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Book on early folk song collectors?

GUEST,JIm Hauser 27 May 15 - 10:24 PM
Deckman 27 May 15 - 11:05 PM
Joe Offer 27 May 15 - 11:52 PM
Sandra in Sydney 28 May 15 - 03:00 AM
Deckman 28 May 15 - 03:08 AM
Jim Carroll 28 May 15 - 03:30 AM
Jim Carroll 28 May 15 - 04:08 AM
Joe Offer 28 May 15 - 04:13 AM
GUEST 28 May 15 - 08:10 AM
Jim Carroll 28 May 15 - 10:38 AM
Mark Ross 28 May 15 - 04:05 PM
Joe Offer 28 May 15 - 04:44 PM
Vic Smith 28 May 15 - 05:27 PM
Vic Smith 28 May 15 - 05:32 PM
Joe Offer 28 May 15 - 06:20 PM
GUEST,Derek Schofield 28 May 15 - 06:34 PM
GUEST,Wireharp 28 May 15 - 08:14 PM
GUEST,Mike Yates 29 May 15 - 09:04 AM
Jim Carroll 29 May 15 - 09:33 AM
Vic Smith 29 May 15 - 11:44 AM
GUEST,Mike Yates 30 May 15 - 05:45 AM
GUEST,Jim Hauser 30 May 15 - 09:58 AM
Lighter 30 May 15 - 10:19 AM
GUEST,Fred McCormick 30 May 15 - 10:55 AM
GUEST,Fred McCormick 30 May 15 - 11:02 AM
GUEST,Jim Hauser 30 May 15 - 04:28 PM
GUEST,Derek Schofield 30 May 15 - 04:55 PM
GUEST,Fred McCormick 31 May 15 - 07:13 AM
GUEST,Jim Hauser 01 Jun 15 - 01:13 PM
GUEST,Scott B. Spencer 23 Jun 15 - 03:12 AM
Joe Offer 23 Jun 16 - 04:42 AM
Jim Carroll 23 Jun 16 - 04:50 AM
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Subject: Book on early folk song collectors?
From: GUEST,JIm Hauser
Date: 27 May 15 - 10:24 PM

Has a book ever been written about early folk song collectors? I thought I came across one on Amazon.com about six months ago, but now I can't find any evidence of such a book existing. I believe that one of the collectors it included was Mary Wheeler, but possibly it was Dorothy Scarborough instead.

Jim Hauser


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Subject: RE: Book on early folk song collectors?
From: Deckman
Date: 27 May 15 - 11:05 PM

YES


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Subject: RE: Book on early folk song collectors?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 27 May 15 - 11:52 PM

Well, in the world of fiction, there's the Songcatcher movie and the unrelated Sharyn McCrumb "ballad novel" of the same name. And in A Song Catcher in Southern Mountains (1937) Dorothy Scarborough tells the tale of her collecting adventures and the songs she collected.

I can't think of any one book that's the ultimate compendium on early song collectors, but I have a number that may be interesting to you:

  • Anglo-American Folksong Scholarship Since 1898, by D.K. Wilgus (1959) - the whole book is a critical study of collectors and their folksong anthologies
  • Folksingers and Folksongs in America, by Ray M. Lawless (1960, 1965) - a very nice section of about 125 pages on collecting, collectors, and collections.
  • Vance Randolph: An Ozark Life, by Robert Cochran (1985) - the story of one of the best of the American collectors
  • Transforming Tradition: Folk Music Revivals Examined, Edited by Neil V. Rosenberg (1993) - a nice collections of essays, many of which are about collecting.
  • In his autobiographical Labor's Troubadour (2001), Joe Glazer tells of how he collected, wrote, and performed labor songs.
  • In her autobiography, A Life in Folklore (1975), Helen Creighton, one of the best of the Canadian collectors, tells her story.
  • There's a very interesting book titled Alan Lomax: Selected Writings, 1934-1997, edited by Ronald D. Cohen (2003). The book is full of essays by Lomax on his experience as a collector.
  • There's a movie titled Lomax the Songhunter (2008) that's quite good, and a 2010 biography titled Alan Lomax: the Man Who Recorded the World that's quite good.
    Oh, and Lomax wrote a book titled Land Where the Blues Began that tells of his collecting experiences in the southern U.S.

