As the AV Preservation team waits on the next large batch of digitized video content (check-in later this summer!), a small selection of videos has been described and made available for streaming in the last week, including: VT-20004/1:5th Annual Tennessee Grassroots Days Held in Nashville’s Centennial Park in 1980, this video features performances by Leola Cullum, Gospel Stirrers, Bud Garrett, Lizzie Cheatham, Nimrod Workman, Jo-El Sonnier with Frazier Moss, Sam’s Ramblers, and Hazel Dickens. Also included are shots of the festival grounds, with demos spanning quilt-making to beekeeping.
Additional footage, PSAs and television coverage of annual Grassroots Days through the 80s can be found in the Southern Folk Cultural Revival Project Collection (#20004)
VT-20466/5: James “Son Ford” Thomas at Bacchus, Newark, Del., winter 1978
I highlighted a different James “Son Ford” Thomas video in the Robert Bethke Collection (#20466) in a previous post, in which he performed with George Thorogood and Ron Smith. Primarily playing solo, but joined by Ron Smith eventually, this performance takes place at the University of Delaware’s Bacchus Theater.
VT-20018/1 & VT-20018/2: Walter Raleigh Babson at UNC Chapel Hill with Andy Cahan, 1987 Walter Raleigh Babson performed twice at Chapel Hill in 1987, including his last public concert with Andy Cahan on November 12th (VT-20018/2), 26 days before passing away. Along with the performance, this tape includes a retrospective of Babson’s life through home movies and photographs.
VT-20018/1 documents Babson’s performance earlier in 1987 at Gerrard Hall on March 28th for the Southern Accents Fine Arts Festival at UNC, where he is again joined by Andy Cahan. Additional audio recordings and interviews of Babson can be accessed in the Andy Cahan Collection (#20018).
Gene Bluestein hosted a number of guests on his series Folk Sources in American Culture while at California State University. Many of these segments can be found in the Gene Bluestein collection (#20379). On this particular day, he hosted Nona Beamer, who shared examples of instruments and related Hawaiian folk traditions.
First up from the Andy Cahan Collection (20018), some fantastic tunes performed by musician and folklorist Andy Cahan and Carlie Marion recorded during a July, 1998 visit to Marion’s home in Elkin, NC. There are seven tapes total, any and all are excellent listening but tape 2, side 1 is a great place to start.
From the Tom Carter and Blanton Owen Collection (20029), stories and twin fiddling by Luther Davis and Huston Caudill recorded in Dalhart, Grayson Co., VA in February 1974. [* note you can also hear a number of recordings of Davis streaming via the Alice Gerrard Collection (20008)]
Finally, from the Dan and Beverly Bush Patterson Papers (20026), recorded songs and interview with Sister R. Mildred Barker in the Shaker community at Sabbathday Lake, Maine, in August of 1973. Patterson edited two LP collections of Early Shaker Spirituals that featured Sister R. Mildred Barker and other members of the church, including Sister Frances Carr, one of the last remaining members of the Shaker community who passed away on January 2 of this year. The LPs are highly recommended, and so is this interview conducted by Dr. Patterson. [*note around 7:00 where Patterson crosses over into the role of participant by demonstrating the pitch pipe on the recording!]
You read the title correctly, “SFC videos of the week.” We have been slowly rolling out streaming archival videos held in the Southern Folklife Collection, but now there are just too many not to share widely. These first two videos, Videotape VT-20113/5featuring Bert Dickens (above) and Videotape VT-20113/8 Enoch Rutherford (below) are part of the Nancy Kalow Collection (20113). To go directly to the streaming video click on the images in this post or visit the finding aid for the finding aid for the Nancy Kalow Collection (20113) here.
The Nancy Kalow Collecion collection comprises 29 videotapes of various aspects of North Carolina folklife recorded by Kalow between 1987 and 1991. These two tapes, Videotape VT-20113/5 are part of a series documenting traditional North Carolina musicians that Kalow made in association with musician and founder of The Old-Time Herald Alice Gerrard as part of a project for the North Carolina Arts Council. Originally recorded on Hi-8 video, digitization and streaming of these videos and others is made possible through support from a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Old-time banjo player and North Carolina Heritage Award recipient, Bertie (Bert) Caudill Dickens spent most of her life the community of Ennice in Alleghany County, North Carolina. The video was recorded in her home on Jan 31, 1987.
