Archive | Arts RSS for this section

Welcome to Year Three!

Today marks the start of our third year of the This Day in North Carolina History project. As we pass this milestone, all of us at the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources want to extend our thanks for your continued support of our efforts and to let you know about a few exciting things coming up.

229216501First, we’re happy to announce that beginning November 1, you can see the stories we tell on this blog across the state on Time Warner Cable News. The stories will run in an abbreviated format several times throughout the day, usually right before and after commercial breaks.

We also want to let you know that while you may have seen some of the stories we tell this year before, we’ll continue to bring you as much fresh content as we can. To that end, if you have ideas for stories that we haven’t yet covered, tell us about it. We’ve set up a nifty form on our website that makes submitting an idea easy.

Last thing—we’ve tried to be consistent in tagging each post with the city and county of the event or the person we’re covering and with relevant subjects, so we encourage you to use the search feature to discover more interesting tidbits about your hometown or county, or about the subjects that interest you most.

Thanks again for following us! We hope you enjoy reading these posts each day as much as we enjoy researching and writing them.

Village People’s Cowboy Hailed from Raleigh

The original Village People. Randy Jones is on the far left. Image from Getty Images.

On September 13, 1952, singer Randy Jones of the disco group Village People was born in Raleigh.

Jones grew up in Wake County, graduating from Enloe High School in 1970. After attending the North Carolina School of the Arts and UNC, he began to dance and act professionally in New York City.

The concept of the Village People group was the brainchild of record producer Jacques Morali. Jones was cast as the original cowboy in 1977, and remained with the act for three years. The idea of a concept group was not a new one, but the Village People were imbued with such energy, irony and campy enthusiasm that they were wildly successful. In fact, some form of the group has been performing since the Village People scored their U.S. first hit with “Macho Man” in 1978.

The group racked up a number of big hits in the late 1970s and early 1980s with “Y.M.C.A.,” “In the Navy,” “Go West” and “Can’t Stop the Music” among others. That period of great creativity was the group’s heyday.

Jones, appropriately, lives in Greenwich Village. He continues to perform and act.

Other related resources:

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day, subscribe by email using the box on the right and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

Guy Owen and the Flim-Flam Man

Image from the State Archives

Image from the State Archives

On July 25, 1981, N.C. State University professor and writer Guy Owen died at the age of 56.

Born in Clarkton in Bladen County, Owen grew up on a tobacco farm. Years of clerking at his father’s general store provided the author with much eventual grist for his creative mill.

Owen enrolled at UNC in 1942, and after taking a three-year break from his studies for service in World War II, he earned bachelors and doctoral degrees in English. Brief teaching stints followed at Davidson, Elon and Stetson in Florida, before he joined the faculty at N.C. State in 1962.

Owen found his greatest acclaim as the author of The Ballad of the Flim-Flam Man, the tale of an aging confidence man. A bestseller, the book was adapted into a film in 1967 starring George C. Scott.  Mordecai Jones, the protagonist, appeared in two other books by Owen.

Today Owen is also remembered for his courses at N.C. State. He edited several anthologies of state and regional fiction, lectured and conducted workshops across the state and helped shape the state’s eventual literary renaissance.

A recipient of the North Carolina Award in 1971, Owen was one of the inductees into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame in 1996, its inaugural year.

Other related resources:

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

Festival Rocked Iredell County Community, 1970

A shot of the crowd looking toward the stage at the Love Valley Music Festival. Image courtesy of Ed Buzzell Photography

The crowd looking toward the stage at the Love Valley Music Festival.
Image courtesy of Ed Buzzell Photography.

On July 16, 1970, the “South’s Woodstock” was launched at Love Valley. The rock festival swelled the small Western-themed community of about 100 people to almost 200,000.

Located north of Statesville, Love Valley was the creation of Andy Barker in 1954, who had always wanted to live like a cowboy in an Old West town.  The idea of the rock festival was Barker’s and he charged $5 a person for the three-day event.

The crowd at Love Valley. Image courtesy of Ed Buzzell Photography

The crowd at Love Valley. Image courtesy of Ed Buzzell Photography.

