Appalachian Journey Transcription

Appalachian Journey Transcription

By William Lewis, with some supplementary information by Daniel W. Patterson

[Film opens with Stanley Hicks making and using a decoy call]


ALAN LOMAX (narrating): In these Southern Appalachian Mountains a culture has been long growing for 200 and more years. It is becoming more and more important to all of us here in America and indeed to people all over the world. Most of us know it through the music of Nashville, the country music. But, it has deeper roots that go far back into American time.

People came bearing strains of the Norse adventurer, the Celtic fantasy, and of the Protestant Revolution that helped to free mankind from the old tyrannies of kings and emperors. And in this grand setting all were influenced by the civilized Cherokee town dwellers who taught them how to grow tobacco and corn and squash. And how to play the mouth bow.

[Music—Vaughn Eller (mistakenly called Bob in the film) playing mouth bow]

But the Indians found that there was no end to the pale faces and no end to their greed for land and gold and so a long tragic war broke out that drove the Indians west on the Trail of Tears.

RAYMOND FAIRCHILD: They marched most of the Cherokees across into Oklahoma and killed lots of women and children, you know, in them marches.

LOMAX: Are you proud of your Indian blood?

FAIRCHILD: Yes sir, definitely.

[Music—Fairchild plays five-string banjo]

FAIRCHILD: With music, I think is a gift from God. And I’m proud to be a mountain man and I’m proud to be a banjo picker. I don’t care what you say about it.

LOMAX: Ray Fairchild is one of the stars of the modern Appalachian Folk Music Revival. His costume and his tunes take us back to the time when these mountains were the southwestern frontier of the United States.

The land of promise where Daniel Boone and his people who came pouring in from the impoverished lands of Northwest Europe. The only way in was up the mountain creeks and they drove their oxen right over the big boulders with, “I pop my whip I bring the blood I make my leaders take the mud.” These people didn’t have symphonies or choruses but they were highly artistic. They were great hands at the fiddle and solo tunes. And they brought with them as their invisible baggage the great ballads of the past.

SHEILA KAY BARNHILL (later ADAMS, singing “Black is the Color of My True Love’s Hair”. Present are Dellie Norton and others):

Black is the color of my true loves hair.
His cheeks are like the rosy fair,
With the prettiest face and the daintiest hands--
I love the ground where on he stands.

So fair thee well, my own true love.
Our time is past but I wish you well.
Still I hope the day will come
When you and I shall be as one.

LOMAX: They had the great English ballads that are quite the equal of the best lyric poets of Elizabethan days. “Black is the color of my true love’s hair, her cheeks are like the rosy fair. The prettiest eyes and the daintiest hands. I love the ground whereon she stands.’ A mountain poem.

This 70,000 square miles of beautiful, tangled green hills allowed this British tradition time to reshape itself. And while it was being cut to pieces by the industrialization of Great Britain it was finding a new home here reforming itself, taking on a new life on the frontier. Life out of the corn fields, and out of the whiskey stills and out of the feuds and out of the loneliness of living and out of the difficulties of living in a new land. Most people don’t understand Americans because they don’t know how frightening it had been to leave home completely and pull up your roots and face the wilderness.

SHEILA KAY ADAMS (singing and playing banjo):

Raining and pouring
The rain is pouring down.
If I can’t have my Dinah,
I’ll have no one in town.
I’ll have no one in town.
I’ll have no one in town.

DELLIE NORTON: Times was really hard then, but you can make pretty plenty to eat on the farm. But we always had to work. From the time I was eight years old, I had to work. My mother she plowed, hoed corn, home make everything.

SHEILA KAY ADAMS (singing and playing banjo):

Raining and snowing,
The world is turning white.
Sun lights up the daytime,
Save Dinah for the night,
Save Dinah for the night,
Save Dinah for the night.

LOMAX: There you see me way up in the Smokies. We are about 4000 feet near Boone, North Carolina. And I’m looking to go and see Stanley Hicks who’s a member of a family that came from Northern Ireland and has just an endless amount of stories, ballads, and dance traditions. Tradition isn’t static, it’s growing and Stanley turns out to tell me a story he’s just made up a couple of days before in anticipation of my coming.

STANLEY HICKS: I guess I told you about my catfish, didn’t I, one time?

LOMAX: Well, no you didn’t.

STANLEY HICKS: Well, I’ll tell you about it. When I went to school, back in the old days, you, I went, and dad didn’t want us to go fishing much, but I slipped off and went to the river. You probably crossed it coming out. And I caught these fish, throwed them out on the bank, and I’d caught a catfish, about that long. Laid him out on the bank, and he goes cuckuk, cuckuk, laying there, you know. So I got him and took him on home, and I’d put it in water awhile, and then I’d take him out. I got him to where it didn’t want to stay in water, you know. And I’d put me a little string around its neck and he’d go along behind me to school cuckukoo, cuckukoo, leading it to school.

LOMAX: Talking catfish, huh?

STANLEY HICKS: Yeah and hit would…they broken a boulder outen the bridge, you know, where the old road went across old steers and stuff and I went across the bridge going to school. My string got loose, you know. And I went back to see what had happened to my catfish. And do you know what happened?

LOMAX: Can’t guess, what happened?

STANLEY HICKS: It fell right down through that hole where the boulder got broke off and got drownded.

LOMAX: Well the Hicks generation. Well Hicks is a Scotch-Irish name. It was all music, all talent.


RAY HICKS (singing and playing harmonica):

I’ll pawn you my watch,
And pawn you my chain
And I’ll pawn you my gold diamond ring.
And I’ll pawn you my wagon and my team.

LOMAX: Ray Hicks who is seven feet tall, or just close to it.

RAY HICKS (singing and playing harmonica):

You can count the days I’m gone,
You can see the train that I leave on,
You can hear the whistle blow one hundred miles.

LOMAX: They used to love to invite Ray to barn raisings. They didn’t have to have a ladder. (laughs) Well, Ray is the greatest of all American folktale tellers and he not only tells the stories of the adventures of Jack, Jack and the Beanstalk and there are many more stories like that in the tradition. But he embellishes them and they grow under his telling.

RAY HICKS: We hadn’t got very far till we come to the river, we come to a river and they was fifty ducks around fifty ducks was swimming in that river and he said, “Bedad, Ray, I’ve got to have them.” And I said, “How the devil are you going to?” Well we got our shoe strings out, felt in our pockets where we’d been around, had some other stings in our pockets. He tied them together and tied his britches’ legs and said, “I’ll swim under there and tie their legs together and they won’t know.” And he got under that water and swimmed under there and got them tied together. And when he comed up amongst that bunch of ducks that beat any quacking and hollering. And he had the whole fifty of them tied up, wound together. And his britches, when he was standing there talking his britches went to doing that and he let them out and he had thirty-five pound of fish he’d seined in here while he was under there.

He had that gun barrel down and bent three crooks in it. And I walked there and he said, I have three crooks for each one of them and he said the bullet would go zig-zag, zig-zag and get all three of them. And so he shot and it blowed the turkey off and hit the squirrel and then the duck and it blowed the gun up and the barrel when out and Jack was knocked down there pretty tore up and unconscious. And when he got over it he got down there looking at the barrel and it’d hit a rabbit a sitting and killed it, the barrel had. And he heard something going, “Pick, pick, pick, pick.” He walked down and the dang hammer was a pecking a wild hog to death!

LOMAX: This early American myth captures the delight of hungry pioneers in the game rich woods which they found in America. Hunters from Davie Crocket on have lied about their adventures in the woods populating them with all sorts of preposterous creatures. Poisonous snakes which few Britons had ever seen were a favorite subject. They talked about the hoop snack which would roll after its victim and try to spear it with its poisonous tale.

In my mind the Hicks family represent along with many, many other of these fantastic Norse Presbyterian people a main source of the American imagination. Much also was carried over from Great Britain. Like this Jumping Jack and its jigging step that’s still popular in English pubs as well as in the Appalachians today.

EDD PRESNELL (mistakenly called Estil): I’ll tell it to Gee there. Gee! You’re going there, there you go. Beginning to get some speed to it. Haw!

LOMAX: Out of their folk memories the mountain whittlers carved funny toys like this whammy diddle and wonderful musical instruments like this medieval Swedish dulcimer.

STANLEY HICKS singing and playing mountain dulcimer:
She won’t come and I won’t follow
Hey, ho, settle et a day

LOMAX: “She won’t come and I won’t follow.” Funny lines from the harsh early days when the mountain girls were raised to fear men and sex and yet often had to marry at thirteen and fourteen. Stanley and his sister remember how often times you had to run the girls down.

STANLEY HICKS: Yeah, you have to run ‘hem down.

STANLEY HICKS’ SISTER: They can’t near run me down on. I run faster and I hit him in the leg with a rock and while he was laying there I’d get home.

STANLEY HICKS: They wore long dresses. And if they didn’t step on the dress and fall, you’d never catch ‘em. But if they stepped on the dress and fall you could overtake ‘em. And that’s about the only way you could overtake one. They’re just about as fast as the men was on foot, you know. I’ve run a many one down and I’ve been scratched awful. I mean just scratched all to pieces, just like bobcats and stuff. You’re scratched all to pieces.

EDD (not Estil) PRESNELL: Takes a little while though, but you started learning pretty good. I can’t figure it out. I had a psychologist over in Asheville back a few year ago and he said he prescribed it on some of his patients. I don’t know what good it would do ‘em.

LOMAX: Stanley tied these numerous toys that were hand carved with a pocket knife like the whammy diddle right out of the woods with the available woods to the father’s desire to make his children happy. And to an extent to make up to them for the severity of discipline in these families.

