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.
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.
Bobby Durham was not just a smart dressed man. A prominent vocalist with the Bakersfield sound, Durham got his start in country music performing on California country music variety shows like Town Hall Party and Hometown Jamboree. After stints with Cousin Ebb Pillings’s Ozark Squirrel Shooters and Jolly Judy and her Go-Go Daddies, Durham signed with Capitol Records in the early 1960s. He scored a major hit with the Merle Haggard penned classic “My Past is Present,” earning Durham a 1965 Academy of Country Music Awards nomination for “Most Promising Male Vocalist.” Durham later joined The Crickets, performing some excellent progressive country with the group in the early 1970s.
Durham returned to Bakersfield in the 1980s, recording solo albums for Hightone Records like the popular Do You Still Drink Margeritas and Where I Grew Up. Durham continues to perform with his Durham Band at Buck Owens’s Crystal Palace.
The photo above, call no. P599, is part of the John Edwards Memorial Foundation Collection (#20001).
“Every Sincere Wish,” a rather open ended valediction, is what Hank Snow wanted for the recipient of this autographed photo, call no. P1600 from the John Edwards Memorial Foundation Collection (#20001). Perhaps he hoped that all their wishes might be granted, that all their dreams might come true? We like to think that Clarence Eugene “Hank” Snow was offering to grant the wishes himself, but with the caveat that they must be “sincere,” and pity the fool who tried to get one over on the “Singing Ranger.” Despite the lack of specificity, we agree with the sentiment and we extend it on to you via this great Canadian-American country music star from his Rainbow Ranch in Tennessee.
It’s been a busy fall at the SFC and we want to offer our thanks to all the participants–musicians, speakers, audience members, students, and staff–who contributed to the great success of the Southern Folklife Collection tribute concert and symposium in honor of blues legend Reverend Gary Davis. Stay tuned for upcoming information on our third concert in the SFC blues tribute series, this one dedicated to the legendary Son House.
Since many will be celebrating this coming holiday with a roasted bird, we thought it only appropriate to offer a version of “Turkey in the Straw” for your listening pleasure. This recording by the great King, NC fiddler Ralph McGee comes from open reel tape FT-12000, Tape 3 recorded at the 8th Annual Blue Grass and Old Time Fiddlers Convention, Veteran’s Park, Mount Airy, NC, 2 June 1979. Part of the Ralph Epperson Collection (#20401), this recording features fiddler McGee bowing with a toothpick. Maybe some of you fiddlers out there want to give it a shot this weekend after a good meal. Let us know how it works out.
Call no. FT-12000, ”Turkey in the Straw” by Ralph McGee at the 8th Annual Mount Airy Blue Grass and Old Time Fiddlers Convention, 2 June 1979
This photograph is fascinating as a document of concert goers in the late 1940s, however the band trailer for Eddy Arnold parked out front is what constantly piques my imagination. With the white wall tires and custom paint job, featuring a portrait of Arnold himself as well as the titles of his countless hit songs, I know I’d bee excited to see this barreling down the freeway with Arnold behind the wheel.
We are not sure in which city this photo was taken as there were countless Capitol Theatre’s across the United States, however, we do know Thunderhoof–starring Mary Stuart, Preston Williams, William Bishop, and of course, Thunderhoof as himself–appeared in theaters in 1948 when Eddy Arnold was at the peak of his 1st stage of Country music stardom.
Arnold recorded over 60 top ten hits for RCA throughout the 1940s, under a contract managed by the infamous Colonel Tom Parker. In 1948 he had five songs in the top 10 simultaneously and Arnold held the number 1 spot for 40 weeks of that year. Not sure how much merchandise artists sold on tour back then, but maybe had a few of these song folios, call no. FL-199 from the ever popular Southern Folklife Collection Song Folios, circa 1882-1983 (#30006) , on hand for fans.
