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An unknown? Marian Stafford

GUEST,Bob Coltman 22 Mar 09 - 08:15 AM
Emma B 22 Mar 09 - 08:23 AM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 23 Mar 09 - 07:00 AM
Stringsinger 23 Mar 09 - 01:03 PM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 23 Mar 09 - 03:07 PM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 23 Mar 09 - 03:38 PM
Stringsinger 23 Mar 09 - 05:04 PM
GUEST,Julie Stafford Straton 02 Feb 10 - 03:35 PM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 03 Feb 10 - 10:19 AM
RoyH (Burl) 03 Feb 10 - 10:50 AM
GUEST,Toronto Karen Kaplan 03 Feb 10 - 01:03 PM
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Subject: An unknown? Marian Stafford
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 22 Mar 09 - 08:15 AM

This is an attempt to communicate my impressions of an unusual singer heard half a century ago, and I appeal to all of you for any information you may have about her.

Every so often in my life I have come across an unknown traditional singer so powerful and authentic that I'm astonished s/he's not widely celebrated.

This thread is a tribute to one such singer/banjo picker, Marian Stafford. I know her only through a tape friends played me in 1959. Much of what I say about her is uncertain, based on what I think I remember they told me at the time.

Please, anyone, if you have further information about Marian, or can correct any of what I say here, jump in! (Disambiguation: she wasn't the late actress and Playboy model of the same name.)

Marian Stafford, I was told, was a woman apparently of southern mountain upbringing who came to the well-known performer and picker Billy Faier (in Detroit, I think) and asked for banjo lessons. After hearing her sing and play, he told her she needed no teaching, and should not try to improve on her fine 2-finger picking style. He also taped her extraordinary singing and picking of the following songs:

Will the Circle Be Unbroken (an unusual version, as many of hers were)
Sit Down Servant
Walking the Light
Willie Moore
Rambling Boy
Butcher Boy
Dog Blue
Move, Members Move
Charity
Roll, Jordan, Roll
John Saw the Number
Holy Unto the Lord
This World's Not My Home
Sad Lover
Prickle Holly Bush
Grave of Lover
Molly Bawn

Her style sounded authentic Southern traditional. The closest simile I can give was that she sounded like a younger, lighter-voiced Ola Belle Reed. However, because her singing was so distinctive and her songs were in such unusual versions, she seemed to spring from no identifiable tradition, apart from her obvious roots in old-time gospel singing. She was truly an original.

She sounded, on the tape, like a woman in her late 20s or early 30s. I was told she was terminally ill, I think with cancer, and because she didn't expect to live long, allowed herself to be taped -- the implication was that otherwise she would have refused, as she was self-conscious about her singing and playing and, terrific as she was, did not believe she was very good.

I assume she is long deceased, given her state of health then, but I don't know that for a fact.

I would love to know more. Is Marian Stafford truly unheard-of? Or can anyone add to what I've said here?

And the obvious question arises: does anyone know any way Faier's tapes might get issued on CD so everyone can hear this great singer from the past?

Bob


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Subject: RE: An unknown? Marian Stafford
From: Emma B
Date: 22 Mar 09 - 08:23 AM

Is this the person Bob?

d.o.b. 7 February 1933, Houston, Texas, USA
Date of Death: November 2006, USA

see
The Big Fun Carnival (1957)


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Subject: RE: An unknown? Marian Stafford
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 23 Mar 09 - 07:00 AM

Hi Emma,

Interesting find! I'm inclined to think it can't be the same person, if what I was told about her shyness was correct. The impression I got was that this lady was very private and not a public personality.

However, anything is possible.

Interestingly, Billy Faier lives in Texas and has a website, http://www.BillyFaiEr.com/
so I've sent him an email to see what he says. The website says he will be on vacation for several months as of March 2009, so it may take a while to hear back.

Anyone know Billy personally who might shortcut this process?

Bob


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Subject: RE: An unknown? Marian Stafford
From: Stringsinger
Date: 23 Mar 09 - 01:03 PM

hi
bob Coltman, I knew a Miriam Stafford in San Francisco in the fifties who played and sang. I don't think she was a traditional singer, but one of us urban latecomers. I may have taped her. All my tapes are currently at the Southern Folklife collection at the University of North Carolina and, by coincidence, I happen to be on my way there to access all my old tapes to cull them for usable sides of my singing and playing. I doubt that I have anything from that era though, but if by some miraculous coincidence she is there I will be in touch. best wishes.
Billy faierr


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Subject: RE: An unknown? Marian Stafford
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 23 Mar 09 - 03:07 PM

Stringsinger, many thanks for your quick reply.

To all: Looks as if there may be either more or less to this story than I guessed.

At the moment I'd have to say everything I was told about Marian(?) Stafford has to be regarded as iffy. It may even be that Billy F. was not the person who taped her.

Mysteries! But we'll await the results of his trip to UNC ...

Meanwhile anyone, if anything about the singer or songs described at the start of this thread rings a bell, please chime in.

Thanks,

Bob


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Subject: RE: An unknown? Marian Stafford
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 23 Mar 09 - 03:38 PM

There's some chance that she could be MIRIAM Stafford, who recorded "Loving Henry Lee" while sharing the grooves with Janet Smith and Rita Weil on the "Berkeley Farms" LP, and got a song credit on something the Kingston Trio did -- "Blue Eyed Girl" I think, and also "Mary Mild," a version of "Bitter Withy." But all this is up in the air for now.

Three years ago BIG BOY ONCE posted a message saying he knew her on this thread:

http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=71199

and I've posted there asking him, if he's still checking into mudcat, if they're the same person, and if so, to post what he knows of her here.

Bob


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Subject: RE: An unknown? Marian Stafford
From: Stringsinger
Date: 23 Mar 09 - 05:04 PM

Bob,   Billy Faier is visiting us. You can reach us through Mudcat.

Frank


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Subject: RE: An unknown? Marian Stafford
From: GUEST,Julie Stafford Straton
Date: 02 Feb 10 - 03:35 PM

Dear Bob Coltman:

Let me put the question to rest. Miriam Stafford was my mother. She did indeed know Billy Faierr in the late 50's and may have recorded/played music with or for him. At that time I would have been about 3 years old but remember Billy's name being said around my home quite often.

Mom was a true original. Not Southern, Miriam Misheloff was raised on the west side of Manhattan. She had short, curly, black hair and stood 5'3". She attended college at the Univ. of Michigan in Ann Arbor where, at 18, she met and married my father, Roy. She was always in all ways true to herself and others. She didn't mince words or tolerate deception.

Mom was interested in the purest forms of Blue Grass and Country music and played Smoky Mountain style 5 string banjo, some guitar and a rough, beer barrel stylized piano. I think she was most heavily influenced at a young age by her family's housekeeper, Elberta who may have given her her 1st banjo. My Aunt Ruth, her sister could tell you more about that time.   

My mother was not so much shy as not interested in the hoopla. She would have had better things to do than pursue an agent or a record deal as she was a mother at 20 and a single one at 23. Most nights she sang me to sleep with the bloody ballads of Barbree Allen or Down in The Willow Garden. The music was always a huge part of our lives and the Berkeley Bluegrass house parties were usually once a week. The Cabal and The Berkeley Freight & Salvage were the most frequent venues.

Putting herself through school at UC Berkely, she attained a teaching degree specializing in Learning Disabilities and spent many years at an elementary school in Martinez,CA. She played for those children every day.

In later years she remarried to Bill Lindenau and the two of them made silver jewelry which they sold on Telegraph Avenue and at juried fairs. She did surface design in any medium that caught her fancy from pen and ink to enamels. Although music was ever her favorite art Miriam Stafford was a jewel with many facets. She passed in 1993 from Glio Blastoma Multiforma.

I have photos of Mom on stage with her banjo at several different ages if anyone is interested. There is a snippit of one of her performances at:
http://www.folkways.si.edu/TrackDetails.aspx?itemid=32580

(Miriam's voice is the 1st one you hear.)

Thank you for your memories of my mother and your interest in knowing more about her.

Julie Stafford Straton


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Subject: RE: An unknown? Marian Stafford
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 10:19 AM

Julie,

Many thanks for your information! It clears up a mystery I've long wondered about.

Bob


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Subject: RE: An unknown? Marian Stafford
From: RoyH (Burl)
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 10:50 AM

What a fascinating thread. Yet another reason for checking out the Mudcat every day.


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Subject: RE: An unknown? Marian Stafford
From: GUEST,Toronto Karen Kaplan
Date: 03 Feb 10 - 01:03 PM

Miriam Stafford's daughter, Julie Stafford Straton, kindly posted (02 Feb 2010) a link to a page with a recording of Miriam (with Rita Weill and Janet Smith) which, for convenience I repeat here:
http://www.folkways.si.edu/TrackDetails.aspx?itemid=32580

It takes you to a Smithsonian site where you can, if you wish, buy a recording or a track, and you can listen to a snippet of each track for free, thereby quickly and easily hearing Miriam's voice. What might be a little less obvious is that you can also download, for free, the liner notes for the recording, and in those liner notes there is more information, apparently written by Miriam herself, about her musical (and to some extent life) journey up to the point of that recording.


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