Introducing, the Barney Kessel Collection

Image of Barney Kessel (Wikimedia Commons)

One year ago, LaBudde Special Collections (LSC) and the Marr Sound Archives (MSA) made a valuable and historic addition to our collections through the remarkable generosity of Phyllis Kessel, widow of legendary guitar player Barney Kessel. Mrs. Kessel donated her late husband’s collection of nearly 400 audio/video items and hundreds of print documents. It turns out that one of hardest-working musicians to ever pick up a guitar was also a meticulous archivist. As a result, the Barney Kessel collection is a goldmine for music historians and fans alike. Through the efforts of LSC Graduate Student Assistant Anthony LaBat, MSA Public History Intern Taylor Bye, and the rest of the LaBudde and Marr team, we have finished processing the collection. This is the first of a series of posts taking a look at the breathtaking scope of Kessel’s career and offering a tiny taste of what the collection holds.

According to an official biography, “Barney Kessel was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma on October 17, 1923. He started playing guitar at the age of 12 and within a couple of years was playing in a local jazz orchestra. While he was still a teenager, Kessel met guitar legend Charlie Christian by chance in an Oklahoma City nightclub. Impressed by the youngster’s talent, Christian offered to pass his name on to renowned bandleader Benny Goodman. Christian’s guitar playing was a great influence on Kessel’s playing, which was essentially a further refinement of the older guitarist’s style. Kessel worked hard on his technique to create his own exciting, “straight-ahead” bebop jazz guitar, with no blues licks. Although he soon became well known locally as a talented guitarist, Kessel realized that there wasn’t a career for a jazz musician in Muskogee, and he moved to Los Angeles in 1942. Life wasn’t easy there and, at first, he had to make a living out of washing dishes at a restaurant, but he managed to get a break with the Chico Marx (of Marx Brothers fame) Orchestra in 1943, and this led to radio and studio work. A year later he appeared as the only white musician in an award-winning documentary film, Jammin’ The Blues. Word of Kessel’s abilities soon spread and during the remainder of the decade he also played with the bands of Artie Shaw, Charlie Barnet, and eventually Benny Goodman himself.”

By the 1960s, Kessel’s reputation was growing. In 1965, he made his first live record at P.J.’s Nightclub on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood, just a few blocks over from the Sunset Strip. 1965 was right as the Sunset Strip was entering its heyday as an epicenter of American Rock & Roll.

Album Cover for On Fire (courtesy of Discogs)

Despite the burgeoning rock scene, clubs like PJ’s still catered to jazz audiences. PJ’s later became the Starwood Rock Club, before closing for good in 1981. Below are excerpts from a test pressing of his 1965 live show, which he released as the album “On Fire” on his own label (Emerald Records.)             

Another singular item in the collection is what we believe to be an unreleased recording made for Reprise Records (part of Warner Brothers) in either the early or mid-1960s. The recording features Kessel playing alongside tenor sax whiz Zoot Sims. With Kessel and Sims were Monk Montgomery, Johnny Gray, and John Piscatelli on bass, 2nd guitar, and drums, respectively. According to a 1992 letter, Warner Brothers never released the album, though Kessel wanted them to release it as a CD. For copyright reasons, we can’t upload any of the material from that session. However, it is just one example of the unique items in the Kessel collection that researchers can use to uncover new stories about the history of American music.

Sources:

Barney Kessel Collection, MS295, LaBudde Special Collections, University of Missouri-Kansas City.

http://articles.latimes.com/1991-04-27/entertainment/ca-675_1_sunset-strip

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starwood_(nightclub)

http://martinostimemachine.blogspot.com/2016/12/pjs-night-club-las-first-discotheque.html

Legacy of a Modeling Agency

The recent passing of Melissa Stevens, heir to the Patricia Stevens Modeling School and Career College, has given us cause to take a look through one of the most extraordinary collections in LaBudde’s holdings: the Patricia Stevens Collection. This collection, which Melissa donated in November 2011, contains the company records, advertisements, photographs, and other ephemera. There are hundreds of items in over fifty boxes and together they offer a complete account of the history of the company.

1973 photo of Flo Stevens (bottom right) and her three daughters (clockwise from bottom left) Patricia Jr, Sheila, and Melissa.

