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In 1977, the Florida Folklife Program sponsored a series of free concerts of nationally renowned folk musicians at the Stephen Foster Center in White Springs. Included in the lineup was Pete Seeger.
Part 1 (52:27, 48MB; S1576 T77-284, T77-285) Part 2 (1:11:21, 65.3MB; S1576 T77-285)
Welcome back to the Florida Folklife Collection podcast series from the Florida Department of State’s State Library and Archives of Florida. Although Florida-grown artists and traditions have been the primary focus of this series, we would be remiss in overlooking the reach of Florida folklife outside of our state lines. In 1977, the Florida Folklife Program sponsored a series of free concerts of nationally renowned folk musicians at the Stephen Foster Center in White Springs. Included in the lineup were Jean Ritchie, the New Christy Minstrels, the Kingston Trio, Doc and Merle Watson, and Pete Seeger, who turns 93 this May. To celebrate Pete’s birthday, we’ll revisit his performance recorded 35 years ago.
Born in New York City, Pete Seeger learned the banjo in 1938, and worked with Alan Lomax at the Archive of American Folk Song in the Library of Congress. As a songwriter, his original repertoire included “Turn Turn Turn” and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone.” He also formed two influential groups, the Almanac Singers and the Weavers, who sang labor anthems like “Which Side are You On?” as well as traditional numbers such as “Goodnight, Irene.”
During his extensive career, Seeger inevitably crossed paths with Florida folk artists. In 1956 he recorded for Folkways Records with the Washboard Band, which featured Florida Folk Heritage Award Winner William “Washboard Bill” Cooke. Not surprisingly, he also struck up a friendship with the Father of Florida Folk himself, Will McLean. The two performed together in 1963 at Carnegie Hall, and Will McLean was notably present for Seeger’s 1977 White Springs appearance.
Pete Seeger wrote about Florida in his music as well. “Delbert Tibbs” is an ode to the African-American poet who was wrongfully convicted of murder and rape in 1974 and sat on death row in Raiford State Penitentiary until January of 1977. The song helped procure justice for Tibbs, and in 1982, all charges against him were dismissed.
Today, at the age of 93, Pete Seeger is still performing, recording and promoting social justice. Let’s hand the mic over to our mistress of ceremonies, Thelma Boltin, and sing along as Pete picks the banjo and strums his 12-string guitar.
Looking all the way back to the 1930s, we begin with Eatonville native Zora Neale Hurston, who documented turpentine workers in Cross City, Florida.
(26:39, 24.4MB; S1576 T86-244, T86-245, T76-4, T76-9, C79-68, C83-58, C83-62)
Welcome back to the Florida Folklife Collection podcast series from the Florida Department of State’s State Library and Archives of Florida. March is Women’s History Month, and in this podcast we will recognize and give voice to some of the women who have been vital in documenting, preserving and celebrating Florida’s diverse heritage.
Looking all the way back to the 1930s, we begin with Eatonville native Zora Neale Hurston, who documented turpentine workers in Cross City, Florida as part of the Works Progress Administration’s (WPA) Federal Writers’ Project. Through her essay “Turpentine” and field recordings, Hurston captured unique, first-hand accounts of day-to-day life in the turpentine camps, and the traditions that were an integral part of the workers’ culture. “Halimuhfack” and “Tilly, Lend Me Your Pigeon” were two of the many songs Hurston learned in the course of her fieldwork for the WPA, which she demonstrates to her colleagues Herbert Halpert, Stetson Kennedy and Dr. Carita Doggett Corse on the following recordings from 1939.
[T-86-245 “Tilly, Lend Me Your Pigeon”]
As Zora Neale Hurston was conducting fieldwork in Florida, Sarah Gertrude Knott founded both the National Folk Festival and National Folk Festival Association in 1934; among the earliest advisors for these endeavors was Ms. Hurston. In 1952, under contract from the Stephen Foster Memorial Commission, Knott organized the first Florida Folk Festival and formed the Florida Folk Festival Association. She also served as director of the first two Florida Folk Festivals in 1953 and 1954. Here is an excerpt from a speech Knott gave during the 1954 Florida Folk Festival.
