“Washboard Bill” tells his story of being a hobo during the Great Depression.
(56:21, 51.6 MB; S1685 Box 5 Tape 25)
It’s April 28th, 2014. Welcome to a new Florida Folklife Collection podcast, brought to you by the Florida Department of State’s, Division of Library and Information Services.
You just heard a clip of William “Washboard Bill” Cooke during a 1987 interview with folklorist, Jan Rosenberg.
Washboard Bill was born in Dupont, Florida on July 4, 1905. He was known as a percussionist, rooted in the minstrel tradition, as well as a captivating storyteller. During much of Cooke’s childhood, his mother operated a juke joint in Dupont. The young Cooke would secretly stay up past his bedtime listening to the music emanating from his mother’s establishment. These experiences shaped Cooke’s interest in music, and in his later life, would greatly influence his rhythmic style.
At age six, Cooke began working for a local sawmill, making .25 cents per day, after his mother fell on hard financial times. In 1916, Mrs. Cooke closed her juke joint, and sent her children to live on their grandfather's farm in Sanford, Florida. As times grew tougher and the Great Depression set in, Cooke grew weary of his life on the farm, and decided to leave home. For 10 years, he led the life of a hobo, traveling by train all over the East Coast.
Although Cooke spent the majority of his younger years traveling outside of Florida, he still maintained a connection with the state, generally spending his winters in West Palm Beach. Between 1947 and 1963, he performed with a group called the West Palm Beach Washboard Band. They played in venues everywhere from the streets, to the estates of the Rockefellers and Kennedys. In 1956, he recorded Washboard Country Band with Sonny Terry, and folk legend, Pete Seeger. Cooke moved to West Palm Beach permanently in 1973. He performed in Florida, and throughout the country, until his death in 2003. For his musical and historical contributions, Cooke received the Florida Folk Heritage Award in 1992.
In 1988, Cooke recited a personal narrative, A Hobo’s Birthday, for the Palm Beach County Folk Arts in Education Project, conducted by the Florida Folklife Program. Cooke’s story offers a fascinating account of life as a hobo during the Great Depression. His travels and experiences give the listener a vivid portrayal of transient life on the railroad tracks, and of the character Washboard Bill.
Now, A Hobo’s Birthday - Enjoy!
Florida pianist Alexander McBride performs blues, boogie-woogie, and soul music at the 1993 Florida Folk Festival.
(30:14, 27.6 MB; S1576 D93-17)
It’s December 12, 2013. Welcome to a new Florida Folklife Collection podcast, brought to you by the Florida Department of State’s, Division of Library and Information Services.
This podcast highlights the life and music of blues pianist Alexander McBride. Born in Jacksonville in 1913, McBride grew up in a household where gospel music was always in the air. His mother owned a piano, which she used strictly for spiritual music. Interestingly, McBride learned to play the piano from his mother, though she didn’t teach him herself. As a young boy, he recalled watching his mother practice. When she left, he would rush to the piano, replicating his mother’s technique. Once she heard her son’s talent, she began training and encouraging him to play at their local church.
Unbeknownst to his family, McBride became fond of blues music, which was banned in their home and church. That, however, didn’t stop McBride. He would sneak out of the house and visit local juke joints to experience blues music, and before long, as a young teenager, he was playing local clubs and house parties. As an adult, he traveled around the Southeast, as well as Chicago, playing primarily African American venues, in time, earning his stage name, “Piano Slim.”
Like fellow Florida native, and piano player, Ray Charles, McBride’s playing embodied both sacred and secular music. Both artists incorporated aspects of gospel into their blues, jazz and R&B music to give their songs more profound emotional power. In the recording you are about to hear, McBride performs a moving rendition of Georgia on My Mind, made famous by Ray Charles. You will also hear McBride’s range of musical talent in Jazz Boogie, as he incorporates jazz and boogie-woogie into his repertoire.
McBride died in 1999, but he lived to see recognition for his contribution to Florida folk music in 1997 when he was presented the Florida Folk Heritage Award. McBride had a proactive desire to share his knowledge and talent by teaching and inspiring others. He participated in the Duval County Folklife in Education Program for 10 years by playing the piano for children in Duval County Public Schools.
