Research, writings, and recordings by Joyce Cauthen on Alabama Folklife
Below are writings, recordings, and speeches by Joyce Cauthen, provided in the hope that they will be useful in your research on traditional music and Alabama folk culture.
Books and Articles
With Fiddle and Well-Rosined Bow: Old-Time Fiddling in Alabama, University of Alabama Press, 1989; paperback edition, 2001
This 282-page book is a history of fiddling in Alabama from 1813 to shortly after World War II. Though it contains biographies of Alabama’s best-known fiddlers, its main purpose is to explore the role of the old-time fiddler in his or her community and the traditions surrounding the music. Available at Amazon or from the University of Alabama Press.
"The Legacy of a Neighborhood: Uncle Plez Carroll and Charlie Stripling" in The Old-Time Herald, Vol. 7, No. 8, Summer, 2001.
This essay debunks the belief that the great Alabama Fiddler, Charlie Stripling, learned to play in isolation. It particularly explores the contributions of neighbor fiddler, Uncle Plez Carroll.
"Fiddle Tunes for Mining Towns" and "The Ballad of John Catchings" in Spirit of Steel: Music of the Mines, Railroads and Mills of the Birmingham District, produced by The Sloss Furnace Association, 1999.
This is a small collection of essays accompanied by an excellent CD, featuring, for the most part, blues and gospel songs pertaining to mining and steel-making in Birmingham, Alabama. My first essay concerns two fiddle tunes ("Coal Mine Blues" and "Coal Valley") which the great Alabama fiddler, Charlie Stripling, composed to play at dances in mining towns. The second is about a ballad, recorded by Joe and Esther Gelders in 1939 for the Library of Congress, concerning a union man who was jailed for his activities. The story of Joe Gelders is more fascinating than the ballad.
The collection is not for sale but may be acquired by contacting Joey Brackner at the Alabama State Council on the Arts in Montgomery (
), 334-242-4076. A revised edition of the Catchings essay (sans the CD) is available in Tributaries, Vol. 4, from the Alabama Folklife Association.
Benjamin Lloyd’s Hymn Book: A Primitive Baptist Song Tradition, Alabama Folklife Association, 1999.
I served as project director and editor of this collection, working closely with John Bealle and Joey Brackner. It contains five essays about a word-only hymn book published in 1841 by a pioneer Primitive Baptist elder in 1841. This hymn book is still used and revered by many Primitive Baptist congregations across the nation. Because there is no musical annotation in the book and no musical instruments are used in the church, there are amazing differences in the ways people sing these hymns, and the accompanying CD, with extensive liner notes, demonstrates this clearly.
The book contains an excellent summary introduction by John Bealle, an essay by myself on "Dr. Watts" or "meter music" as the "old way of singing" in African-American congregations, an essay by Beverly Patterson on singing in white congregations, an ethnomusicological approach to African-American lined-out hymns by Wm. Dargan, plus histories of Elder Lloyd and his hymn book by Oliver C. Weaver and Joey Brackner. It may be ordered from the Alabama Folklife Association.
"Singing 'Dr. Watts': A Venerable Hymn Tradition Among African Americans in Alabama" and "Shape-Note Gospel Singing on Sand Mountain," in In the Spirit: Alabama's Sacred Music Traditions," Black Belt Press, 1995.
The essay on "Dr. Watts" style singing is the first I did on this subject. A longer treatment of the subject can be found in Benjamin Lloyd's Hymn Book, described above. The essay on shape-note gospel singing concerns "new book" singing in the Stamps-Baxter tradition as it is still actively practiced on Sand Mt., Alabama. Examples of both types of singing can be heard on the CD that accompanies In the Spirit, published by the Alabama Center for Traditional Culture. This can be ordered from the Alabama Folklife Association., 334-242-3601.
Presenting Traditional Artists: A Handbook for Local Arts Agencies, Jackson: Mississippi Arts Commission, 1994.
This handbook demystifies the process of finding, interviewing, and presenting folk artists at festivals, schools, and other programs and contains a bibliography of works on Mississippi folklore. It is now posted on the website of the Mississippi Arts Commission.
The DeKalb County Fiddlers' Convention, 1908-1942, a brochure published by the Big Wills Arts Council, Ft. Payne, Al., September 1993, on the occasion of the revival of that convention.
Copies of this 12-page brochure are available from the author as long as they last and may be requested by e-mail.
"Boogie and Blues from Alabama: Albert Macon and Robert Thomas," Living Blues, January-February, 1992.