Melissa’s mother, Florence Czarnecki Stevens became “Patricia Stevens” only after her 1946 marriage to a young Chicago entrepreneur named James Stevens. Before he met Flo, he had already named his training school, a business designed to help women navigate the postwar work world. Flo – or Mrs. Stevens as she was often addressed – grew the school into a franchised operation with 55 branches. Its headquarters were in Kansas City, on Country Club Plaza. (Longtime KC residents may recall the Stevens-sponsored annual Easter parade that ran up until 1995). A full account of the Stevens’ family and their company could occupy an entire book. Melissa Stevens took over the company after her mother’s death, and up until her own recent passing was working to revive the company. In a 2012 interview with The Pitch, she said “All I really need…is a runway, a makeup table, a mirror — and me.”

Secene from 1973 Easter Parade

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One of the items Melissa Stevens donated was a large scrapbook filled with letters of appreciation written to her mother Flo. Among the letters are many from former students and employees. Flo Stevens appears to have had a special relationship with many of her graduates and employees. One student said that Flo was “the woman who changed my life.” Another wished “I could explain how much I think of you. You have been like a big sister to me and you have my deepest respect.” Still another told Flo that “my heart had adopted you as a second mother.” Other students wrote about how the Stevens school could help them with self-esteem issues or help them conquer their fears. Some of her graduates went on to pursue careers in acting or fashion, or interior design. Reading their letters, they all give some credit to Florence Stevens for their success.

The most poignant letter in the collection is from one of Stevens’ employees. She [find her name] writes to Flo about a 14 year old girl – Marilyn – who wanted to be a model and was attending classes against her parents’ wishes. Her parents believed that any kind of modeling would “lower [Marilyn’s] morals” and corrupt her. The letter explains that Marilyn might not be destined for a modeling career, but that she at least deserved the chance to follow her dreams, even if she was still young.  

Notes from students and local womens groups

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Notes of appreciation from students and local organizations

There is, I think, a contradiction buried at the heart of the Stevens collection. On one hand, the modeling school may seem anachronistic by today’s standards. Expectations for women were undoubtedly different in the 1960s and 70s than they are now. On the other hand, based on these letters Stevens’ modeling, etiquette and career-related courses do seem to have changed young women’s lives for the better. Women in the 1960s and 70s were starting to make social gains that still haven’t been fully realized. The Stevens school embodies both of those: recognizing that even though women were still expected to behave in certain ways, there were also new opportunities opening up for them, and they would need appropriate education and training in order to succeed. In short, Stevens tried to provide both of those. Perhaps then there is more to the modeling school than meets the eye. Projecting our modern ideas backwards even a couple generations isn’t always wise. As antiquated, unhealthy, and even incorrect as instruction about posture, diet, personal care and etiquette may have been, it’s clear at least some of Stevens’ students found what they learned empowering and that they credited her with helping them improve their lives.   

 

Beyond Respect: Aretha Franklin records in the Marr Sound Archives

Aretha Franklin at the Kauffman center in May, 2012. (courtesy of Media Mikes)

We all know Aretha Franklin. She is (for now) the most successful American female solo artist in history. She’s the Queen of Soul who recorded the song that became an anthem for women everywhere. In 2010 Rolling Stone ranked her as the #1 singer of all time, saying “when it comes to expressing yourself through song, there is no one who can touch her. She is the reason why women want to sing.” On February 9, 2017, Rolling Stone also announced that Franklin is retiring from public performing following the release of her next album. With that in mind, we at the Marr Sound Archive want to give you a taste of some of her work that is in our collection. Some of this you may know, some not. We’ll start with the song everyone knows (or should know), and work backwards to her earliest record.

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the recording and release of “Respect,” recorded at Atlantic Records Studio in New York City on February 14, 1967. The song was the lead track on the album I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You (released March 10, 1967, Atlantic 8139) and was later released as a single (April 29, 1967, Atlantic 45-2403). We have both the albums and the historic single. “Respect” was produced by Jerry Wexler. Wexler worked with Franklin from 1966-1975. He also has connections to the Kansas-Missouri area. In the 1930s, Wexler attended Kansas State University. Outside of school he received his introduction to Jazz and Blues music by visiting bars and music clubs along Twelfth Street in Kansas City.

Prior to working with Wexler at Atlantic Records, Aretha was with Columbia Records. Her first secular album was Aretha: with the Ray Bryant Combo, (Columbia CL1612) released by Columbia in 1961. In addition to vocals, she played piano on four tracks: “Won’t be Long” “Who Needs You?,” “Are You Sure” and “Maybe I’m a Fool”. At 18 she was still a somewhat raw talent. Below are short clips transcribed from our copy of the album. Listen closely to “Maybe I’m a Fool” and you can hear her voice break just a little.

Ray Bryant and Aretha were both signed to Columbia Records by producer John Hammond in 1959. Like Wexler, Hammond had some connections to Kansas City, having signed Count Basie to Columbia in 1936. 1959 was a big year for Hammond. That year he signed Aretha Franklin, Pete Seeger and Bob Dylan, all of whom were under the age of twenty.

Aretha at about 14 years old when she was first recorded by Joe Von Battle. (courtesy www.bless-this-soul.com)

Aretha Franklin got her start singing at New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit. Her father, Clarence LaVaughn Franklin, was minister there from 1946 until 1979. C.L Franklin became a central figure in the black community. According to Mark Bego, the Franklin home “played host to a virtual who’s who of popular black music.” Young Aretha was part of the church choir. Her father recognized her talent, and at 14 he began taking her to other churches to perform with gospel groups. As Reverend Franklin’s own legend grew, he organized a “traveling revival show.” As a teenager, Aretha spent several summers traveling with the road show’s choir. At the same time, Joe Von Battles was recording LPs of Reverend Franklin’s sermons. Battles was a Detroit record shop owner, and founder of JVB Records (later changed to Battle Records). In 1956, Battles recorded 14-year old Aretha Franklin at New Bethel Baptist Church. The Marr Sound Archives does not have any copies of Battle’s original album. In fact, original JVB/Battle pressings are quite probably the rarest of all Aretha records. Fortunately, the songs Battle recorded have been re-issued a number of times by Chess, Checker, Geffen, and other record labels. In our collection is a 1982 issue by Checker Records (Checker LP CH8500), for which music critic Peter Guralnick wrote the album notes. Of Franklin’s performance, Guralnick wrote “everything that Aretha would one day become, the same soulful struts that she would put into “I Never Loved a Man, “Respect,” even funky old “Dr. Feelgood,” are all here in the plain, unvarnished, but far-from-simple truth of hymns.” We are not professional music critics, but having listened to this album we think it is pretty extraordinary. The lead track on that album can be heard below.

The preceding barely scratches the surface of Aretha Franklin’s extraordinary life and career. She was a true prodigy, a gifted singer surrounded my other successful black musicians. She was seemingly destined for stardom from an early age. However her personal life was marked by a series of devastating emotional experiences. In his biography, Bego concludes that both of these factors shaped her music. Hopefully hearing her sing at various stages in her life gives readers a greater appreciation for the treasure she truly is.

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Sources:

Aretha Gospel. Recorded September 10, 1991. Geffen, 1991, Streaming Audio. Accessed February 20, 2017.

Bego, Mark. Aretha Franklin : The Queen of Soul. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2012.

Marr Sound Archives contains well over 100 entries for Aretha Franklin in our Library Catalog. Among these are many of her classic LPs and singles, including the ones mentioned in this post. We hope you’ll come listen to some of them soon!

Correction: Previously this post had a full version of the 1956 album. Since only UMKC network users could stream it, we’ve replaced it with a youtube link. The whole album can be heard at the Marr Sound Archives.

Melba Liston: Trombone!

Photo Courtesy:  The Girls in the Band.

Photo Courtesy: The Girls in the Band.

I was quietly cataloging LP’s for Marr Archives from the Norman Saks Collection, when a local Kansas City artist caught my attention. IT WAS A WOMAN! It was a female jazz musician from Kansas City and it was not Mary Lou Williams or Julia Lee. As most women in jazz are known for singing or piano, I was doubly surprised to find that this female jazz artist was a TROMBONE player.

Melba Liston, the jazz trombonist, was born in Kansas City on January 13, 1926. She played with all of the great bands: Gerald Wilson, Dexter Gordon, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, and Quincy Jones.

She endured the abuse that many female jazz performers endured during that time and was outspoken about that mistreatment. This exploitation caused her to leave music for a while. She spent most of her years in California, but finally came back to music and music education in the 70’s. This brought her back to Kansas City for the Kansas City Women’s Jazz Festival with her band “Melba Liston Company”.

