Recorded Live at Appalachian State University – November 11, 1966
by Wilson Roberts
Following is a transcript of the spoken part of the concert. Speaking are Dock Boggs, his guitarist, Kate, and Dr. Cratis Dearl Williams, founding Dean of the ASU Graduate School, Now the Cratis Williams Graduate School, who arranged the concert. The major editorial license I took in transcribing Dock Boggs narrative was in deleting a number of “and, ah” constructions he used to open sentences. The remaining ones are there for the purpose of texture. Note: At one point Dock talks about being nervous, unusual for him he tells us.However, the room was small, the lighting allowing for easy eye to eye contact between audience and performer. There are several references to Doc Watson who, with his son Merle, was in the audience. In listening to the recording it will be obvious that there a many inaudible exchanges between Dock and Kate. Perhaps with better audio equipment they can be brought up, along with several inaudible portions of Cratis Williams’ remarks. Note also the tunings. Dock Boggs had many different tunings and they are clear on this recording.
Cratis, who is considered the father of Appalachian studies, arranged for the taping of the concert and three copies of the tape were made. Cratis kept one copy and gave one copy each to me and to Glenn Pat Patrick. Both Pat and I were teaching English at Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk, NC. Some years ago my copy was lost. Sometime around 2001 I contacted the Center for Appalachian at Appalachian State University asking if they had tapes of the concert. After much searching, including contacting Cratis’ survivors, people there informed me that they were unable to find any copies. Pat Patrick died in 1967 and I feared any record of the concert was lost. In 2002, visiting Pat’s widow, Edie, in Johnson City, Tennessee, we discussed the possibility of the third tape. Several months later Edie mailed me a box of Pat’s tapes. Among them was the Dock Boggs concert and several of Pat during his youth in Lubbock, Texas when he played and sang with Jimmie Dale Gilmore in a group they called “The New Fruit Jar Drinkers.”
15 Chestnut Hill
Greenfield, MA 01301
Professor Emeritus, Folklore and English
Greenfield Community College
CD Volume One / 50:51 minutes
Boggs: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you very much. It’s a pleasure for me to have the opportunity and honor of coming over to this college and get to play here. Since I’ve started playing music in the last three and a half, four years, why I’ve visited eighteen to twenty different colleges besides the festivals and [?] I went to.
I didn’t know whether I’d start playing, but I decided for old time’s sake I’d get my old banjo back. I bought it in 1928, so when I went back to get it, I’d let a fellow keep if for me that was a single man, and when I went back to get it he was a grandfather. His wife’s a teacher too. She teaches school at Hayman, Kentucky. Been teaching for the last thirty years, or longer.
We don’t, I don’t conduct my programs I put on like a lot of people do. We just mix ‘em up. Play. And my way of playing, I’ve got my own style of playing music and I have to tune sometimes, change tuning of my banjo, in order to play it in the old traditional time style.
So, this piece I’m fixing to play you is a piece I tried out on when I got my first opportunity to make phonograph records in Nineteen and Twenty-seven. In Norton, Virginia, I was working on the coal machines at [?] Virginia. I started to play this piece and they stopped me—I played about a verse of it—there’s three of them, papers on their knees, and they took down the number of the piece and they marked “good” on the end of it. I started to play “Country Blues,” and I’ll tell you, I played about a couple of lines of that and they marked “Good” on the end of that, and the next thing was a contract.
I was on my way to New York to make phonograph records in about three weeks. It surprised me because I was working in the mines. After that my wife she didn’t care too much for me making music. In order to keep her, keep the family together—I didn’t have nobody but her—I quit play music for twenty-five or twenty-six years. After I retired I said, just for sentimental reasons, I’m going back and get my old banjo. When I went back and got it, it cost me a hundred and ten dollars to have it fixed up, but it’s in good shape now and I’ve played and made several hundred dollars with it since.
And I’m going to play you “Down South Blues.”
PLAYS “DOWN SOUTH BLUES”
Thank you. Thank you very much. I don’t know what it is. I’m kind of nervous tonight. I’ve played to some audiences much larger than this and I wasn’t nervous as I am tonight. But probably that’ll leave me in a few minutes.
Next number is an old song that I’ve had for years, I’ve heard sung at some of the festivals I’ve been at. I don’t know who the song belongs to, but I’ve had the song for the last forty-five, fifty years, or longer, and it’s “Peggy Walker. Tom [Clarence] Ashley, he sings it, I think. I don’t know, but [Doc] Watson would know, I guess.