STANLEY HICKS’ SISTER: I’d have to climb up in a chair to put my bread down, climb up in a chair to wash the dishes and I’d forget to put the soda in the bread ‘an they’d about kill me over that. I tell you we had a hard time there. Had to make shoes for the children to wear, the little ones, out of table cloth and overhauls.

LOMAX: But these same parents made you all kinds of things to play with, didn’t they?

STANLEY HICKS’ SISTER: Maybe he did, but I never did get time to play.

STANLEY HICKS: He was awful hard on us. A lot of times we’s around the house, he had a straight razor and a strop. And he whetted his razor on this strop that way. Lots of times he used that on us. But ever what he had in his hands if he got mad, and you wasn’t doin’ to suit him, that’s what he’d use.

LOMAX: The discipline was Dickensian, they all look back on it with a grin ,but it of course buried damage deep in their psyches, and it comes out in many ways in the songs.

FRANK PROFFITT, JR., (playing banjo and singing “Tom Dula”):

Hang your head, Tom Dooley,
Oh, it’s hang your head and cry.
Killed little Laura Foster,
Poor boy you’re bound to die

I met her on the mountain.
There I took her life,
Met her on the hillside,
And I stabbed her with my knife.

So, it’s hang your head Tom Dooley
Oh, hang your head and cry
Hang your head Tom Dooley
Poor boy you’re bound to die.

LOMAX: This is about as close as one ever gets to the real source of things this is “Tom Dooley” sung by the son of the man who actually gave it to the world. This is Frank Proffitt, Jr., who lives in the high mountains near Boone, North Carolina. And it was his father, Frank Proffitt, who sang it for my friends, the Warners, when they came down to the mountains ballad hunting back in 1938. I learned it from the Warners and I sang it all over the country and on my radio shows and it got to be known that way and sometime later on the Kingston Trio picked it up and it’s now a world song.

FRANK PROFFITT, JR., (singing):

This time tomorrow
Reckon where I’ll be--
In a lonesome valley
Hanging on a white oak tree

LOMAX: This is a story from the day of Tom Dula’s execution May 2, 1868. Now the song is record of a true event. Tom Dula was a wild young buck, a veteran of the Civil War. He was going with two or three women at the same time and one of them, it said, Laura Foster, gave him syphilis which he inadvertently passed on to another of the women named Ann Melton whom he was much closer to. When she found that out she insisted that they murder Laura Foster in vengeance.

FRANK PROFFITT, JR., (singing):            

Hang your head Tom Dooley,
Oh, hang your head and cry.
Hang your head Tom Dooley,
Poor boy you’re bound to die.

STANLEY HICKS: He tooken it on hisself. Now, according to what I heared he didn’t, the other woman was what done it. Tom Dooley really didn’t kill her. But he took the raft on himself, what my grandpa and my grandma always told us.

WOMAN: Stanley was he going with the both of them all the time?

STANLEY HICKS: Yeah, he was going with the both at the same time. I mean he was with them both at different times.

WOMAN: And he had them both pregnant?


WOMAN: Him and Ann Melton killed her.

STANLEY HICKS: Yeah, that’s what I heared, now.

FRANK PROFFITT, JR.: Ann Melton was married.

STANLEY HICKS: She was already married.

FRANK PROFITT, JR.: To James Melton. She was a Foster. I think she was Laura’s first cousin.

STANLEY HICKS: That’s what we heard when we was kids. You see women framed him.

FRANK PROFFITT, JR.: I don’t think none of them had the morals of an alley cat though very little morals in any of them, restraints in any of them.

STANLEY HICKS: There’s different stories of ‘em you know.
LOMAX: It’s strange for the Proffitts to think about it. Frank Jr. said it changed his life and here in this book it says that about Mr. Proffitt who is now dead. The source says before the folk music started that is the royalties started coming in to the family often the family had nothing to eat but potatoes three times a day and often not enough of those. Gives you an idea of what life was like back in those hills at times.

FRANK PROFFITT, JR.: (regarding his father, Frank Proffitt, Sr.) He was at a pretty low time for him and just all the crops drying up and then came a big spring freshet and a rain storm a thunder storm and it washed everything away, and he just didn’t see no way to turn and he got his dulcimer out and got a little solace on it to soothe his depression. If he hadn’t had that to turn to, I don’t know what he’d ‘ave done. My grandfather, Nathan Hicks, came over—his cabbage patch had been washed away—and him and daddy played their misery out. Played their misery out, that what they done. And he wrote this song, and I’m gonna do it, called “Poor Man”.

FRANK PROFFITT, JR., (playing dulcimer and singing “Poor Man”):
Well, I got on my knees.
For rain I thought I’d pray.
Long came a great big flood
And washed everything away.
There ain’t a thing for a poor man in this world.
Well, I worked through the summertime
And I worked through the fall
Then I spent my Christmas
In a pair of overhauls.
There ain’t a thing for a poor man in this world.

