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The Carter Family Music as a Primary Experience with Appalachia John Trokan D. Min
Carter Family: First Family of Country Music The Carter Family’s recordings made in the years before and after the Great Depression contributed hundreds of songs to the folk music canon in the 1920’s- 1940’s, and laid the foundation for contemporary country and bluegrass music. Many of these songs are still performed today, and can be heard in the work of artists from Woody Guthrie to Elvis Presley to Emmylou Harris.
The Carter Family music was heavily influenced by their social and culural background in the Appalachian Mountains during the period of the Great Depression. The cradle of this tradition was their Clinch Mountain home in Scott County, Virginia. The focus of their music was on subjects suitable for family and home, singing songs that were morally and spiritually instructive or were derived from the old ballad tradition. Their harmonies and instrumentation were Clinch Mountain, Hilton Virginia grounded firmly in Appalachian folk music, and yet they were able to simultaneously take the folk music in a new direction in developing commercial ‘hillbilly music’.
The Carter songs featured themes of home, family, love, mother, murder, ballads, parlor songs, scaffold songs, disaster songs, songs of mourning and loneliness. The Carters also sang gospel tunes, fiddle tunes, Civil War ballads, cowboy ditties, and African. American blues. The themes of these songs spoke to generations of listeners impacted by the ravages of war, disease, death, economic depression and hard times, unemployment, relocation, and loss of home, land relationships. All became Carter family songs and together form a tapestry that has become the shared heirloom of musicians and music lovers around the world.
The Original Carter Family The Carter family started singing in the 1920’s from their mountain front porch in Maces Springs in southwest Virginia. The shy family trio consisted of A. P. Delaney Carter, 35, his wife Sara, 29, and Maybelle Carter, 18, who was Sara’s cousin and A. P. ’s sister-in-law, when they made their first recording in Bristol TN in August 1927.
Carter Family Fold in Poor Valley Virginia
A. P. Pleasant Delany (Doc) Carter was the oldest of eight children. A. P. ’s father was a banjo player, and his mother sang many old ballads handed down for years in the mountains. He played the fiddle, guitar, and sang bass. A soldier of fortune and jack of all trades, he married Sara in June 1915, and they made music from the beginning at their mountain home in Maces Springs, Virginia. A. P. had a tremor in his hands which added a special quaver to the quality of his voice.
Song Writer – Song Catcher – Song Stealer? Beyond his guitar playing and singing skills, A. P. is best know for his song writing, song catching, and song arranging talents. A. P. traveled thousands of miles in the Appalachian mountains with African-American guitarist Leslie Riddle, capturing and preserving traditional mountain ballads, fiddle tunes, parlor songs and gospel hymns. Controversy surrounds his copyright applications on songs that were in the public domain. But the Carter’s reworking of these songs represents the Appalachian ‘folk’ tradition, where musicians traded tunes and songs with the expectation that each player or singer would put his or her ‘mark’ on a piece. A. P. followed this traditional method of ‘putting your own complexion on a song’.
A. P. Carter’s real genius was his ability to identify interesting material and to craft memorable arrangements. The criteria for his arrangements included: Song lyrics were morally good Songs possessed the old-fashioned qualities that fans loved Songs had to be three minutes or less in length to fit on the wax master recording discs. For Appalachian ballads this meant shortening the verses of the song, and adding an instrumental chorus to vary the melody. Because of A. P. ’s musical genius as well as perseverance hundreds of Appalachian songs that might have been lost have been preserved for future generations. A. P. Carter was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970. In 1993, his image appeared on a US postage stamp honoring the Carter Family. In 2001 he was inducted posthumously into the International Bluegrass Hall of Fame.
Birth place of A. P. Carter in Little Valley, Virginia
Sara Carter July 21, 1899 -January 8 th 1979 Sara Carter was known for her deep and distinctive singing voice, as the lead singer on most of the recordings of the original Carter Family act in the 1920 s and 1930 s. She was born Sara Elizabeth Dougherty in Copper Creek, Virginia, (Rich Valley), the daughter of William Sevier Dougherty and Nancy Elizabeth Kilgore. Sara married A. P. Carter on June 18, 1915, but they were later divorced in 1939. They had three children: Gladys (Millard), Janette (Jett), and Joe. In 1927, she and A. P. began performing as the Carter Family, perhaps the first commercial rural Country music group. They were joined by her cousin, Maybelle, who was married to A. P. 's brother. Sara was a beautiful, proud woman with penetrating eyes. She played the autoharp, but was best known for her alto singing. Her voice was strong and pure and the beauty of the Appalachian dialect was never so enflowered as in her voice. Sara later remarried to A. P. 's first cousin, and moved to California in 1943, and the group disbanded. In the 1960 s, Sara reunited with Maybelle and briefly toured during the folk music craze of the time.
The vocal part of the Carter family sound was characterized by innovation. Listening to early ‘hillbilly’ recordings, the singers were barely singing over the instruments. The Carter style was built around the vocals and incorporated them into the instrumental background, usually made up of the basic three chord structure. Violating the main traditions of vocal and instrumental music of the day, they created a whole new style and sound.
The other major innovation in the Carter Family vocal style is that it featured a female singer on the melody. Music of the day generally was sung by a male lead vocal. The Carter’s highlighted their musical strengths, which featured the vocal melody of Sara, and the strong background harmonies of Maybelle and A. P. .