PLAYS “PEGGY WALKER”[Clears throat] Thank you. Thank you. I’m going to play you the next number. I used to have one of Calvin Parridge’s [sp?] family, Charles Parridge, his son, played the guitar with me for a year or two. Also, I played with the Boatwright family and played some with the Parridge family. Charlie stayed with me quite a bit. When he left me, he joined the army in the Second World War and he got killed over on Corrigador Island. This is a song I learned from Charlie. He used to play the banjo and fiddle and guitar, all. He played [many?] instruments.
PLAYS “PAPA, BUILD ME A BOAT”
I’m going to play you a piece I’ve been aplaying a long time. Many of you that’s older in here will recognize the tune of it, I guess, but there’s a couple of girls up in Baltimore, they made ‘em four verses and put to it, put in the same tune as this. I always play it straight on the banjo, so I was aplaying up at the Second Fret—played there a week once—and one of the ushers there wrote down the four verses for me on the back of a piece of paper and gave it to me. I don’t know if I can sing it the way they wrote it down the same.
PLAYS “BLACK BOTTOM BLUES”
Call that “Black Bottom Blues.”
I’m going to tune my banjo down to the key of C—I mean D—and play the second piece I started to play for those fellows from New York when I got my contract to record. “Country Blues.” Course, I’ll sing a little more that I put on record. [TUNES}
PLAYS “COUNTRY BLUES”
Thank you. I picked some poetry out of the United Mine Workers Magazine, from a girl up in Shirley Hill in Ragton, Utah. She composed this poetry. She wrote me in a letter that she’s been composing poetry ever since she was eleven years old. She’s through high school now and married, but I wrote her a letter and asked her for permission to use this and put it on a phonograph record. And me being a miner, I’ll play it for you and play it for you alone on the banjo. And then we’ll hear my friend play a few pieces and sing.
PLAYS ”THE MINER’S CHILD”
Dock Boggs: You can tell them what you’re going to play.
Kate: I’d like to sing for you one of the old, old numbers that I’ve been trying to learn to sing, “The Wagoner’s Lad.”
Dock Boggs: Thank you.
PLAYS “THE WAGONER’S LAD”
Kate: I’m going to try to sing the Indian song, “The Little Mackinee” Most everybody likes it where I sing, and it’s kind of a novelty number.
Dock Boggs: You play that one by yourself.
PLAYS “THE LITTLE MACKINEE”
Kate: Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Dock Boggs: I’m going to play a, if I can get it right, a little of—I get it right part of the time—“The Sugar Blues.” It was accompanied when it was recorded back about forty-five years ago, forty-eight, with a piano, and I arranged it to where I could play it on a banjo, and I also arranged “Mistreated Mama Blues” so I can play ‘em on a banjo, and it was sung by a colored girl up in New York, Sarah Martin, or someone of that name. I’m going to sing you a little bit of “The Sugar Blues.”
PLAYS “SUGAR BLUES”
I’m going to play you a little song. There’s a couple, three verses. The first of it is I haven’t got, but been aplaying it for several years.
PLAYS “OMIE WISE”
Kate: I’m going to try to sing one of the old, old hymns for you, two or three verses maybe, “My Loved Ones Are Waiting for Me.”
PLAYS “MY LOVED ONES ARE WAITING FOR ME”
Dock Boggs: I’m going to try to play you a little bit of “In the Bright Sunny South.”
PLAYS “IN THE BRIGHT SUNNY SOUTH”
PLAYS “I TRULY UNDERSTAND”
Thank you. Me and my friend, Kate, here, this is the second time we’ve tried to play together. Each one of us learned to play, what little we can play, alone. We never play with anybody else too much.
I have had some fellows with me and generally they played my way whenever we was playing together, and so I didn’t have much to worry about. I’m going to play you a little “Mistreated Mama Blues.”
They tell me they got some albums in the record store here, or here at the school somewhere. I brought a few of my albums with me tonight, and I’ve got four of one kind and six of another and one of another. I went over to the Bristol Hotel the other night and played to about fifty, sixty in the audience. I sold five of my albums. If there’s anyone who’d like any of these songs—I hope you will like any, one or two of them.
So, I’m going to play you a little of “Mistreated Mama Blues.:
PLAYS “MISTREATED MAMA BLUES.”[This piece is a fragment. The first side of the reel ran out. The second side picks up in the middle of “Turkey in the Straw.”