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Alabama's Musical Heritage: Notes for Teachers
Notes on Alabama Indian Music
Notes on recordings*Alabama Indian Music:
1. Creek hymn and lullaby, sung by Woodrow Haney. From: Songs of Indian Territory, Center for the American Indian, Oklahoma City. These traditional Creek songs were brought from Alabama and Georgia to Oklahoma, where they remain in the repertoire of tribal elders. The hymn lyrics translated read, Do not get tired. Do not get discouraged. Be determined. To all, come on, we will go on to the highest place. The second song is an old lullaby sung to children. (This recording made possible courtesy of the Oklahoma Arts Council.)
2. Creek hymn, sung by George Bunny. From: Songs of Indian Territory, Center for the American Indian, Oklahoma City. The hymn is called Must this Body Die? Some of the translated lyrics are: When my body dies; where will it go? When my body dies; where will it go? When my body dies, what will I do? Will I inherit the kingdom of God? (This recording made possible courtesy of the Oklahoma Arts Council.)
For more informationAlabama Indian Music:
Notes on Early African-American Music in Alabama
Notes on recordings*Early African-American Music in Alabama:
3. Black Woman, sung by Rich Amerson. From: Negro Folk Music of Alabama, Volume 1, Smithsonian Folkways Cassette Series: 04417. This field blues piece was recorded in Livingston, Ala., in 1950 and represents an early style of blues sung solo and outdoors. This genre probably derived from old plantation-era field calls like the ones appearing on track # 5.
4. Tall Angel at the Bar, sung by Rev. Alex Fountain. From: Cornbread Crumbled In Gravy: Historical Field Recordings from the Byron Arnold Collection of Traditional Tunes, Alabama Traditions, 104. Tall Angel At the Bar is a ring shout, a religious dance and song ceremony which has its origins in West Africa and was an important part of religious practice before emancipation. The participants would line up in a ring and move in a circle, shuffling but never crossing their feet (this was because dancing was prohibited in church). A song leader would provide the chant. Today, ring shouts are rare and happen mostly on the sea islands of South Carolina. This song was recorded in 1947 in Florence by University of Alabama folklorist Byron Arnold.
5. Field calls, Annie Grace Horn Dodson and Enoch Brown. From: Negro Folk Music of Alabama, Volume 1, Smithsonian Folkways Cassette Series: 04417. Field calls were developed as a communication between slaves while working in the fields since they were not allowed to mingle and socialize freely. They consisted of greetings, calls for children and spouses, and complaint calls.
6. Railroad call, John Henry Mealing; recorded by Brenda and Steve McCallum, March 16, 1983, Pratt City, Ala. From: "Spirit of Steel: Music of the Mines, Railroads and Mills of the Birmingham District, Sloss Furnaces. This field recording was one of many by Brenda and Steve McCallum for the AGRS, or Afro-American Gospel Radio Series, which was produced at the University of Alabama. Before railroad work was completely mechanized in the 1950s, railroad calls were an everyday part of the track workers ritual. Most of these gandy dancersthe label applied to railway line workers who maintained railroad tracks and kept the rails straightwere African Americans who adapted the work call to railroad work.
For more informationEarly African-American Music in Alabama:
Notes on Early Alabama Hymnody
Notes on recordings*Early Alabama Hymnody
7. That Doleful Night Before His Death, the congregation at Mt. Pilgrim Primitive Baptist Church, Livingston, Ala.; recorded on September 13, 1998; # 241 in Benjamin Lloyds Primitive Hymns. From: Benjamin Lloyds Hymn Book, Alabama Folklife Association.
8. Hungry, and faint, and poor, the congregation at Little Hope Primitive Baptist Church, Livingston, Ala.; recorded on November 19, 1995; # 492 in Benjamin Lloyds Primitive Hymns. From: Benjamin Lloyds Hymn Book, Alabama Folklife Association.
9. Arbacoochee, the congregation at Antioch Baptist Church near Ider, Ala. From: Bound For Canaan: Sacred Harp Singing From Sand Mountain, Alabama, Hollow Square Productions. Sacred Harp tunes were often named in honor of the place in which they were written. Although Englishman Isaac Watts wrote this hymn in 1719, Mr. S. M. Denson penned the tune, Arbacoochee, much laterin 1908. Arbacoochee, the Talladega County site of the 1840s Alabama gold rush, is named for a Creek town.
10. Amazing Grace, The Wiregrass Sacred Harp Singers. From: Wiregrass Notes: Black Sacred Harp-Singing from Southeast Alabama, Alabama Traditions 102. The adaptation of Sacred Harp in the black community and the inherent changes are obvious in this rendition of Amazing Grace. (Note: partial song; recording ends in the middle.)