Eddy Arnold’s Favorite Songs. Hill and Range Songs, Inc. New York, N.Y. 1948. 44 p. of music and illustrations.#30006, Series: “Song Folios, circa 1882-1983.” FL-199
A recent patron inquiry about Chester Randle’s Soul Sender’s got us digging through the masters in the Goldband Recording Corporation Collection, 1930-1995 (#20245) to find this open reel tape of Soul Sender’s alternate takes and practice jams. These tracks are rough and the arrangements are only just coming together, but Randle’s heavily distorted guitar cuts through the mud-sludge bass while Milford Scott’s hammond B-3 organ practically pours over the raw funk of Bill Parker’s drumbeat. The full weight of Lake Charles’ humid swamp air lays heavy on this boogie. Sounds great to us.
There are three different versions of each “Sweet Potato” and “Soul Brother’s Testify” on FT-6694. Unlike the final versions, these rehearsal tapes do not feature horns as part of the ensemble. It’s great to hear the band try on licks and solos, developing the lyrics and arrangements, and laying down some seriously noisy sounds. These tracks eventually saw release on Eddie Shuler’s ANLA imprint. “Soul Brother’s Testify, parts 1 and 2,” (ANLA 102) is a sought after release by funk and soul record collectors and the opening breakbeat has been heavily sampled by hip hop artists. For more information on ANLA releases in the collection see the Goldband finding aid, the SFC Goldband online exhibit, and the list below, but for now, some music.
- “Sweet Potato,” take 3, intro
- “Sweet Potato,” take 2, guitar solo
- “Soul Brother’s Testify,” take 3, intro
- “Soul Brother’s Testify,” take 3, end
The Soul Sender’s ensemble appears on recordings under a few different names with only slight variation–The Original Soul Sender’s, Charles Randle’s Soul Sender’s, sometimes without apostrophes. Guitarist Charles Randle performed with Bill Parker, Milford Scott, and likely the unknown musicians as well, in a variety of groups like Clarence Garlow & His Accordion and the Chester Randle Orchestra. Bill Parker was himself a local R&B star in the early 1960s with his Showboat Band, a group that also occasionally featured young guitarist Chester Randle. Parker recorded numerous other sides for ANLA and Goldband and eventually founded his own Showboat Records.
Eddie Shuler started ANLA in the 1960s to feature soul and R&B artists from South Louisiana and East Texas as an extension of the blues, cajun, swamp pop, and zydeco music he released on his Goldband Record label. Shuler founded Goldband in the 1940s initially to release country, cajun, and western swing records, including those by his own band, the All Star Reveliers. In the early 1950s, Shuler bought an old holiness Church at 313 Church Street in north Lake Charles, Louisiana and developed the Goldband Complex, including a recording studio, record shop, and Shuler’s television repair business, Eddie’s Quick Service TV.
Shuler recorded regional artists for a regional market, distributing the recordings from the back of his car to record stores and to jukebox operators who placed the records on jukeboxes leased to local clubs, dancehalls, and restaurants. Shuler had an ear for talent and for the changing tastes of his audience, building an impressive roster of artists over the years, including the first recordings of legendary Cajun accordionist Iry LeJune, the first hit record by then 13 year old Dolly Parton, Rockin’ Sidney, Boozoo Chavis, Cookie and the Cupcakes, and Cleveland Crochet, whose 1961 recording “Sugar Bee” became the first Cajun tune to break the Billboard Top 100. Shuler’s accomplishments and struggles in the music industry are too many to list here, but for one of the best written histories the music of South Louisiana, see John Broven’s 1983 book South to Louisiana: the music of the Cajun bayous.
