- Please Join us for our next Benjamin Botkin Folklife Lecture!
I Feel So Good: The Life and Times of Big Bill Broonzy, a book talk by Bob Riesman.
November 16, 2012, 12:00 noon - 1:00 pm
Whittall Pavilion, Thomas Jefferson Building
A major figure in American blues and folk music, Big Bill Broonzy (1903–1958) left his Arkansas Delta home after World War I, headed north, and became the leading Chicago bluesman of the 1930s. His success came as he fused traditional rural blues with the electrified sound that was beginning to emerge in Chicago. This, however, was just one step in his remarkable journey: Big Bill was constantly reinventing himself, both in reality and in his retellings of it. Bob Riesman's groundbreaking biography tells the compelling life story of a lost figure from the annals of music history.
- We are all recovering from election day and election night! Woody Guthrie always had something to say about elections...at the following links, read Woody's writings on the subject from 1940:
Happy Birthday to Roy Rogers (1911-1998). Rogers was an actor and singer who was also one of the most heavily marketed stars of his era, starring in over 100 ...movies and giving his name to a popular restaurant chain. Although he was not a working cowboy, many real cowboys loved his songs and his films. He also sang some real cowboy songs, including "The Night Herding Song," which he performed with his wife, Dale Evans. "The Night Herding Song" was collected by John Lomax from Harry Stephens, a one-time student of his at Texas A&M University, who was also a working cowboy. Years after publishing Stephens's version in print, Lomax reunited with his friend Stephens and made a sound recording of the song for the Library of Congress, which you can hear at the AFC archive. At the link below, hear Roy Rogers and Dale Evans sing "The Night Herding Song." At the link above, see the AFC catalog card for the song.
This post is for all our friends in the eastern United States affected by Hurricane Sandy; our thoughts are with you! In 1934, John Lomax recorded a preacher named Sin-Killer Griffin singing "Was...n't that a Mighty Storm," about the hurricane and flood that hit Galveston, Texas in 1900. Eric Von Schmidt learned it from the archival recording and passed it on to Tom Rush. Rush popularized it in the folk revival. At the link above, see a video of James Taylor performing the song, confirming it as one of AFC's most influential archival treasures.
- The American Folklife Center, like all non-emergency-related Federal Government offices in Washington DC, is closed today because of Hurricane Sandy. Please join us in hoping for the safety of everyone in the path of the storm. Some of our ...staff members were stranded in New Orleans last night when the planes carrying them home from the American Folklore Society meetings there were canceled. Looking back at our last few days in New Orleans, and ahead to the mighty storm that has already started pounding us, let's look at an innovative project in which folklorists, supported by the AFC, have helped survivors of Katrina and Rita to document their own stories. You can watch a webcast featuring folklorists Carl Lindahl and Pat Jasper at the link.
Many members of the AFC staff are currently attending the American Folklore Society meeting in New Orleans. Yesterday we saw a presentation by folklorist Stephen Wade, who has...spent 16 years researching some of AFC's most popular recordings. Years ago, Wade and AFC research librarian Gerald Parsons selected materials for the CD A Treasury of Library of Congress Field Recordings. Wade's new book takes an in-depth look at some of the most important of those recordings. See the link for a brief article on the book!
- Three years ago this week, the Illustrated Guide to the American Folklife Center went online. Originally a book published in 2004, the Illustrated Guide highlights the history and collections of AFC. It also has 36 audio files of song, speech, and music from the collections. It's the best way to learn more about who we are and what we do. Find it at the link!
- Will he or won't he? In honor of "No Beard Day," just one of the wacky holidays celebrated on October 18, here is a photo of Louis McDowell preparing to give AFC fieldworker David Taylor a shave during our Working in Paterson fieldwork project in 1994. Strangely, Taylor still has a beard to this day.
October 18 is also Chocolate Cupcake Day. Enjoy!
- Please join us this Saturday afternoon for a free concert of folk and early music from Joel Frederiksen and friends. The program is an afternoon of Americana from the stunning, widely acclaimed Rose of Sharon project, which enjoyed a well-d...eserved spot in the Billboard Top 10 for 2011. Echoing some of the earliest voices in American music, Frederiksen and his colleagues weave a beautiful tapestry tracing the nation’s history and heritage in ballads, folksongs, Shaker hymns and spirituals, music from revival meetings and battlefields – and the new products of America’s first composers, Francis Hopkinson and William Billings. Joel Frederiksen is a former American Folklife Center intern who has been strongly influenced by folk music. Ticket info at the link (scroll down!), or call the Library's music division during business hours at (202) 707-8432 and ask them to hold tickets for you. Once again, it's free!