Maybelle Carter May 10, 1909 -October 23, 1978 Affectionately and even reverently known as "Mother" Maybelle, Maybelle Carter was one-third of country music's original first family, the Carters. Born Maybelle Addington, she was related by marriage to A. P. and Sara Carter -- she married A. P. 's brother Ezra. Maybelle Carter was the group's guitarist and also played autoharp and banjo; she created a unique sound for the group with her innovative bass tunings, as well as strong vocal harmonies. She played on all of their most famous recordings from 1928 -1943, some 270 sides.
The Carter Scratch The Carter style of guitar picking, also known as "'thumb brush' technique or the 'Carter lick, ' and also the 'church lick' and the 'Carter scratch'" is a style of guitar picking named for Maybelle Carter. It is a distinctive style of rhythm guitar in which the melody is played on the bass strings, usually low E, A, and D while rhythm strumming continues above, on the treble strings, high E, B, and G. This often occurs during the instrumental break of the song. With the technique Carter "helped to turn the guitar into a lead instrument and she, "was among the first, " to use it as such. Maybelle had first played the autoharp and five-string banjo, and the style appears based on the ‘frailing’ style of banjo playing as she played a bass or melody note on the downbeat with a brush stroke on the upbeat/backbeat played with the back of the fingernail of the index or first finger. This is the rhythm Bill Monroe adapted for bluegrass music two decades later. It is also one of the models that modern flat picking was built upon and that dominates country and rock music today. Maybelle Carter ‘s 1928 L-5 Guitar
Most guitarists use a flat pick to simulate the ‘Carter Scratch’, but Maybelle used her thumb (with a thumbpick) and finger. For backup during singing, she picked alternating bass notes with her thumb, usually playing the root and fifth of the chord on the first and third beat of each measure. Meanwhile her active index finger brushed up and down on the treble strings providing the ‘scratch’ part of the lick. When playing solo, Maybelle picked melody on the bass notes with he thumb, embellishing the solos with hammer-ons and pull-offs, and kept the rhymic ‘scratch’going with her index finger.
Know as the ‘Queen of the Autoharp’ Maybelle Carter transformed the playing of this instrument. Rather than strumming across the harp while barring a chord, Maybelle actually picked out the melody with her thumb and finger picks. She also played the autoharp upright on her shoulder, rather than strumming it horizontally on her lap.
1927 Victor Recording Session in Bristol, TN. In 1927 Ralph Peer of the Victor Recording company held auditions for local talent in Bristol TN. A. P. packed up the car with Sara and Maybelle for the twenty five mile journey which took them the entire day to travel, due to the poor condition of the roads, flooding rains, and flat tires. It was here that Peer discovered the unique and distinctive sound of the Carters.
Ralph Peer (1892 -1960) In 1926 the blue-chip Victor Company, maker of the Victrola record player, whose artists numbered among them the great Caruso himself, lured Peer away from the Okeh company. Like Okeh, Victor's record sales had been falling, and the company saw ‘hillbilly’ music as a potential fix to the problem. Peer was no saint, and he was in the business because he smelled money, not because he loved music. He had a gift for giving the American people what they wanted to hear, and in the process he made a lot of money for Victor -- and a lot for himself as well. In a deal that Victor must later have rued, he had agreed to work without salary on the condition that he receive a cut of the royalties for every record sold and every song played on the radio. Peer was making $1 million a year at a time when the average American family earned $700 per year -- and when he was paying artists a mere $3, 000$4, 000 per year.
Carter Family’s First Victor Recording Bristol TN. August 1 -2, 1927 The Carters recorded four songs one evening, and two the following morning. Sara led in her beautiful alto, the voice that had first captivated A. P. , while A. P. chimed in from time to time in his bass. The women provided the instrumental accompaniment, Sara on her autoharp and Maybelle at the guitar. It was unusual for a musical group to have a female lead singer, and this gave Peer pause, but he liked their music, and they went home $300 richer for their efforts. The Carters recorded six songs in Bristol that day: Poor Orphan Child Wandering Boy Single Girl, Married Girl The Storms Are on the Ocean Bury Me Under the Weeping Willow Little Log Cabin by the Sea
The Carters continued to record prolifically throughout the depression, a testament to their selling power since most of the artists of the 1920’s were swept away with the lack of a record buying public. The Carter Family was also in demand for personal appearances with record releases and air time on local radio stations in Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, and South Carolina.
XERA Radio Although A. P. and Sara were separated in 1933, they continued to perform with Maybelle as the Carter Family. In 1938 the Carters went to Del Rio, Texas to begin a series of broadcasts that lasted for three seasons over Mexican border stations that broadcast with an astounding 500, 000 watts of power. This radio exposure spread their popularity throughout Central America and Canada. A. P. and Sara were finally divorced in 1939.
Carter Family Second Generation After the original Carter family split as an act, Maybelle went on the road and into the recording studios with her daughters Helen, Anita, and June, all of whom achieved some degree of success in the country music field. June became a legend. Mother Maybelle enjoyed many milestones in her long career, and was sought out for counsel by two succeeding generations. Most notable was her reunion appearance with Sara at the Newport Folk Festival, which was released as ‘As An Historic Reunion’, issued on CD first by the Bear Family label in Germany in 1991 and then by Koch International in 1997.
