In this podcast we will listen to Bob and Anna Mae Noell of Tarpon Springs as they discuss and re-enact old-time medicine show routines.
(54:58, 50.3MB; S1576 T80-62, T81-102,T81-103, T81-105, T82-39, T82-41, T83-52)
Welcome back to the Florida Folklife Collection Podcast Series from the Department of State and State Archives of Florida. In this podcast we will listen to Bob and Anna Mae Noell of Tarpon Springs as they discuss and re-enact old-time medicine show routines.
The old-time traveling medicine show is a tradition that flourished in the rural United States during the late 19th century and can be traced all the way back to entertainment troupes of the Middle Ages. Nomadic performers brought a wide variety of entertainment free of charge to small-town audiences throughout the Midwest and the South. The performance routines included comedy, music, and magic tricks, with the underlying purpose of drawing a crowd to whom the medicine man would pitch his latest cure-alls. In order to sell their various tonics, herbs and liniments, medicine promoters would successfully engage the audience with numerous scare tactics, including suggestion of false symptoms, display of grotesque visuals, and staged scientific experiments. Often they would exploit the perceived exotic nature of traditional Native American and Eastern remedies as well. However, the popularity of the medicine show greatly declined by the 1940’s with the advent of radio, television, and stricter health regulations, in addition to a rejection of the negative portrayals of African Americans projected by the blackface comedy routines that were an integral part of many performances.
Two longtime medicine show performers, Bob and Anna Mae Noell, grew up in show business. While Mae was raised by parents who were touring Vaudeville comedians, Bob left his Virginia home at the age of 12 and learned the trade when he joined a medicine show passing through town. The two crossed paths in 1931, quickly married, and eventually began their own traveling show. They sold jewelry and candy, and amused crowds with ventriloquism, Vaudevillian comedy, and fighting chimpanzees who would box and wrestle any daring human challengers. The Noells retired from traveling in 1971 and shifted their focus to caring for and adopting primates at the Noell’s Ark Chimp Farm, which they ran full time from their Tarpon Springs home. The haphazard roadside zoo drew the attention of animal rights activists throughout the 1990s, and was forced to close after the U.S. Department of Agriculture revoked its federal exhibition license in 1999. Bob Noell died in 1991, Mae in 2000. In 2008 their granddaughter reopened Noell’s Ark as the Suncoast Primate Sanctuary.
Throughout their lives the Noells recognized the uniqueness of their trade and worked to preserve both the stage routines and history of the medicine show. Mae Noell wrote and published Gorilla Show, a book about their travels and experiences running Noell’s Ark. The Noells continued to perform their medicine show routine locally in Florida, and granted interviews for both radio and film documentaries on the topic.
The following recordings are taken from performances at the Florida Folk Festival and interviews conducted by folklorists Peggy Bulger and Landon Walker from 1980-1982.Take a step back in time as the Noells recount their experiences on the road and perform classic medicine show routines including “Sambo the Dummy,” “The Three O’Clock Train” and “Crazy House, or Room 44.” Enjoy.
Recorded on Sunday, May 30, 1993, on the Folk Festival’s Main Stage.
(53:09, 97.6MB; D93-18)
Welcome back to the Florida Folklife Collection Podcast Series from the State Library and Archives of Florida. Family groups and brother acts are not rare in country, bluegrass, and traditional music, where the bond of family is revered and where ensemble singing is common. Family groups were certainly never far removed from the roster of talent at The Florida Folk Festival. This month's podcast features one of Florida's own musically gifted fraternal outfits.
The Peyton Brothers, originally of Jacksonville, attended the Florida Folk Festival as spectators for many years before they became perennial favorites of its stage. Their familiarity with the traditions and history of the annual gathering made them instant favorites, as much for their music as for their ability to interweave remembrances of early festival events into their performances. In 1981, The Peyton Brothers disbanded for several years as various opportunities sent them to different corners of the United States. However, it wasn't long after they found themselves residents of Florida again that they were enthusiastically received by the folk festival audience once more.
The following performance was recorded on Sunday, May 30, 1993, on the Folk Festival's Main Stage and illustrates how brothers, John, Dan, Michael, and Lee Peyton transformed their musical hobby into a family tradition that delights and entertains Florida audiences to this day.