For more informationEarly Alabama Hymnody:
Notes on 19th Century Alabama Sheet Music
Notes on recordings*19th Century Alabama Sheet Music:
11. Rose of Alabama, performed by Dr. William Craig Mann. From: Dr. Bills Front Porch Sampler. Rose of Alabama was written in 1840s or 1855 (sources differ on the date) and was one of the most popular songs of Southern soldiers during the Civil War.
12. The Mesopotamia Waltz Mazurka, performed by Bruce Parsons. This sheet music was written in 1855 by Anne B. Hatfield for the Mesopotamia girls school of Eutaw, Alabama.
13. The Alabama State March, performed by Bruce Parsons. This is a tune written by Armand P. Pfister of Tuscaloosa, circa 1840. The cover of this sheet music shows the state capitol in Tuscaloosa and is inscribed, Composed and respectfully dedicated to His Excellency, Arthur P. Bagby, Governor of the State of Alabama.
For more information19th Century Alabama Sheet Music:
Notes on recordings*Alabama Fiddle Music:
14. Walking In The Parlor, played by D. Dix Hollis. From: Possum Up A Gum Stump: Home, Field, & Commercial Recordings of Alabama Fiddlers; Past and Present, Alabama Traditions 103. This recording of Hollis (18611927), made in 1924 in New York and released by Paramount Records, is one of the first commercial recordings by a southern fiddler. Hollis was taught to play as a child in the 1870s by a former slave in Sulligent.
15. Coal Valley, Charlie Stripling; recorded on March 12, 1936, in New Orleans; Decca 5547. From: "Spirit of Steel: Music of the Mines, Railroads and Mills of the Birmingham District, Sloss Furnaces. (Charlie Stripling appears courtesy of MCA Records, Inc., under license from Universal Music Special Markets, Inc.)
For more informationAlabama Fiddle Music:
16. Coal Mountain Blues, Sonny Scott, accompanied by Walter Roland on piano, 1933; Vocalion 25012 (13555-1). From: Spirit of Steel: Music of the Mines, Railroads and Mills of the Birmingham District, Sloss Furnaces. (Sonny Scott appears courtesy of Legacy Recordings/SONY Music Entertainment, Inc.) This Birmingham bluesmans first recorded vocal selection. Scott was best known as the guitar accompanist for Birmingham pianist Walter Roland. Birmingham was known for producing quality blues piano players such as Roland. Boogie Woogie piano blues had an early Birmingham connection. A Birmingham piano blues player named Lost John brought the left-handed rolling bass figures of boogie woogie to Chicago for the first time about 1908. Alabama blues pianists, such as Pinetop Smith, Cow-Cow Davenport, and Chief Ellis, continued the tradition in Birmingham and later began touring, all eventually leaving the state.
17. Jim Crow Blues, Cow-Cow Davenport (4085-3). From: Spirit of Steel: Music of the Mines, Railroads and Mills of the Birmingham District, Sloss Furnaces. Charles Cow-Cow Davenport was born in the industrial community of Anniston, Alabama, and briefly attended a seminary in Selma before coming to Birmingham and becoming the citys best-known piano player. He left Birmingham for Atlanta in 1915 and later migrated from the South entirely. He died in Cleveland in 1955, having moved there from Chicago in 1930. His often-quoted Jim Crow Blues gives the obvious reason for the significant exodus of blacks to the North:
Im tired of this Jim Crow, gonna leave this Jim Crow town.
Doggone my black soul, Im sweet Chicago bound,
Yes Im leavin here from this ole Jim Crow town.
Im goin up north where they say money grows on trees,
I dont give a dog-gone if my black soul leaves,
Im goin where I dont need no BVDs.
18. New Cow-Cow Blues, Cow-Cow Davenport (C-2063-A and 2063-B). From: Spirit of Steel: Music of the Mines, Railroads and Mills of the Birmingham District, Sloss Furnaces. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, Davenport helped invent, and coined the term, boogie woogie piano. New Cow-Cow Blues is his most famous boogie woogie piano recording reflecting the more urban industrialized tempo of New South Anniston and Birmingham.
For more informationBlues in Alabama:
Notes on Jubilee Gospel Singing in Alabama
19. Good Evening Everybody, Bessemer Big Four, 1941. From: "Spirit of Steel: Music of the Mines, Railroads and Mills of the Birmingham District, Sloss Furnaces. Field recording made in Bessemer, Alabama. The Library of Congress folklorists who made this recording told the singers that their recording would be a good contribution to the national defense effort. Consequently, one of the singers comments at the end, I hope you are not going to play this for Mr. Hitler; if singing would stop him, I would sing all night.
20. The Spirit of Phil Murray, CIO Singers, 1952; Tiger Records 100. From: "Spirit of Steel: Music of the Mines, Railroads and Mills of the Birmingham District, Sloss Furnaces. A tribute to the late AFL-CIO president, Phil Murray.
For more informationJubilee Gospel Singing in Alabama: