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Category: Hidden Folklorists

Hidden Folklorists: Harry Payne Reeves, the Mysterious Cowboy Singer Daca

Posted by: Stephen Winick

Learn about the fascinating character "Daca," a bookseller in New York who taught Alan Lomax the cowboy classic "Ten Thousand Goddam Cattle." Daca contributed ten songs and a sheaf of tall tales to the Library of Congress. He was a cowboy in the 1910s and a bookshop owner in Bohemian Greenwich Village in the 1920s and 30s, while he moonlighted by singing cowboy songs on the radio. He had a master's degree in Spanish and was an expert on European fables. He also went by at least three names (Harry Payne Reeves, David Daca, and Harry Reece). Daca was a fascinating forerunner both of Woody Guthrie, another cowboy singer who arrived in New York just as Daca left, and of Bob Dylan, a trickster who concealed his identity with aliases and gave evasive answers to interviewers. In this way, he laid the groundwork and established some of the norms for the folk scene in Greenwich Village. Read his story, hear his songs, and find out about a little known "hidden folklorist"--all in this blog post!

A man playing a guitar and singing to a close crowd of a dozen or so men and women

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

Posted by: Stephen Winick

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. Get your podcast here! 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 …

A man playing a guitar and singing to a close crowd of a dozen or so men and women

Charles J. Finger: Gallant Rogue or Hidden Folklorist?

Posted by: Stephen Winick

This blog post about the Arkansas writer Charles J. Finger is part of a series called “Hidden Folklorists,” which examines the folklore work of surprising people, including people better known for other pursuits.   A series of sepia-toned photographs held by the University of Arkansas Library’s Special Collections division shows an amiable-looking young man with luxuriant …

A man playing a guitar and singing to a close crowd of a dozen or so men and women

Arthur Miller: A View From the Field

Posted by: Stephen Winick

This guest blog post by Matthew Barton about the playwright Arthur Miller is part of a series called “Hidden Folklorists,” which examines the folklore work of surprising people, including people better known for other pursuits.  It was written soon after Miller’s death in 2005 for the publication Folklife Center News.  Matthew Barton worked at the …

A man playing a guitar and singing to a close crowd of a dozen or so men and women

Hidden Folklorists on the Folklife Today Podcast

Posted by: Stephen Winick

Episode seven 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. Get your podcast here! In this fascinating episode (we hope!), John Fenn and I, along with Library of Congress staff members Stephanie Hall, Michelle Stefano, and Muhannad Salhi, …

A man playing a guitar and singing to a close crowd of a dozen or so men and women

Langston Hughes: Experimental Folklorist

Posted by: Stephen Winick

Langston Hughes is mostly remembered selectively as a “folk” and jazz poet, or author of black vernacular blues and jazz poetry. While Hughes did dedicate himself to creating and reinterpreting these genres throughout his life and career, the core of his work is actually in collecting and experimenting with folklore across spaces and media. In Harlem and abroad, Hughes operated as what scholar Daphne Lamothe calls a “native ethnographer,” adapting his work during and beyond the Harlem Renaissance across genres to the discourses of anthropology, folklore, and sociology in a mode reminiscent of that of sociologist W.E.B. Du Bois, anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston, civil rights activist, songwriter, and author of the local history book Black Manhattan James Weldon Johnson, choreographer Katharine Dunham, and many others. Specifically, Hughes was an ethnographer of black vernacular culture, transcribing different kinds of linguistic and musical performance and reinterpreting those transcriptions in and as his own texts.

A man playing a guitar and singing to a close crowd of a dozen or so men and women

Alistair Cooke: Radio and TV Icon, Hidden Folklorist

Posted by: Stephen Winick

This article about the broadcaster, journalist, and writer Alistair Cooke is part of a series called "Hidden Folklorists," which examines the folklore work of surprising people, including people better known for other pursuits. It mainly details his work on the 12-part 1938 BBC radio series "I Hear America Singing," which was the first time Library of Congress field recordings were used on the radio. It also discusses Cooke's involvement in the Library's recordings of Jelly Roll Morton, and presents the first recordings of his voice, made for the purposes of a dialect study in 1934.

A catalog card from a 1934 performance of "Thank God Almighty."

Becky Elzy and Alberta Bradford: Spiritual Folklorists

Posted by: Stephen Winick

This blog post about the “Two Sweet Singers” Becky Elzy and Alberta Bradford is part of a series called “Hidden Folklorists,” which examines the folklore work of surprising people, including people better known for other pursuits. In preparing this post, I was greatly aided by Shane K. Bernard, the archivist at Avery Island in Louisiana, …

A man playing a guitar and singing to a close crowd of a dozen or so men and women

Edward Avery McIlhenny: Spicy Folklorist

Posted by: Stephen Winick

This blog post about the naturalist, ornithologist, and hot sauce innovator E. A. McIlhenny is part of a series called “Hidden Folklorists,” which examines the folklore work of surprising people, including people better known for other pursuits. In preparing this post, I was greatly aided by Shane K. Bernard, the archivist at Avery Island in Louisiana. Edward Avery …