This is an awesome solo fiddle record of Texas fiddler Eck Robertson, recorded by Mike Seeger, John Cohen & Tracy Schwarz – The New Lost City Ramblers, at Eck’s home in 1963. Robertson was the first person to record and issue country music on vinyl record back in 1922, and as the notes to this late era LP (released in 1991) point out, he may also be the last! This is really a fantastic record, put out by County Records and as far as I know has not been reissued anywhere.
Bruce Springsteen got Pete Seeger invited to play at this Obamanation concert event at the Capitol yesterday. Tao Rodriguez, the Boss and a large choir sang the song as Pete called out the lyrics to the crowd. Pete called the song as originally written by Guthrie back when, complete with the verse about private property:
There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me;
Sign was painted, it said private property;
But on the back side it didn’t say nothing;
That side was made for you and me.
He also got in another lesser known verse:
In the squares of the city, In the shadow of a steeple;
By the relief office, I’d seen my people.
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking,
Is this land made for you and me?
The choir kind of messes up on the private property verse. Was it planned to sing that one? He sings it instead of the chorus. I guess it was planned since it seems like the thing was rehearsed with the choir somehow, but all the same I’m amazed they let him even say the words “private property.” That’s awesome. He gave people a dose of the real business.
Guthrie took the melody for “This Land Is Your Land” from the hymn “When the World’s On Fire.” Guthrie loved the Carter Family so maybe he heard their version or he just learned the song from someone he knew. Bryant’s Jubilee Quartet does a great version, you can find that on iTunes.
From the Yurchenco Archives: On today’s show I air an interview Henrietta Yurchenco did with Alan Lomax about Leadbelly. I’m not sure when this interview was conducted (there was no date on the tape), but I think it was done in the mid 1960’s for one of her broadcasts on WNYC. Alan Lomax gives a really excellent talk about Leadbelly, about his music and about when he and his father John Lomax first encountered Leadbelly at the Angola State Penitentiary in Louisiana. After the interview I play some of the very first field recordings that the Lomax’s made of Leadbelly when they met him that day in 1933, and when they returned to record him again in 1934. Thanks go to Nathan Salsburg of the Alan Lomax Archive for supplying me with those recordings.
The film posted here is a mid 1930’s “March of Time” newsreel starring Leadbelly and John Lomax playing the parts of themselves in a stylized reenactment of their first meeting and early activities together.
In 1933 John & Alan Lomax were supplied with a portable disc recording machine, the first of its kind, and once they got the hang of using it they proceeded to the first stop on their field recording trip, the Angola State Pen, and the first person they encountered there was Leadbelly. Alan Lomax’s description of this series of events is vivid, and together with the early field recordings I play on the show and the “March of Time” film, you can get a startling connection with that moment in time and space.