We’ll start off by listening to When the Sun Goes Down from McBride’s performance at the 1993 Florida Folk Festival in White Springs. Enjoy!
This concludes the podcast highlighting blues pianist Alexander McBride. Thank you for listening, and please join us again.
Florida Department of State, Division of Historical Resources: 1997 Florida Folk Heritage Award.
Florida fiddler Richard Seaman performs old time tunes and shares tall tales at the Florida Folk Festival.
(33:46, 30.9 MB; S1576 D93-7)
Welcome back to the Florida Folklife Collection podcast series from the Florida Department of State’s, Division of Library and Information Services. This podcast focuses on Florida fiddler, and story teller, Richard Seaman (1904-2002). Seaman was born on an orange grove in Kissimmee, Florida. While attending community gatherings as a young boy, Seaman witnessed local fiddlers playing into the night as people square danced. These experiences motivated him to pick up the fiddle and learn the craft. This environment was also conducive to the telling of “tall tales,” which Seaman later recounted and delivered to captivated audiences with an intuitive flair.
Over the years, Seaman developed a repertoire of fiddle tunes that included waltzes and western swing, but the “old time” hoedown tunes he learned as a young man, exemplifies his contribution to the regional heritage of Florida fiddle playing. Folklorist Gregory Hansen notes that Seaman’s fiddle tunes have influenced fiddlers from Florida and beyond, and even the genre of bluegrass music that this “old time” style of playing precedes.
In his early years of fiddle playing, Seaman moved to Jacksonville, where he performed in several bands, including the Melody Makers and the string band, South Land Trail Riders. He and the Melody Makers also had a weekly radio program on WJAX. In 1955, Seaman put his fiddle down and didn’t pick it up again for more than 30 years until he met banjoist/guitarist Jack Piccolo. The two began to play together at the Florida Folk Festival in White Springs, and continued to do so regularly until Seaman’s death in 2002.
Fiddle tunes were not Seaman’s only contribution to the Florida Folk Festival. He also recited “tall tales” to eager audiences on the Story Telling Stage. What made Seaman’s stories engaging was his ability to weave reality and fantasy together, always framing the narrative with a plausible scenario, and resolving it with “a whopper.” As Hansen points out, there is truth in Seaman’s fictitious tales as he conveys, “the daily activities that form important components of his life experience,” and in a greater sense, shared his vision of Folklife in Florida.
In 2001, Seaman was recognized for his longstanding contribution to the folk culture of Florida when he received the Florida Folk Heritage Award at 96 years old.
We have highlighted two performances by Seaman from the Florida Folk Festival. The first features Seaman’s fiddle playing, partnered with Jack Piccalo’s guitar, from the 1993 festival. In the second performance, we will hear an excerpt from Seaman’s “tall tales” told from the Story Telling Stage at the 1992 festival.
Now we will hear a few tales from Richard Seaman at the Florida Folk Festival in 1992.
This concludes the podcast highlighting Florida fiddler and story teller, Richard Seaman. Thank you and join us again next time.
For more information, please see the following catalog records: Saturday performances at the 1993 Florida Folk Festival and Storytellers at the 1992 Florida Folk Festival.
Hansen, Gregory. A Florida Fiddler: The Life and Times of Richard Seaman. University of Alabama Press, 2007.
Hansen, Gregory. “Richard Seaman’s Presence within Florida’s Soundscape.”The Florida Folklife Reader: edited by Tina Bucuvalas. University Press of Mississippi, 2012.
Jacksonville natives Rick and Mark Bateh perform traditional Arab music at the 1982 Florida Folk Festival in White Springs.
(29:03, 26.6MB; S1576 T83-16, T83-26, T83-50)
Welcome back to the Florida Folklife Collection podcast series from the Florida Department of State’s Division of Library and Information Services. Florida’s population is culturally diverse, and home to immigrants from around the world. The city of Jacksonville has long been an adopted home for peoples from across the Arab world. In fact, Jacksonville has the 10th largest Arab population of any city in the United States, with substantial communities from Syria, Ramallah, Iraq, Lebanon, and Egypt. Over the past 100 years, these immigrants transported rich cultural histories and music to Jacksonville.
