Monday, November 23, 2009

Back from UNC - Symposium for Archie Green & more!

Mr. Chris, Bob Cantwell & Adam Machado

Just came back from North Carolina - I visited my sister Rosy and her family in Tryon after landing in Charlotte and then drove over to Chapel Hill. Had a great talk over dinner with my good friend Dave Freeman of County and Rebel Record fame who is still riding high with many Ralph Stanley CDs and other more modern bluegrass bands. We started out about the same time - but he was smart and concentrated on building up a huge catalog of older styles of country music and has continued to serve that large clientel with energy, knowledge and enthusiasm - while I jumped all over the place trying to capture and re-issue various vernacular sounds which captivated my ears! I wish our Down Home Music Store had kept up the kind of loyal mailing list that County Sales developed! Oh well, we can't do it all!

Steve Weiss, director of the Southern Folklife Collection at UNC at Chapel Hill, NC had kindly invited a whole bunch of Archie's friends - mostly scholars who wrote books and such - to put down some of our recollections about Archie and listen to each other. It was a full day (November 21, 09) of formal and informal opening remarks, then a Laborlore panel with several recipients of the Archie Green Occupational Folklife Graduate Fellowship. Then a keynote address from Norm Cohen - lunch - then a Music Panel with Pat Huber who just put out the book "Linthead Stomp", followed by John Hubbell - an interesting fellow who is the director of Old Bridge Media in Memphis and with whom I had some lunch on the way home at the Charlotte Air Port! Then David Whisnant followed by Jack Wright who produced the fine double CD "Music Of Coal" - he is a great down home type guy and I really enjoyed him. He showed a video of the girl, Molly Slemp, who sings the opening ballad on that set and she was only eleven when recorded - seeing her do that ballad just knocked me out! She is something and apparently has a band now who appeared at Obama's Inauguartion! But I just looked for her on YouTube and it was awful stuff!

Finally the last "Remembrance Panel" had a bunch of us giving out with some remembrances of the great Archie! Julie Ardery, Robert Cantwell, Adam Machado and yours truly pontificated a while! At the end of the session, Bob Cantwell recognized Derek Green, Archie's son, who had been listening to the proceedings and was probably the only union member present and who finally had a chance to say a few words. Derek spoke about the Fund For Labor Culture & History and mentioned many of its accomplishments but my very favorite project has been the annual Labor Lore Conversations where all sorts of people including actual union members are encouraged to present papers or anything about their work - even songs and such to join in Archie's world!!!

After a "Reception" with food and drinks, there was a concert with Elizabeth La Prelle, a nice ballad singer but a bit stiff compared with the young Molly Slemp. She was followed by the absolutely superb musician, entertainer and educator, Stephen Wade (this film is 20 years old but does give you some idea as to what this remarkable charater can do!) - accompanied by Mike Craver on an old Salvation Army pump organ and some vocals - but it was Stephen's show - and what a variety of American music he dished out!! He has to come to the next Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Fest in SF - he is a one-man theatre! An old bassy sounding banjo which he played like a man possessed was my favorite banjo! But he played some great medley including a march, a rag, and another March: "Under The Double Eagle" which has always been a favorite of mine since I first heard it back in high school when Bill Boyd's version was played on XERB - back in 1947! Am getting old! The final entertainers of the evening were the New North Carolina Ramblers! Well, they were a surprising delight because of the variety of material they put down from Charlie Poole to Gid Tanner with some really nice vocal and guitar duets on the way giving out with Carter Family and Dixon Brothers songs - the fiddler had an uncanny way of imitating Gid Tanner including those high pitched yells and squeaks!

I was also reminded that Arhoolie is sitting on all those JEMF LP releases of historical stuff and we need to put those out in one form or other and soon! Also the LP revolution was brought to my attention - especially by a young student at UNC, Reed Turchi, among others! More on this later - Cheers for right now - but don't forget the Savoy Family this coming week end here in Northern California - Great American Music Hall on Friday 27th and at Down Home Music Store on Saturday the 28th from 2 to 3 PM - see you there and in Sacramento and Santa Cruz! Chris


  1. Your post brings back such warm memories of Durham and Chapel Hill! It's where I first discovered American roots music, back in the mid-seventies, when I was a graduate student at Duke. My husband Steve played in a bluegrass band; Cajun music was not even on the horizon for us! Hope to get to the store tomorrow to hear the Savoy Family Band.

    All the best,

  2. Hi Chris, This is unrelated but suggested to me as a way to contact you. I'm a big Arhoolie fan with most of the original vinyl. I'm writing a book on one man bands and I thought maybe you might have some comments and maybe photos to contribute on Juke Boy Bonner, Jesse Fuller or any others (Blind Joe Hill, Drifting Slim, Dr Ross, somebody more modern). Thanks for your time! My email is Keep up the great work!