Saturday, September 9, 2017

Learning About the Music Our Ancestors Heard, Played, and Sang

            I have a passion/addiction for early American music – most but not all of it bluegrass.  I have found several record stores that stock this kind of music.

            I recently purchased five sets of records – Songs and Ballads of American History and of the Assassination of Presidents, Echoes of the Ozarks Volumes I and II, Wink the Other Eye Volume I (my eternal gratitude to anyone who can locate a copy of Volume II, if there is one), The Right Hand Fork of Rush’s Creek, Dee and Delta Hicks – Ballads and Banjo Music from the Tennessee Cumberland Plateau in the Big South Fork Area, and the Edden Hammons Collection.  These are among some of the most expensive LPs I have ever purchased (though not all are), and because many of them are rare/scarce, I was afraid to play them.  So my husband and I decided to take them to a professional duplication service – we ended up going to a place called Professional Duplications south of Greenville – and get main and loaner copies.  They often provide this service for various church groups as well.

            This turned out very well for us, and was also educational.  The original copy costs $20 per record/CD, and subsequent copies are only $3.

            Starting with Songs and Ballads of American History and of the Assassination of Presidents (here is a link to a description of the record:, and you can hear some of the music at, there were a variety of performers, and each gave the provenance of the song, possible alternate lyrics, and where they learned the song.  The first two pieces, Phil Sheridan and The Iron Merrimac, were sung by Judge Learned Hand, followed by The Cumberland’s Crew sung by Captain Pearl R. Nye, The Battle of Antietam Creek sung by Warde H. Ford, The Southern Soldier and Washington the Great sung by Mrs. Minta Morgan.  The rest of the items were sung or played by Bascom Lamar Lunsford:  Zolgotz (about McKinley’s assassin, Czolgosz), Mr. Garfield and Charles Giteau (Garfield’s assassin), Booth Killed Lincoln (sung version), and Booth Killed Lincoln (fiddle version). 

            Echoes of the Ozarks Volumes I and II (Arkansas String Bands 1927-1930) have been both educational and frustrating.  Educational in that I had to look up the lyrics of one song because it was not listed on the album, and frustrating because I still have not been able to sort all of the songs out.  The extra song was “Sally’s in the Garden Siftin’ Sand” on Volume I.  And I never have been able to sort the remaining songs – there’s Hog Eye and Jaw Bone plus Cotton Eye Joe.  Just when I think I have them sorted out, I’ll see a double entry and know that it is wrong again.  Wink the Other Eye is old time fiddle band music from Kentucky – rare classic recordings from the 1920s and 1930s.  The Edden Hammons Collection is historic recordings of traditional music from the Louis Watson Chappell Archive.

            I also have some Smithsonian and Library of Congress collections of early American music (including children’s songs) that I will probably also take to be duplicated. 

            Horizon Records in Greenville has some rare classical records and also a lot of very good contemporary blue grass recordings, as well as knowledgeable staff (I learned that only British releases of the Beatles’ recordings have been remastered, while the American releases have not); however, they do not have that many historical records for early American music (I’m sure aficionados know where I got the historic recordings above; the same place has a number of LPs of one of my favorite Quebecois fiddlers, Jean Carignan).  There are two other stores in Greenville that sell LPs – BJ’s on Augusta Road, and a smaller store around the corner from Consignwerks on Laurens Road.