The Arab world is vast, consisting of peoples with diverse heritages who have contributed to, and carried on, Arab musical traditions throughout its complex history. Dating back to before the seventh Century, the development of Arab music ebbed and flowed with the rise and fall of empires. With the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the rise of Western cultural influences, authentic Arab music declined in practice and popularity, which remains the pattern evident today.
Though its popularity may have diminished, the music’s essence is not lost, but rather carried on by tradition bearers, some of whom were born and raised in Jacksonville, and are perhaps just as familiar with Southern culture as with their Arab roots.
Rick and Mark Bateh are two of these tradition bearers. The Batehs, whose parents immigrated from Ramallah in 1947, embrace both their regional heritage as well as that of their ancestors. As Rick Bateh explained to folklorist Betsy Peterson and the attending crowd at the 1982 Florida Folk Festival: “Don’t be misled; we play Southern, but it’s Arab style. ” Let’s take a listen to that brief introduction and one of the brothers’ songs. The recordings included here are taken from several different performances, all of which took place at the 1982 Florida Folk Festival.
Arab music is characterized by its modal homophony, ornamental flare, modal rhythm, and often, improvisation. Two of the instruments prominently featured in Arab music are the Doumbek drum and the Oud. The Doumbek is a single head drum that resembles the shape of a goblet, a name the drum is also known by. The Oud is a stringed instrument that is very similar in shape and style to the lute, a European instrument. The Oud has a pear shaped body with a relatively short neck as compared to a guitar.
In the following clip Rick and Mark Bateh explain styles, techniques, and rhythms used in Arab music and demonstrate their skills to the crowd at the Florida Folk Festival.
Now that you’ve heard some background about the Bateh brothers and Arab music, sit back and enjoy a few tunes from their performances at the 1982 Florida Folk Festival. Thanks for listening.
H. Touma, The Music of the Arabs (Portland, OR: Amadeus Press, 1996).
Friday performances at the 1982 Florida Folk Festival (Main Stage) (Reel 3)
Saturday performances at the 1982 Florida Folk Festival (Main Stage) (Reel 6)
Saturday performances at the 1982 Florida Folk Festival (Old Marble Stage) (Reel 8)
This podcast features recordings of Goose Culbreath accompanied by his son Lloyd and nephew Richard, when they made their White Springs debut at the 1987 Florida Folk Festival.
(22:56, 20.9MB; S1576 T87-14, T87-15, T87-69)
Welcome back to the Florida Folklife Collection podcast series from the Florida Department of State’s Division of Library and Information Services. Musical traditions of all kinds are passed down through generations in families. Whether it’s a repertoire of songs or a knack for a particular instrument, the family environment fosters unique interpretations and expressions of folk music. Fiddler Julian “Goose” Culbreath and the Cortez Grand Old Opry exemplify the type of rapport achieved when playing with kin.
Cortez is a small commercial fishing village in Manatee County, Florida. It was there that Goose and two of his brothers learned how to play the fiddle from their father, James, a prize-winning contest fiddler. The family gathered each week for a Sunday morning jam session, and the household became known as the Cortez Grand Old Opry among the villagers. Outside of the Culbreath household, they also performed at square dances, and even had their own radio program in 1949.
In addition to traditional southern fiddle tunes such as the “Orange Blossom Special” or “Arkansas Traveler,” Goose was well known for his trick fiddling techniques. These included bowing the fiddle with no hair, or wrapping the bow hair around the fiddle, as illustrated on “Back Up and Push.” The Culbreaths were also known for “beating the straws,” or “fiddlesticks,” where a family member tapped rhythm on the fiddle with sticks while Goose played “Granny Will Your Dog Bite” or “Old Joe Clark.”
Goose Culbreath received the Florida Folk Heritage Award in 1992 in recognition of his unique contributions to fiddling and his willingness to teach other aspiring musicians in his community. Goose was not only a talented musician but a full-time commercial fisherman, too.
The following are recordings of Goose Culbreath performing at the 1987 Florida Folk Festival accompanied by his son Lloyd and nephew Richard. This was the year they made their debut in White Springs, and they continued performing at the festival almost annually until Goose’s death in 2003. These recordings bring some of the Culbreaths’ fine playing, once heard only by neighbors and friends lucky enough to attend the Cortez Grand Old Opry, to new, appreciative audiences for years to come.