Recorded on January 18, 1985 by the Folk Arts Apprenticeship Program
(48:16, 88.3 MB; S1640; Tape 1)
Welcome back to the Florida Folklife Collection Podcast Series from the State Library and Archives of Florida. This month’s podcast is being released in conjunction with the State Library and Archives’ new online exhibit, Pestilence, Potions, and Persistence: Early Florida Medicine. The materials in the exhibit originate from various collections in the holdings of the State Library and Archives of Florida that highlight the role of health and wellness in the lives of Florida’s citizens and the development of the state. The exhibit follows the gradual evolution of medical practice and health care infrastructure in Florida with documents, correspondence, and photographs dating back to the territorial period.Transcript of the introduction: Digitized images from the Florida Photographic Collection provide a view of early health care facilities and doctors, pioneering African-American physicians and women caregivers, as well as Native American healers.Transcript of the introduction:An extensive essay chronicles the many challenges facing Florida’s transition from a disease prone wilderness swampland to the tourism and recreation paradise we know today. In whole, Pestilence, Potions, and Persistence: Early Florida Medicine paints a sweeping picture of the changing face of medicine in the nation’s first state to experience settlement by foreign explorers.
Our podcast features a component of Florida medicine that existed long before those European adventurers ever reached the coastlines of the state. In this oral history interview, recorded on January 18, 1985, Seminole Indian tribal healer Susie Billie of the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation discusses how she learned healing practices from her mother and father as a child, including herb gathering and identification, preparing natural cures, gender roles in Seminole medicine, physical and spiritual healing, payment methods for administering services, and the use of medicine songs. It is a truly rare and fascinating opportunity to listen to the experiences and methods of a Seminole healer firsthand. Enjoy.
Recorded on May 27, 2006 by the Florida Folklife Program at the 2006 Florida Folk Festival in White Springs, Florida.
(69:00, 63.1 MB; CD06-90 & CD06-91)
Welcome back to the Florida Folklife Collection Podcast Series from the State Library and Archives of Florida. In recognition of Hispanic Heritage Month, we would like to spotlight a Mexican musical tradition that occurs throughout the state nearly every weekend of the year, yet escapes the notice of most Floridians. In Latin grocery stores and Mexican restaurants, at flea markets, produce stands, and laundromats, at day labor centers and public parks, small colorful fliers pepper bulletin boards promoting weekend entertainment featuring Mexican Norteño bands, traditional foods, music, dancing, and a sense of community for migrant workers and naturalized citizens far from their homes and families.
Norteño, sometimes also called Norteña or Conjunto, literally translates to the word “northern,” referring to the region of northern Mexico and present day southern Texas where the musical style originated. While the genre had its beginnings in rural areas and still exhibits agrarian lyrical imagery, its popularity has spread with migration to urban centers where some AM stations focus solely on music targeted to the Hispanic community.Transcript of the introduction: Norteño is specifically intended for dancing, primarily driven by the accordion, bajo sexto, drums, and occasionally a single saxophone, and differs greatly from the brass heavy ensembles of Mariachi. Norteño was born from a combination of German, Czech, and Mexican instrumentation and rhythms, and is typically performed through polkas, corridos, rancheras, and cumbias.
This podcast features Conjunto Aventura, a Norteño ensemble from south Florida, performing at the 2006 Florida Folk Festival. Their exuberant performance well demonstrates exactly why this music remains a popular genre among Mexicans and Mexican-Americans. Enjoy.
Jazz pianist Ida Goodson was born into a musically gifted family near Pensacola, Florida, in 1909.
(55:00, 75.6 MB; T83-143, T83-144, T83-145, T83-148, T83-149)
Jazz pianist Ida Goodson was born into a musically gifted family near Pensacola, Florida, in 1909. She was the youngest of seven girls raised by strict Southern Baptist parents who prohibited the playing of secular music in the home. Despite that, both she and her sister, Wilhelmina Goodson, learned to play the piano and developed a love for barrelhouse blues and jazz. Wilhelmina later became known as Billie Pierce, wife of jazz trumpeter Dee Dee Pierce, who was an original member of New Orleans’ famed Preservation Hall Jazz Band.
Goodson performed throughout the South but maintained a home base in Pensacola, where she often accompanied tours with national stars such as Bessie Smith. She was adept at several different styles of music, including gospel, jazz, blues, vaudeville, and popular songs. In 1979, she was rediscovered by field researchers working for the Florida Folklife Commission, who included several of her compositions on the widely acclaimed Drop on Down in Florida double album.
Goodson became a mainstay at the Florida Folk Festival and was awarded the prestigious Florida Folk Heritage Award in 1987. In 1989, she appeared in the documentary film Wild Women Don’t Have the Blues, and at age 80 she stole the show from the younger, more widely known musicians.
This month’s podcast helps to illustrate how she did it. This feature was compiled from several recording sessions with Goodson conducted in December of 1981. Her unique revisions of traditional gospel pieces go hand in hand with solo piano blues and jazz standards featuring a full ensemble of accompanying musicians.
We think you’ll agree that Ida knew a thing or two about the blues. Enjoy.
Sonia viewed singing much the same way her mother did—an everyday pleasure that could accompany and embellish any activity.
Welcome back to the Florida Folklife Collection Podcast Series from the State Library and Archives of Florida. French folk singer Sonia Malkine possessed a delicate and captivating vocal approach, which she combined with a varied repertoire of music. The songs included ancient Celtic ballads, lullabies, popular music, hymns, sailors’ songs, and French folk pieces—some centuries old, passed to her by her mother in the oral tradition when Sonia was a child.
When listening to Sonia sing, it’s surprising to learn that her gift nearly escaped undiscovered. She viewed singing much the same way her mother did—an everyday pleasure that could accompany and embellish any activity. While at a party in 1958, a friend casually asked her to sing something in French. When she had finished, she was embarrassed to realize that the clamor of the party had fallen into a hushed silence to listen. When she was asked where she sang, her answer was, “In the kitchen, doing dishes…. for my children.” Almost immediately, her audience changed radically.
The following day she recorded 17 songs that eventually comprised an album for Smithsonian Folkways; she would go on to release three albums for the label. Soon she was playing coffee houses and folk festivals around the country. She appeared on Pete Seeger’s television program, shared the stage with Jacque Brel, and delighted the audience at Carnegie Hall.
Cousin Thelma Boltin, the long-time director of the Florida Folk Festival, heard Sonia in a Minneapolis coffee house in the mid-1960s and invited her to become a part of Florida’s annual folk festival in White Springs. Sonia accepted and became an instant festival favorite, participating from the late 1960s until the mid-1970s.
The following podcast was assembled using segments from Sonia Malkine’s performances in White Springs spanning the years 1969-1975. Due to festival scheduling in those days, each artist was allotted only a brief time on stage. To better showcase Sonia’s talent we have stitched several of these sets together to create a longer concert more suited for presenting as a podcast. We think the results display the vast repertoire Sonia shared and the unique voice that brought it to life. Thanks for listening.
Cattle ranching has a nearly 500-year-old tradition in the state of Florida.
(42:51:00; 32.9MB; C84-10 & C84-11)
Welcome back to the Florida Folklife Collection Podcast series from the State Library and Archives of Florida.
Cattle ranching has a nearly 500-year-old tradition in the state of Florida dating back to 1521 when Spanish explorer Juan Ponce De Leon first introduced cattle to North America. That tradition is highlighted in a new exhibit at the Museum of Florida History titled Florida Cattle Ranching: Five Centuries of Tradition and in a new photo exhibit found in the Florida Photographic Collection pages here on the Florida Memory Web site. Where you’ll find cowboys working cattle you’ll also hear cowboy songs. Few individuals knew cowboy ballads and western music as well Cowboy Jim Bob Tinsley, the subject of this month’s podcast.
Jim Bob Tinsley a resident of Ocala, Florida, was originally of North Carolina, where he was born August 12, 1921. During his life he shared his knowledge of cowboy songs in a variety of occupations. He was a working cowboy in Florida and Arizona, an aerial photographer in the Navy during World War II, an educator and storyteller, and a radio host and performer. Tinsley shared the stage with the likes of Gene Autry, Smiley Burnette, and Roy Rogers. He was an actor and writer, whose scholarly books He Was Singin’ This Song and For a Cowboy Has to Sing, both published by the University of Central Florida Press, remain important pieces of literature on cowboy and western music. He was a recipient of the Western Heritage Wrangler Award from the National Cowboy Hall of Fame, the National Radio Heritage Association’s Pioneer Award, a Will Rogers Lifetime Achievement Award, and was inducted into Western Music Association Hall of Fame in 1999.
This month’s podcast features Jim Bob Tinsley performing before a small rapt audience at the Ocala Public Library in March of 1984. He discusses the purpose of cowboy songs, the history of the pieces he performs, the meaning of various cowboy terminologies, and stories from his career in music. Let’s saddle up for a short ride through the history of cowboy songs with Jim Bob Tinsley.
Thanks for listening.
Recorded on May 30, 2004 by the Florida Folklife Program at the 2004 Florida Folk Festival in White Springs, Florida
(1:11:45; 160MB; CD04-24)
Welcome back to the Florida Folklife Collection podcast series from the State Library and Archives of Florida.