Recordings of Enoch Rutherford were also made on January 31, 1987 at his home in Independence, Virginia (for an excellent article on Enoch Rutherford, see this remembrance written by musician Martha Spencer in 2013 from Mountain Music Magazine). Accompanied by Alice Gerrard and Andy Cahan, Rutherford’s hard-driving clawhammer style is in full force. The versions of “Sugar Hill” and “Whoa, Mule” on this tape are spectacular (as noted by an enthusiastic audience member off camera hollering support).
Other musicians documented in the collection include Thomas Burt, Calvin Cole, Walter Raleigh Babson, Joe and Odell Thompson, Piedmont blues musicians George Higgs and James Bud Powell, and John Rector. There are also tapes documenting a 1987 performance at the UNC Forest Theatre by storyteller Steven Henegar and Uncle Eli’s Quilting Bee, an annual event that has taken place in Alamance County since 1931 and which Kalow recorded on 7 April 1988 at Eli Whitney Recreation Center.
Stay tuned to Field Trip South for more streaming media updates or browse our collections and finding aids through our website here.
Students, scholars, and fans of folklore often can’t help but romanticize the experiences of early field collectors, discovering lost tunes and musicians unknown outside their local communities. The music is just so compelling and raw and often very good, from the legendary Lomax (John and Alan) recordings of the 1930s to the astounding body of work collected by the scholar/musicians like Mike Seeger and John Cohen in the 1960s, and countless others whose collections remain tucked away in attics or housed in archives like the Southern Folklife Collection and in institutions across the country.
Hearing the music today offers glimpses to worlds of experience foreign to most listeners. The listener becomes a voyeur, peeking through the window into the homes and lives of the performers (and often the field recorders too) of a forgotten past. While the feeling of being “let in on a secret” is profound and exciting, regarding the documented performance as a “secret” or a private moment between a few individuals distances the listener, and the temporal difference between when the material was recorded to when it is shared with a larger listening audience only further emphasizes that distance. Instead of the field recording creating a cultural connection, it is exoticized to the point where such an experience (finding and recording lost or forgotten or ignored practitioners of a similarly lost, forgotten or ignored art form) seems impossible to replicate in the present, “modern” time. Thankfully there are those who refuse to relegate those experiences exclusively to the past. Instead, these individuals constantly seek to break down the barriers created by an Orientalized other represented solely by the sounds on a tape by finding the hands, faces, and minds behind the music.
Alice Gerrard and Andy Cahan spent many years in the late 1970s and early 1980s seeking out musicians in and around Galax, Virginia and Toast, North Carolina. They developed strong relationships with some of these regions’ greatest living musicians, including Luther Davis, Roscoe and Leone Parrish, and Tommy Jarrell. Cahan and Gerrard recorded hundreds of hours of interviews, lessons, jam sessions they shared with these musicians. They learned countless tunes these performers but they also became their very good friends, sharing meals, helping with chores when health problems interfered, and even sharing holidays with them like a family. In 1983, Cahan and Gerrard spent Christmas day with Tommy Jarrell and his daughter Ardena “Dena” Jarrell at her house in Toast, NC, eating, drinking eggnog and, of course, playing music. They had such a good time that the ensemble composed a song to commemorate the event, “Xmas 83 at Dena’s.”
I’m including 3 clips here: an introduction, a clip of the song itself, and a brief moment after the song when Tommy, Andy and Alice talk about composing fiddle tunes and recording. Please enjoy. Sounds like they did. Xmas83 at Dena’s_intro XMas at Dena’s Xmas83 at Dena’s_outro
All clips from audiocassette FS-8341: Tommy Jarrell with Alice Gerrard and Andy Cahan, recorded on 25 December 1983, in Toast, N.C. From the Alice Gerrard Collection. The ongoing digitization project Fiddles, Banjos and Mountain Music: Preserving Audio Collections of Southern Traditional Music, is made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.