[T-76-4 Sarah Gertrude Knott Speech]
Succeeding Sarah Gertrude Knott as director of the Florida Folk Festival from 1954-1965 was “Cousin” Thelma Boltin from Gainesville. In addition to sharing her gifts as a storyteller, organizer and emcee, Cousin Thelma—a title earned from her familial rapport with festival participants—scouted the state for folk artists to recruit for the festival. With the help of Barbara Beauchamp, Boltin established the Florida Folk Festival as a valuable institution for sharing and celebrating the state’s varied traditions. Let’s enjoy one of Cousin Thelma’s famous stories, followed by an excerpt from a 1978 interview with state folklorist Peggy Bulger.
[T-76-9 Creation Story]
[C-79-68 Thelma Boltin Interview]
Dr. Peggy Bulger was Florida’s first State Folklorist, founding and administering the Florida Folklife Program from 1976-1989. She created a large body of fieldwork which laid the foundations for the Florida Folklife Collection, and instituted valuable outreach programs such as apprenticeships, educational videos and publications, workshops and exhibits. Dr. Bulger went on to serve as the Senior Program Officer for the Southern Arts Federation, and later as director of the Library of Congress’ American Folklife Center. In this 1982 interview, she discusses the origins of the Florida Folklife Program and what folklore means to her.
[C-83-58 Peggy Bulger Interview]
With the establishment of the Florida Folklife Program came significant contributions from many other women. Working alongside Peggy Bulger was Brenda McCallum, who was instrumental in documenting and establishing contacts in Florida’s communities. She also played an important role in developing the Florida Folklife Program Archive, and today the American Folklore Society awards a prize in her honor to institutions and individuals working with folklife collections.
Tina Bucuvalas served as the State Folklorist from 1996-2009, though her work in the Florida Folklife Program dates back to 1986 with the Miami-Dade Folklife Survey. She currently serves as Curator of Arts and Historical Resources for the City of Tarpon Springs, and recently edited The Florida Folklife Reader.
The list of women who have been integral to the research, documentation, and teaching of Florida’s folk traditions continues with Merri Belland, Nancy Nusz, Riki Saltzman, Jan Rosenberg, Debbie Fant, Andrea Graham, Laurie Sommers, Mary Anne McDonald, Teresa Hollingsworth, Betsy Peterson, and Doris Dyen, interviewed here.
[C-83-62 Doris Dyen Interview]
While it is impossible to comprehensively recognize the individual efforts of everyone mentioned in a single podcast, we hope to have invoked a greater appreciation for the significant contributions women have made in documenting and preserving a history of and for the people of Florida. Thanks for listening.
The practice of lining hymns can be traced back to the 17th century.
(48:40, 44.5MB; S1576 D00-20, D01-17, S1640 Box 25 Tape 8)
Welcome back to the Florida Folklife Collection podcast series from the Florida Department of State’s State Library and Archives of Florida. In recognition of Black History Month, we will highlight the uniquely African-American tradition of hymn lining.
The practice of lining hymns can be traced back to the 17th century when printed hymnals were scarce and many churchgoers—both slaves and whites—could not read. A church elder or minister who could read would “line out,” or recite a hymn line by line, which in turn was repeated by the congregation. These hymns, such as “Amazing Grace” or “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” remained and evolved in African-American churches after the end of slavery. For Albert Troy Demps of Orlando, this tradition was passed on to him by his mother during the Great Depression, when musical instruments were scarce and times were hard.
As Deacon at the Mount Pleasant Missionary Baptist Church, Demps continues to practice hymn lining, and he believes there is a more focused connection with the Holy Spirit among the congregation when the hymnal is set aside. Through the Florida Department of State’s Folklife Apprenticeship Program he taught hymn lining in order to preserve the tradition, and was awarded the Florida Folk Heritage Award in 2003. This podcast features performances from Troy Demps and his apprentices at the Florida Folk Festival as well as a 1995 interview with folklorist Bob Stone.
More information on Troy Demps and African-American hymn lining can be found in a biography from the Folklife Apprenticeship Program. The Florida Folklife Collection compilation CD Shall We Gather at the River features Demps and his apprentices, in addition to other recordings of traditional African-American sacred music, from the State Archives of Florida.
he Black Hat Troubadour. The Father of Florida Folk. These were the calling cards of a man who had a profound impact on his home state’s folk music tradition.
