Illinois Audio Samples and Notes
These recordings are presented mp3 format.
Tracks 1 & 2. Captain Francis O'Neill cylinder recordings of Irish Music in Chicago, Dunn Family Collection. ca.1904. [AFC 2005/001: 1A and 1B]
Scotch Mary [mp3]
Maid on the Green [mp3]
Irish-born Chicago General Superintendent of Police Francis O'Neill (1848-1936) was a leading collector of traditional Irish dance tunes. About 1904, he made wax cylinder recordings of several renowned Chicago Irish folk musicians on his Edison Victrola. For more than a century, his recordings were thought to be lost; however in 2003, Dr. David Dunn approached the Ward Irish Music Archives (WIMA) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with a small suitcase he had discovered in his attic. It contained 36 cylinders — 32 of which proved to be O'Neill's missing cultural treasures! In 2007, WIMA accessioned the Dunn Family Collection and, with the help of the Library of Congress, made digital copies of these legendary recordings, copies of which are now preserved in the American Folklife Center's archive.
Despite their poor quality, O'Neill's recordings are still fascinating. Here are two tunes, "Scotch Mary" and "Maid on the Green," featuring the master ullieann or Irish bagpiper Patsy Touhey. On Track 2, Touhey is joined by James Earley on flute and (we believe) John McFadden on fiddle. The announcer is unnamed, but may be O'Neill himself. Select this link to view a photograph related to this selection. Used by permission of The Ward Irish Music Archives. Rights and permissions.
Select this link for an article on Francis O'Neill that appeared in the 2007 Folklife Center News. [This PDF document requires the free Adobe Reader; 16 pp. 1.01MB.]
In 1936 and 1937, Sidney Robertson Cowell (1903-1995) worked in the Special Skills Division of the WPA's Resettlement Administration, an agency established to assist migrant workers displaced by the Great Depression. Cowell, who worked under the supervision of famed musicologist Charles Seeger, was particularly interested in documenting traditional music performed by displaced workers.
In May, 1937, Cowell attended The National Folk Festival in Chicago and recorded many of the performances, including this stirring rendition of "Fare Ye Well," a famous 19th-century African American spiritual, also known by the title "In That Great Getting Up Morning." It was one of nine pieces performed at the Festival by a "Negro Chorus" from Chicago’s Metropolitan Community Church Choir, directed by J. Wesley Jones. Rights and permissions.
Folklorist Anne L. Grimes was an authority on traditional songs and tunes from the American Midwest. Beginning in the early 1940s, she toured the region, recording traditional musicians and presenting lecture-recitals on Midwestern folklore, which she illustrated with performances on her Appalachian dulcimer. A substantial portion of her collection, primarily of folk music from Ohio, was donated to the American Folklife Center. It includes more than 140 recordings and almost 900 pages of manuscript.
This excerpt of the traditional love song "I'm Sad and I'm Lonely" comes from her interview with Illinois native Carl Sandburg (1879-1976), a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and poet, who was also an enthusiastic collector and performer of American folksongs. In 1927, Sandburg's interest in folk music resulted in the publication of one of his most successful books, "The American Songbag." Grimes made this recording as a way to connect two old friends, May Kennedy McCord and Carl Sandburg. Used by permission of The Carl Sandburg Family Trust. Rights and permissions.
Tracks 5 & 6. Legendary Chicago blues pianists Albert Ammons and Meade Lux Lewis recorded by Alan Lomax, 1938. [AFC 1939/008 ]
Albert Ammons [mp3]
Meade Lux Lewis [mp3]
Track 5 features a virtuoso performance of a "boogie-woogie" piece by Chicago pianist Albert Ammons (1907-1949). Track 6 is an interview with Chicago bluesman and pianist Meade Lux Lewis (1905-1964), discussing the early Chicago blues scene, illustrated with short examples, including the "Whistling Blues." Both were recorded in New York by folklorist Alan Lomax.
Legendary music producer John Hammond is credited with "discovering" some of the America's most famous performers. During his years at Columbia Records, he worked with Count Basie, Billie Holiday, Bob Dylan, Peter Seeger, and Aretha Franklin. Beginning in the 1930s, Hammond worked to break America's racial barriers by actively promoting African American performers.