So, there's a list that should give you a start. You might also like to take a look at our Basic Folk Library PermaThread.

Oh, and Mike Yates has an online essay titled Cecil Sharp in America: collecting in the Appalachians that might interest you.

I should say more about collectors in the British Isles, but there are other Mudcatters who are more knowledgeable on that topic. I do have two Bob Copper books about the Copper Family songs that I've enjoyed. A.L. Lloyd's Folksong in England is good, and there's a very nice book that tells the story of Ralph Vaughan Williams and his song collecting, but I can't find that one just now.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Book on early folk song collectors?
From: Sandra in Sydney
Date: 28 May 15 - 03:00 AM

In Australia we have John Meredith, one of the earliest collectors (1950s/60s, resumed again in 80/90s.) John was one of the first people to carry the latest technology - a tape recorder - to record source singers who sometimes did not have electricity!

hn Meredith, The Bush Music Club & The Australian Folk Song Revival (1950's)

launches of Keith McKenry's biography of John Meredith
John Meredith (1920–2001) was for decades the leading warrior in the fight to preserve and celebrate Australia's unique folk heritage.
Between 1953 and 1994 he recorded from ordinary Australians thousands of songs, tunes, recitations, folk medicines, superstitions, sayings and yarns, documenting a rich canon of traditional lore which at the time few believed—and many denied—existed. He was also a key pioneer in folk song performance, establishing in 1952 the original Bushwhackers Band and performing in the landmark Australian musical Reedy River.

A political radical throughout the Cold War years, he fought all his life against poverty, cultural toadyism and official indifference. Writing or co-authoring many books on Australian tradition and history including the classic Folk Songs of Australia and the Men and Women Who Sang Them, still easily the most important single volume in the field, he achieved official recognition late in life, his original field recordings becoming an acknowledged national treasure. Unlike however the great song collectors in other English-speaking countries he did not have the benefit of a good education let alone formal musical training for he was forced by poverty to leave school at age fourteen at the height of the Great Depression.

In 1944, having neither qualifications nor prospects, he mounted his pushbike and left the New South Wales township of Holbrook where he was born and rode into the sunrise, determined to make his fortune. This is his story.
...................

Mudcatter Mark Gregory's websites are a mine of information for Articles on Australian folk revival & participants


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Subject: RE: Book on early folk song collectors?
From: Deckman
Date: 28 May 15 - 03:08 AM

Joe ... thank you for going to all work of posting the details of these very available collections. In reading your list, I realized that I had absorbed most of these volumes by the time I was 16. These songs and stories still form the basis of what I sing and do today.   Would that we could have collectors of this ability and tenacity today.

Here's a serious question for you ... How is your personal library collection coming? CHEERS, bob(deckman)nelson


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Subject: RE: Book on early folk song collectors?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 28 May 15 - 03:30 AM

Two biographies of Sharp; by A. Fox Stragewqys and the other by Maud Karpeles, Sharp's assistant, (1933 and 1967 respectively).
Both are uncritical praises of his work, interesting with some good information - Fox Strangeways has the edge, in my opinion.
Would second the commendation of Mike Yates' article on Sharp.
There is, of course, the hatchet job on collectors by Dave Harker - depressing.
Made me want to throw it all in and take up macrame - instead, I packed in the book around page 80.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Book on early folk song collectors?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 28 May 15 - 04:08 AM

