Survivalist Librarian

Listen to Boomslang Swampsinger perform “Survivalist Librarian,” a song from his Swamp Opera, at the 2006 Florida Folk Festival in White Springs.

Lithograph of a Florida Swamp, by Harry Feen, ca. 1890

When I was scanning through catalog records in the Folklife Collection, a song called “Survivalist Librarian” caught my eye. After the song circulated the office it was an obvious hit… to us anyway.

Survivalist Librarian

Download: MP3
More Information: Catalog Record

As with any curious archivist or librarian, I wanted to add context. We knew the song was recorded on the Main Stage at the Florida Folk Festival on May 26, 2006, and that it was attributed to Murray Palmetto’s South Florida Swamp Show. But whose imagination came up with such a song? Thanks to Stan Geberer, a great patron of the Archives, who happened to be on stage that night playing harmonica for this very song, I was able to track down the composer: Boomslang Swampsinger.

Boomslang Swampsinger cordially agreed to an interview and was happy to provide some background on the song and the musicians involved. Beware, there is a fully developed mythology here, as difficult to keep straight as the Greek gods, but I will attempt to keep it as brief and coherent as possible.

Murray Palmetto’s South Florida Swamp Show is a one man show featuring Boomslang Swampsinger, star and producer of what he describes as his “Swamp Opera,” which consists of a mixture of swamp music and stories. Whenever Murray Palmetto (Boomslang Swampsinger) appears he plays with The Peters Road Swamp-Blues Band that specializes in “acoustic roadhouse country music about bars in the Everglades.”

The band for this particular performance consisted of Jake Vanderplate (mandolin), Bret Hartcrane (banjo, vocals), Mark Harris (bass, flute, vocals), Dawn DeWitt (bass, guitar, vocals), Ron Litschauer (guitar, mandolin, vocals), Stan Geberer (harmonica), Bari Litschauer (banjo, mandolin), and Barbara Meade. You’ll notice no mention of Boomslang Swampsinger above because he is also known as Bret Hartcrane (free CDs if you can guess the origins of this name) when playing with this band.

Yes, Boomslang has a number of aliases, adding to the pantheon of characters in this tangled Florida yarn, not to mention every band member has also been assigned an animal inspired name in addition to other colorful monikers.

In 2006, Murray Palmetto’s South Florida Swamp Show presented one of their “Swamp Operas” on opening night of the Florida Folk Festival in White Springs. It was called the Everglades Campfire Radio Show. “Survivalist Librarian” was one of the songs performed during the show.

The seed for this song was planted back in the early 1990s, according to Boomslang, when he and his wife were having a late lunch in western Broward County and “more than three or four dozen” well behaved and well armed camouflaged militia men came out of the swamp, leaned their rifles against the picnic tables and ordered lunch. Upon witnessing this scene Boomslang mused what if “they had [with them] an official librarian to serve them books to read, while waiting for the lone waitress to feed all 48 of them.” The result of this thought… well, we’ll let Boomslang explain the rest.

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8 thoughts on “Survivalist Librarian

  1. As a Florida librarian who was born & raised in south Louisiana (way south – south of New Orleans south), this was amusing on a number of levels. Great find 🙂

  2. I was a librarian in Milledgeville, Georgia. Entertainment was scarce. We went to Toomsboro on the weekend to a converted brick train station called “Swampland” where everything was fried, there was no air conditioning, and you sat in the former waiting room on those old wooden bench/pews to listen to the local talent sing songs much like this one, but nowhere near as funny. Up here in super-sophisticated North Carolina (read the newspaper), we seem to have solved the problems of survivalist patrons by digitizing everything, abandoning our reference collections, and dumping unwanted dusty old tomes. Progress, huh?

  3. Sadly, we report Boomslang Swampsinger, aka Murray Palmetto, aka Bret Hartcrane, passed away in June 2016, after a brief illness. Neither words nor music can describe this loss. Boomslang had the kind of access to the depths and furthest reaches of his mind in ways few could fathom. He brought this to the fore in magnificent literary prose, set to music, often historical in nature, but always in nature…good nature. Boomslang is missed and not forgotten.

  4. just heard that the band will be at Fla Folk Festival this year!!
    Not the same without Boomslang–but keeps the music going. I encourage anyone who likes and wants to do Boomslang music–do it. I, Barbara Meade will not object or demand any fee. I just want the music to continue. So 2018 Florida Folk Festival Peters Road Swamp Blues Band or Murray Palmetto’s South Florida Swamp Show or whatever name they are using look for the old familiar songs with Crocodile, Armadillo, Otter and Panther. Jams whose animal name I forgot plays keyboard.

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