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Hidden Folklorists Charles Finger and Nicholas Ray on the Folklife Today Podcast

Episode Eleven of the Folklife Today Podcast is ready for listening! Find it at this page on the Library’s website, or on iTunes, or with your usual podcatcher.

This 1893 photo of Charles J. Finger appears in Finger’s book Seven Horizons, with the caption “Into the wilderness as an ornithologist.” Courtesy of the University of Arkansas Libraries Special Collections.

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In this episode, John Fenn and I discuss two more hidden folklorists, writer Charles J. Finger and filmmaker Nicholas Ray.

Charles J. Finger collected folklore for award-winning books such as Tales from Silver Lands, Sailor Chanties and Cowboy Songs, Frontier Ballads, and Robin Hood and his Merry Men.

Photo of Nicholas Ray, U.S. filmmaker. Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25343442

Nicholas Ray was employed by the Works Progress Administration to collect folklore in 1938 and 1939, before embarking on a career as a filmmaker and directing Rebel Without a Cause, They Live by Night, On Dangerous Ground, and Johnny Guitar. Ray also directed the radio series Back Where I Come From with Alan Lomax.

The episode includes four songs sung by Finger, identified by him as three chanties and a forecastle song, and three selections recorded by Ray, on one of which Ray himself sings.

Of course, the podcast episode was based on two of our blog posts.

You’ll find John’s post about Nicholas Ray at this link.  The blog post goes into some more detail than the podcast about Ray’s activities at the time.  But the podcast has exclusive audio, including a poem about sheep-herding, an original cowboy song, and a version of “The Irish Washerwoman” on which Nick Ray himself sings.

Since John’s original blog post was published, more of Alan Lomax’s manuscripts have been digitized and placed online, including a booklet with Lomax’s personal notes relating to Nicholas Ray’s memorial service.  It gives a detailed picture of Ray and a moving indication of his friendship with Lomax. Find it at this link.

You’ll find my own post about Charles J. Finger at this link. I go into considerably more detail about Finger’s reputation and his scholarship in the blog than I was able to do in the podcast. On the other hand, all the audio from his recording session at the Library is here on the blog as well as in the podcast.

The rest of the audio in the podcast was either recorded or digitized from archival recordings specially for the podcast, so it remains exclusive to that format for now. The only way to hear it to to visit and download More Hidden Folklorists on the Folklife Today podcast!

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