Jaya Radhakrishnan shares a rich repertoire of Indian folk songs in the Carnatic style at the Florida Folk Festival.
(31:34, 28.9MB; S1576 T83-17, T84-17, T85-22, T85-186)
Welcome back to the Florida Folklife Collection podcast series from the Florida Department of State’s Division of Library and Information Services. In addition to documenting Florida’s native arts, crafts and trades, the Florida Folklife Program promotes traditions from around the world that have been incorporated into communities throughout the state. This podcast features traditional Indian music from Jaya Radhakrishnan of Dade City.
Indian folk and classical music comes in many forms. Some songs may tell epic tales; while others may express poetry about love, religion, or nature with corresponding dances; additional forms may feature lengthy instrumental improvisations. The songs Jaya Radhakrishnan performs are primarily in the Carnatic style and span many centuries. Accompanied by the drone of her harmonium and percussion from her son, Jaya Radhakrishnan shared a rich repertoire of Indian folk songs with audiences at the Florida Folk Festival.
In addition to her talents as a musician, Mrs. Radhakrishnan taught students East Indian dance, as well as the decorative art of rangoli,through the Florida Folk Arts Apprenticeship Program. One of her first students was also her daughter, Nila, who, in addition to making numerous appearances at the Folk Festival, also taught others the intricacies of Indian dance through the Folk Arts Apprenticeship Program in 1991.
The following recordings were taken from performances at the Florida Folk Festival between 1982 and 1985. We begin with Mrs. Radhakrishnan and her husband explaining the role of the harmonium as accompaniment, and the scale, or sargam, from which her melodies are based. Then, sit back and enjoy six selections from Mrs. Radhakrishnan’s repertoire of Indian folk songs. Thanks for listening.
The 1977 Portable Folk Festival was organized by the National Folk Festival Association as a way to showcase musicians from the Southeastern United States. The tour, hosted by folklorists Guy Carawan and Cece Conway, featured bluesman Johnny Shines from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, coal miner and balladeer Nimrod Workman, Bessie and Vanessa Jones of the Georgia Sea Island Singers, and the North Carolina-based Red Clay Ramblers string band.
(1:15:47, 69.3MB; S1576 T77-277, T77-278, T77-279)
Welcome back to the Florida Folklife Collection podcast series from the Florida Department of State’s Division of Library and Information Services. From 1976-1977, the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center, through a grant from the Florida Bicentennial Commission, hosted a Series of American Folk Music. In addition to performances by Pete Seeger, Doc and Merle Watson, Jean Ritchie, and the Kingston Trio, the series also included a day with the traveling Portable Folk Festival.
The Portable Folk Festival was sponsored by the National Folk Festival Association and hosted by folklorists Guy Carawan and Cece Conway. The Festival brought a diverse group of musicians from their respective homes to audiences around the Southeast. The t our featured bluesman Johnny Shines from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, coal miner and balladeer Nimrod Workman, Bessie and Vanessa Jones of the Georgia Sea Island Singers, and the North Carolina-based Red Clay Ramblers string band.
This podcast features highlights from their performances recorded April 16, 1977, at the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center. We’ll hand the mic over to Cousin Thelma, Guy and Cece, and let the musicians share their traditions at the Portable Folk Festival.
In 2012, the Florida Folklife Program, the State Archives of Florida and Dust-to-Digital, a Grammy award-winning record label, collaborated to release Drop on Down in Florida: Field Recordings of African American Traditional Music 1977 – 1980. The original audio recordings and many of the photographs from the fieldwork conducted for Drop on Down in Florida are now part of the Florida Folklife Collection housed at the State Archives of Florida.
(35:59, 32.9MB; S1576 C77-7, T77-300, T78-320, T78-328, T80-91, T81-24 T83-62, T83-67, T83-69)
Welcome back to the Florida Folklife Collection Podcast series from the Florida Department of State’s Division of Library and Information Services. In 2012, the Florida Folklife Program, State Archives of Florida and Dust-to-Digital, an award-winning record label, collaborated to release Drop on Down in Florida: Field Recordings of African American Traditional Music 1977 – 1980. This is an expanded book and two-CD reissue of a double LP the Folklife Program released in 1981. The original audio recordings and many of the photographs from fieldwork conducted for Drop on Down in Florida are now part of the Florida Folklife Collection housed at the State Library and Archives of Florida. This month we will listen to some of the original field recordings, and State Folklorist Blaine Waide will discuss the reissue project as well as the fieldwork conducted by the Florida Folklife Program that resulted in Drop on Down in Florida.
Florida Memory: Blaine, tell us a little bit about the Florida Folklife Program at the time Drop on Down in Florida was originally conceived.
Blaine Waide: The Florida Folklife Program was established in the mid-1970s, at a time when public folklife programs began to proliferate across the country. The staff retraced the groundbreaking fieldwork conducted in the 1930s by the Federal Writers’ Project of the Works Progress Administration in Florida. This project involved identifying and recording folk artists maintaining African-American sacred and secular music traditions in the same communities documented approximately 50 years earlier.
FM: What prompted a reissue of the material after it had been unavailable for more than 20 years?
BW: An expanded reissue of Drop on Down in Florida was produced for several reasons. The original album was only available on LP, and had limited impact as an educational tool. Because these were some of the first field recordings of traditional African-American music in Florida since the WPA era, it has become clear that the album has significant value to both scholars and collectors of such recordings alike. Presenting them in a digital format on a label with Dust-to-Digital’s reputation would make the music available to a larger audience.
FM: How was material selected for the reissue?
BW: The 1981 LP only scratched the surface of the rich material from the field recordings. Dwight DeVane, one of the folklorists involved with the original project, reviewed the recordings alongside Lance Ledbetter at Dust-to-Digital and myself. New selections were made based on research value and artistic excellence.
FM: For this podcast, we have a sampling of both sacred and secular selections. Some of these have not been included on the reissue. We’ll start with Emmett Murray’s “Mobile Blues,” which Drop on Down in Florida derived its title from.
[T83-62 Emmett Murray - “Mobile Blues”]
[T83-69 Robert Dennis - “Sweet Black Angel”]
[T78-328 Richard Williams - “Old Forty”]
BW: We just heard “Sweet Black Angel” from Robert Dennis followed by “Old Forty” performed by his cousin, Richard Williams. Williams and Dennis exemplify music traditions performed in family gatherings. We’ll hear some sacred music performed by the Williams family later in the podcast.
Moses Williams, of no relation to the aforementioned Williams family, played the blues on a one-string instrument comprised of a broom wire nailed to a door and stretched over a bottle or can at each end. Originally from Itta Bena, Mississippi, Williams had a hardscrabble but eventful life as an itinerant performer and migrant worker. He worked in the citrus groves of Waverly, Florida at the time of these recordings. Up next, we’ll hear three selections from Moses Williams: “Catfish Blues,” “Big Road Blues” and “Baby Please Don’t Go.”
[T78-320 Moses Williams - “Catfish Blues”]
[T77-300 Moses Williams - “Big Road Blues”]
[T78-320 Moses Williams - “Baby Please Don’t Go”]
FM: In addition to secular music traditions, the fieldwork conducted for Drop on Down in Florida documented diverse sacred music performed in Florida’s African-American communities. These recordings include church services, family sings, individual performances, and shape-note singing conventions.
BW: First we’ll hear “So Many Falling By the Wayside” from Johnny Brown, a blind street musician and slide guitarist. We’ll also hear two selections from the Williams family, further illustrating the family performance setting.
[C77-7 Johnny Brown - “So Many Falling By the Wayside”]
[T83-67 Williams Family - “I Will Rise to Tell You What the Lord Done for Me/I Will Fly Away”]
BW: African-American shape-note singing was fieldworker Doris Dyen’s area of expertise, and the fieldwork conducted for Drop on Down in Florida documented the importance of this tradition in the Southeastern United States. Included are examples of both four-shape and seven-shape note singing styles recorded at annual sings in the Panhandle and south Georgia.
[T80-91 Southeast Alabama and Florida Union Sacred Harp Singing Convention - “Cuba”]
[T83-87 Pleasant Grove Mid-Union Seven Shape Note Singing Convention - “Inside the Pearly Gates”]
FM: We conclude with a congregation recorded at the Miccosukee Church of God of Prophecy in Leon County. We hope you’ve enjoyed this podcast, and you can learn more in Dust-to-Digital’s book and two-CD set Drop on Down in Florida: Field Recordings of African American Traditional Music 1977-1980. Thanks for listening.
