

The back of an open reel tape box featuring a handwritten track listing of songs by Tift Merritt and the Carbines.

A 1/2″ open reel tape (FT-20553/34) featuring early recordings of Tift Merritt and her band, The Carbines.

The collection also includes an early recording of Tift Merritt with her full band, dubbed The Carbines, which included Margaret White on fiddle, Christopher Thurston on bass, Greg Readling on keyboard and pedal steel, and Zeke Hutchins on drums. Above is an image of their fall 1998 recording that resulted in a self-released 7-inch single featuring “Juke Joint Girl” and “Cowboy” (1999, Oil Rig Music).

Duck Kee Collection materials are available for research on-site at Wilson Special Collections Library. The collection is a nice addition to the SFC and its growing collection of materials related to the Triangle’s independent music scene (Ron Liberti Collection, Merge Records Collection, Tift Merritt Collection, and Craig Zearfoss Collection, to name a few).

Remember those fire damaged tapes I mentioned earlier? About 170 of them arrived at SFC this past spring via Jerry Kee. We are currently assessing the tapes conditions and crafting a plan of attack to help preserve and provide access to the them. Stay tuned. Sending lots of positive thoughts and energy Jerry Kee’s way. We are hopeful that most of the damaged tapes can be salvaged.

And last but not least, shout-out to our graduate research assistant, Rae Hoyle, who helped process the Duck Kee Studio Collection – thank you, Rae!

Field recordings and Folklife

cover of Jayme Stone's Lomax Project CD. A banjo, open reel tapes, photographs, and a folder of notes are viewed from above.

Our friends at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro are hosting banjo musician Jayme Stone and his Folklife Project on Friday, April 27. Continuing the practice from 2014’s Lomax Project, CD-15287 in the Southern Folklife Collection, Stone and his collaborators continue to look to recordings made by folklorists and field recorders for songs to reimagine. While Alan Lomax made recordings across the globe, opening up the source material allows for Stone to explore the work of other folklorists and song collectors, presenting that work to new listeners.

cover of 2018 LP by Anna & Elizabeth, "The Invisible Comes to Us". Photo of the two artists leaning on each other with square designs superimposed.The Smithsonian Folkways recording artists Anna & Elizabeth have also looked to archival recordings for source material, and during a recent performance at Chapel Hill’s Nightlight, the duo performed along with a field recording of Margaret Shipman singing “Jeanno and Jeanette”  recorded by Helen Hartness Flanders, a folklorist from Vermont whose collection is at Middlebury College Davis Family Library. The Flanders collection is digitized and you can hear her recordings of Margaret Shipman streaming online via the Internet Archive

The Southern Folklife Collection is the repository for thousands of field recordings and many of these stream online thanks to the Audiovisual Preservation and Access Team and grant support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. I hope these recordings can inspire artists to create new and reassembled works as well. Remember that Wilson Library does offer fellowships!

There are well over 20,000 streaming audio recordings streaming online through the Southern Folklife Collection finding aids. Field recordings are made in the field, taking the listener to a specific time and place. With that in mind I selected a few recordings made in North Carolina. Be sure you click through to the streaming file to listen.

  • For some old time inspiration, the Paul Brown Collection (20382) includes many recordings made at the home of fiddler Benton Flippen. Audio cassette FS-6582 was recorded 22 October 1980 along with Paul Brown and Paul Sutphin.
  • For some blues, the Joan Fenton Collection (20382) includes open reel tape recordings she made of Howard Cotten, bluesman and storyteller from Goldston, NC. Audiotape FT-0891 was made 6 August 1976 and includes Mr. Cotten performing the Piedmont blues classic “Step it Up and Go” as well as sharing memories about Blind Boy Fuller.
  • Field recordings in the Artus Moser Papers (20005) were made on instantaneous discs. Listening through some of those recordings recently, I fixed on disc FD-0705. Songs on the recording, including a driving and lightly swinging version of “John Henry.” are performed by an unidentified female singer, recorded to instantaneous disc by Artus Moser in the 1930s.

If you are interested in other field recordings in the Southern Folklife Collection and Wilson Library, contact us anytime! And remember you can hear Jayme Stone’s Folklife interpret field recordings at The ArtsCenter this Friday.

Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking from Birmingham, 1963

closeup of Martin Luther King, Jr. signature on Guy Carawan's banjo head Like many of you today, we remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his legacy by turning to his own voice and words. In that spirit we’d like to share a clip of a speech Dr. King made to a group of organizers and activists at a Mass Meeting in Birmingham, Alabama, April 1963, digitized from open reel tape recording FT-20008/9832 in the Guy and Candie Carawan Collection (20008). He addresses the audience with seriousness and humor, inspiring them to continue to fight for the cause and lifting them up in solidarity before they all join together to sing “We Shall Overcome”. Listen to those clips here or read the transcription below:

Flyer for "Freedom Rally" with speaker Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. 20008_Folder17_FreedomRideFlyer_SFC006[Applause]

[Martin Luther King, Jr.]: Now what I’m saying to you we are in this together and they are scared to death they don’t know what to do but this demonstrates the power of numbers. Mr. Connor has hollered, I know he’s gonna be a hoarse tonight, he has hollered so loud and when we were leaving I said, “How you doing Mr Connor?”
[MLK mimicking Mr. Conner] “Arrrerrrarrrarr, How the hell you….!”
[laughter]
And so as we were driving out he looked at Billups and we were in the car, he said “You better get on back over that church and I hope you get there safe”
[Applause]
Yes but God bless you that’s all we want to say, “Don’t worry..” We’re gonna take care of everything and see that everybody’s treated alright. And I said this to Mr. Marshall, I said “Now, I want you to know this Mr. Marshall, they are not criminals.” And I said “It’s not our problem.”
And Mr. Marshall said, “Well you know the city’s had a real problem today with so many…”
And I said “Well that’s that your problem, not ours. When you arrest somebody it is the job of the city to see that they are housed, that they are fed this is the job of the city. These young people have been unjustly arrested for standing up for that right. Don’t you know it’s a sacred right to picket and to protest. People can march around the White House, 500 went to the White House yesterday nobody was arrested. And down here in Alabama we are put in jail because we will stand up for our rights.”
And we are going to let them know if they put us in jail they’re going to treat us right after we get there
[Applause]

[Speaking: Rev. Charles Billups]:

Now let us join hands and let us sing together, “We Shall Overcome”

[singing]
We shall overcome
We shall overcome
We shall overcome someday,
Oh deep in my heart
I do believe
We shall overcome someday.

You can hear the entire tape, as well as interviews and comments from participating student actives, streaming through the Southern Folklife Collections digital collections here: FT-20008/9832. Digitized recordings in the Guy and Candie Carawan Collection have been made accessible through streaming thanks to SFC’s ongoing audiovisual preservation grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The photo above is a closeup of Guy Carawan’s banjo head (pictured in full below), signed by Martin Luther King, Jr. as well as other leaders like Rosa Parks, Mahalia Jackson, Septima Clark, Fred Shuttlesworth and more. If you are interested in other archival materials related to Martin Luther King, Jr. you may want to read an article from today’s News and Observer, April 4, 2018, “Martin Luther King, Jr. and Chapel Hill’s Jim Crow Past,” by journalist Mike Ongle. The article based on research across the collections at Wilson Special Collections Library and details Martin Luther King’s visit to Chapel Hill and UNC Chapel Hill in May of 1960, including photos from the John Kenyon Chapman Papers (05441) .signatures and autographs of leaders in the Civil Rights Movement, including Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahalia Jackson, Rosa Parks, Fred Shuttlesworth and more on Guy Carawan's banjo head