Lord have mercy.

LOMAX: These hills were rich with Indian corn, but the market was far off over the mountains often times. And so the mountain man had to turn his corn into whiskey and transport it to town in liquid form. At harvest time the neighbors gathered in to help and the men shucked away like fury. For every time you found a red ear you got to pick your favorite girl and somewhere down in that pile there was a fine jug of mountain moonshine.

TOMMY JARRELL (playing fiddle and singing):

If I get drunk
If I get drunk
Just let me fall, little darlin’
On the ground
On the ground
On the ground
Just let me fall, little darlin’
On the ground.

TOMMY JARRELL: That old land up there around the foot of that mountain was so doggone poor. They had to do something to make a little money, you know. Because they couldn’t make enough to eat on their farm they had to make a little whiskey on the side and sell that and buy what they needed.

My granddaddy he made brandy but he had to block part of his to make any money. He said it took four bushels of apples to make one gallon of brandy. And if you give twelve and a half cents a bushel for them apples that was forty-eight cents it cost him besides the work. And then he had to pay a dollar and ten cents tax on the gallon. So he had to blockade it, you know, to make any money, slip it out.

LOMAX: What does blockading mean?

JARRELL: Well that means, you know, that they had to moonshine it. They had to hide it out. When the gaugers come around, they’d always send word what time they was comin they hid out all the whiskey, all the brandy out in the woods they didn’t want them to give a count of. Had to, to make any money.

LOMAX: Guerilla warfare really took place that lasted until Prohibition was repealed. In some counties the county officials took it very seriously and they just went in with guns and tried to kill whomever they found. And the mountaineers were armed and they fought back.

TOMMY JARRELL, (singing):

Weep and mourn, weep and mourn,
Carry me home
Little darling, carry me home

TOMMY JARRELL: The Republicans were in power and they’d come up there and cut all the Democrats still and left the Republicans still on, you know. They come by old man Dan’s, they come by his mill. “Well we cut another one for you today, Uncle Dan”. They called him Uncle Dan, everybody called him Uncle Dan. The last time they come by and said that he says, “Uncle Dan is liable to cut some of you all down, too, the next time you come back up here.” So he put him up another one. And they came back. And he killed…he killed one and shot Tom (inaudible) right through there, right through his lung there and he’d of died if his brother hadn’t of heard the shooting and come over there, turned him over, so he told me and the boss man I was working on the road with. He showed us where the bullet went in and pulled his shirt off and showed us where they cut it out back there, it didn’t go plumb through him, just bulged the skin. All they had to do was just split the skin and it popped out.

[Music—Tommy Jarrell plays “Cotton Eyed Joe” on his fiddle]

LOMAX: “The thing I remember with absolute ecstatic delight the first time I ever heard a fiddle sound.” This is an account from the 1870s I have in this book here an account of where a fellow’s telling about the first time he ever heard a fiddle. And he says that, “Lordy, I thought that was the prettiest sweepingest music that I ever heard. I wanted to holler and jump up and down I just couldn’t sit still on that log bench when that tune started snaking around the school house. I let out a yell and leapt off that bench and commenced to dance and clog around and everybody was hollering and laughing and every time he touched the bow to them strings hell would break loose in that school house.”

LOMAX (referring to Tommy Jarrell’s fiddle style) You see that hand, sliding on that string? That doesn’t happen in the fiddling of the old country it’s a black trait. And notice how he shakes that middle body of his. I mean there’s another sign of the black influence because Tommy, you see, grew up where there was lots of contact between black and white music.

[Music by Joe Thompson on fiddle and Odell Thompson on banjo. Joe and Odell Thompson are misidentified in the film as James Thomas and Odell Thomas. Glenn Hinson, who was present for the filming, says that the dancer in this scene “showed up unexpectedly” and the film crew did not catch his name.]

LOMAX: The source of Tommy’s hard driving syncopated mountain music is among blacks who handle the fiddle like a rhythm instrument and marry it to the banjo--a sort of strung drum--to create the ho-down tunes that shake the southern dance floors.

JOE THOMPSON: I remember that my mother had a first cousin and he tried to play a fiddle. And he sold forty-eight packs of seeds and he got him a little old Premium fiddle. And so he see that he wasn’t going to do much with it and so he told my mom, he said, “Rosy, that boy keeps talking about that fiddle, I’m going to give it to him.” So I walked over there about five or six miles and got that fiddle. My daddy put strings on it.

[Music by Joe and Odell Thompson]

JOE THOMPSON (singing):

Goin’ downtown
Goin’ downtown
Goin’ down to Lynchburg town
Ain’t coming back no mo’!

Goin’ downtown
Goin’ downtown
Goin’ down to Lynchburg town
To sell my ‘baccer down.