This is an interview with the late Albert Macon of Tuskegee and his protégé Robert Thomas. It talks of African-American house parties and square dances for which Macon’s father and Macon and Thomas provided guitar music. (Call Living Blues at 1-800-390-3527 to check for availability.)
"And Bring Your Fiddle: The Role of the Old-Time Fiddler in Alabama Community Life," Alabama Heritage, Summer 1989.
This is an article and lots of side bars based on my book With Fiddle and Well-Rosined Bow. The editors did a beautiful job with photography and design on this one. Copies are available at http://www.alabamaheritage.com/.
"A ‘Peculiar Wiggling of the Bow:’ Old Time Fiddling in Alabama," originally published in Alabama Folklife: Collected Essays, Alabama Folklife Association, 1989. Reprinted in American Musical Traditions, Vol. 3, edited by Jeff Todd Titon and Bob Carlin, NY: Schirmer Books, 2002, p.115-121.
This essay defines the term "old time fiddling," and gives characteristics of this music and its use in Alabama.
Bullfrog Jumped: Children's Folksongs from the Byron Arnold Collection: This CD with 72-page booklet features the voices of women and children who were recorded by songcatcher Byron Arnold in 1947. It was sponsored by the Alabama Folklife Association with funding from the Alabama State Council on the Arts.
Possum Up a Gum Stump: Home, Commercial and Field Recordings of Alabama Fiddlers; record album and 24-page booklet, produced by Brierfield Ironworks Park; funded by National Endowment for the Arts and Alabama State Council on the Arts, 1988, and reissued as a CD and Cassette by Tannehill State Park in 1995.
This anthology includes Alabama fiddlers born in the 19th century, recorded commercially or on home recording machines, as well as 20th century fiddlers who play in older styles, recorded on equipment from the Library of Congress by Jim and Joyce Cauthen. They are
- Charlie Stripling: Lost John, Get Off Your Money
- D. Dix Hollis: Walking in the Parlor, The Girl Slipped Down
- Y. Z. Hamilton: Hamilton’s Special Breakdown, Fifty Years Ago
- Joe Lee: Georgia Wagoner
- "Fiddling" Tom Freeman: Flop-eared Mule
- Johnson Family: Bile Dem Cabbage Down, Katy Hill
- Sam McCracken: 8th of January, Chuck-a-luck
- Jess Moore: Smoke Above the Clouds
- Noah Lacy: All Around the World and Back to Citaco
- Leonard Keith: Chickens Don’t Roost Too High
- Matt Hill: Dew Drop
- Howard Colburn: Home Again Blues
- George Frye: Flower’s Mill
- Henry Lee Hudson: Messenger
- Monte Sano Crowder: Chicken in the Barnyard, Roaring River
- Howard Hamil: Coon on a Rail
- Ralph Whited: Turkey Foot, Possum Up a Gum Stump
The CD/cassette is available from Tannehill State Park (205-477-5711) or from the Alabama Folklife Association.
Benjamin Lloyd’s Hymnbook: A Primitive Baptist Song Tradition (CD), Alabama Folklife Association, 1999.
This CD accompanies the essay collection described above and includes the following hymns sung by singers in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, and West Virginia:
- #595 Ye objects of sense, and enjoyments of time, Lee Family, Hoboken, Ga:
- #45 Saw ye my Savior, Lee Family, Hoboken, Ga:
- #152 I walked abroad one morning fair, Lee Family, Hoboken, Ga:
- #206 The Christians of old, united in one, Lee Family, Hoboken, Ga
- #440 The day is past and gone, New Jerusalem Primitive Baptist Church, Bessemer, AL.
- #390 I would, but cannot sing, Smyrna Primitive Baptist Church, Goodwater, AL.
- #206 The Christians old, united in one, Smyrna Primitive Baptist Church
- #695 Dark and thorny is the desert, Shiloh Primitive Baptist Association, Elkin, N.C.
- #270 O may I worthy prove to see, Shiloh Primitive Baptist Association, Elkin, N.C.
- #492 Hungry, and faint and poor, Little Hope Primitive Baptist Church, Eoline, AL (1:52)
- #662 Sweet to rejoice in lively hope, Little Hope Primitive Baptist Church
- #3, Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, Jesse Allison, Vera Hall, Doc Reed, Livingston, AL
- #241 That doleful night before his death, Mt. Pilgrim Primitive Baptist Church, Livingston
- #333 From every stormy wind that blows, Ginny Hawker, Augusta Heritage Center, Elkin, WV
- #263 What wondrous love is this, Amanda Smith and Ella Pearl White, Loachapoka, AL
- #382 While sorrows encompass me round, Mt. Hebrew Primitive Baptist Church, Notasulga, AL
- #200 Come, we that love the Lord, Oak Grove Primitive Baptist Church, Davidson County, NC:
- #275 On Jordan’s stormy banks I stand, Oak Grove Primitive Baptist Church,Oak Grove Primitive Baptist Church, Davidson County, NC:
- #119, Afflictions, though they seem severe, Bethel Primitive Baptist Church, Berlin, AL
- #364 Father I stretch my hands to thee, Bethlehem Primitive Baptist Church, Eutaw,
It is available from the Alabama Folklife Association.