Even after a stroke, Melba continued to write and arrange music that melded African Rhythms with American Jazz.

The Marr Sound Archives carries many recordings featuring Melba Liston, but one of my favorite songs is “Pow” from the Melba and Her Bones LP on MGM’s Metro Jazz label.

Walter Page, Charlie Persip, Buck Clayton, Melba Liston, and an unidentified musician performing on stage. Photo Courtesy: The Buck Clayton Collection, LaBudde Special Collections.

Walter Page, Charlie Persip, Buck Clayton, Melba Liston, and an unidentified musician performing on stage. Photo Courtesy: The Buck Clayton Collection, LaBudde Special Collections.

Melba Liston performs with Dizzy Gillespie's Big Band. Photo Courtesy: The Charlie Menees Collection, LaBudde Special Collections.

Melba Liston performs with Dizzy Gillespie’s Big Band. Photo Courtesy: The Charlie Menees Collection, LaBudde Special Collections.

Photo courtesy The Jimmy and Jeannie Cheatham Collection, LaBudde Special Collections.

Photo courtesy: The Jimmy and Jeannie Cheatham Collection, LaBudde Special Collections.

Contributed by Vicki Kirby, Library Information Specialist II and Special Formats Cataloger

Kansas City’s “Original Rock ‘n’ Roll Mama”

bowman-p03

Priscilla Bowman singing with the Curtyse Foster Band: “Bumps” Love (piano), Foster (sax), Elmer Price (trumpet), Bill Nolan (drums); August 3, 1954

Priscilla Bowman was born May 30, 1928, in Kansas City, Kansas, the daughter of a Pentecostal minister. She made her singing debut at age seven in front of inmates at the state penitentiary in Lansing, Kansas. As a teenager she was encouraged by local pianist Roy Searcy as she began singing in area nightclubs. Later she was introduced to Kansas City jazz pianist Jay McShann and began performing regularly with his band.

In 1955, Bowman cut her first sides with McShann for Vee Jay Records, which resulted in the #1 R&B hit “Hands Off” – the recording most closely associated with her. She toured on the success of the record, highlighted by engagements at Mel’s Hideaway on the south side of Chicago and the Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York. With marquee performances and a hit record to promote, the incessant grind of the road took a toll on Bowman. On the advice of entertainer Moms Mabley, who shared the same tour bill, the exhausted and ill Bowman returned to Kansas City for much needed rest. In a 1987 article for The Squire, Bowman reflected on how the decision impacted her budding career: “I wish I’d stayed [on the road], but if I’d stayed, I would have died…By stopping and staying home, they [the public] just forgot about me. And I’d forgotten about singing.”

Bowman continued to record through the end of the 1950s, achieving artistic and critical triumphs in the face of waning commercial success. Highlights include “I’ve Got News For You, the follow-up to her #1 hit (1956); “Everything’s Alright,” a Billboard Magazine pick (1957), and collaboration with doo-wop group The Spaniels (1958-59). However, Bowman failed to rekindle her initial success or to tap into the emerging rock ‘n’ roll market, a style ironically owing much to the rhythm and blues music she purveyed. By the early 1960s, Bowman had put her career on hold to get married and to raise a family.

Bowman revived her singing career in the late 1970s and early 1980s, performing at area nightspots and festivals. Original Rock And Roll Mama, the first full-length album collecting many of her 1950s recordings, was released in 1986. Despite surgery to remove a cancerous lung that same year, she continued to perform into 1987. She was honored posthumously with a Kansas City Jazz Heritage Award (1988) and an Elder Statesmen of Kansas City Jazz Award (2003).

Priscilla Bowman passed away July 24, 1988.

Learn more about the Priscilla Bowman Collection housed in LaBudde Special Collections at the UMKC Miller Nichols Library.

“NAN WAS A SOLID GAS”…….. David Basse

nan hill2David Basse is one of Kansas City’s best-known contemporary jazz artists. During his tenure broadcasting at Kansas Public Radio in Lawrence, he met Nan Hill, a devout listener and dynamo with unfettered knowledge of the Blues and Jazz Scene. She would come to write the radio host often. She composed her letters as she listened to Basse’s show on the radio and critique his programs as she felt she needed to. This Jazz Aficionada took her job as Mr. Basse’s appointed co-pilot quite seriously. Never could this radio host have imagined, while spreading inspiration with the power of music throughout the airwaves, that he in turn would be galvanized by the passion of this dear soul reaching back to him. Following is a moving tribute by David honoring Nan after her passing.