Original/Chester Randle’s Soul Senders materials in the Southern Folklife Collection include both 45 rpm records and open reel tape. Follow the following link for more information on the materials listed below, Goldband Recording Corporation Collection, 1930-1995 (#20245):
45-8083, ANLA AL-102, “Soul Brother’s Testify”/”Soul Brother’s Testify”
45-8085 ANLA AL-118. “Low Blow, Part I”/”Low Blow, Part II”
45-8088 ANLA AN-105. “Take a Little Nip”/”Why did I let you go,”
Open reels: FT-6694; FT-6695; FT-7031; FT-7758; FT-7774; FT-7861; FT-7896; FT-7933; and FT-7968.
One way to brighten up a gray day is to find this possibly autographed promotional photo of the great Satchmo himself, Louis Armstrong. We like to think Mr. Armstrong conceived of the photo design himself: serenading his own smiling face, as bright as the sun, playing music and riding a trumpet surfing the sound waves pouring from his own disembodied hands. This delightful photo came to the Southern Folklife Collection as part of the John Garst Collection (# 20136).
Finding the photo made us think about a concert recording of Louis Armstrong and his All Stars made on May 8, 1954 at Memorial Hall on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Digitized in the the SFC studios in 2006, the original recording is stored in the UNC Music Library.
Featuring Billy Kyle on piano, Kenny Johns on drums, Barney Bigard on clarinet, Trummy Young on trombone, Arvell Shaw on bass, and guest vocalist Velma Middleton, the recording shows a band in top form. Armstrong is the consummate bandleader, laughing and cracking jokes, and the band and the audience both follow suit making for an enthusiastic and raucous performance. It was a good day to be in Chapel Hill. The concert mixes jazz standards and pop tunes into Armstrong’s own signature New Orleans musical gumbo, kicking off with a wonderfully woozy version with “When it’s Sleepy Time Down South” and including a swinging version of the then brand new rock and roll hit, “Blueberry Hill.” Enjoy the collection of audio selections from the concert below, including the intro to “Struttin’ with Some Barbecue” and Armstrong’s unforgettable vocals on the hit “A Kiss to Build a Dream On.”
– Louis Armstrong & his All Stars: Introduction, 8 May 1954
– Louis Armstrong & his All Stars: “Struttin’ with Some Barbecue”
– Louis Armstrong & his All Stars: Intro, “A Kiss to Build a Dream On”
– Louis Armstrong & his All Stars: Vocals, “A Kiss to Build a Dream On”
Comedian and banjo player Benjamin Francis “Whitey” Ford (b. 1901 in DeSoto, Missouri), aka the “Duke of Paducah,” appeared on the Grand Ole Opry from 1942 to 1959. Ford originally developed the Duke character on the air of KWK-AM, St. Louis in the early 1930s and carried the character over to his own show with Red Foley in 1937, the Renfro Valley Barn Dance. Ford’s brand of folksy one-liners reached beyond fans of country music and he was just as popular on tours with stars of early Rock and Roll like Elvis Presley. The image above features the Duke’s signature tagline: “I’m going back to the wagon, these shoes are killing me.” The poster, call no. XOP-30021/144, is part of collection #30021: Southern Folklife Collection Posters, circa 1847-2008.
A young Porter Wagoner, standing in the in the spotlight wearing one of his many stylish “Nudie Suits,” gazes up at himself on the cover of this songbook from his first year on the Grand Ole Opry. Featuring “the songs he loves best,” including the excellent, “Let’s Squiggle,” this 1957 songbook, call no. FL-503, is part of collection #30006: Southern Folklife Collection Song Folios, circa 1882-1983.
Porter Wagoner: Country Music Favorites
Hill and Range Songs, Inc. New York, N.Y. 1957.
41 p. of music and illustrations.
“Eat, Drink, and Be Merry (Tomorrow You’ll Cry)”
“Itchin’ for My Baby”
“I Should Be with You”
“I’m Day Dreamin’ Tonight”
“Tricks of the Trade”
“Love at First Sight”
“I Can’t Live with You (I Can’t Live without You)”
“I’m Counting on You”
“Be Glad That You Ain’t Me”
“My Everything (You’re My Everything)”