Way up on the mountain
Way up on the mountain
Way up on the mountain
Where the eagle builds his nest.

LOMAX: When the railroads came into the mountains in the middle of the nineteenth century the work was done by blacks. There was no mercy on those blacks, they drove them hard and they kept up their spirits by singing.
(sings a railroad worksong; show the relation of the rhythm to the work by mimicking the sound of a hammer falling on track):

When you hear my hammer ringing
Steel’s running like lead
Steel’s running like lead
When you hear my hammer ringing
Steel’s running like lead, buddy
Steel’s running like lead.

And the mountaineers were leaning over the edge of their mountain and listening and learning about the man that drove the steam drill down and died with a hammer in his hand.

LAWRENCE ELLER (playing banjo and singing “The Ballad of John Henry”):

John Henry, he went up on the mountain,
The hammer on the other side,
The mountain was so tall,
John Henry was so small,
Laid down his hammer
And he cried, Lord, Lord.
Laid down his hammer
And he cried.

LOMAX: Perhaps the greatest of all American folk songs is the ballad of John Henry. Now when John Henry was composed and sung by the blacks on the railroads it really wasn’t done as a ballad. It was a song of sexual boasting. John Henry was a steel driving man and that song celebrated his sexual prowess and all blacks when they listened to it laughed and this is what the railroad workers needed. They needed a sense of humor to keep them going.

John Henry had a pretty little woman
And her name was Polly Anne
John Henry got sick
And he had to go to bed
So Polly drove steel like a man, Lord, Lord.
Polly drove steel like a man.

LOMAX: More and more we learn about the mountain communities where blacks and whites lived as neighbors, swapped favors and stole each other’s music.

[Shows film of Odell Thompson, then Tommy Jarrell, playing banjo]

LOMAX: With the banjo, which is a sort of strung drum, you really began to be able to play rhythm with both hands. This was of course an instrument of African origin, the banjer, and was given by white musicians the fifth string. So there was a constant high pinging drone there that was put in between every beat.

TOMMY JARRELL (playing banjo and singing):

If you don’t believe I’m gone
Watch this train that I’ve caught on
I’m nine hundred miles away from home.
LOMAX: Black influence was all through the whole of southern music. Southern culture was really a collaboration. Although the blacks were slaves they came from an area where the culture was at least equal that of their European masters and they brought tremendous sophistication.

They brought a different approach to religion. They brought a whole different way of looking at the relations between people, they had a different sexual system and of course the thing that appealed to everybody the most was their mastery of rhythm and of music and of a sense of life.

[Dancing—featuring—Quentin “Fris” Holloway, John Dee Holeman, and Algia Mae Hinton (the film misidentifies the three as Harvey Watson, John Dee Holman, and Angie Mae Hinton).  All were filmed near their homes in the eastern Piedmont rather than Appalachia]

LOMAX: The old buck dance tradition of black America that fueled the minstrel show and fueled the flat-foot dancing tradition of the mountains is still as alive as it used to be.

You see the source of flat-footing in this foot dragging, sliding eccentric dance style that peppers the dance with hot licks.

 [Holloway “pats juba” and Hinton claps and stomps while Holeman dances]

LOMAX: In between those actual dance mimes, in between, those feet are talking the language of the dance to each other and what’s linking them is this complex body-based kind of polyrhythm that the African dance body style permits you to do. That you can’t do unless your rhythmic impulses are flowing from your middle body.

[Algia Mae Hinton plays electric guitar blues, with dancer James "Junior" Thomas, misidentified as John Lee Thomas]

[Dancing—Kyle Edwards, Jim Hyatt flat-foot dancing]

LOMAX: As the whites adopted black style they adopted an already very ripened and very sophisticated dance style they had themselves. As you can see here, they are not so fluid in the middle body. They are stooped, some of them and their arms are beginning to have that loose sort of flowing rhythm that the blacks had and their feet are sliding they’re getting a lot more syncopation, a lot more tricky rhythms in because of that.

[Dancing—featuring Kyle Edwards, Jim Hyatt, and The Magnum Dancers in Maggie Valley, North Carolina, at a barnlike dance hall for cloggers that Edwards opened in 1982 to fulfill a twenty-five-year-old dream. It draws weekend crowds all summer.]

LOMAX: They call this mountain dance hall high up in the Smoky Mountains “The Stomping Ground.” Kyle Edwards who built “The Stomping Ground” has built his living as a bulldozer operator. He’s a community developer so he decided that since tourists were coming into this area he would make a shrine for dancing. He has dance teams from all over the place and he, himself and his family are all champion what they call “flat-footers.”

[Dancing--Burton Edwards flat-foot dancing]

LOMAX: Kyle Edwards’ son dancing here is reputed to be one of the champion dancers is said to know a thousand steps.