1 June 2012
Nan Hill
I programmed a jazz tribute to Nan Hill on Kansas Public Radio last night. The evening sounded a lot like other jazz programming on KPR, yet she would have known the difference: Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Kurt Elling, Ahmad Alaadeen… music that Nan might have labeled “Nothing but class, and three solid hours of it – a symphony,” she used to say in her weekly handwritten letters to me at the station. I have every one of Nan’s letters saved meticulously – in the order she sent them. Most have been archived in my section of the LaBudde Special Collections at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. Nan knew her jazz. She loved to listen to the radio while lying down, in order to REALLY LISTEN. Living in Lawrence, Kansas, her favorite shows were hosted by Bob McWilliams, Bob Parlocha, and me. Nan was a lifelong listener of jazz radio, and over the years, she named her all-time favorite hosts to me in her extensive letters. She listened to programming on KPR, sleeping and awake – something that I began doing as a teenager, to get jazz by osmosis, get it into my soul. Nan was the only other person I have ever met who could relate to that: listening to jazz while sleeping. We discovered many such similarities over the past few years.

Nan Hill was my co-pilot. I called her that on air when I needed to let her know that the next song, or preceding song, was played in answer to a request or comment that she had made in her weekly letter. That’s just how Nan and I rolled. If I took a new turn, and played some blues, she responded. If I played two ballads in a row – Dexter Gordon, or whatever, she knew, and she knew that I had programmed that with her in mind. Often times after programming a show, in the comfort of the air studio, I would have the time to savor Nan’s weekly letter, and would be surprised to read that she had requested the very same songs that I had programmed. We were completely in tune. If you are a close friend of Nan’s, or a family member, I may even know when you called her on a Saturday afternoon. Nan always gave me a complete rundown of what I had played and when, until someone who “wasn’t hip to jazz” happened to call and take her away from her “work,” which was listening to and commenting on my show. There was no messing around going on in this relationship. It was a jazz union. I tried, back in 2004, to get her to email me so I could respond in real time, but, Nan wrote letters, on yellow legal paper, stuffed into number 10 envelopes. The letters were “old school,” like the music she loved. I responded with a few letters a year to attempt to balance out the volumes that she put out in my honor. If she felt bad, which she often did, she would send a simple card with Billie Holiday or Charlie Parker on it, and a short note: “Stay hip,” or “Great show, you
are the hippest” ~Nan.

I miss Nan Hill more than anyone will know. She was my co-pilot; she was Ms. C.P. – in David-Bassereference to the John Coltrane composition Mr. P.C. The song was written for Paul Chambers, Trane’s long-time bassist, and I realized last night how much Chambers is the star of that piece, driving everyone in the band to perform fabulous solos without being featured himself. That’s a jazz thing. That is exactly what Nan did each week with her solid devotion to me and my colleagues: she pushed the music along, influencing us without getting in the way. Nan fell by the station for a visit once when her granddaughter was in town from California. Nan was dressed like Norma Desmond, with black sunglasses and a brocade wrap around her head. I know she was training her granddaughter to listen to jazz by insisting on the outing. The two of them sat quietly in the studio and watched me program the entire afternoon. From then on, the weekly letters not only included stories from Nan’s active memory and tales of her daily activities, Nan also kept me apprised of the goings on of her beloved granddaughter. It was the hippest. After several years of letters, I decided to call her. I invited her to attend a few jazz shows, the very special ones I offered to drive to Lawrence to pick her up and return her when she was too tired to hang. Once, she actually took me up on the offer, for a holiday jazz event that KPR sponsored at Liberty Hall. Nan reserved a room across the street at the Eldridge Hotel to be close to a bed if she needed to lie down. We talked and wrote back and forth several times while making plans. When the big day came, a serious blizzard hit Lawrence right at the end of my 4pm shift. Nan couldn’t make the scene. She had to hear the gig on the radio, listening and commenting on every nuance of the party – both times it aired!

