The Southern Folklife Collection and UNC University Libraries are excited to announce this forthcoming Author Talk featuring Kristina R. Gaddy, Thursday, November 16th from 7-8 EST. This is a hybrid event which will be hosted in Pleasants Family Assembly Room at Wilson Special Collections Library here on UNC’s campus.
This in-person event is free and open to the public, no RSVP required; if you would like to join us virtually, register at go.unc.edu/gaddy.
The Ray Alden Collection includes over 800 analog field recordings, studio recordings and video recordings as well as papers, documentation, photographs and born-digital materials including over 500 CDs and DVDs. The recordings feature primarily white old-time musicians, with a heavy presence of the Round Peak region of North Carolina and Galax, Virginia from the 1960s through the early 2000s. It also includes many recordings and documentation of younger generation old-time and bluegrass musicians from the 1970s through the early 2000s including the Horseflies, the Plank Road String Band, the Chicken Chokers, The Red Mules, the Agents of Terra, Bruce Molsky, Breakfast Special and the Johnson Mountain Boys. As a part of the larger New York folk music community, Alden became involved with the Seegers’ Great Hudson River Revival festival and recorded many of the live performances from the traditional music stage at the festival. These recordings feature a wide range of musical styles including blues, bluegrass, cajun, gospel, klezmer, son, old-time and more. Also included in this collection are recordings of live performances at New York City folk venues such as Izzy Young’s Folklore Center, Bernie Klay’s McBurney YMCA series and Loy Beaver’s home concerts. Other festivals appearing in the collection include the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Brandywine Mountain Music Convention, Galax Old Fiddlers Convention, Union Grove and the Berryville Bluegrass Festival.
Ray Alden grew up in an Italian-American household in New York City and was introduced to the banjo through Pete Seeger and the Weavers. Seeing Tommy Jarrell, Fred Cockerham and Oscar Jenkins perform and jam at a show at Loy Beaver’s house in 1967 piqued his interest in older styles of playing, and especially the Round Peak styles. The following year, Alden took his first field recording trip to the Union Grove fiddlers convention, and later to visit old-time musicians Fred Cockerham, Tommy Jarrell and Kyle Creed. That was the beginning of 40 years of field recording and music making. From 1968 to 2009, Alden recorded old-time musicians including Tommy Jarrell, Kyle Creed, Fred Cockerham, Earnest East, Rafe Brady, the Shelor family, the Kimble Family and Clyde Davenport. He also developed a unique banjo style, often sitting in with the musicians he recorded. He became a part of the younger generation of old-time musicians including Brad and Linda Leftwich, Bruce Molsky, Carol Elizabeth Jones, Gary Harrison, Paul Brown, James Leva, Jim Miller, Judy Hyman, Tara Nevins and others. Alden put the same time and care into documenting his peers as he did the older musicians. Many of these recordings resulted in the 1984 album “The Young Fogies”. When he wasn’t playing music or on a field recording trip, Alden taught high school math, designed speakers and painted mathematical-inspired pieces of art.
Alden started the Field Recorders’ Collective in 2004 as an avenue for collectors such as himself to release recordings, make them accessible to younger generations of players and provide royalty payments to the families of the musicians. The Field Recorders’ Collective has released hundreds of recordings and continues to be an important resource for the old-time music community. This collection includes many of the original recordings that have been released by the FRC.
Since Alden’s passing in 2009, the Field Recorders’ Collective has remained strong, with multiple new releases every year. It is an important resource within the old-time music community, providing access to previously unheard recordings. It is unique in its community-centered approach and its emphasis on community knowledge and learning. Some of the releases from the last few years feature music from Galax fiddler Luther Davis, Gaspésie fiddler Yvon Mimeault, West Virginia banjo player Walter Hensley, and Texas fiddler Teodar Jackson. The website includes articles and album notes related to releases and options to purchase digital copies or the physical CDs and DVDs. You can also stream or download the FRC catalog on bandcamp. You can follow the FRC on instagram, twitter,facebook, and YouTube for updates on new releases and related videos, photos and audio clips.
Some highlights from processing the collection, from a fiddler’s perspective.
Early in November, the Southern Folklife Collection wrapped up its two-part Folk Legacy Series celebrating great legacies in American vernacular music. The series was sponsored through generous support from the Martin Guitar Charitable Foundation.
In “Boom Boom! The Music of John Lee Hooker,” Alvin Youngblood Hart and Bobby Rush both gave foot stomping performances to boogie along to, and then, in a lively discussion with Wayne Goins, reflected on the career and influence of Hooker.