Can I also recommend John Lomax's 'Adventure of a Ballad Hunter'
Dated in places, but extremely enjoyable and evocative of the time and the period.
I think it was there I read of Leadbelly, who was acting as driver for their collecting trips, curing a raging toothache with a pair of pliers waiting outside a Texas prison (the authorities had refused hi permission to enter the prison to assist).
Somewhat later, Alan Lomax's 'The Land Where the Blues Began' needs no mention, surely?
Some of the earliest collectors and anthologiists, Scott, Motherwell, Maidment, Hogg, Ritson..... are dealt with superbly in Sigurd B Hustvedt's 'Ballad Books and Ballad Men' (Massachusetts, 1930) - indispensable for anybody interested in ballad and song backgrounds   
We got ours after a bit of a search - don't know the situation nowadays
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Book on early folk song collectors?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 28 May 15 - 04:13 AM

Hi, Bob - I've been told by reputable sources that my personal library is the best folk songbook collection in Northern California. I'm still missing most 1950s and 1980s issues of Sing Out!, but I think I have most of the significant folk songbooks published in the US & Canada since 1900, plus a generous sample from the UK, Ireland, and Australia. Not bad on Germany, either.

I've also tried to have a representative collection of songbooks for pop, jazz, blues, Great American Songbook, hymnals, and Yiddish & Spanish songs. I used 'em all on the upcoming Rise Again Songbook, that goes to press next week.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Book on early folk song collectors?
From: GUEST
Date: 28 May 15 - 08:10 AM

I thank all of you for your input and suggestions. I wasn't aware of many of these books, and didn't think that so much material existed. Also, the Basic Folk Library Permathread looks like it is a great resource.

Joe, the word "Songcatcher" which appears in two titles you mentioned sounded familiar to me so I searched Amazon.com for books with that word in the title and I think I've identified the book I had in mind. It was written by Mickey Hart (of the Grateful Dead) and K.M. Kostyal and is titled "Songcatchers: In Search of the World's Music." Can anyone recommend or comment on this book?


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Subject: RE: Book on early folk song collectors?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 28 May 15 - 10:38 AM

Ballad Makin' in the Mountains of Kentucky by Jean Thomas, and Jean Richie's Singing Family of the Cumberlands are both worth a look.
Would echo Joe's inclusion of the filk - Songcatcher, very loosely based around Sharp's co-author Olive Dame Campbell - good fun with some superb singing, though some people did take umbridge at the depiction of Sharp as a latter-day Mr Toad.
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Book on early folk song collectors?
From: Mark Ross
Date: 28 May 15 - 04:05 PM

ADVENTURES OF A BALLAD HUNTER by John A. Lomax


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Subject: RE: Book on early folk song collectors?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 28 May 15 - 04:44 PM

Note that the Dorothy Scarborough book is titled A Song Catcher in Southern Mountains (1937). I have heard of the Mickey Hart "Songcatcher" book, but haven't seen it. I weould appreciate a review.

-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Book on early folk song collectors?
From: Vic Smith
Date: 28 May 15 - 05:27 PM

It was written by Mickey Hart (of the Grateful Dead) and K.M. Kostyal and is titled "Songcatchers: In Search of the World's Music." Can anyone recommend or comment on this book?

I don't think that the book was ever published in the UK. I bought my copy "remaindered" in a bookshop in New Orleans in September 2003 - surprising when the publication date is given as June 1st 2003.
It is an interesting book; more popular than academic. It takes an eclectic look at collecting across a wide range of traditions, dipping more deeply into figures that seem to interest him. Grainger, for example, is dealt with in much greater detail than either Sharp or Lomax.
One of the book's strongest points is the really interesting photos that are found on nearly every one of the 160 pages. I spent at least as much time on the photos as I did on the text.

Hart's credentials show him to be much more than just a rock percussionist. Here's what part of the blurs on the dust jacket says about him -
A well-known spokesperson and advocate for the restoration and preservation of the world's aural treasures, Hart serves on the Board of Trustees of the American Folklife Center and on the National Recorded Sound Preservation Board at the Library of Congress. His lifelong fascination with rhythm and the history of percussion and music has been documented in three previous books: Drumming at the Edge of Magic; Planet Drum; and Spirit into Sound: The Magic of Music.


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Subject: RE: Book on early folk song collectors?
From: Vic Smith
Date: 28 May 15 - 05:32 PM

I meant to add that there are some very cheap second-hand copies of this book on the American Amazon website.


