Halloween Listening: Archival tales of ghosts, witches, & haints

Happy Halloween.

Today’s Halloween edition of The Lost Child is mostly made up of southern haunting and supernatural tales, with stories of ghosts, witches, zombies, and haints. A few spooky tunes for the season are scattered in also, along the way.

In case you missed it, or want to hear it again or share it with a friend, you can stream the whole episode anytime here

and I’ve got an extra 90 minutes of Halloween-themed music available for streaming here.

Many of the stories in today’s show come from the online archives of the Digital Library of Appalachia (Blue Ridge Institute and Museum, Ferrum College), the Library of Congress, and the Association for Cultural Equity: all excellent resources, and all searchable and streamable anywhere, for free.

Even better, perhaps, than the ghostly specifics of the stories themselves, the true highlight of today’s episode may be its gathering of warm and wonderful accents. I hope you’ll give it a listen.

Here’s the playlist and source info:

  1. Sandy Shelor: Giant cat ghost
    Recorded by Kip Lornell, Carroll County, Virginia, 1970s
    Digital Library of Appalachia
  1. Cora Jackson: Ghost story, ten-foot woman
    Recorded by Kip Lornell, Fairfax County, Virginia, 1977
    Digital Library of Appalachia
  1. The Phantom Five: Graveyard
    Skull Records, 1964
  1. Ed Harris: Haunted house
    Recorded by Kip Lornell, Chilhowie, Virginia, 1977.
    Digital Library of Appalachia 
  1. 11 and 12 year old girls: Conversation about ghosts
    Meadville, Mississippi, c. 1972-3
    Library of Congress 
  1. Bessie Jones: Ghost story about a haunted church
    Recorded by Alan Lomax, Greenwich Village, 1961
    Bessie Jones lived in St. Simon Island, Georgia. 
    Association for Cultural Equity
  1. Aunt Jenny Wilson: Witch Story #1
    Recorded by Fred Coon, Peach Creek, West Virginia, c. 1960s
    from Aunt Jenny Wilson: Recordings from the collection of Fred Coon, Field Recorders’ Collective, 2007.
  1. Kip Tyler: She’s My Witch
    Ebb Records, 1958
  1. Margarie Quinlin: Lamb of God story
    Recorded by Kip Lornell, Patrick Henry Community College, Martinsville, Virginia, 1985
    Digital Library of Appalachia 
  1. Burl Hammons: Turkey in the Straw (story)
    Recorded by Carl Fleishchauer and Alan Jabbour, Stillwell, West Virginia, 1972. From The Hammons Family: The Traditions of a West Virginia Family and their Friends, Rounder Records, 1998.
  1. Quincy Higgins: Hant tale and witch story
    Recorded by Patrick Mullen, Sparta, North Carolina, 1978
    Library of Congress
  1. Herbert Fulk: Witch stories
    Recorded by Patrick Mullen and Blanton Owen, Toast, North Carolina, 1978
    Library of Congress
  1. Lilia Huddie: Broom test for Liz Deavers
    Recorded by Roddy Moore, Wytheville, Virginia, 1970s
    Digital Library of Appalachia 
  1. Lou Rawls: Season of the Witch
    from The Way it Was — The Way it Is, Capitol Records, 1969
  1. Texas Gladden: Ghost story of Civil War soldiers and a haunted house
    Recorded by Alan Lomax, Manhattan, New York, 1946. Texas Gladden was from Saltville, Virginia. 
    Association for Cultural Equity
  1. Eartha White: A ghost story
    Recorded by Robert Harrison Cook, Jacksonville, Florida, 1940
    Library of Congress
  1. Lightnin’ Hopkins: Black Ghost Blues
    from Soul Blues, Prestige Records, 1964
  1. Zora Neale Hurston: Haitian zombies
    Mary Margaret McBride Show, 1943
  1. Bessie Jones: Ghost story about a haunted wood
    Recorded by Alan Lomax, Greenwich Village, 1961. Bessie Jones lived on St. Simons Island, Georgia.
    Association for Cultural Equity
  1. Lee Morse and her Blue Grass Boys: ‘Tain’t No Sin (To Dance Around in Your Bones)
    Columbia Records, 1930
  1. The Phantom Five: Graveyard
    Skull Records, 1964
  1. Kathryn Tucker Windham: Don’t be afraid of ghosts
    Alabama Folk Sampler Stage, City Stages, Birmingham, Alabama, 1998. Kathryn Tucker Windham was from Selma, Alabama.
    Alabama Folklife Collection, Alabama Department of Archives and History

Thanks for tuning in.

Medieval monsters by Sebastian Münster, 16th century.

Blues for Sunday Morning

I woke up this morning and made a sweet lazy Sunday playlist of (mostly) downhome blues. You can listen to it here, or just scroll to the bottom of this post.

Included is an epic story song, “Jaybird,” by Scott Dunbar, recorded in the summer of 1968 on the bank of Lake Mary, Mississippi, by folklorist Bill Ferris. Ferris describes “Jaybird” as “a cante-fable — a sung story — about a young man who courts his sweetheart. He brings corn whiskey to her parents to make them fall asleep, and then he courts their daughter through the night.”