Our first event of the fall — “Won’t You Come and Sing For Me? The Music of Hazel Dickens & Alice Gerrard” — featured a set from Tatiana Hargreaves and Alison DeGroot, followed by Dudley Connell and Sally Love Connell. The evening finished with a roundtable discussion led by Laurie Lewis, and involving Gerrard, Peter Siegel – producer of the first Hazel & Alice record — Hargreaves, DeGroot, and Connell.
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.
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.
BILL BIRCHFIELD OF THE ROAN MOUNTAIN HILLTOPPERS, PHOTO BY ALICE GERRARD.
The Southern Folklife Collection is pleased to announce The Banjo: Southern Roots, American Branches, Saturday, August 25, 2012. This exhibit, symposium and concert is the first of the three-part Southern Folklife Collection Instrument Series. Panels, exhibits, and concerts in 2013 will feature the pedal steel guitar and the fiddle. The series seeks to provide an opportunity for music lovers to learn from leading musicians and scholars about the music, history, and culture of the American South.
Please join us first for the banjo symposium Saturday, August 25 from 10am to 4pm in the Pleasants Family Assembly Room, Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-CH, followed by a free concert in UNC’s Memorial Hall including master pickers Tony Trischka, Dom Flemons of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, and Riley Baugus with Kirk Sutphin. This is a free but ticketed event. Tickets are now available at the Memorial Hall Box Office, 919.843.3333.
The symposium features lectures and panel discussions on the history of the banjo with:
Robert Cantwell, UNC Professor of American Studies; Author of Bluegrass Breakdown
Bob Carlin, Musician and Author of The Birth of the Banjo
Cecelia Conway, Appalachian State University Professor of English; Author of African Banjo Echoes in Appalachia
Laurent Dubois, Duke Professor of Romance Studies and History
Dom Flemons, musician (Carolina Chocolate Drops)
Phillip Gura, UNC Professor of American Studies; Author of America’s Instrument: The Banjo in the 19th Century
Jim Mills, musician (Ricky Scaggs, Vince Gill) Six time winner of IBMA Banjo Player of the Year Award.
Stephen Wade, Musician and Author of The Beautiful Music All Around Us: Field Recordings and the American Experience
Don’t miss the accompanying exhibit tracing the history and development of the banjo, featuring instruments, photographs, recordings and ephemera from the Southern Folklife Collection.The exhibit opens August 25th and runs through Dec 31, 2012. on the 4th Floor, Wilson Library. Follow the Southern Folklife Collection on facebook or come back to Field Trip South for updates.
And now a couple more photos from the same roll as the one featured above from the Alice Gerrard Collection (#20006). These photos feature Joe and Bill Birchfield of the great family stringband from Carter, Tennessee, The Roan Mountain Hilltoppers. Bill is demonstrating his unique banjo style, playing backwards, upside-down, and left-handed.
The end of UNC’s school year came up on us extremely fast. We are sad to see our student assistants, upon whom we depend to keep the SFC machine running smooth, graduate and go on to other things. We can’t thank them enough. Recently, one of these intrepid employees digitized a great number of photographs from the Alice Gerrrard Collection (#20006). The image above, a beautiful portrait of legendary old time banjo player Matokie Worrell Slaughter, came from a set of 35mm slides.
Originally from Pulaski, Virginia, Matokie Slaughter performed with her family on local radio during the 1940s and became a regular at fiddler’s conventions. She is featured on a number of recordings, including a band she formed with her sister, Virgie Richardson, and Alice Gerrard called the Back Creek Buddies.
The SFC holde many recordings of Slaughter in the form commercial releases, like the excellent 1978 County LP, Clawhammer Banjo, vol. 3, and field recordings from the Alice Gerrard and Paul Brown collections. Check back for another photo tomorrow.
Life as a country musician has never been easy and Earl Scruggs spent grueling years on the road in the late 1940s pioneering the bluegrass sound with fellow road warriors Bill Monroe, Chubby Wise, Howard Watts, and Lester Flatt. After Flatt and Scruggs left the Blue Grass Boys in 1948, the popularity of Bluegrass music began to grow and through the resourceful management of Louise Certain, soon to be Louise Scruggs, the band secured the sponsorship of Martha White Flour and what was hopefully a more comfortable means of transportation. Still between radio performances, recording sessions, and live shows, the band often performed multiple times per day. The image below features The Foggy Mountain Boys on an unknown stage in the 1950s.
We wanted to share a few photos from the Mike Seeger Collection in advance of the tribute concert and lecture on Friday, March 23. The image above, featuring Seeger recording William Bragg along with a group of interested students, was captured in Widen, West Virginia by Alice Gerrard in 1967.
Gerrard will perform at the tribute concert along with Ginny Hawker and Mike Seeger’s former band mates from the New Lost City Ramblers, John Cohen and Tracy Schwarz.