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Subject: RE: Book on early folk song collectors?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 28 May 15 - 06:20 PM

Cheap copies available, Vic? Say no more - I'm on it. I just ordered a copy for a penny...plus $3.99 shipping.
Thanks for the tip.
-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Book on early folk song collectors?
From: GUEST,Derek Schofield
Date: 28 May 15 - 06:34 PM

Vic wrote (of the Mickey Hart Songcatcher book):
"I don't think that the book was ever published in the UK."

Well, it was available to buy in the UK ... I bought a remaindered copy in England ... but no idea where or when...

Derek


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Subject: RE: Book on early folk song collectors?
From: GUEST,Wireharp
Date: 28 May 15 - 08:14 PM

Don't know if you are only looking for printed work, but there is a short series that was on TG4 in Ireland about the work of Edward Bunting, George Petrie and Francis O'Neill that is absolutely wonderful. It was done in 2010, presented by Sean Corcoran; it
is in Irish with subtitles. Over the years I have read as much about (and by) Bunting as I have been able, but this material was a real eye-opener for me.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lJswc2pATMc

Robert Mouland
www.wireharp.com


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Subject: RE: Book on early folk song collectors?
From: GUEST,Mike Yates
Date: 29 May 15 - 09:04 AM

A few years back I wrote a book about my collecting experiences, but it was turned down by a couple of publishers. One said that there was just no interest in the subject anymore, and the other said that I had written too much about the singers and not enough about myself! It is still sitting there on my computer.


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Subject: RE: Book on early folk song collectors?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 29 May 15 - 09:33 AM

Great project Mike
Is it nothing EFDSS might consider?
Pity you don't live in Ireland - still a relatively open door to push here, even though the bankers have done their best to close it!
Jim Carroll


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Subject: RE: Book on early folk song collectors?
From: Vic Smith
Date: 29 May 15 - 11:44 AM

Certainly the EFDSS would be a good option, but there might be others. Dave Arthur was having difficulty in finding a publisher for his great book about A.L. Lloyd. Eventually, he found a interested editor at Pluto but she could not convince her superiors at the firm to publish it. Dave was told by her that if he could produce a substantial list of people saying that they would buy it.....
Quite easy with email and the internet and with the aid of some mates, Dave was able to produce a list that did the trick.


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Subject: RE: Book on early folk song collectors?
From: GUEST,Mike Yates
Date: 30 May 15 - 05:45 AM

The EFDSS were the people who turned the book down because, as I said, I talked "more about the singers than myself"! Anyway, things have moved on, and I am now fully occupied with working on a revised & updated edition of my biography of the English communist writer Ralph Bates.


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Subject: RE: Book on early folk song collectors?
From: GUEST,Jim Hauser
Date: 30 May 15 - 09:58 AM

Another book that I just came across on Amazon that looks interesting is The Ballad Collectors of North America: How Gathering Folksongs Transformed Academic Thought and American Identity by Scott B. Spencer. It appears to be out of print, but it could probably be gotten one way or another (interlibrary loan) from your local library.

Jim


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Subject: RE: Book on early folk song collectors?
From: Lighter
Date: 30 May 15 - 10:19 AM

Lomax's book is especially fascinating for what Jim calls, not incorrectly, its "dated" attitudes.

A white Texan born in 1867, Lomax writes affectionately but rather patronizingly about most of his informants, blacks especially. Today he'd be called a racist. In 1908, when he began collecting, he seemed like a radical for taking black culture seriously at all.

The other interesting thing is his romantic, completely non-scholarly approach to collecting and publishing. Much of what he says is humorous or sentimental (again typical even of serious journalism ca1900). Like son Alan, he was less concerned with documentation than with putting together singable (and in some cases printable!) versions.

Altogether a revealing and enjoyable book.


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Subject: RE: Book on early folk song collectors?
From: GUEST,Fred McCormick
Date: 30 May 15 - 10:55 AM

Bloody hell Mike. This sounds like an absolute must publish. I would certainly suggest that you try and persuade EFDSS and, or, Pluto Press.