June Carter Cash (June 23, 1929 -May 15, 2003) Valerie June Carter was born the second of the three daughters of Mother Maybelle Carter. Her mother taught her to play autoharp (and later guitar) and in 1939, she and sisters Anita and Helen Carter were appearing on Border Radio as members of the Carter Family. Although not possessing the finer vocal talents of her sisters, she did develop a flair for comedy, which she used to good effect in a character she called Aunt Polly. In the early 60 s, June began to work with Johnny Cash's show, soon being joined by her mother and sisters. In 1964, her recording with Cash of "It Ain't Me Babe" made both country and pop charts and in 1967, they had a No. 2 country hit with "Jackson. " She married Cash on March 1, 1968. From that point, her career naturally ran in conjunction with his as she continued to be a regular and expected member of his show. The following year they were voted Vocal Group of the Year and their son John Carter Cash was born in 1970. Following a long absence from the spotlight, she returned with the 1999 album Press On, which won a Grammy for best traditional folk album. The 2003 album Wildwood Flower also won two Grammys.
Helen Carter (September 19, 1927 -June 2, 1998) Helen was the eldest daughter of Maybelle Carter, and she performed with her mother and her younger sisters, June and Anita as a member of Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters. The group was also known as "The Carter Family". Helen Carter had a professional career in music that spanned 60 years. As a child, she played to some of the largest radio audiences in history by way of the powerful signals from the Mexican Border Stations of the 1930; ’s and 1940’s. Helen also pursued a solo career apart from the family. She recorded for a number of historically important independent labels. Helen played the guitar and accordion, and sang with the Carter Sisters. She rarely sang lead in the group and seemed content to focus her efforts on harmony and instrumental backing. Many country music historians list Helen Carter as the best overall musician and most talented songwriter among the Carter Sisters.
Anita Carter (March 31, 1933 -July 29, 1999) Anita Carter was the youngest daughter of Ezra and Maybelle. She was a versatile singer who experimented with several different types of music and played standup bass with her sisters Helen and June Carter Cash as the Carter Sisters. The trio joined the Grand Ole Opry radio show in 1950, opened shows for Elvis Presley, and joined ‘The Johnny Cash Show’ in 1971. As a solo artist, and with her family, Carter recorded for a number of labels including RCA Victor, Cadence, Columbia, Audiograph, United Artists, Liberty and Capitol. she scored two Top Ten hits in 1951 with "Down the Trail of Achin' Hearts" with Hank Snow at No. 2 and "Blue Bird Island" at No. 4. She reached the Top Ten again in 1968 with "I Got You" with Waylon Jennings at No. 4. Other solo releases charted as well. Anita recorded two folk albums in the 1960 s. In 1962, Anita recorded a song co-written by her sister June called “Love’s Ring of Fire".
Chet Atkins (June 20, 1924 – June 30, 2001) In 1949 a shy guitar player from Tennessee left WNOX to join Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters, back on KWTO. This incarnation of the Carter Family featured Maybelle Carter and daughters June, Helen and Anita. Their work soon attracted attention from the Opry. The group relocated to Nashville in mid-1950. Atkins began working on recording sessions, performing on WSM -AM and the Opry. Atkins expanded his right hand style to include picking with his first three fingers, with the thumb on bass. The result was a clarity and complexity that became his unmistakable sound. His addition to the Carter Sisters enhanced the quality of their music.
During the 1940’s and 1950’s the Carter Sisters found themselves playing with some of the biggest names in music including Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams Jr. , Earl Scruggs and Lester Flatt, Elvis Presley, and Johnny Cash.
After various radio homes during the 1940’s in Richmond Virginia. Knoxville Tennessee, and Springfield, Missouri the Carter Sisters along with Chet Atkins moved to Nashville and the Grand Ole Opry in 1950. This became the Carter Family Home for the second generation of the family for seventeen years as regular members at the Grand Ole Opry.
The Carter Classics
Keep on the Sunny Side A. P. Carter recorded Camden NJ May 9, 1928. There's a dark and a troubled side of life There's a bright and a sunny side too Though we meet with the darkness and strife The sunny side we also may view Keep on the sunny side always on the sunny side Keep on the sunny side of life It will help us every day it will brighten all our way If we keep on the sunny side of life Oh the storm and its fury broke today Crushing hopes that we cherish so dear The clouds and storm will in time pass away The sun again will shine bright and clear Let us greet with a song of hope each day Though the moment be cloudy or fair Let us trust in our Savior always To keep us every one in His care KEEP ON THE SUNNY SIDE OF LIFE Copyright 1899 - Words by Ada Blenkhorn Music by J. Howard Entwisle "Early in Ada Blenkhorn's life, she was given the task of caring for an invalid nephew who always wanted his wheel chair to be pushed 'down the sunny side of the street. ' His constant repetition of this phrase inspired her to write the gospel Keep On The Sunny Side Of Life.  Phil Kerr (In Evangelism, 1944) "We learned this song from A. P. 's uncle, Laish Carter, who was a music teacher. We recorded it in 1928 in Camden, New Jersey. After we recorded it and started singing it on radio, we used it as our theme song. A. P. has a gold record of this song on his tombstone. " -Mother Maybelle Carter, of the original Carter family.