Over the years The Florida Folk Festival has certainly drawn its share of nationally renowned talent. Frequently these artists have had some connection to the state of Florida, few however have received the sort of homecoming extended to Vassar Clements. In his early years Clements was tagged with the nickname “The Kissimmee Kid” after the town in which he was raised and first took up the fiddle at the age of seven. By his teens he had formed a string band with his cousins Red and Gerald, become a staple on local radio stations and at 14 had drawn the attention of Bill Monroe. Vassar spent seven years with Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys before leaving in 1957 to join Jim & Jesse McReynolds who were then based in Live Oak. Throughout his life Vassar pursued an interest in many forms of music eventually melding country and bluegrass with the jazz and swing sounds he heard on the radio forming his own unique style, Hillbilly Jazz. It was this diversity and musical curiosity that landed him a spot among other country and bluegrass legends on The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s Will the Circle Be Unbroken album and exposed his talent to a wider and younger audience. Vassar was soon in demand as a studio musician, eventually appearing on over 2000 recordings from artists as wide ranging as Stephane Grappelli, The Monkees, and The Grateful Dead. From 1997 to 2004 Vassar returned to the Florida Folk Festival where he frequently appeared with a pick-up band consisting of other festival participants providing them with a rare and memorable opportunity to share the stage with one of the world’s most accomplished and versatile fiddle players.
The performance we’ve selected for this month’s podcast was recorded on May 30th at the 2004 Florida Folk Festival. It was Vassar’s last appearance at the festival; he passed away the following year at age 77. Let’s join the Father of Hillbilly Jazz accompanied here by Wayne Martin, Josh Pinkham, Alan Dalton, Carroll Clements and Jane Royal. Thanks again for listening.
This month we want to highlight one of this country’s defining musical institutions: The Blues.
Welcome back to the Florida Folklife Collection Podcast Series from the State Library and Archives of Florida. This month we want to highlight one of this country’s defining musical institutions: The Blues. Each of our neighboring southern states has placed a unique brand on the music’s form and sound—including Florida. This month’s podcast aims to prove it by joining forces with Florida’s Got the Blues, a new exhibit presented by the Museum of Florida History.
“Florida’s Got the Blues,” open through March 1st 2009, features rare 78rpm recordings by “The King of Ragtime Blues Guitar,” Jacksonville’s own Blind Blake. There are historically significant instruments including a National steel-bodied guitar owned by Tampa Red, the undisputed king-pin of Lester Melrose’s Chicago-based Bluebird Record label. Stage attire owned by the likes of Bo Diddley of Gainesville, “Diamond Teeth” Mary McLain of Tampa, and Ray Charles of Greenville, Florida, as well as stunning photographs, ephemera, artifacts, interactive exhibits and moving images give museum patrons a deeper understanding of the history of Blues music—and Florida’s contribution in shaping the genre.
This podcast expands on some of the exhibit’s lesser known Florida blues musicians by presenting recordings captured live from the Florida Folk Festival stage alongside more intimate performances documented by Florida folklorists working in the field. Everything from “Diamond Teeth” Mary and Willie Green’s bawdy blues, to Roy Bookbinder’s finger-style rags, Johnny Brown’s slide, Emmett Murray’s electric guitar, and Moses Williams’ diddley bow. Performers Ida Goodson, Ella Mae Wilson and Richard Williams, Charles Atkins, and Robert Dennis—it is all here.
For more information on Florida’s Got the Blues and museum hours of operation, contact the Museum of Florida History at 850-245-6400. To conduct research on, or obtain copies of recordings from, the Florida Folklife Collection, contact the State Archives of Florida by using the “contact us” link at the top of any page on the Florida Memory Web site or by dialing 850-245-6700. In the meantime it’s our genuine pleasure to give you a real case of the blues! Thanks for listening.
Recorded on May 24, 2003 by the Florida Folklife Program at the 2003 Florida Folk Festival in White Springs, Florida.
(1:20; 93MB; CD03-14 & CD03-15)
Since the very early days of the Florida Folk Festival the marble stage in White Springs has been a showcase for Florida musicians and Florida songs.
It could be a time worn standard such as Stephen Foster’s "Old Folks at Home" that pays homage to the Suwannee River meandering by the festival site or "Osceola’s Last Words," "Wild Hog," "Hold Back the Waters," or any of a thousand by the Black Hat Troubadour, Will McLean. Maybe it’s Gamble Rogers regaling us with a tale about Still Bill or Oklawaha Laissez-Faire. Perhaps Don Grooms protesting the Orange Blossom Special’s new route around Waldo or Dale Crider spinning an ecological warning wrapped in music. These songs have emanated from the stage at White Springs. They’ve been taken up, reshaped and passed on. They’ve informed and they’ve inspired others to carry on the tradition of Florida songwriting. We’ve presented many of these songs in the Florida Folklife Collection Podcast series.
Rarely have we been given the opportunity to feature a handful of these homegrown musicians in a single presentation. Thanks to the Florida Troubadours showcase from the 2003 Florida Folk Festival, this month’s podcast features music from a number of Florida songwriters - Jeanie Fitchen, Frank Thomas, Bobby Hicks - and other Florida folk singing the folk songs of Florida. So let’s make ourselves comfortable and hand the mic over to Jeanie Fitchen and some of Florida’s finest. Enjoy!