The Alabama Sampler: 10 years of the Roots of American Music at City Stages; 1999, sponsored by Nextel, City Stages, and the Alabama Folklife Association.
This CD collection of live performances includes:
- Little Whitt and Big Bo: My Home is in the Delta
- The Adairs: Wild Bill Jones
- Cornelius Wright: Track Lining Calls
- James Bryan & Carl Jones: Whistleby
- Albert Macon & Robert Thomas: Tap Dance/Back and Sides
- John Alexander’s Sterling Jubilee Singers: Jesus Hits like the Atom Bomb
- Little Jimmy Reed: Help Me Spend this Dough
- Birmingham Sunlights: I’m Going to View that Holy City
- Whited String Band: Fox Hunt
- Gospel Harmonettes of Demopolis: He’ll Wash You Whiter than Snow
- Kathryn Tucker Windham: Don’t be afraid of Ghosts (Narrative)
- Wiregrass Sacred Harp Singers: Florida Storm/Give Me Just a Little More Time
- Al Malone and the Melody Men: Sin Ain’t nothing but the Blues
- Glenn Tolbert: Ruby
- National Convention Sacred Harp Singers: Sweet Canaan
- Jerry McCain: Just a Little Bit
- Jerry and Tammy Sullivan: Blind Bartimeus
This CD is available from Alabama Folklife Association.
The Stripling Brothers: Complete Recorded Works in Chronological Order, Vol. 1, 1928-34 and Vol. 2, 1934-36, Document 8007,8008.
I wrote the liner notes for these two CDs. Though the sound quality is not always the best on these CDs, the musicianship is excellent and it is great to have all of the Stripling recordings in chronological order. They may be ordered from Document’s distributor in the U.S. at www.arhoolie.com.
In the Spirit: Alabama’s Sacred Music Traditions; Alabama Folklife Association, 1995.
With Hank Willett of the Alabama Center for Traditional Culture I produced this CD to accompany an essay collection of the same name (described above). It contains examples of "Dr. Watt’s" style singing, Sacred Harp singing, Christian Harmony singing, "new book" gospel singing, Jefferson-County a cappella gospel quartets, bluegrass gospel, and psalm singing among African-American Covenanters. At present it is out of print, though cassette copies are available from the Alabama Center for Traditional Culture.
John Alexander’s Sterling Jubilee Singers of Bessemer, Alabama (cassette), Alabama Folklife Association, September, 1994, and Jesus Hits Like the Atom Bomb (CD), New World Records, 1997.
The Sterling Jubilees, recently retired after performing for more than 70 years, represent the last of the famous Jefferson County African-American a capella gospel quartet style. Until the end they retained not only the repertoire and stylistic elements, but also the traditional rehearsal and dress practices of the area quartets. This recording was made over the course of several rehearsals and contains not only great, soulful singing, but elements of the pre-rehearsal meeting and the sounds of the trains passing the rehearsal hall in Bessemer, Alabama. It is available from New World Records (212-302-0460) and the Alabama Folklife Association.
As a speaker on the Alabama Humanities Foundation Speakers Bureau I have given the following speeches to organizations across Alabama:
- "From Veranda to Internet: Urban Legends in Alabama"
- "Peas for Peace, Rice for Riches: Alabama’s Enduring Folkways"
- "A Variety of Joyful Noises: Alabama’s Traditional Sacred Music"
- "Tradition is Preserved One Generation at a Time"
- "A Great Revival: Henry Ford and Old Time Fiddlers"
- Strong at the Roots: An Exploration of Unbroken Folk Music Traditions in Alabama"
- The Little Country Church and Its Music
- Stars Fell on Alabama : The State’s Changing Image as Reflected in a Phrase
- History Through the Eyes of a Backwoodsman: The Writings of Fiddling Tom Freeman
- Please Pass the Folklore: Family Traditions in the Kitchen and Around the Dinner Table
- Catching Songs in Alabama: Folksong Collectors and the Treasures They Found Here