Interview with Washboard Bill Cooke

Date: August 10, 1987

Source: S1685 , Container 5

Type: Sound

Download: MP3

Download: MP3


  • Two audio cassettes. Recorded at his home. Born in Dupont, just south of St. Augustine, on 4 July. His mother ran a jook joint, where he was first exposed to music and dance. He hoboed, played street music, worked for railways, and played at nightclubs in South Florida. In the interviews, he discusses jook joints; growing in East Florida; segregation; popular dances; building of the Dixie Highway; moving to New York; returning as a musician (washboard player) to West Palm Beach in 1947; his collection of black historical memorabilia; and his stories. In 1956, he made a recording with Pete Seeger and Sonny Terry called Washboard Country Band. In 1992, he won the Florida Folk Heritage Award. The Folk Arts in Education Project in Palm Beach County was a joint venture between the Palm Beach County School System and the Florida Folklife Program. It was conducted between 1986 and 1987 by folklorist Jan Rosenberg with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts to add to existing social studies curriculum. The goal was to impart an appreciation of multi-ethnic traditions and provide a sense of place to the mobile student population. The project focused on the Florida Studies component for fourth grade students. The project consisted of field research to identify local traditions and folk artists, a series of five two-day seminars to acquaint teachers with the use of folklore and folk arts, in-school programs conducted by a folklorist and traditionalist, which included visits by local folk artists. In total, the project involved 15 schools with 779 students.

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