Paul Slade tackles the story behind the American blues/folk song Frankie and Johnny, tracing the lyrics back to an 1899 St. Louis murder, and exploring the history of the song, its subjects, and its variations. [more inside]
In honour of Labour day, enjoy a documentary on Jewish anarchism at the turn of the 20th century, and the story of The Free Voice of Labour, their Yiddish newspaper that ran from 1890-1977. [more inside]
To kick off (in the U.S.) the long Memorial Day weekend (traditionally the unofficial start of summer!) the Boston Globe presents an interactive chart of iconic songs of summer from each of the last 100 years! No word yet on the 2014 earworm to be.
“We did our first show in a bar...all of a sudden, the whole room was quiet. And then we got everyone to sit on the floor cross-legged to watch our crankies.” [more inside]
NPR: "Folklorist Alan Lomax spent his career documenting folk music traditions from around the world." Now, nearly ten years after his death, thousands of the songs and interviews he recorded are available for free online, many for the first time. "It's part of what Lomax envisioned for [his] collection — long before the age of the Internet." (Mr. Lomax, Previously on MeFi) [more inside]
Tobar an Dualchais will keep you busy for awhile. It's a collection of over 26,000 oral recordings made in Scotland, from the 1930s onward. Folklore, songs, music, history, poetry, oh my. Includes some fascinating material from Belle Stewart, the McPake Sisters of Peebles and John the Bard.
Rock historian Joseph Burns makes a case for why Arthur Big Boy Crudup's "That's All Right Mama" should be regarded as rock & roll's first song. Not everyone agrees - clips to some of the other contenders inside. Or explore Google's Rock & Roll Timeline. [more inside]
"I'm headin' down the Atlanta highway, lookin' for the love getaway." These lyrics to the B-52s' "Love Shack" inspired a lengthy list modestly titled "Some Road Songs." Planning to make a road song mix tape? This is the motherlode. Surprisingly (or not?), the list is hosted on the Federal Highway Administration website. Browsing around the site, you'll also find information on the history of the Interstate System, articles from Public Roads magazine, and a selection of "Back in Time" articles about highway history by Rickie Longfellow. [more inside]
Sounds of America is a new monthly streaming audio program, a collaboration between the National Museum of American History and Smithsonian Global Sound. Up now are 3 episodes: African-American music in New Orleans, Women in American Music, and Freedom Songs of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement.
"John Smith, Youngest, of Crutherland, was given the honorary degree of LL.D in 1840. In 1842 he announced the bequest to the University [of Glasgow] of his runs of publications from learned societies, and his volumes of ephemeral items. These came to the library on Smith’s death in 1849." Some examples: Playbill, Theatre Royal, York Street. Broadsheet account of an attempted prison break. Radical Party election ballad. See also: Glasgow Broadside Ballads: cheap print and popular song culture in nineteenth-century Scotland and Glasgow Broadside Ballads: The Murray Collection
Buying Rare Race Records in the South. Music That Americans Loved 100 Years Ago. The Cheney Talking Machine. Just three among dozens of amazing articles about early recording machines and American popular music at the astonishingly detailed site of Tim Gracyk, author of Popular American Recording Pioneers: 1895-1925. Scroll down for bios of forgotten stars, including Nora Bayes - who performed in the Follies of 1907, before Flo Ziegfeld's name became part of the title, George W. Johnson - "the most important African-American recording artist of the 1890s," and piano player Zez Confrey, whose sheet music for the 1921 hit "Kitten on the Keys" sold over a million copies and became "the third most-frequently recorded rag in history."
While culling my clippings file for the big move, I came across Ragtime: No Longer a Novelty in Sepia, which led me to the The Rag-Time Ephemeralist, a labor of love by one Chris Ware , whose 'The Acme Novelty Library' and Jimmy Corrigan, Smartest Boy In The World I had long admired. The Ragtime Ephemeralist's mention of Out of Sight - The Rise of African American Popular Music, 1889-1895---here's a review from Musical Traditions--and, its very own links page, as a consequence, led to this post about Ragtime, Cakewalks, Coon Songs and Vaudeville, with a slight nod to Barbershop Quartets. There's more, of course...
The story of "St. James Infirmary." You thought it was a piece of old New Orleans? Turns out St. James Hospital was in London (and treated lepers), and the song goes back at least to the 18th century (though it used to be sung to the tune of "Streets of Laredo"). Rob Walker's Letter From New Orleans #13 describes the results of his obsessive researches. If you have more info, he wants to hear from you! (Via Wordorigins, a site any word lover should know.)