LOMAX: The Spanish found gold here, others have taken out semi-precious stones, timber, and endless trains of coal, but the true treasure of these Appalachians are the people and their ballads. Like this old one about a hero who slew a monster:

[PHYLLIS BOYENS, singing a bit of an old British ballad,“Sir Lionel” (Child 18)]:

The Bodler made him a wooden knife,
The Bodler made him a wooden knife,
Swore to put an end to the wild boar’s life.
Quill o-quay, quam, cuddle down.

Well, the Bodler drew his wooden knife,
The Bodler drew his wooden knife,
He put an end to the wild boar’s life.
Quill o-quay, quam, cuddle down.

LOMAX: Ninety-one-year-old Nimrod Workman loves these old ballads and they’ve kept his heart alive during his long, hard life as a coal miner and during his struggles for unionism.

NIMROD WORKMAN: Well, I went on the hill at four o’clock. My wife packed my bucket. Packed my bucket, and I’d leave the house at four o’clock then nine, ten, eleven o’clock at night I’d come back out. And when they paid us, they paid you by the day two dollars and eighty cents.
(singing “Forty-Two Years”)

Forty-two years is a mighty long time
For to labor and toil down in that coal mine.
But down in the dark hole where the bright lights did go  . . .
Both lungs were broke down from breathing bad air.

Now the same thing gets in your lungs, that’s coal right there. That coal dust gets in your lungs, no way to get it out of them lungs. Doctors can’t do it. It’s there until you die and it’s killed a million and many one of them. I keep my lungs exercised.

(continues singing “Forty-Two Years”)
                    For the doctors they told us coal dust didn’t get you this way.

But it did, and I proved it.

LOMAX: They had to trade in the company store. They had to pay fees to the company hospital and the record shows that the big coal companies paid for their hospital and towns ten times over with the profits that the made from the miners whom they were only paying only a pittance to. The miners also liked mining it was a life of risk. That comes out in a famous Merle Travis song about,

I was born one morning when the sun didn’t shine.
I picked up my shovel and I walked to the mine.
I loaded sixteen tons of number nine coal
And the straw boss said well, damn my soul.
You load sixteen tons and what did I get,  
Another day older and deeper in debt.
St. Peter, don’t you call me cause I can’t go,
I owe my soul to the company store.”

And that was the truth. Nimrod lived through all of that and he learned what it was like and he came out of it a fighting union organizer.

NIMROD WORKMAN: He said, “What do you want, Workman?” I said I want a raise. He said, “What you doing, you trying to get a union, what do you mean?” I said, “I mean you are paying us two dollars and eighty cents and working us eighteen and twenty hours and we ain’t equipped to feed a family and I want a raise.” He didn’t know what a poor man has to go through with and what his children has to go through with.

LOMAX: You went through some dangerous times when they were actually organizing unions.

WORKMAN: Yes I did. I went through some when I didn’t know if I was going to get my eyes shot out or my ears shot out or my brain shot out or if I was going to get shot and never know what was shot.

(singing “Mother’s Jones’s Will”)

I’m going back to old Harts Creek Mountain
Going back to that old Blair Mountain Hill
I’m going to fight for my Union
‘Cause it’s my Mother Jones’s Will,
And I know it’s Mother Jones’s Will.

LOMAX: Nimrod’s people won a better life with the help of their union only to face the juggernaut of strip mining that’s desecrating this beautiful mountain country.

WORKMAN: And I’m going to ask you strippers this, “Who gave you permission to steal our land, to kill our land?” If it can’t produce, we can’t make a living offen our land. Shame on you.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN (over shots of strip-mining operations)

Down in the valley about a mile from me,
Where the crows no longer cry.
There’s a great big earth-moving monster machine
Stands ten stories high

Well, the ground he can eat, it’s a sight
He can rip out a hundred tons in a bite
He can eat up the grass, it’s a fact--
But he can’t put it back.

LOMAX: The other thing is tourism. The government buys up land for public parks, doesn’t leave the people on it, insists that it’s more important that the land be used for recreation for the people from the hot lowlands than the people who inhabit it. And so crowds out the original settlers to make room for an amusement park called “The Land of Oz.”

RAY HICKS: That’s the south, here, south Pinnacle is above Banners Elk that they put the Land of Oz up there.

STANLEY HICKS: I went up there and made music one day and they’ve got the skeeting outfits up there and they’ve got golf courses up there and they’ve got a little of everything up that that you could imagine. And what you call the Land of Oz up there. We used to walk in there and camp in there and now we can’t because they’ve got it all posted and all. We used to ride the horses through it, but then my nephew went up there and he says, “You can’t ride through here anymore.” And I tell him well, they take it and they can keep it. See that’s where we got our living there.

RAY HICKS: I’ve got a feeling I wouldn’t give that building right there for all of nature. I don’t know whether it will last me or not, but I believe it will. I want to go out with this. I don’t want it changed.