While the festival could not draw the band lineup of Woodstock, which the Iredell County event was modeled after, the headliner was the Allman Brothers Band. Young and on the rise, the band played several sets during the weekend festival and documentarians captured it in about 20 minutes of film. Several local bands, including Kallabash of Greensboro, were also on the program

Organizers had hoped to do a documentary like the one made at Woodstock, but a lack of funds meant that they were only able to capture parts of each band’s performance. In spite of some locals’ dire worries about illegal and immoral behavior, the weekend passed without major incident, and the festival in the valley lived up to its name.

Don’t forget to check out the N.C. Arts Council’s summer performing arts guide for suggestions on how you can experience great Tar Heel arts experiences now.

Other related resources:

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day, subscribe by email using the box on the right and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

Carrboro’s Libba Cotten, Composer of “Freight Train”

A image of Cotten with Mike Seegar from the State Archives

On June 29, 1987, folk music legend Libba Cotten died.

Cotten taught the world “Freight Train,” “Shake Sugaree” and a host of other songs. Her “parlor ragtime” style was no less elegant for the guitar being turned upside down and the thumb and finger roles being reversed.

Cotten was born in 1893 in an area that would eventually become Carrboro. She grew up near the railroad tracks on what is now called Lloyd Street. She wrote “Freight Train” at age 11. Her early biography reads much like those of most of the people around her: hard work punctuated by frolics, music, marriage, church and family.

She eventually moved to Washington D.C., where she found employment with composer and folklorist Ruth Crawford Seeger. While working for Seeger’s family, she idly picked up a guitar and revealed herself to be precisely the kind of native player they held up as an ideal. By then she was over 60-years-old.

Seeger’s son Mike made a project of recording her songs, releasing a Folkways record of them to great acclaim. Cotten ceased domestic work and spent the rest of her life as a traveling entertainer.

Other related resources:

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day, subscribe by email using the box on the right and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

George Masa, Great Smokies Photographic Artist

Masa in 1933

On June 21, 1933, businessman, naturalist and photographer George Masa died.

Born Masahara Iisuka in Japan in the early 1880s, little is known about Masa’s early life. After his father’s death, Masa immigrated to the United States and studied engineering at the University of California before moving to North Carolina to work at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville.

In Asheville, Masa joined the Carolina Mountain Club, and was exposed to the area’s spectacular scenic beauty. Though it is unclear how he learned photography, he became quite skilled as a lensman. He went to work for a photography studio and eventually became its proprietor.

Masa is best known for extensively photographing and mapping the Blue Ridge Mountains, often in concert with his friend, naturalist and author Horace Kephart. Together the pair tireless promoted the region and its people, and they were instrumental in the creation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

An image of Looking Glass Fall taken by Masa. Photo from the Buncombe County Public Library.

Masa presented a book of his photographs of the region to Grace Coolidge, wife of President Calvin Coolidge, who was a frequent visitor to the area and helped spur the founding of the park.

Many of Masa’s photographs, maps and other personal papers are now held by the Buncombe County Public Library, UNC-Asheville and Western North Carolina University.

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day subscribe by email using the box on the right and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

God Bless Kate Smith

On June 17, 1986, Kate Smith, “The Songbird of the South,” died of complications from diabetes at Raleigh Community Hospital.

A native of Greenville, Va., the singer renowned for her rendition of Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America” spent the final years of her life in the Capital City near her sister Helena Steele. While living in Raleigh, she resided in a quiet cul-de-sac off Millbrook Avenue.

For an earlier generation, Smith was representative of all that was good and right about America. Her professional recording career began in 1925, and she became a major star of radio. She was a large woman and could belt out songs, such as her personal theme “When the Moon Comes Over the Mountain,” like nobody’s business.

A professional hockey team, the Philadelphia Flyers, played her recording of “God Bless America” before a game in 1969. As it brought them a victory that night, they made it a team tradition and brought Miss Smith to the arena where she created near pandemonium and provided the Flyers with an assist on their road to the Stanley Cup.

The U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp featuring Smith in 2010.

Other related resources:

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day, subscribe by email using the box on the right and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 854 other followers