Scott Dunbar says this of the song: “I made that one up. That’s the jaybird in the air. I made that one about how you cut out the momma and the poppa so you can talk to the daughter.”

This playlist draws, among other things, from some really wonderful collections of field recordings. I suggest you check any and all of them out:

+ The George Mitchell Collection, Volumes 1 – 45 

+ Art of Field Recording: Traditional Music Documented By Art Rosenbaum

+ Drop On Down In Florida: Field Recordings of African American Traditional Music, 1977-1980

+ The Blues: Music from the Documentary Film by Sam Charters

+ Give My Poor Heart Ease: Voices from the Mississippi Blues, by William Ferris

+ In Celebration of a Legacy: The Traditional Arts of the Lower Chattahoochee Valley

+ Black Banjo Songsters of North Carolina and Virginia 

There’s also music here from Elizabeth Cotten, Pink Anderson, Algia Mae Hinton, Precious Byrant, Jesse Fuller, and others. Mississippi John Hurt sings this prayer, from his last recording sessions, in 1966:

Blues all on the ocean, blues all in the air
Can’t stay here no longer, I have no steamship fare
When my earthly trials are over, cast my body out in the sea
Save all the undertaker’s bills — let the mermaids flirt with me.

The lovely accompanying photo of John Hurt with Elizabeth Cotton was taken by Joe Alper at the Newport Folk Festival, 1964.

Hope you enjoy the mix. Happy Sunday, and peace.


Today’s playlist (illustrated)

Here’s an illustrated playlist for this morning’s episode of The Lost Child:

Version 2

Hobart Smith (1887-1965), pictured top left above, opened today’s show with these unaccompanied lyrics, his take on an old Big Bill Broonzy tune, “I Feel So Good”:

I got a letter, come to me by mail
Says my baby’s coming home, and I hope that she don’t fail
‘Cause I feel so good
Yes, I feel so good
I feel so good, I feel like ballin’ the jack

I love my women
Crazy ’bout my garden gin
When I get high, my baby,
I feel like floating round in the wind
‘Cause I feel so good
Yes, I feel so good
I feel so good, I feel like ballin’ the jack

Happy Saturday, everyone.

Mother Songs

It’s been longer than usual since I’ve posted something here, and this one will be brief: just a link to my Mother’s Day playlist, and a question for you.

First, the playlist: Last year on The Lost Child I broadcast this two-hour Mom Day special. You can stream it at the link anytime. It’s full of mother-themed blues, gospel, lullabies, classic country, southern soul, swing, ska, bluegrass, & more — plus some listener dedications, shouts-out, and remembrances.

On this year’s Mother’s Day show, which aired yesterday, I featured a different sort of mom songs, with music from these three albums: Songs My Mother Taught Me, a collection of historic recordings from civil rights icon Fannie Lou Hamer, released in 2015 by Smithsonian Folkways; Songs My Mother Taught Me and More, Ralph Stanley’s 1998 tribute to his mom and the clawhammer banjo style she taught him; and Songs We Taught Your Mother, the great 1961 reunion of three 1920s blues women — Alberta Hunter, Lucille Hegamin, and Victoria Spivey — backed by some of that earlier era’s legendary instrumentalists. Not exactly mother songs, that last one, but close enough — I’ve always loved that album title.

Fannie L Hralphsongs we taught

At any rate, the Fannie Lou Hamer and Ralph Stanley albums got me thinking (here’s the question I promised above): what songs did your mother teach you, or sing to you? It strikes me as an important category of human experience, the songs passed down from mothers. Since yesterday I’ve started brainstorming a project based on this theme; if anything comes of it, I’ll keep you posted. Meanwhile, I invite and strongly(!!) encourage you to post your own answers to the question in the comments. I’ll get us started:

My mom has a beautiful singing voice. When I was a kid I remember it was not uncommon after church that someone in the next pew would come up after the service and compliment her singing. My dad always brags on her voice, and on her piano playing. At Christmas at our house we always have gathered around the piano and sung carols, often with company. At our Christmas parties my parents make guests act out the “Twelve Days of Christmas” and (in costume, with props) “We Three Kings.” But our shared family favorite may be “In the Bleak Midwinter.” There’s also the “Cradle Song” version of “Away in a Manger,” another melody we love to sing. I have always believed Christmas carols are the most beautiful songs.

I have an especially fond memory also of bedtime when I was very small, when my mom would sing me to sleep. What I mostly remember was “When You Wish Upon a Star” and “Someday My Prince Will Come.” My mom would sing them a cappella and end on these wonderful, pure, soaring high notes. I am grateful for those memories and for the care she took in singing by our beds.

What about you? Did (or does) your mom sing to (or with) you? Are there songs you learned from her or associate closely with her? What are your mom songs? Please let us know in the comments.

Postscript: On Mother’s Day we’re inundated with images and sentiments pertaining to the occasion. I know my radio show (and today’s post) in some small way contributes to the annual barrage. And I know I’m very fortunate, personally, in the mom department. But on Mother’s Day my heart goes out especially to those for whom the holiday isn’t easy –including some very good friends of mine. There are lots of reasons this weekend can be hard. So if you’re celebrating today, please don’t forget to support and uphold those friends who might not be sharing in the celebration.

Thanks, everyone. Peace.