[T81-24 Miccosukee Church of God of Prophecy – “Hold to God’s Unchanging Hand”]
To celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month, this podcast spotlights two talented Venezuelan harp players: José Palmi and Jesús Rodríguez. Palmi and Rodríguez perform joropos and other examples of Venezuela’s música llanera, or music of the plains.
(49:01, 44.8MB; S1640 Box 24 Tape 22, S1576 T86-47, T86-24, T86-55)
Welcome back to the Florida Folklife Collection podcast series from the Florida Department of State’s Division of Library and Information Services. To celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month, which is September 15 through October 15, this month’s podcast spotlights two talented Venezuelan harp players: José Palmi and Jesús Rodríguez. Both musicians immigrated to Florida and have enriched American culture by sharing their unique traditions through performances and apprenticeships.
The harp was introduced to Latin America by Spanish missionaries primarily during the 17th and 18th centuries. It was adopted into the indigenous music of the continent as both a solo instrument and accompaniment for vocalists and instrumental ensembles. Many varieties of harp thrive throughout Venezuela, Paraguay, Colombia, Peru, Chile, Ecuador and Mexico.
In Venezuela, the celebratory joropo, with its regional variations, is perhaps the most prominent type of traditional music from los llanos, or the plains. Its rhythm is in triple meter like a waltz, but driven by syncopation and a fast-paced tempo—well suited for quick-footed couple dancing. The type of harp corresponding to this region is known as arpa llanera, on which we’ll hear Palmi and Rodríguez play many examples of Venezuela’s música llanera, or music of the plains.
The performances featured in this podcast were recorded on two separate occasions. José Palmi, who we’ll hear from first, was recorded to digital audio tape at his home in Miami on June 27, 1993. Jesús Rodríguez, accompanied by his seven-year-old son Henry on maracas, was recorded to open reel tape at the 1986 Florida Folk Festival.
Colman, Alfredo. Liner notes to Maiteí América: Harps of Paraguay. Various Artists. Smithsonian Folkways Recordings SFW40548. CD. 2009.
Sheehy, Daniel and Carlos Rojas Hernández. Liner notes to Joropo Music from the Plains of Colombia. ¡Cimarrón!. Smithsonian Folkways Recordings SFW40557. CD. 2011.
Sheehy, Daniel and Benito Irady. Liner notes to ¡Y Que Viva Venezuela! Maestros del Joropo Oriental. Various Artists. Smithsonian Folkways Recordings SFW40551. CD. 2009.
Boat tours in Wakulla Springs date back to the late 1800s. Their chants, jokes and stories have been passed down through the generations.
(39:29, 36.1MB; S1576 T81-12, T81-37, T83-142)
Alligators, snakes, rare birds and Native exoticism are all pinnacles of Florida’s tourism industry. Wakulla Springs State Park offers visitors the chance to experience all of these things and more under the guidance of clever and knowledgeable guides. Welcome back to the Florida Folklife Collection Podcast Series from the Florida Department of State’s State Library and Archives of Florida. In this month’s podcast we’ll examine the oral traditions of the Wakulla Springs boat drivers.
Glass-bottom boat tours are certainly not exclusive to Wakulla Springs. They have been a long-standing attraction in Silver Springs, Homosassa Springs and Rainbow Springs, among others. Boat tours in Wakulla Springs date back to the late 1800s. Right up through recent history, descendants of the first boatmen of the Springs have followed in the footsteps of their forefathers, and their chants, jokes and stories have been passed down through the generations.
The first portion of this podcast features a jungle boat tour by Wilbert Gavin. Gavin masterfully calls out the surrounding plants and wildlife he sees during the three-mile loop down the river, pointing out the rare limpkin and finding some snakes for the ladies.
Next, we hear a retired Luke Smith recite his glass-bottom boat chant at the Florida Folk Festival. The way he sings about the underwater fauna and summons the fish to the boat is reminiscent of African-American spirituals and field hollers. Following his boat tour demonstration, Smith discusses his history at the Springs in an interview, recalling the days of giving tours in row boats.
Now keep your hands and arms inside the boat, and enjoy the mysterious waters of Wakulla Springs!