LOMAX: So, at the ironic end of it all it seems almost as if the mountaineers are being punished for the extremely ruthless way that they in their turn attacked the original inhabitants of the mountains, the Cherokee. One of the blots on American history. And this was done by the mountaineers. So now, in a sense, they are threatened with the same fate from the government, from the strip miners, from the tourist industries. But in my trips to the country there, I felt that in spite of all these ironies, all these tragedies, all these conflicts, that there was something positive and wonderful occurring.

The mountain people are reshaping their own culture for themselves. They’ve revived the moribund square dance, ornamented it with fancy stepping and turned it into a dazzling display of choreography. Their folks turn out in droves to see these performances and watch mom and sis showing of their legs in their mountainy tutus.
(00:44: 41)
[Dancing—The Southern Appalachian Cloggers of Clyde, N.C., with members Martha and Tom Hyatt and Charles Summey]

MARTHA HYATT: When I’m out there, I’m in my own little world. I’m just…nobody’s with me. I’m hearing everything and I’m listening, but I’m thinking what am I going to do next, now. But I love it.

CHARLES SUMMEY: Hearing that music just makes me wanna move my feet. I just get up and go to it.

TOM HYATT: It does me good. I work over there, you’re in, you’re in a grind for eight hours you come out, know you’re gonna dance that night. You’re tired, you think well am I gonna be able to dance. I’ve really had a hard day, but you go out there and you hear that music. Soon as you hit that floor you forget about what you done eight hours ago.

LOMAX: This group has danced in Paris and New York, but their figures are still traditional. You see the very same ones in this Kentucky Set filmed forty years ago, albeit that the dances in Kentucky are a bit more stiff-waisted and less formal.

When this new kind of dance style came along it arose in the small factory communities and I think represented the discipline of the belt-line of the factory and all the interlocking parts both administrative and mechanical to make the work possible. It also puts women on par with men when it comes to showing off their fancy flat-footing. However, this freestyle dancing is now losing ground among young people who seem to prefer precision clogging in military drill-team unison.


MARTHA HYATT: I don’t want something that I have to work at, that I have to continuously count and watch and do exactly what someone else does. That’s too much like work.

LOMAX: The huge crowds that applaud the precision cloggers represent the modern passion for spectacles of regimented movement.

LOMAX: (interviewing a member of the precision clogging dancers) This thing is that everybody dances exactly together, precisely. That didn’t used to be true of American square dancing; everybody was a little bit on their own. Is that the way you were raised?

WOMAN: We practice precision clogging, we drill ourselves so that each one does exactly the same movements at exactly the same time.

LOMAX: Here and at scores of other local folk festivals the bluegrass orchestra reigns supreme.

[Music--The Heights of Grass, a bluegrass band formed in Richmond, Va., playing “Orange Blossom Special”]

LOMAX: Here at last the British-American tradition has given rise to its own orchestra. A sort of five-piece Dixieland string band certainly as virtuosic as any gypsy orchestra. And they are playing what I’ve called “mountain music in overdrive.”

[Music—The Golden River Grass Band and John Thrower, known as “Doodle” rather than “Doodles”]

JOHN “DOODLE” THROWER: We’re going to do an old number here, and old AP Carter number. He recorded it back in 1936, called “Foggy Mountain Top.”

LOMAX: And now we have a bluegrass song ensemble with a wind instrument added, a blues harmonica.


I wish I was on some foggy mountain top,
I’d sail away to the West
I’d sail all around this whole wide world
To the girl I love the best.

Git her, Bugger!

LOMAX: Doodles is a little bit different from anyone we’ve met. He’s of Cornish descent, and he’s not uptight at all.

[Hunting scene]

LOMAX: Here Doodles is in his element at a Georgia rabbit hunt, where instead of guns, he and his friends use the ancient tallyho hunting stick.

DOODLE THROWER: Rabbit runs up in a log or anything and the dogs can’t get him out or nothing. You poke a stick with a little fork there and twist it in his hair like ‘at and you can hold him and drag him right out of the hole there. I’ve got as many rabbits doing that as I have any way. We survived you might just say on our own, just off the land.

LOMAX: The rabbits were important for the meat on the table.

DOODLE THROWER: Oh, that was all the meat there were on the table. You see, there weren’t nothing else. When we had birds or something like that. We would eat just regular birds. They didn’t have to be a partridge or a quail or what have you, we just, if he was a bird and had meat on him, we got him, we eat him. We had bird pies. Yeah, I could hit, hit a bird if he got in fifty foot of me, he’s gone, he’s mine cause I was deadly with a flip.

[Music—The Golden River Grass Band. Titles identify Randy Franks (actually, fiddler Bill Kee) and James Watts]


Goin’ down the track with a chicken on my back
Soles on my shoes are almost gone
A little ways ahead there’s an old farmer’s shed
And that’s where I’ll rest my weary bones.
Weary bones,
Weary bones,
That’s where I’ll rest my weary bones.
A little ways ahead there’s an old farmer’s shed
That’s where I’ll rest my weary bones.