Storms are on the Ocean Recorded in Bristol TN. , August 1, 1927. I'm going away to leave you love I'm going away for a while But I'll return to see you sometime If I go ten thousand miles The storms are on the ocean The heavens may cease to be This world may lose it's motion love If I prove false to thee Oh who will dress your pretty little feet And who will glove your hand Oh who will kiss your rosy red cheeks When I'm in a foreign land Papa will dress my pretty little feet And Mama will glove my hand You may kiss my rosy red cheeks When you return again Have you seen those mournful doves Flying from pine to pine A-mournin' for their own true love Just like I mourn for mine I'll never go back on the ocean love I'll never go back on the sea I'll never go back on my blue-eyed girl 'Til she goes back on me
Wildwood Flower Recorded in Camden NJ. May 10 th, 1928 As recorded by The Carter Family Written by A. P. Carter CAPO: 2 nd Fret/KEY: E/PLAY: D [D] Oh, I'll twine with my mingles and [A 7] waving black [D] hair With the roses so red and the [A 7] lilies so [D] fair And the myrtle so [D 7] bright with the [G] emerald [D] hue The pale amanita and [A 7] eyes look like [D] blue. Oh I'll dance, I will sing and my (*laugh) shall be gay I will charm every heart, in his crown I will sway When I woke from my dreaming, my idol was clay All portion of love had all flown away. Oh he taught me to love him and promised to love And to cherish me over all others above How my heart is now wond'ring no mis'ry can tell He's left me no warning, no words of farewell. Oh, he taught me to love him and called me his (*flow'r) That was blooming to cheer him through life's dreary hour Oh, I long to see him and regret the dark hour He's gone and neglected this pale wildwood flow'r. “Wildwood Flower" is an American song, best known through performances and recordings by the Carter Family. However, the song predates them. The original title was "I'll Twine 'Mid the Ringlets". The song was written in 1860, with words by Maud Irving and music by Joseph Philbrick Webster (1819 -1875). Although originally a parlor song, the song had undergone quite a bit of the folk process by the time the Carter Family recorded it.
Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone A. P. Carter recorded in Camden NJ, May 10, 1928 When death shall close these eyelids And this heart shall cease to beat And they lay me down to rest In some flowery-bound retreat Will you miss, miss me, when I’m gone Will you miss, miss me, miss me when I’m gone x 2 Will you miss when I’m gone Perhaps you’ll plant a flower On my poor unworthy grave And come sit alone beside me When the roses nod and wave Will you miss, miss me, when I’m gone Will you miss, miss me, miss me when I’m gone x 2 Will you miss when I’m gone One sweet thought my soul shall cherish Till this fleeting life has flown This sweet thought will cheer when dying You will miss me when I’m gone Will you miss, miss me, miss me when I’m gone x 2 Will you miss when I’m gone
Anchored in Love A. P. Carter recorded Camden NJ May 9, 1928. I've found a sweet haven of sunshine at last, and Jesus abiding above, His dear arms around me are lovingly cast and sweetly He tells His love The tempest is o'er (The danger, the tempest forever is o'er) I'm safe evermore (I'm anchored in hope and have faith evermore) What gladness what rapture is mine The danger is past (The water's receding, the danger is past) I'm anchored at last (I'm feeling so happy I'm anchored at last) I'm anchored in love divine He saw me endangered and lovingly came To pilot my storm-beaten soul Sweet peace He has spoken and bless His dear name The billows no longer roll His love shall control me through life and in death Completely I'll trust to the end I'll praise Him each hour of my last fleeting breath Shall sing of my soul's Best Friend
‘Single Girl Married Girl’ Recorded in Bristol TN. , August 2, 1927 Single girl, oh single girl She's gone anywhere she please Oh, gone anywhere she please Married girl, oh married girl Got a baby on her knees Oh, got a baby on her knees Single girl, oh single girl She's going dressed up so fine Oh going dressed up so file Married girl, oh, married girl She wears any kind Oh, she wears any kind Single girl, oh single girl She goes to the store and buys Oh goes to the store and buys Married girl, oh, married girl She rocks the cradle and cries Oh, rocks the cradle and cries Single girl, oh single girl She lays in bed 'til one Oh lays in bed 'til one Married girl, oh, married girl She's up before the sun Oh, up before the sun Single girl, oh single girl She's looking for a man Oh looking for a man Married girl, oh, married girl She's got her wedding band Oh, got her wedding band
Poor Orphan Child A. P. Carter recorded Bristol TN, August 1, 1927 I hear a low faint voice of death call full and mamma's dead And it comes from the poor orphan child that must be clothed and fed And it calls from the poor orphan child that must be clothed and fed Savior lead them by the hand (Gently lead them by the hand) Savior lead them by the hand Till they all reach that glittering strand They call from mended children mouths (? ) poor little boys and girls Who once had loved their loving hands to smooth their golden curls Who wanted mothers loving hands to smooth their golden curls But now we see those wandering curls hang gallop round their brow They say to us my pappa's dead and I've no mother now Oh savior every orphan breath wherever they may roam Bless every hand that leaves them aid and bless the orphan home
The Wandering Boy A. P. Carter recorded August 2, 1927 Bristol TN. Out in the cold world and far away home Some mother's boy is wandering all alone With no one to guide him or keep his footsteps right Some mother's boy is homeless tonight Bring back to me my wandering boy For there is no other who's so apt give me joy Tell him that his mother with faded cheeks and hair Is at the old home place awaiting him there Out in the hallway, there stand a vacant chair And an old pair of shoes he used to wear Empty is the cardle he used to love so well Oh, how I miss him no tongue can tell * Refrain Well I remember those parting words he said We'll meet up yonder where tears are never shed In that land of sunshine away from toil and care When life is over, I'll meet you up there * Refrain
Bury Me Under the Weeping Willow A. P. Carter recorded August 1, 1927 Bristol TN. Oh, bury me beneath the willow Under the weeping willow tree So she will know where I am sleeping And perhaps she'll weep for me. My heart is sad I am lonely For the only one I love When shall I see her oh no never 'Til we meet in heaven above. She told me that she dearly loved me How could I believe it untrue Until the angels softly whispered She will prove untrue to you. Tomorrow was to be our wedding God oh God where can she be She's out a courting with another And no longer cares for me. . .
