"When I'm Gone, Gone": South Carolina, 1934–1940

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(Scroll down for playlist and links to resources mentioned.)

This episode provides an introduction to the singers and sites visited by John A. Lomax in the Palmetto State between 1934 and 1940, on the occasion of...:

The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, the Association for Cultural Equity, and the Charles Joyner Institute for Gullah and African Studies at Coastal Carolina University are pleased to announce that the entirety of John A. Lomax's historic South Carolina recordings—made between 1934 and 1940 under the aegis of the Library of Congress' Archive of Folk Song—are now freely available online via the Lomax Digital Archive. [Access the collection here.] This collaboratively produced catalog provides free access to more than 12 hours of historic audio, accompanied by extensive descriptive metadata, documenting a diversity of Black and white folk and vernacular music in the Palmetto State: spirituals, hymns, blues, lullabies, ballads, children's game songs, work songs, as well as stories and personal narratives. 

John A. Lomax made several trips to South Carolina as a guest of folklorist Genevieve W. Chandler in coastal Murrells Inlet, who introduced him to some of the renowned singers in the Gullah community there: among them Zackie Knox, Lillie Knox, and "Mom" Hagar Brown. Also representing Gullah traditions of the region in these recordings are Caesar Roper and the Wadmalaw Island singers who participated in Rosa Warren Wilson's "Plantation Echoes" program, which Lomax recorded in Columbia in 1937. White singers also contributed to the sessions at Chandler's home with children's songs, contemporary hillbilly numbers, and ballads. Lomax recorded incarcerated men and women—at the Reid Farm in rural Kershaw County; at the state penitentiary in Columbia; and in a "convict camp" in Anderson County—singing group work songs, sacred pieces, and the occasional blues. Two WPA ditch-digging crews appear in these recordings, one from the Murrells Inlet area and the other from Clemson; this latter group Lomax recorded at the home of South Carolina journalist and memoirist Ben Robertson. Only a fraction of these recordings have ever been published or otherwise made available publicly.

(The Murrells Inlet and Wadmalaw Island material was processed with the support of a National Historic Publications and Records Commission grant with Coastal Carolina University.)

Playlist (links to catalog records in the Lomax Digital Archive):

*Zackie Knox: When I’m Gone, Gone, Gone

*Lillie Knox: I Know My Time Ain't Long

*Hagar Brown: Stay In the Field

*Jonesie Mack, James Mack and Nick Robison: Corrine, Corrina

*Capitol City Laundry Quartet: Ezekiel Saw the Wheel

*Minnie Floyd: Time Enough Yet

*Mike Maybank and group: See John the Writer

*Cleve "Dynamite" Wright & Slick Owens: Ain’t No Heaven On the County Road

*D.W. White & People’s Burial Aid Choir: I’ll Be Standing at the Station

Works cited:

*Coming Through: Voices of a South Carolina Gullah Community from WPA Oral Histories. U. of South Carolina Press, 2008.

*Alan Lomax's 1983 Johns Island recordings. (Perhaps strangely, Alan didn’t visit South Carolina on his 1959 and 1960 trips through the American South, although he does appear as an announcer on a Folkways LP documenting the 1964 folk festival on Johns Island that featured the singers of the Moving Star Hall - like Benjy Bligen, Bertha Pinckney, and Janie Hunter - who appear in the '83 footage. That festival was organized by Guy and Candie Carawan, who also compiled the gorgeous book “Ain't You Got A Right to the Tree of Life," consisting of narrative segments by Johns Islanders and photographs by Bob Yellin.) 

*The Oxford American piece about Rosa Warren Wilson and “Plantation Echoes” has gone missing from their online archives between the recording of this episode and compiling these notes. If anyone turns up a link, please let us know!