(47:12, 43.2MB; S1576 T77-145, T77-160, T80-12, T81-43, T85-39)
The Black Hat Troubadour. The Father of Florida Folk. These were the calling cards of a man who had a profound impact on his home state’s folk music tradition. Welcome back to the Florida Folklife Collection podcast series from the Florida Department of State’s Division of Library and Information Services. This month we will focus on one of our most prolific and influential songwriters, Will McLean.
Born just outside of Chipley, Will spent his life traveling and writing songs inspired by his experiences in and love for the Sunshine State. He wrote his first song, “Away O’ee,” at the age of six, and went on to compose over 3,000 more songs and stories before his death in 1990. His classic portrayals of Florida’s people and landscapes through songs such as “Hold Back the Waters,” “Osceola’s Last Words,” and “Florida Sand” are still sung today. Will McLean received the Florida Folk Heritage Award in 1989, and in 1996 he was inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame. His legacy continues through the Will McLean Foundation as well as an annual folk festival bearing his name.
In 1963 Will made his Florida Folk Festival debut, and performed many times throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s. Gamble Rogers, Paul Champion, Jim Ballew, Don Grooms and many others often accompanied McLean on stage. Let’s enjoy some highlights from Will’s appearances at the Florida Folk Festival starting with a 1963 recording of “Tate’s Hell.”
This podcast features Ukrainian bandurist Yarko Antonevych.
(42:30, 38.9MB; S1576 D95-37, D95-3, D95-26)
Welcome back to the Florida Folklife Collection podcast series from the Florida Department of State’s Library and Archives of Florida. As we’ve discovered throughout this series, the Florida Folk Festival has provided an excellent venue for sharing unique traditions introduced to Florida from around the world. Ukrainian bandurist Yarko Antonevych is no exception.
The bandura is the national instrument of Ukraine and possesses many similarities to the lute or harp. Its history dates back to the sixth century with its predecessor, the kobza, and the musicians who played this instrument as well as the bandura who were known as kobzari – wandering folk troubadours and court musicians who wrote and performed epic songs called duma. Yarko will fill us in with more on the history of the instrument and its performers throughout the podcast.
Born in Canada where his father fled after World War II, Yarko Antonevych grew up in a Ukrainian community in Toronto where he was introduced to his instrument at an early age. He studied music at Florida Atlantic University and Palm Beach Community College in his 20s. More recently, Yarko has been sighted carrying on the kobzar tradition in the subways of Toronto.
During his time in Florida, Yarko brought the ethereal sounds of his instrument to White Springs, performing old Ukranian folk songs as well as modern compositions. Let’s enjoy some highlights from Yarko’s appearances at the 1995 Florida Folk Festival.
This month we will learn to appreciate Florida’s mosquitos, swamps and waterways through song with Gainesville’s environmental troubadour Dale Crider.
(40:55, 37.4MB, S1576 T83-98, T83-103)
Welcome back to the Florida Folklife Collection podcast series from the Florida Department of State’s State Library and Archives of Florida. This month we will learn to appreciate Florida’s mosquitos, swamps and waterways through song with Gainesville’s environmental troubadour Dale Crider.
Dale has been a presence at the Florida Folk Festival for over 40 years, beginning with his performances of traditional bluegrass numbers in the 1960s with the Florida Wildlife Boys. By the 1970s he was performing original songs both solo and accompanied by various musicians, including then-wife Linda Bittner. With 30 years of experience as a biologist for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Crider has an in-depth understanding of Florida’ s ecosystems. This has enabled him to write songs with both a convincing message of environmental conservation and an equally strong audience appeal.
This podcast focuses on Crider’s performances at the 1979 Florida Folk Festival with Linda Bittner fulfilling bass and vocal duties and Sean Flynn on the violin and dobro. Bittner was executive director for the Governor’ s Council on Physical Fitness, and ties in this expertise on set opener “Fitness is the Balance.” Dale continues to decry wasteful energy use and excessive land development on “Black Gold” and “Stainless Steel Palm Trees.” Taking care of our forests takes on a mild patriotic undertone during “Under the Southern Bald Eagle,” and the “Mosquito’s Lullaby” makes you think twice about using pesticides.
