Smoky Mountain Air

Sepia Tones: Exploring Black Appalachian Music—E2: Driving (and Fiddling) While Black, Appalachian Music at Home and on the Road

July 25, 2021 Great Smoky Mountains Association Season 2 Episode 2
Smoky Mountain Air
Sepia Tones: Exploring Black Appalachian Music—E2: Driving (and Fiddling) While Black, Appalachian Music at Home and on the Road
Show Notes

On this episode of our mini-series Sepia Tones, Dr. William Turner and Dr. Ted Olson examine music within rural communities with guests Earl White, Larry Kirksey, and Kip Lornell. Each of our guests has been on their own quest, whether seeking the musical kinship of other black performers past and present, finding a life outside of Kentucky coal camps, or documenting the rich musical landscape of rural communities.

Earl White is an accomplished fiddler and prominent figure of old-time music and dance. He was a founding member of The Green Grass Cloggers, and his energetic and rhythmic fiddle style is showcased through his vast repertoire of Appalachian music. He resides in Floyd County, VA, where he and his wife run a farm and bakery.

Larry Kirksey grew up in Harlan County in the Appalachian region of Kentucky, sharing a lifelong friendship with our host Dr. William Turner. He went on to become a respected coach in the NFL, achieving victory at Super Bowl XXIX with the San Francisco 49ers. From his beginnings in eastern Kentucky, his work has taken him all over the United States and to other countries.

Kip Lornell is a professor of American music and ethnomusicology at George Washington University. He has written a number of books, articles, and essays and was awarded a Grammy in 1997 for his contribution to Smithsonian Folkways’ Anthology of American Folk Music. He studied African American music for many years and completed field work in various areas, including the Appalachian region.

Dr. William Turner is a long-time African American studies scholar who first rose to prominence as co-editor of the groundbreaking Blacks in Appalachia. He was also a research assistant to Roots author Alex Haley. Turner retired as distinguished professor of Appalachian Studies and regional ambassador at Berea College. His memoir called The Harlan Renaissance is forthcoming from West Virginia University Press.

Dr. Ted Olson is a professor of Appalachian Studies at East Tennessee State University and the author of many books, articles, reviews, encyclopedia entries, and oral histories. Olson has produced and compiled a number of documentary albums of traditional Appalachian music including GSMA’s On Top of Old Smoky and Big Bend Killing. He’s received a number of awards in his work, including seven Grammy nominations. The East Tennessee Historical Society recently honored Olson with its Ramsey Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Music selections include:

  1.  "John Henry" performed by Amythyst Kiah and Roy Andrade from GSMA’s album Big Bend Killing
  2. "Shuckin’ the Brush" performed by The Earl White Stringband, from the 2018 Mountains of Music Homecoming CD In the Key of Blue, used courtesy of The Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail
  3. "G-Rag" performed by the Georgia Yellow Hammers accompanied by Jim and Andrew Baxter, recorded in 1927
  4. "Driftin’ and Driftin’" performed by the Foddrell Brothers, accompanied by Lynn Foddrell, at the Berea College Celebration of Traditional Music in 1982, used courtesy of  Berea Sound Archives
  5. Clogging audio clip from the short documentary film "The Green Grass Cloggers" produced in 1978 by David Balch, filmed at the 1978 North Carolina Folklife Festival, used courtesy of The Green Grass Cloggers with thanks to Leanne Smith
  6. Devil in the Strawstack" performed for our podcast by Earl White