Nan Hill heard Monk live in a nightclub. She went to shows back in the day at Baker’s Keyboard Lounge in Detroit. She heard Trane, Duke, and Cab Calloway in movie theaters. Her knowledge of jazz was immense, her commentary on my programming, uncanny. When she first started writing me, I asked her in a letter to be totally honest, to tell me when the show was sub-par, or when I was off my game. She took the “job” very seriously; she listened intently. I played Lou Donaldson’s “Whiskey Drinkin’ Woman” in her honor to make her laugh, which brought on stories from the old days of drinking with her friends, of being in Detroit and attending jazz shows with her mother. Detroit is where Donaldson hails from, and Nan wrote of going out night clubbing when the greats of jazz actually went from town to town, club to club, playing their music.

Nan was a solid gas. Nan was no square. Nan was hip and sharp until the day she left the planet. She hurt. She was in constant pain, but she did her job each week as if her life depended on it. She was a teacher and an incredible help to me, teaching me the ways of jazz, same as Alaadeen, Bobby Watson, Mike Melvoin, Phil Woods, and others have done. You see, jazz is passed on by mentoring. It can be a word, a nod, a slight mention that changes it all, just the way one note changes a composition. Nan will live on through the letters she wrote me and my colleagues. Nan and I will continue to produce jazz programming for many years to come. I have garnered her sensibilities and captured them for future use on my shows. I may no longer exclaim weekly, “This is for Ms. C.P., my constant companion,” or if I do, you and I may remember how I feel about Nan Hill.

The David Basse Collection is located in the LaBudde Special Collections, Miller Nichols Library, UMKC. Thanks to Mr. Basse’s love and diligence those many years, Nan Hill is with us still. To read her letters is to feel her soul. Her personality was infectious and it radiates in her every word.

Teresa Wilson Gipson – Libraries Information Specialist II, LaBudde Special Collections

Evie Quarles and Her Muse

KIC ImageAfter 35 years of designing greeting cards, Evie Quarles finally decided to pursue her innate yearning to become a professional photographer. In the Fall of 1997 her son Josh persuaded her to put down her paintbrush, pick up a camera and enroll in a photography class at Penn Valley Community College. What Evie would choose to photograph was not to be of the usual common nature, but rather a phenomenon ingrained into her spirit at a very early age, referred to as the Blues. Growing up in West Tennessee, she would accompany her father to joints to service Juke Boxes on weekends or in the summertime. It was in the black joints she would discover her call to the Blues. In her words, “the call would come as a whisper”, because “race’ music was not played on the radio in those days. Parents did not want their teenagers to be influenced by the Devil’s music.

A few months into her photography class she was wandering around 39th and Main iMillage Gilbertn Kansas City, looking for visual material for her final exam. She heard music coming from the open door of the Grand Emporium, a local Juke Joint. She wandered in and quickly became immersed in the music of Millage Gilbert’s Blues. When the band took a break she introduced herself to Millage and asked if she could photograph his next set. He approved her request,, and so here her new journey began.  Quarles soon contacted the proprietor Roger Naber to obtain permission to photograph local & national acts, to which he agreed. For the next seven years the Grand Emporium would become her “Muse”. GE

In May of 2013, Ms. Quarles bestowed upon the LaBudde Special Collections a generous selection of photographs from her vast collection. The black & white images create a compelling depiction of Quarles’ love and passion for the epic American art form known as the Blues.

Teresa Wilson Gipson

Black History Month: Zora Neale Hurston on American School of the Air

hurston

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

The American School of the Air was an educational radio program aired on CBS during the 1930s and 40s. The long-running show tackled American history, science, music and literature under the heading of daily subjects such as “Frontiers of Democracy,” “Science Frontiers,” “This Living World,” and “Gateways to Music” and broadcasts were often used as a supplement to classroom education across the nation.

On December 8, 1938 the umbrella title was “American Literature of the Twentieth Century” and the guest was author, anthropologist and folklorist Zora Neale Hurston. In this very rare episode of American School of the Air, Hurston tells African-American folk tales from her collection entitled Mules and Men. These may be the only audio recordings in existence of her reading these particular works.

Among the folktales heard here are “Why There Are Negroes and Other Races,” “How God Made Butterflies,” a series of animal tales as well as tales of exaggeration as heard below:

[audio:http://info.umkc.edu/specialcollections/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Zora-Neale-Hurston-tells-an-exaggera.mp3|titles=Zora Neale Hurston tells a tale of exaggeration.]