Little Log Cabin by the Sea A. P. , Sarah and Maybelle Carter in Bristol TN, August 1, 1927 There is a precious volume of pages worn and old In that little log cabin by the sea It is the old bible more precious now than gold It's the bible that my mother gave to me Tis the old precious bible blessed bible That she read in the cabin by the sea (by the sea) The precious bible the blessed bible The bible that my mother gave to me How often I have listened to the countless town and raves (? ) Round that little log cabin by the sea While mother read of Jesus who walked upon the waves How Jesus calmed the stormy Gallilee How often oh how often she read of glowing mirth With a message from the precious word above It told of faithful Daniel who trusted in the Lord While it lead me in the pathway that she brought (? ) There is no other volume so precious as this book It tells me how to live and how to die It tells me of that city oh wondrous look And that I'll meet my loved ones by and by
Give Me the Roses While I Live A. P. Carter recorded June 17, 1933 Camden NJ Wonderful things of folks are said When they have passed away Roses adorn the narrow bed Over the sleeping clay Give me the roses while I live Trying to cheer me on Useless are flowers that you give After the soul is gone Kind words are useless when folks lie Cold in a narrow bed Don't wait till death to speak kind words Now should the words be said Let us not wait to do good deeds Till they have passed away Now is the time to sow good seeds While here on earth we stay
Gold Watch and Chain A. P. Carter recorded June 17, 1933 Camden NJ Oh I'll pawn you my gold watch and chain, love And I'll pawn you my gold wedding ring I will pawn you this heart in my bosom Only say that you'll love me again Darling, how could I stay here without you I have nothing to ease my poor heart This old world would seem sad, love, without you Tell me now that we never will part Oh, the white rose that blooms in the garden It grows with the love of my heart It broke through on the day that I met you It will die on the day that we part Oh I'll pawn you my gold watch and chain, love And I'll pawn you my gold wedding ring I will pawn you this heart in my bosom Only say that you'll love me again Take back all the gifts you have given A diamond ring and a lock of your hair And a card with your picture upon it It's a face that is false but is fair
River of Jordan A. P. Carter in Camden NJ. , May 10, 1928 [INSTRUMENTAL BREAK] I'm going down to the river of Jordan Oh, yes I'm going down to the river of Jordan Some of these days (hallelujah) I'm going down to the river of Jordan Some of these days I'm going to eat at the welcome table Oh, yes I'm going to eat at the welcome table Some of these days (hallelujah) I'm going to eat at the welcome table Some of these days [INSTRUMENTAL BREAK] I'm going to sing in the heavenly choir Oh, yes I'm going to sing in the heavenly choir Some of these days (hallelujah) I'm going to sing in the heavenly choir Some of these days I'm going to put on the silvery slippers Oh, yes I'm going to put on the silvery slippers Some of these days (hallelujah) I'm going to put on the silvery slippers Some of these days [INSTRUMENTAL BREAK] I'm going to sit down by my Jesus Oh, yes I'm going to sit down by my Jesus Some of these days (hallelujah) I'm going to sit down by my Jesus Some of these days
Lonesome Valley A. P. Carter Memphis TN. , Nov. 24, 1930 Everybody's got to walk this lonesome valley We've got to walk it by ourselves There's nobody here can walk it for us We've got to walk it by ourselves My father's got to walk this lonesome valley He's got to walk it by himself There's nobody here can walk it for him He's got to walk it by himself [INSTRUMENTAL BREAK] My mother's got to walk this lonesome valley She's got to walk it by herself There's nobody here can walk it for her She's got to walk it by herself All sinners got to walk this lonesome valley They've got to walk it by themselves There's nobody here can walk it for them They've got to walk it by themselves [INSTRUMENTAL BREAK] Everybody's got to walk this lonesome valley We've got to walk it by ourselves There's nobody here can walk it for us We've got to walk it by ourselves
East Virginia Blues EAST VIRGINIA BLUES #1 I was born in East Virginia To North Carolina I did go There I spied a fair young lady And her age I did not know Her hair was dark in color Her cheeks were rosy red Upon her breast she wore white lilies Where I longed to lay my head Oh, at my heart you are my darlin' At my door you're welcome in At my gate I'll always meet you For you're the girl I tried to win I'd rather be in some dark holler Where the sun refuse to shine Than for you to be another man's darlin' And to know you'll never be mine EAST VIRGINIA BLUES #2 My sweetheart has gone and left me And my little sisters, too And I'm left alone in sadness Lord, I don't know what to do All this world has turned against me Nothing but trouble do I see There will be no more pleasure In this whole wide world for me [INSTRUMENTAL BREAK] Oh, I am just from East Virginia With a heart so brave and true And I learned to love a maiden With eyes of heavenly blue That same day I packed my suitcase And I started to go away But she met me at the station Saying, darling, won't you stay [INSTRUMENTAL BREAK] Oh, I am dying, Captain, dying Won't you take these words for me Take them over to the jailhouse Let this whole wide world go free