In 1977, Irish filmmaker Tiernan MacBride created a short film set to Paul Brady's 1976 recording of the song "Arthur McBride and the Sergeant." Conceived as ...a short dramatic film, it has few of the characteristics of music videos, which would become popular only a few years later. See the film at the link!
Paul Brady's recording of this song was destined to become a classic of the Irish folk revival. Few people know that his version came from American oral tradition; he learned it from a transcription of the singing of Carrie Grover of Gorham, Maine. As far as we know, there is only one place researchers can hear a field recording of Mrs. Grover singing the song: The American Folklife Center. We can't place it online at the moment, but you can see the catalog card at the link above.
On this day in 1859, the radical abolitionist John Brown led a raid on the federal armory at Harper's Ferry, Virginia. The raid failed, and he was captured and later hanged. A number of ...related folksongs and fiddle tunes commemorate this incident, including Henry Reed's "John Brown's a-Hanging on a Sour Apple Tree," which you can hear at the link.
Alan Jabbour notes: "Henry Reed's air is evidence of the folksongs in circulation about John Brown that became the basis for Julia Ward Howe's patriotic hymn 'The Battle Hymn of the Republic.' His version implies a verse and refrain using essentially the same melodic material, as is the case with 'The Battle Hymn of the Republic.'"
Today is the Birthday of pioneering American astronomer Asaph Hall, after whom Hall crater on the moon is named. In his honor, let's hear "Serenade to the Moon," by Alice Lemos Avila ...and friends, recorded by Sidney Robertson Cowell in Oakland, California on January 23, 1939.
Hall was an astronomer with the U.S. Naval Observatory from 1862 until 1891. According to published biographies of Hall, early in his tenure there, he was recording observations at night and received an impromptu visit from President Abraham Lincoln and one of his cabinet secretaries. Hall allowed his visitors to observe the moon through the telescope. A few nights later, alone in the middle of the night, President Lincoln returned to ask Hall why the image in the great telescope was inverted!
Hall continued on to a distinguished career in Astronomy, most famously discovering the moons of Mars, Deimos and Phobos, in 1877.
Asaph Hall is the great-grandfather of folklorist and AFC staff member Stephanie Hall, a member of our facebook team.
Celebrating Woody Guthrie at the Library of Congress with Noel Stookey, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, and Jimmy LaFave
On Saturday, October 13, 2012, the American Folklife Center and...the Library's Music Division will join forces to celebrate the
legacy of Woody Guthrie. The event begins at 1:00 in the Whittall Pavilion of the Library's Thomas Jefferson Building, where AFC curator Todd Harvey will present highlights of AFC's Woody Guthrie Collections. This will be followed at 2:00 by a performance and conversation next door in the Coolidge Auditorium, featuring three prominent musicians who carry on Guthrie's legacy: Noel Stookey ("Paul" of the popular folk group Peter, Paul and Mary), Ramblin' Jack Elliott, and Jimmy LaFave. The conversation will be moderated by Bob Santelli, Executive Director of the Grammy Museum and author of "This Land Is Your Land: Woody Guthrie and the Journey of an American Folk Song."
The curator talk is free and open to the public with no tickets required. The concert is presented free of charge to the public but requires tickets for admission. Tickets are available from www.ticketmaster.com, or by calling (202) 397-7328.
The Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building is located at 10 First Street, SE, Washington, DC 20540.
- Join the director of AFC's Veterans History Project, Bob Patrick, at Ford’s Theatre on Monday, October 15, at 7 p.m., for a free panel discussion he will moderate featuring Colonel Karl James Hackbarth, former U.S. Air Force Staff Sergeant ...David Hall and Brig. Gen. Tammy Smith. The panel is part of The Lincoln Legacy Project, a multi-year effort by Ford’s Theatre to create dialogue in our nation’s capital around the issues of tolerance, equality and acceptance.
On this day in 1854, the Siege of Sevastopol began, pitting the allied armies and navies of Britain, France, and Turkey against the Russian army and Black Sea fleet. The siege was the subject ...of several songs and musical compositions, one of which entered American folk and blues tradition under such titles as "Vestapol" and "Sevassafool." At the link above, hear Syndey Stripling play his version, on a field recording by John W. Work III from AFC's online collection "Now What a Time." At the link below, see the Library's selection of early "Sebastopol" sheet music. It is believed that the blues tune is based on the composition by Henry Worrall, who also published "Spanish Fandango," another tune to become a staple of fingerstyle blues. The absorption of such light-classical "parlor guitar" pieces into the early blues repertoire is an under-appreciated aspect of the history of the blues.
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