Git it, Bugger!

Goin’ down the track with a chicken on my back
Soles on my shoes are almost gone
A little ways ahead there’s an old farmer’s shed
And that’s where I’ll rest my weary bones.
Weary bones,
Weary bones,
That’s where I’ll rest my weary bones.
A little ways ahead there’s an old farmer’s shed
That’s where I’ll rest my weary bones.

DOODLE THROWER: I tell you what, I believe with all my heart that a person who loves music is a better person than one that don’t. Music, it gets into my blood it goes in through me just all, and I get the biggest thrill out of a smile on the face when I’m trying to entertain anybody or singing to ‘em money can’t buy it. They say when you leave this world you don’t take nothing with you, but they’re so wrong. That’s the worst mistake. I told ‘em, “When you dig my little hole out there add three foot to it.” I said, “Them memories, it’ll take that much to hold my memories,” and I said, “I’m taking my memories with me.”

[Film Ends]
[While the closing credits roll, Doodle Thrower and his band perform a closing song:

We’ll see y’all again next weekend
At some other show down the road.
Tune up your flat top,
Get out your five-string,
And it looks like stroll at night.
It looks like a  stroll at night.
We love your town and pick all around.
Looks like a stroll at night.

Them pickers, they keep congregatin’.
There’s a jam session down the street.
We’ll all be pickin’ when the sun comes up.
We’ll ain’t picked none in a week.

Looks like a stroll at night….]

Original material recorded
and directed by

    Jim Brown
    Nicholas Echeverria

    Jack Gordon

Camera and Sound Engineer
    Robert Zieniewicz

Associate Producer
    Jaime Barrios

Photographic Research
and directed by

    Jim Brown
    Nicholas Echeverria

    Jack Gordon

Camera and Sound Engineer
    Robert Zieniewicz

Associate Producer
    Jaime Barrios

Photographic Research
    Carol Kulig

Project Secretary
    Tamara Bonilla

Sound Assistant
    Ginger Tureck

Field Crew
    Romulus Ray
    Robert Schaner

Photographic Material Courtesy of:
    Kip Lornell
    Blue Ridge Heritage Archive of Ferrum College
    W. Virginia Department of Culture
    American Folklife Center
    Library of Congress
    Smithsonian Institution
    Ed Cabell
    John Edward Memorial Foundation
    Curtis Wood
    Mountain Heritage Center
    N.Y. Public Library
    N. Carolina Collection, U. of N.C.
    Culver Pictures
    Coal Archives, Croft Library
    The Ulser Museum
    Bluebird Press
    Guy Carawan
    Larry Short
    Bruce Roberts
    Douglas Yarrow
    John West

Traditional American Folk Songs
    By Anne and Frank Warner
    The Lost City Ramblers Song Book
    By John Cohen
    Voices From the Mountains
    By Guy and Candie Carawan

    was produced by

    Phil Gries

    Paul Jacobson
    Bill Endrom
    Colin Martin

Rostrum Camera
    Ken Morse

Title Design
    Irene Rado-Vajda

Production Accountant
    Marsha Fitzpatrick

Production Consultant in N.Y.
    Jane Weiner

Online Editors
    Phil Fallo
    Jeff Stabenau
    Douglas Tishman

    Howard Sharp
    Jenny Campbell

Associate Producers
    Mark Kidel
    Howard Sharp

    Mike Dibb
    Mark Kidel

    Mike Dibb
    Penny Forster

    for Channel Four TV
    In association with

Series Post Production
    Executive Director

Series Producer
    Elisabeth Fink Benjamin

    Mark Tobin

Consulting Producer
    Geoffrey Haines-Stiles

Production Coordinator
    Matthew Barton
    Andrew Kaye

Production Assistant
    Noel McClanahan

Project Accountant
    Dean Drummond

Online Editor
    Bill Davis

Online Assistant Editor
    Anna Pivarnik

Animation Camera
    Mark Spada

Post Production Facilities

Special Thanks to:
    Ann Warner
    Karen Synder
    American Museum of Folk Art
    Mr. Dennis Duke
    Shirley Duggan

Special thanks to the
    And HERB SMITH for footage from
    “On Our Own Land” & song
    “They Can’t Put it Back” [Wheeler]
    performed by Michael Kline and Rich Kirby
    Courtesy of June Apple Records

Collection of Quilts Courtesy of:
    American Antiques and Quilts

Equipment Loans
    Anton Bauer Lighting
    Lowell Lighting
    The Lighting House
    Video Tech Batteries
    Sachtler Camera Supports
    Fujinon Electronics

Special Thanks to:

    Was developed by the
    Association for Cultural Equity
    All songs and arrangements
    are protected by copyright.
    ©ACE 1990