Will the Circle be Unbroken I was standing by my window On one cold and cloudy day And I saw the hearse come rolling For to carry my mother away Can the circle be unbroken Bye and bye, Lord, bye and bye There's a better home a-waiting In the sky, Lord, in the sky Oh, I told the undertaker Undertaker, please drive slow For this body you are hauling How I hate to see her go Can the circle be unbroken Bye and bye, Lord, bye and bye There's a better home a-waiting In the sky, Lord, in the sky I followed close beside her Tried to hold up and be brave But I could not hide my sorrow When they laid her in the grave Can the circle be unbroken Bye and bye, Lord, bye and bye There's a better home a-waiting In the sky, Lord, in the sky
Will my mother know me there? When I reach my home eternal Reach that city bright and fair When I stand among the angels Will my mother know me there Yes, I know that she will know me In those mansions bright and fair Mother's love can ne'er forget me And I'm sure she'll know me there I have changed with the changing seasons I am bent with toil and care When I stand among the angels Will my mother know me there Yes, I know that she will know me In those mansions bright and fair Mother's love can ne'er forget me And I'm sure she'll know me there [INSTRUMENTAL BREAK] All for me my mother wrestled When she used to kneel in prayer Do you think she has forgotten Will my mother know me there Yes, I know that she will know me In those mansions bright and fair Mother's love can ne'er forget me And I'm sure she'll know me there [INSTRUMENTAL BREAK] Mother's face has been a beacon O'er the sea of deep despair I shall look for her up yonder Will my mother know me there Yes, I know that she will know me In those mansions bright and fair Mother's love can ne'er forget me And I'm sure she'll know me there
Coal Miners Blues Some blues are just blues Mine are the miner's blues My troubles are coming By threes and by twos [INSTRUMENTAL BREAK] Blues and more blues It's a coal black blues Got coal in my hair Got coal in my shoes [INSTRUMENTAL BREAK] These blues are soul blue They are the coal black blues For my place will cave in And my life I will lose [INSTRUMENTAL BREAK] You say they are blues These old miner's blues Now I must have sharpened These picks that I use [INSTRUMENTAL BREAK] I'm out with these blues Dirty coal black blues We'll lay off tomorrow With the coal miner's blues
Timeline: The Carter Family 1891 A. P. Carter is born in Poor Valley (known now as Maces Springs), Virginia, the first of eight children of Robert and Mollie Bays Carter. 1892 Ralph Peer is born in Independence, Missouri, the son of a furniture retailer. After serving in the navy in WWI, Peer goes to work first for the General Phonograph Company and later for the Victor Company, in whose service he eventually discovers the Carter family. 1898 July 21: Sara Dougherty is born in Wise County, Virginia, to Sevier and Elizabeth Kilgore Dougherty. Sara's mother will die when Sara is three years old, and her father leads a nomadic existence, traveling around staying with relatives. Sara will be left with her uncle and aunt. in Copper Creek, Virginia, over the mountain from the Carters' ancestral home in Poor Valley. early 1900 s A. P. grows up surrounded by music, performing in the church quartet and helping his uncle, Flanders Bays, with his traveling singing school. On her side of the mountain, Sara is learning to sing and play the autoharp. 1909 May 10: Maybelle Addington is born in Midway, Virginia, near Sara's adopted home in Copper Creek. As a child, she learns to play banjo and guitar, later inventing the guitar-picking style that will become known as the “ Carter Scratch”. 1914 While working as a salesman for his uncle, who is then selling trees and shrubs for a nursery, A. P. walks over the mountain to Rich Valley to make a sale to his Aunt Susie. As he approaches the house, he hears, then sees, Sara Dougherty singing. He falls in love with Sara instantly.
Timeline: The Carter Family (2) 1915 June 18: Sara and A. P. are married, and A. P. takes Sara back to his home in Poor Valley. A few years later, they will move to a larger house and farm up the hill in Maces Springs, where they participate in the church choir and other local musical events. They will eventually have three children together: Gladys Ettaleen, Janette, and Joe. 1925 Sara and A. P. borrow a car to drive to Charlottesville, Virginia. On the way back, the car breaks down, and they manage to raise enough money putting on a concert in a nearby schoolhouse to get the car fixed. 1925 December 13: Maybelle Addington goes to Maces Springs to do a schoolhouse show with A. P. and Sara. On that trip she meets A. P. 's dashing brother Ezra, known as Eck. They fall in love, and will be married the following March. 1926 A. P. and Sara audition for a Brunswick record scout in Kingsport, Tennessee, but he passes them over because Sara -- not A. P. -- is the lead singer. The scout tells them that a musical group with a female lead singer will never sell.
