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Groundhog Day on the Folklife Today Podcast!

We’re back with another episode of the Folklife Today podcast! Find it at this page on the Library’s website, or on Stitcher, iTunes, or your usual podcatcher.

A groundhog holds a peach in its front paws.

The 2011 photo “Groundhog & Peach” by “Steve 1828” was shared to Flickr with a creative commons license.

In this episode, John Fenn, Michelle Stefano, and I come out of podcast hibernation to discuss Groundhog Day traditions. Drawing on the research of Don Yoder, we talk about the history and folklore of the holiday, including groundhog observances among the Pennsylvania Dutch, weather proverbs, and even cooking and eating groundhogs. There are even four groundhog songs! Sound good? Very well then…

Get your podcast here!

Resources

As is often the case, much of the material in the podcast is discussed elsewhere on the blog, and other resources are available on the Library’s website. Find the relevant links below!

The Great Groundhog Day Post 

Most of the fun facts and folklore in the podcast were previously featured in our Whistlepig Manifesto, otherwise known as the Great Groundhog Day post, “Groundhog Day: Ancient Origins of a Modern Celebration.” Find that august document at this link!

Groundhog Songs

A man plays guitar

Blues and string band musician Sam Chatmon playing at home in Mississippi in 1978. This is a frame from a video by Alan Lomax, John Bishop, and Worth Long. Find AFC’s Sam Chatmon videos at this link.

If you like Marmot Melodies, you’re in luck!  The podcast features four of them, and we can drop them below too!

First up is “The Groundhog,” or as our embedded player below charmingly calls it, “Groundhog, The.” It was sung by Ernie Alston, in Shafter FSA Camp in California, August 4, 1940. You can find the complete details at this link, and the song should play in the player below.

Six men play musical instruments.

“The King Family Playing Music.” Photo by Robert Hemmig. From AFC’s Charles L. Todd and Robert Sonkin Migrant Workers Collection. Find the archival scan here.

The second song was “Fod,” performed by the King Family at Visalia FSA Camp in California on September 2, 1941. In the song, a woodchuck has a fight with a skunk. And, as you may know, “woodchuck” is just another name for groundhog! You can find the complete song details at this link, and the song should play in the player below.

Two men in the foreground sit in chairs, one with a guitar and one with a banjo. Four children are between them, one of whom plays a guitar. There is a crowd of people behind them.

This publicity photo from the 1920s shows Bradley Kincaid (guitar) and George “Shortbuckle” Roark (banjo) with Roark’s children and a crowd of admirers. We believe the photo is in the public domain. Roark recorded “Groundhog” for the Lomaxes in 1938.

Next is another version of “Groundhog,” Sung and played on the banjo by George “Shortbuckle” Roark in Pineville, Kentucky on January 1, 1938. You can find more details here–and this link might work if the player below doesn’t!

Finally, we ended the podcast with Sam Chatmon performing “Prowling Groundhog.” That’s a 1978 recording of Chatmon in Hollandale, Mississippi, which was shot on video; you can watch it at this link.

As always, thanks for reading and thanks for listening!

In case you need that podcast link again…here it is!

The Courage to Deliver: The Women of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion

The following is a guest blog post by Nathan Cross, an archivist for the American Folklife Center. This African American History Month, the Veterans History Project (VHP) is pleased to announce a new resource designed to introduce VHP’s holdings related to the veterans of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, an all-African American, all-female unit […]

Caught My Ear: The Pineconers Live at Albert Hall, 1983!

Every so often I dive into our online collections in search of interesting fieldwork materials to share, especially anything from the large-scale field surveys that the Center facilitated from the late 1970s on through the mid- 1990s (visit an interactive Story Map about these projects). Just the other day I visited the Pinelands Folklife Project collection, used the faceted search options to pull together all audio files also tagged as “songs” and started listening. One particular 32-minute field recording caught my ear, so I’ve shared it in full in this blog.

Announcing the AFC’s 2023 Community Collections Grant Recipients

The American Folklife Center is excited to announce the 2023 recipient cohort of the Community Collections Grants program. Over this year, recipients will undertake cultural research and documentation projects focused on a wide range of cultural traditions and practices across the U.S. and territories. Their work will ultimately be included in the Library’s permanent collections, […]

Missouri Friends of Folk Arts Collection Comes to AFC

The American Folklife Center is delighted to announce the acquisition of the Missouri Friends of the Folk Arts collection from Julia Olin and Barry Bergey. The collection includes concert recordings of iconic blues and old time musicians like Henry Townsend and Robert Jr. Lockwood; festival performances from the Frontier Folk Festival; fiddling traditions from Ozark and Midwestern regions; and traditional arts documentation from around the state of Missouri. Communities documented include the French speaking towns around Old Mines, Native American communities, and several Spanish speaking communities. Bergey and Olin wrote this blog post to introduce the collection to researchers at the American Folklife Center.

Live! At the Library: Alilo’s Vocal Harmonies from Georgia

Way back in 2022, after the Homegrown Plus Premiere series from the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress was over, we managed to squeeze one more concert into the Homegrown 2022 season. With support from The Embassy of Georgia and The America-Georgia Business Council, we held a live a cappella holiday concert in the Coolidge Auditorium of the Library of Congress. The group was Alilo, a well known professional vocal ensemble from (you guessed it!) the country of Georgia. This blog presents the concert video, along with photos and links to more Georgian content.

AFC Kicks off Homegrown 2023 with Jake Blount February 23

The American Folklife Center is kicking off the 2023 Homegrown concert series with a solo performance by banjo player, fiddler, and singer Jake Blount, an award-winning musician and scholar of African American musical traditions. Blount draws on historical sources for his music, including field recordings in the AFC archive. Blount’s performance will be part of Live! at the Library and the Black History Month celebrations at the Library of Congress, and is presented in cooperation with the Folklore Society of Greater Washington. The concert is at 6:00 pm in the Members Room (LJ 162) in the historic Thomas Jefferson Building.

Community Collections Grants: “And We are Still Here:” Stories of Resilience and Sustainability from Houma Culture Bearers in Louisiana

Below is an excerpt from a post on the Library’s Of the People blog by Folklife Specialist Guha Shankar who interviews Community Collections Grant recipient Professor Tammy Greer (and team) about their project, “And We are Still Here:” Stories of Resilience and Sustainability from Houma Culture Bearers in Louisiana. This post is part of the Of the […]

Community Collections Grants: An Interview with Mark “Boots” Lupenui

Below is an excerpt from an interview by Folklife Specialist Guha Shankar with Community Collections Grant recipient Mark “Boots” Lupenui entitled, “Heirloom Songs” from Kohala, Hawai’i: Documenting a Fragile Musical Legacy, as part of a series on the Library’s Of the People blog featuring the 2022 awardees of the AFC’s Community Collections Grants program. The […]

Happy Holidays: AFC’s 2022 Video Mummers’ Play

Happy Holidays from the American Folklife Center! In this blog post, you can enjoy our 2022 holiday mummers’ play.  As you may know, every year, in the week of the Library’s holiday party, staff members of the American Folklife Center put our research and performance skills into play, bringing collections to life in a dramatic performance that tours the halls of the Library of Congress.  Dressed in costumes that range from striking to silly, we sing, act, rhyme, and dance for other Library staff members and for members of the public. Our performances are based on the ancient tradition of mumming, which has come down to our archive in the form of play scripts, songs, photos, and other items collected in the early twentieth century. This year’s play was called The Flute of Ice: A Mumming from the Vault. This blog post includes the video, the script, explanatory notes, and still photos from the performance and dress rehearsal.