To demonstrate their contributions, Hammond organized two landmark concerts, Spirituals to Swing, featuring African American traditional performers in New York's Carnegie Hall. Held on December 23, 1938 and December 24, 1939, these sold-out concerts were among the first to draw integrated audiences to that prestigious institution. Alan Lomax, then head of the American Folkife Center’s archive, traveled to New York for the Carnegie Hall concerts. Impressed by the event's line-up, Lomax borrowed Hammond's Haven Studios in Manhattan and recorded 24 songs and stories performed by the concert participants, including Chicago musicians Ammons and Lewis. Used by permission of Bishop Edsel A. Ammons. Rights and permissions.
Tracks 7 & 8. David "Honeyboy" Edwards performing at the Archive of Folk Song 50th Anniversary Concert, 1978. [AFS 20103 (LWO 122,527)]
"Sweet Home, Chicago" [mp3]
"Catfish Blues" [mp3]
This excerpt features Chicago bluesman and bottleneck guitarist David "Honeyboy" Edwards performing two classics: "Sweet Home, Chicago," a song believed to have been written by Robert Johnson, and "Catfish Blues" (also known as "Rollin' Stone"), composed by Robert Petway.
In 1928, the Library of Congress established the Archive of American Folk-Song, a national repository for manuscripts and sound recordings documenting traditional music in the United States. Over the years, the Archive expanded to become the premier archive of materials relating to all aspects of traditional music and culture throughout the world. In 1978, the Archive ended its 50-year affiliation with the Library's Music Division and became part of the Library's recently established American Folklife Center.
To mark the archive's 50th anniversary, on November 16, 1978, the Center presented a day-long symposium, culminating in an evening concert. One of that evening's featured performers was the legendary Chicago bluesman and bottleneck guitarist David "Honeyboy" Edwards (b. 1915), who had been previously recorded by Alan Lomax in Mississippi in 1942, shortly before he moved to Chicago. At the beginning of "Catfish Blues," Edwards acknowledges Lomax, who is sitting in the audience. Select this link to view a photograph related to this selection. Used by permission of David "Honeyboy" Edwards. Rights and permissions.
Between 1976 and 1980, the Eastern Illinois University Folk Music and Crafts Survey Project identified and documented folk and traditional musicians in southeastern Illinois. The American Folklife Center loaned professional recording equipment to the Project's fieldworkers to facilitate high-quality recordings of interviews, songs and stories, and performances by bluegrass, blues, Irish, and string band performers. This selection, featuring the Bible Grovers string band, was recorded during Eastern Illinois University's annual Festival of the Arts, "Celebration '79," on April 27, 1979. It features Peter Priest on fiddle, and John Holliday and John Bishop on guitar and banjo. Used by permission of Mr. John Bishop and Mr. John Holliday. Rights and permissions.
Tracks 10 & 11. Greek and Mexican music and interviews recorded by the Chicago Ethnic Arts Project, 1977. [AFC 1981/004]
John Hemonas [mp3]
Negrete family [mp3]
In 1977, the newly-created American Folklife Center launched its first documentary fieldwork project. At the request of the Illinois Arts Council, AFC surveyed and documented traditional arts and artists in more than twenty ethnic communities throughout Chicago. Fourteen professional folklorists were engaged to conduct fieldwork, interview artists, talk with community leaders, and document traditional arts. The study produced hundreds of audiotapes and thousands of images documenting dance, foodways, neighborhood gatherings, religious celebrations, textile arts, instrumental and vocal music, and a wide range of other culture expressions.
These tracks were recorded by the Chicago Ethnic Arts Project: Track 10 features Greek immigrant bouzouki player John Hemonas, performing excerpts from three songs, including "Dance of Zalongo," a piece which commemorates the women and children of the village Souli in Epirus. According to tradition, in 1803, they danced their way to a cliff and then threw themselves off to avoid capture by an advancing Turkish Army. This excerpt was recorded by fieldworker Peter Bartis in Mr. Hemonas’s home on April 21, 1977. Select this link to view a photograph related to this selection. Rights and permissions.