Timeline: The Carter Family (3) 1927 July: A. P. sees an announcement in the local newspaper for auditions being held by the Victor Company in Bristol, Tennessee. He borrows his brother's car and takes Sara and Maybelle to try out. They record six songs over the course of two days, and return to Maces Springs $300 richer. The Bristol Sessions is the beginning of the Carters' long association with the Victor executive and record scout Ralph Peer, and the beginning of their careers as professional musicians. These sessions will also launch the career of Jimmie Rodgers. 1927 November: Victor releases the first two songs from the Bristol session, "Poor Orphan Girl" and "Wandering Boy, " followed a few months later by "The Storms Are on the Ocean" and "Single Girl, Married Girl. " The songs sell so well that Peer, realizing the Carters' star potential, summons them for a second recording session in Camden, New Jersey. 1928 May: The Carter family travels to New Jersey for its second recording session with Victor. Among the songs they record is "Wildwood Flower, " which will be named by National Public Radio decades later as one of the 100 "most important American musical works of the twentieth century. “ 1929 February: The Carters return to Camden for a third recording session. As in the previous Camden session, Peer pays them $50 per song, plus royalties on copyrightable songs. October 29: The stock market crashes on Black Tuesday. The irrecoverable financial losses will lead to an economic slowdown, growing unemployment, and soon, the Great Depression. The Carters' records have sold over 700, 000 copies. 1931 June: At Peer's behest, the Carters travel to Louisville, Kentucky, for a recording session with Victor's best-selling artist, Jimmie Rodgers.
Timeline: The Carter Family (4) 1930’s natural disaster that will last for eight years, drought causes massive dust storms across the Midwest and Great Plains, forcing millions of people from their farms in the epic of the Dust Bowl. The difficult years will be memorably described in John Steinbeck's celebrated novel, The Grapes of Wrath. 1932 Peer renews the Carters' contract, this time with himself instead of Victor. The five-year contract gives the Carters $75 per song, with Peer taking all the royalties. Early 1930 s While A. P. is out on the road collecting songs, Sara falls in love with his cousin Coy Bays, and subsequently has an affair with him. 1933 In order to avoid unpleasantness, Coy's parents move to California, taking Coy with them. Sara moves out of A. P. 's house and returns to her childhood home in Rich Valley, leaving the children with A. P. Despite Sara and A. P. 's estrangement, the family continues to give performances and make records with Victor, ARC, and later Decca. But with Sara no longer living in Maces Springs, it becomes harder for A. P. to spend so much time on the road gathering music, and he turns instead to his own imagination. 1935, Maybelle and Sara are working up new material on their own
Timeline: The Carter Family (5) . 1936 September: After three years of trying to reconcile with her husband, Sara gives up and sues A. P. for divorce. Exhorted by Peer and his wife, Anita, the family continues to perform together professionally. 1938 -1939 Consolidated Royal Chemical Corporation pays the Carter Family the unheard-of sum of $75 per week, each, to do two shows a day on the border radio station XERA. The Carters move to Del Rio, Texas. Their music is broadcast by XERA's 500, 000 kilowatt transmitter to most of North America. 1939 February: Sara dedicates a song to Coy on XERA. Coy, living in California with his parents, hears the song and goes to Texas to find Sara. Coy and Sara are reunited, and marry on February 20 in Brackettsville, near Del Rio. 1939 -1940 Consolidated Royal sponsors a second season of the Carters on XERA, this time including Maybelle and Eck's three daughters, Helen, June and Anita. 1940 -1941 The Carters' sales start going up again, spurred by the radio shows and the improving economy. 1941 Mexico and the United States sign a broadcasting treaty that effectively shuts down XERA. Consolidated Royal sponsors the Carter family for two more seasons. 1941 to 1943, on a local radio station in Charlotte, North Carolina. Sara travels from California, where she is now living with her husband Coy Bays, to participate in the show.
Timeline: The Carter Family (6) 1941 Fall: Life magazine sends a photographer to Maces Springs to take pictures of the Carters. The pictures are to appear on the magazine's cover, but on December 7, less than a week before the magazine goes to press, the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor. Magazines shift to reporting on the war buildup, and the Carter Family story will never run. 1943 March: With the Charlotte contract having run its term, Sara returns to California, and the original Carter Family is no more. Maybelle and her daughters play on, first on local stations in Richmond, and later in Knoxville and at Nashville's Grand Ole Opry. 1948 A. P. , Maybelle, and Maybelle's daughters meet for a musical reunion in Knoxville, giving a number of performances on WNOX radio.
Timeline: The Carter Family (7) 1940 s-1950 s Carter family members continue to work as performers. Helen, Anita, and June continue in music, at first with their mother and later on their own. 1949 Eck and June travel to New York, where June has a contract to record for RCA. There she makes records of "Plain Old Country Girl, " and a parody of "Baby, It's Cold Outside, " with Homer and Jethro. 1955 June Carter meets another country music performer, Johnny Cash. 1960 November 7: A. P. dies in Maces Springs after a long illness. 1960 s With the folk revival in full swing, the original Carter Family's songs are once more heard on the radio, sold on re-released records, and played by the likes of the Kingston Trio, Elvis Presley, and Flatt & Scruggs. 1962 June Carter joins Johnny Cash's road show, eventually persuading him to take on her mother and sisters as well. Johnny falls in love with June, and after a long courtship the two will finally wed on June 1, 1968. 1967 Sara and Maybelle reunite to perform at the Newport Folk Festival. 1970 October 14: The Original Carter Family is inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, whose first member -- inducted on its establishment in 1961 -- had been their contemporary, Jimmie Rodgers. 1975 At her daughter Janette's request, Sara comes out of retirement to play a show with Maybelle at the Carter Fold in Maces Springs. 1978 October 22 -23: Maybelle dies. 1979 January 8: Sara dies.