Today Dale continues performing and educating audiences around the world on numerous topics relating to environmental appreciation and conservation. Let’s join Cousin Thelma, Dale and Linda in White Springs to celebrate all of the unique wilderness and wildlife Florida has to offer.
In 1992, while serving as State Folklorist, Bob Stone unearthed what became known as Sacred Steel music in South Florida.
(1:24:19, 77.2MB; S1576 C97-84, C97-85, D94-20)
Welcome back to the Florida Folklife Collection Podcast Series from the Department of State Archives of Florida.
Since the 1930s, the sounds of steel guitar have been heard in an unlikely place, far removed from Nashville or the Hawaiian islands. Musicians in the Pentecostal House of God church use the steel guitar instead of the often-heard organ or piano to lead their lively, music-driven worship services. The very human, voice-like qualities of lap and pedal steel guitars are perfectly suited to underscore a spirited sermon or lead an ecstatic choir in praise.
In 1992, while serving as State Folklorist, Bob Stone unearthed what became known as Sacred Steel music in South Florida. His extensive research led to the publication of multiple sound recordings from Willie Eason, Sonny Treadway, and Aubrey Ghent—featured here on this podcast—as well as a video documentary and a book titled Sacred Steel: Inside an African American Steel Guitar Tradition.
Stone’s research brought a heightened interest in Sacred Steel music. This newfound popularity became a source of conflict for House of God musicians: should the music be kept within the strict confines of the church, or shared with the general public as a form of ministry? Fortunately for the listening audience, some musicians chose to share this unique tradition in secular venues such as the Florida Folk Festival. Listen as Bob Stone interviews Willie Eason and Sonny Treadway between songs at the Folklife Narrative Stage during the 1997 Florida Folk Festival, followed by a rousing 1994 performance from Aubrey Ghent closing out the Festival’s Main Stage.
For more information on Sacred Steel music in Florida, visit the Voices of Florida page on the Florida Department of State’s Division of Historical Resources website.
In this podcast we will listen to four performances of traditional Greek music from residents of Tarpon Springs, recorded at the Florida Folk Festival as well as in the field.
(1:04, 58.6MB; S1576 T80-69, T77-111, T87-1, CD03-111, CD03-117)
Welcome back to the Florida Folklife Collection Podcast Series from the Department of State Library and Archives of Florida. The booming sea sponge industry that began in the 1890s brought numerous Greek immigrants to Tarpon Springs, Florida. Along with this trade came rich musical traditions. In this podcast we will listen to four performances of traditional Greek music from residents of Tarpon Springs, recorded at the Florida Folk Festival as well as in the field.
Greece is home to a wide variety of both sacred and secular musical traditions, both of which we will explore for the next hour. The first performance, recorded at the 1980 Florida Folk Festival, features a middle school chorus known as the Grecian Islanders of Tarpon Springs performing traditional folk songs accompanied by the bouzouki, a plucked string instrument.
We then turn to the sacred side of Greek vocal music, and take a glimpse into the Greek Orthodox Church with a performance from the Byzantine Choir at the 1961 Florida Folk Festival. The origins of this liturgical chant can be traced back to the Byzantine Church of the ancient Greeks.
Perhaps one of the most unique sounds you will hear is that of the tsabouna, a type of Greek bagpipe made of goatskin. Hailing from the island of Kalymnos, Nikitas Tsimouris and his tsabouna came to Tarpon Springs in 1968. Tsimouris began playing the tsabouna at the age of 8, and continued playing throughout the rest of his life, teaching younger generations to both play and build the instrument.
Lastly, we will enjoy some traditional folk songs from Crete performed by Nick Mastras and Kostas Maris on the laouto and lyra. The Cretan lyra is a three-stringed bowed instrument. This performance was captured at the 2003 Florida Folk Festival.
For more information on Greek culture in Tarpon Springs, please visit the Voices of Florida page on the Department of State's Florida Division of Historical Resources website.
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.