Track 11 documents the Mexican American Negrete family, whose group, "Chicano Floricanto," was recorded in Chicago by fieldworker Philip George on July 1, 1977. Performing in their family home, Rosa, Jesús, and Bernardo Negrete explain how the harmonica is used in Mexican music and then demonstrate with a song. Used by permission of Dr. Jesús Negrete: rights and permissions.
Select this link for the finding aid for the Chicago Ethnic Arts Project Collection.
Each summer and autumn from1977-1995, the AFC presented a series of folk concerts on the steps of the Neptune Plaza in front of the Library of Congress's landmark Jefferson Building. The 1979 series, produced with the assistance of the National Council for the Traditional Arts, featured a number of outstanding performers, including the virtuoso Mexican harpist Melecio Martinez, a native of Michoacán, who had settled in Chicago's Mexican community. This recording of a son (folk song) from the state of Veracruz was made on October 26, 1979.Select this link to view a photograph related to this selection. Rights and permissions.
In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and The Pentagon, AFC asked colleagues around the country to record oral history interviews, photograph makeshift memorials, and otherwise document the reactions of ordinary citizens to these tragedies. These interviews, personal narratives, and images — as well as children's drawings, scrapbooks, letters, e-mail, poems, and ephemera — now form the basis of the September 11th Documentary Project Collection (select the link to navigate to the presentation). Also see the "Witness and Response" online exhibit.
In this excerpt, Chicago resident and Air Force Staff Sergeant Mark L. Provo, describes part of his escape from the Marriott Hotel at the base of the World Trade Towers immediately following the attack. Provo was interviewed by Donald Gasper on November 7, 2010, in Chicago. Used by permission of Mr. Mark L. Provo and Mr. Donald Gasper. Rights and permissions.
In this excerpt from a November 23, 2001, interview, Illinois native and Korean War veteran Robert Baken is interviewed by his son Matthew about his experiences during the Korean War. In 2000, the U.S. Congress passed a law directing the American Folklife Center to collect and preserve oral histories of American wartime veterans. Responding to this mandate, the AFC's Veterans History Project (VHP) enlisted the efforts of volunteers throughout the nation to record interviews with American veterans and then submit them to the Library for preservation. To date, VHP volunteers have conducted over 70,000 interviews. Used by permission of Mr. Robert Baken: rights and permissions.
The complete interview is about eighty minutes long and available on the Veterans History Project Website. Select this link for more information about the Veterans History Project and for more online interviews.
The American Folklife Center is proud to be the repository for the StoryCorps Collection of oral histories. Since 2003, the non-profit, New York-based StoryCorps organization has facilitated and documented more than 10,000 interviews. Using specially designed stationary recording booths, as well as specially fitted Airstream trailers as "MobileBooths" that travel to cities and towns throughout the United States, StoryCorps invites pairs of people — usually family members of lifelong friends — to interview each other in order to document stories about their lives and experiences. Two copies are made of each interview: one goes to the interviewees, and with the permission of the speakers, the other is deposited in the archive of the American Folklife Center.
In this example, William Haley and his brother Glen remember their father, Joseph Howard Haley, founder of the Jackie Robinson West Little League in Chicago. This oral history interview was recorded as part of the StoryCorps Mobile Tour. These interviews are provided courtesy of StoryCorps, a nationwide initiative of Sound Portraits Productions to record and collect oral history interviews. Excerpts were selected and produced by the staff of the American Folkife Center. Rights and permissions.
In 2001, the American Folklife Center acquired the International Storytelling Collection (AFC 2001/008), the world’s largest collection of recorded performances, manuscripts, sound recordings, graphic materials, moving images, electronic media, and artifacts that relate to storytelling. The collection includes the performances of traditional storytellers at the annual National Storytelling Festival, which has been held annually in Jonesboro, Tennessee since 1974.
Among the artists documented was the well-known storyteller Jim May from McHenry County, Illinois. Listen as he tells an Appalachian version of the well-known English story, "Lazy Jack" Used by permission of Mr. Jim May who asked that we include that he "in all matters concerning the folk hero, Jack, owes an inestimable dept to Ray Hicks of Beech Mountain, North Carolina and Duncan Williamson of Scotland. A Special thanks to Donald Davis for passing on a version of Lazy Jack to" him. Rights and permissions.