Bluegrass Throwdown

One of the great things about archives is that you can run across interesting information in places you’d never expect.  For example, the Mike Seeger tape logs in the Southern Folklife Collection Field Notes (30025) are largely comprised of long lists of the song titles and performers which make up the track listings of his numerous field recordings.  But hidden among the pages and pages of track listings are occasional gems of personal musings, background stories, or random anecdotes like the following:

In August 1988, I spoke with Bud Reed about the Monroe Brothers engagement in the 1950s at the New River Ranch.  . . He said that they booked them separately for the same day, then somehow they sang together on stage. . . Bud said that some of the public attended because of the widely circulated folklore that they had fought and broken up – and that the big scar on Charlie’s neck was from a knife wound from Bill.  These people wanted to see them fight again. I’ve heard many such stories about these two.”

Listen below to a clip from the brothers’ (fratricide-free) collaboration that day:
Lonely Little Robin
The  entire concert is recorded on SFC field tape FT-12917.

Mike Seeger, 1933-2009

sfc_p2944We at the SFC were deeply saddened to hear about Friday’s passing of musician, folklorist, and collector Mike Seeger. He was 75 years old.

Mike Seeger devoted his life to collecting and performing the music of the rural South. He began playing the guitar at the age of 18 and soon added almost a dozen instruments to his repertoire, including the banjo, fiddle, mandolin, dulcimer, and autoharp.

In 1958 he formed the New Lost City Ramblers with Tom Paley and John Cohen. Modeling their sound after the old-time string bands of the 1920s and ’30s, the New Lost City Ramblers helped to bring the music of the Southern rural tradition to the forefront of the 1960s folk revival.

But Mike Seeger may be best remembered here as a collector, recording hundreds of performances and interviews with legendary old-time musicians including Dock Boggs, Elizabeth Cotten, Mississippi John Hurt, and Ernest V. Stoneman. These tapes now reside in the SFC’s Mike Seeger Collection, currently being preserved as part of a two-year preservation and access grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities entitled Fiddles, Banjos and Mountain Music. The grant focuses on several interrelated collections including the collections of  Paul Brown, Eugene Earle, Ralph Epperson, Fiddler’s Grove and Alice Gerrard.

Throughout his life Mike Seeger worked to make the music he loved accessible beyond it’s origins in the rural South. Through preservation projects like  Fiddles, Banjos and Mountain Music, the Southern Folklife Collection seeks to honor his legacy and preserve his lifetime of research for future generations.

Mike Seeger performing Dock Boggs’ “Down South Blues” in 1963 : down_south_blues

And the following year, performing Fiddlin’ John Carson’s “The Bachelor’s Hall” :  bachelors_hall

From tapes FT-5622 and FT-5635 in the Mike Seeger Collection.