If it ever sees the light of print (to use one of Bert Lloyd's sayings), then you can definitely put me down for a copy - and supporting emails to anyone and everyone who might be able to get it out there.


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Subject: RE: Book on early folk song collectors?
From: GUEST,Fred McCormick
Date: 30 May 15 - 11:02 AM

The book which Jim Hauser refers to (The Ballad Collectors of North America: How Gathering Folksongs Transformed Academic Thought and American Identity by Scott B. Spencer) seems for some strange reason, not to have been published in Britain. Also, the American edition seems decidedly expensive and when one adds on the crippling postal charges for anything from the USA these days............

Does anyone know of an affordable way of obtaining a copy on this side of the pond?


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Subject: RE: Book on early folk song collectors?
From: GUEST,Jim Hauser
Date: 30 May 15 - 04:28 PM

Fred,
I see I was wrong about the book Ballad Collectors of North America being out of print. At the price it's being sold for, getting it from your local library may be the way to go. In the USA, most libraries can get you a copy of almost any book you're interested in even if they don't have it in their collection. My public library has gotten many books for me that were almost only available from college libraries through what is called "interlibrary loan."
Jim


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Subject: RE: Book on early folk song collectors?
From: GUEST,Derek Schofield
Date: 30 May 15 - 04:55 PM

EFDSS have moved out of publishing (apart from their 2 periodicals and educational stuff online). Pluto is one alternative. But also Francis Boutle Publishers, who have just published the new edition of Frank Purslow's The Wanton Seed. That was also helped by a crowdfunding/subscription scheme. The publisher, Clive Boutle, is a folk enthusiast who has published books on Cornish culture, language and a couple of other folk books.....
Mike - let me know if you want more details....
Derek


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Subject: RE: Book on early folk song collectors?
From: GUEST,Fred McCormick
Date: 31 May 15 - 07:13 AM

Jim. It looks like my local library will be the only alternative. Unfortunately, Inter Library Loan, as it's known over here, is but a shadow of its former self. Cutbacks, austerity, library closures and the devil knows what. But I'll give it a go. You never know.

Derek and Mike. I'll readily assert that hard copy print is the most logical step. But if all else fails what about publishing it on the Internet? There's a certain Mr Stradling would, I'm sure, be very interested.


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Subject: RE: Book on early folk song collectors?
From: GUEST,Jim Hauser
Date: 01 Jun 15 - 01:13 PM

Fred,
I'm sorry to hear that you may not be able to get the book through your local library. Interlibrary loan is such a great service, especially when a book is out of print. And some of these books are just too expensive. I've borrowed Bruce Conforth's book on Lawrence Gellert (African American Folksong and American Cultural Politics) through ILL and I'd like to buy it but not at the list price of 75 US dollars or even the Amazon discounted price of $65. When it was published in May 2013, I figured I could buy it used for a decent price in about a year. But over 2 years have passed and Amazon's lowest price for a used copy is currently $55--still too expensive for me
Jim


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Subject: RE: Book on early folk song collectors?
From: GUEST,Scott B. Spencer
Date: 23 Jun 15 - 03:12 AM

Drop me a line offlist.

scottbspencer@me.com

I'm delighted that there is interest.


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Subject: RE: Book on early folk song collectors?
From: Joe Offer
Date: 23 Jun 16 - 04:42 AM

The New York Times website has a generous excerpt from chapter 1 of Benjamin Filene's Romancing the Folk: Public Memory & American Roots Music (click). The excerpt deals with a number of the early folksong collectors. I think you'll enjoy it.
-Joe-


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Subject: RE: Book on early folk song collectors?
From: Jim Carroll
Date: 23 Jun 16 - 04:50 AM

Glad this reopened
I have since read David Gregory's two excellent tomes; 'Victorian Songhunters' and 'The Late Victorian Folksong Revival' - edifying stuff!
Jim Carroll


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