Social Context of the 1900’s 1870 -1900 – Shift from subsistence farming to industrialization spreads through the South. Railroads open region to transportation. ‘Broad Form Deed’ used by corporations to acquire timber, minerals and coal leads to absentee landlords. 1900 – ‘Economic colonization’ by corporations leads to ‘Company Towns and the immigration of Scots-Irish, Germans, Southern Blacks, and Eastern Europeans. Union organizing and mine disasters. Textile strike in TN. and NC. Prohibition and Moonshining. Radio and ‘Hillbilly music’ develop. 1914 -1918 – World War I. Post war 1920’s a decade of economic prosperity. 1920 – 19 th Amendment secures women the right to vote 1924 – Indian Citizenship Act secures citizenship of Native Americans 1927 – Great Mississippi Flood impacts a million people 1929 – Stock Market Crash creates the ‘Great Depression’, unemployment, and foreclosure.
Social Context of the 1930’s – Subsistence farming in Appalachia declines as logging, mining, and textiles supplement family income. Boom/bust coal economy throughout region. Creates a wave of outmigration from mountain communities. Prohibition ends. 1933 – ‘Dust bowl’ storms strip topsoil from depression farms in the Midwest and on the Plains, and lingers in several states for a decade. 1933 – Franklin Delano Roosevelt inaugurates the ‘New Deal’ to address the economic depression. The Civilian conservation Corps provides work for two and one-half million men over the next decade, providing recreational and environmental services in Appalachian communities, including the Tennessee Valley Authority, and WPA building schools and public buildings. 1935 – Babe Ruth retires from baseball 1935 – Social Security Act is passed by Congress 1937 – The Appalachian Trail form Mount Katahdin, Maine to Springer Mountain , Georgia is completed. 1939 – World War II begins with Hitler’s invasion of Poland. 1940 – September 2 nd, The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is dedicated. Pattern of outmigration to the north for defense plants in the war effort continues.
Carter Family Bibliography Abramson and Haskell. Encyclopedia of Appalachia. U of Tennessee Press, 2006. Billings, Dwight. Journal of Appalachian Studies Association. Burton and Manning. 1997. “A Checklist of Child Ballad Variants Found in Southern Appalachia” [spreadsheets; bibliography]. Tennessee Folklore Society Bulletin 58 (no. 3): 102 -116. Burton, Tom. 1997. “The Lion’s Share: Scottish Ballads in Southern Appalachia” [English, Scottish, and variants]. Tennessee Folklore Society Bulletin 58 (no. 3): 95 -101. Carter Cash, June. From the Heart. Prentice Hall, 1987. Combs, Josiah. Folksongs of the Southern United States. U of Texas press, 1967. Daniel, Wayne W. 1997. “The Legacy of A. P. Carter: A Famous Singer, Arranger, and Song Preserver Who Might Have Been a Famous Fiddler. ” Devil’s Box 31 (Summer): 24 -28. Green, Archie. “The Carter Family’s ‘Coal Miner’s Blues’, ” Southern Folklore Quarterly 25 (December, 1961). Kingsbury and Nash eds. Will the Circle be Unbroken: Country Music in America. DK Publishing, New York, NY. Laws, Malcolm. Native American Balladry. American Folklore Society, 1964. Lomax, John. Folksongs of North America. Doubleday, 1960. Pecknold, Diane. 2002. “The Selling Sound of Country Music: Class, Culture, and Early Radio Marketing Strategy of the Country Music Association. ” In Country Music Annual 2002, eds. C. Seeger, Mike. 2002. “The Autoharp in Old-Time Southern Music” In American Musical Traditions Vol. 3, British Isles Music, eds. J. Titon and B. Carlin, 122 -131. New York: Schirmer Reference. Shelton, Robert. The Country Music Story. Bobbs-Merrill Co. , 1966. Wolfe and Olsen. The Bristol Sessions. Mc. Farland: Jefferson, NC. , 2005. Zwonitzer and Hirschberg. Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? : The Carter Family and Their Legacy in American Music. Simon and Schuster, 2002.
Carter Family Musical Collections The Carter Family Recordings: Boxed CD Sets The Carter Family 1927 -1934 JPS Records PO Box 1584 London N 3 3 NW England The Carter Family Volume 2 1935 -1941 JPS Records PO Box 1584 London N 3 3 NW England Cohen, John. “Sara and Maybelle of the Original Carter Family: Nostalgia on Film” Hazardous Films. 1981. Yates, Mike, ed. 2004. Dear Companion: Appalachian Traditional Songs and Singers from the Cecil Sharp Collection [53 songs; 50 singers; collected 1916 -1918]. Compiled and edited with an introduction by Mike Yates, with Elaine Bradtke and Malcolm Taylor. Traditional Songs and Singers from the Cecil Sharp Collection, no. 2. London: English Folk Dance & Song Society in association with Sharp’s Folk Club. 137 pp. (See “The Carter Family and Their Legacy in American Music. ”) “The Original Carter Family Songbook”. (features a biography by Johnny Cash). Peer Music/Hal Leonard. Milwaukee, WI. The Carter Family Fold: http: //www. carterfamilyfold. org. American Experience ‘The Carter Family: Will the Circle Be Unbroken’: http: //www. pbs. org.