Perhaps best known for her 1937 novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, Hurston was active during the Harlem Renaissance alongside such contemporaries as Langston Hughes and James Baldwin. She received widespread criticism for her heavy use of dialect in her writing. Critics felt she was perpetuating a longstanding tradition of racially charged stereotypes of African-American men, women, and children in literature and popular culture.  She was also praised, however, for her use of idiomatic speech and her dedication to preserving and handing down the grand tradition of African-American folklore and oral history.

Hurston’s work as an anthropologist led her to back to her hometown of Eatonville, Florida, where she recorded oral histories and gathered ethnographic research on music and folklore dating back to the days of American slavery. She gives a brief history and explanation of “negro folktales” and their contribution to American culture at the begnning of the episode.

[audio:http://info.umkc.edu/specialcollections/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Zora-Neale-Hurston-explains-folk-tal.mp3|titles=Zora Neale Hurston provides a brief explanation of negro folk tales and their origins.]

The Marr Sound Archives holds approximately 162 episodes of The American School of the Air within the J. David Goldin collection, all of which are all searchable in the library catalog and RadioGoldindex and are available upon request.

L. Perry Cookingham Collection: A Salute to Our Veterans of the Armed Forces

0554Known as Armistice Day or Veteran’s Day, November 11th  signifies the demise of World War I when Allied Forces signed an Armistice Agreement with Germany in 1918.  Recognizing their sacrifice and duty to country, we continue to honor our Veterans on this historical date each year.

Perry Cookingham, former City Manager of Kansas City, Missouri was called to duty and served in World War I. Per his request, he and several buddies from his hometown of Danville, Illinois were assigned to Company B of the 310th Signal Battalion, which was located at the front for a period of 5 months prior to this world changing event. Following are excerpts from a diary penned by Cookingham and titled: A Few Little Incidents of the War and My Travels with the “Army of Occupation”. Depicted are personal accounts of Cookingham and his fellow soldiers leading up to the Armistice. Obviously it was ever business as usual for our courageous warriors as Cookingham notes on his October 23rd entry. Not only did he have KP Duty (Kitchen Police) on his birthday but they were also shelled by the enemy. Happy Birthday!

_____________________________________________________________

SEPT 28 – Attack of appendicitis
Off eight days.

Oct 15 – Came down with
cold. Could not talk
for four days.

Oct 21 – Well again.
Moved to Monsard.
Living on public sq.
Real homelike. Shelled.

Oct 22 Worked

Oct 23 – Birthday. K.P.
Shelled

Oct. 24 to Nov. 4. Worked
on permanent lines.
Shelled every night
with 9” babies. Co. C
man wounded. Dirt
flying everywhere.
Hit by a few. Thot [sic]
it was a big shell
bursting on my head.

Nov. 5 – Moved to hills
back of Buxerelles [sic].
Nice house. Thanks to
the boche.

NOV. 5 – 11 Worked
on permanent line
near St. Benoit. Shelled
every day. Tore for the
dugouts. Working
½ mile from line!

NOV – 11 – “Finis la Guerre”
Firing ceased. Worked
under the heavy barrage
of last six hours. No
one hurt. Sure lucky.
Went up to see the
boche come over.
Talked to several. Some
sight.cookingham

NOV. 11 – 17 Worked on lines
and waited for orders.
Transferred to occupation
army.

November 11, 1918 would not be the conclusion of all war-related activity. There would
still be an aftermath of responsibilities and Cookingham and others were to remain on active duty through February of 1919 according to General Orders No, 38.-A, by General John J. Pershing, Commander in Chief

FREE event: Chuck Haddix to discuss his recently published Charlie Parker biography

The life and music of Charlie "Bird" ParkerChuck Haddix will discuss his book, Bird: The Life and Music of Charlie Parker, November 6 at 6:00pm in the Jeannette Nichols Forum of the new Miller Nichols Learning Center. The program is free and open to the public and will also feature live performances by Bobby Watson and friends. Complimentary parking is available on the 5th & 6th floors of the Cherry Street Garage. UMKC Friends of the Library proudly sponsor this event as inaugaral program in their new portFOLio series.