Archive for the ‘Bascom Lamar Lunsford’ Category

Ballads, Banjo Tunes, and Sacred Songs of Western North Carolina

May 19, 2014


Bascom Lamar Lunsford: Ballads, Banjo Tunes &
Sacred Songs of
Western North Carolina

(Smithsonian Folkways CD)

reviewed by Daniel Jolley (

This is much, much more than a music CD; this is history, tradition and an echo of life as it once was. Having been born and raised in the North Carolina foothills, this music is especially significant to me.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, music was a way of life in the North Carolina mountains; thanks to Bascom Lamar Lunsford, that old way of life and culture is not completely lost to us in this modern age. Lunsford had many professions during his long life, but the music he grew up with was his passion.

He recorded many songs that would almost certainly have been completely lost to us; not only that, he described each song, talked about where he heard it, who played it, etc. He was called “the Minstrel of the Appalachians” because he collected songs from all over western North Carolina and preserved them. He played the fiddle, banjo (in two distinctive styles) and mandoline (sort of like a mandolin), and he sang, recording hundreds of the living tunes of his friends, neighbors and neighborly strangers over the years — all sorts of songs, including ballads, folk songs, gospel songs, fiddle tunes and banjo tunes. He also wrote a few songs of his own, including the classic “Old Mountain Dew.”

No American contributed more material to the Archive of Folk Song than Lunsford, and all but five of the recordings on this album come from his “memory collection” recordings made at the Library of Congress in 1949 (the “memory collection” actually consists of no less than 318 songs); the other five were recorded for Brunswick Records in 1928.

Bascom Lamar Lunsford (from liner notes):



“Minstrel of the Appalachians”

May 13, 2013

“Minstrel of the Appalachians: The Story of Bascom Lamar Lunsford,” by Loyal Jones

” It is said that Bascom Lamar Lunsford would “cross hell on a rotten rail to get a folk song”—his Southern highlands folk-song compilations now constitute one of the largest collections of its kind in the Library of Congress—but he did much more than acquire songs. He preserved and promoted the Appalachian mountain tradition for generations of people, founding in 1928 the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival in Asheville, North Carolina, an annual event that has shaped America’s festival movement. Loyal Jones pens a lively biography of a man considered to be Appalachian music royalty. He also includes a “Lunsford Sampler” of ballads, songs, hymns, tales, and anecdotes, plus a discography of his recordings.

While towns and cities were burgeoning musically, trying to promote classical and art-forms over the simple songs of their ancestors, Bascom was desperately throwing his net to catch and hold onto these old time treasures. Loyal Jones has given much insight into the life and times of this amazing man. — Jean Ritchie

This is both a biography and an examination of Lunsford’s career dedicated to the promotion and preservation of Appalachian traditional culture. Jones’s study offers a significant contribution to our ‘new’ culture in the context of folk music. Loyal is an excellent storyteller, and his genial North Carolina manner is perfectly suited to the subject—there is a real affinity between Jones’s authorial voice and Lunsford’s personality. — Ron Pen

Bascom Lamar Lunsford

September 29, 2012


Known in his lifetime as “The Minstrels of the Appalachians” and “The Squire of South Turkey Creek”, Bascom Lamar Lunsford was a man of multiple endeavors, with a calling to preserve and entertain with the folk heritage of the Appalachian mountains where he spent all his busy life. Born in 1882 in Madison County, North Carolina, he was raised in a middle-class family which put education and arts above all things but stayed close to the soil and the traditional values of the Southern mountains.

Bascom would be at ease all his life both with urban and country people, making a bridge between both worlds, the old and the new, the entertainment and the scholarship, the stage and the living-room, the church and the dance floor. He claimed that he visited more homes in the mountains than anyone, and thanks to his early occupations of fruit tree seller and beekeeper, he knew well the backwoods people, who were the good musicians and singers and managed to collect hundreds of songs, tunes and tales from them.

Working officially as a lawyer, he nevertheless devoted most of his energy to promote musicians, organize festivals, record and collect folk music with a zeal and passion that was legendary. He “would cross Hell on a rotten tail to get a folk song”. His major achievements were the Mountain Folk and Dance Festival he created in Asheville in 1928 (and sill running today!) and the impressive number of folk songs and tunes he recorded for the Library of Congress (more than 300 items).

Through his work with the festival and his recordings, he had the ambition to restore the pride and dignity of Southern folks and their music and keep this traditions alive against all the threats of modernity . With his five-string banjo and his impeccable suits, his impressive memory and love of his fellow-man, he indeed managed to be an incredible promoter and entertainer of folk music, years before “Folk Revivals” of all kind. When young urban people from the northern cities became interested in Southern music in the 1950′s and 1960′s, his attitude was often conservative and suspicious of the “outsiders”. He had a strong and personal vision of what was “authentic” and what not, even if he had to accept some new trends and changes along the years. (more…)