Abstract

While many individuals discovered folklore in the undergraduate classroom, others entered the field through the portal of music (though, of course, the two groups are not mutually exclusive). Although the relationship between the folk revival and the professional field of folklore has often been noted, typically it is with a broad brush, looking at national trends rather than specific instances. In this essay, Lewis Stern examines in detail a narrow slice of this history. His is the story of a remarkable West Virginia family, the excitement they generated among a group of musicians (several of them nascent folklorists), and the relationships that developed between amateur and professional documentarians of folklife. The ensuing collaborations were both productive, resulting in recordings that are still influential in old-time music and chaotic in their archival results. With the patience of a detective, Stern teases out the many manifestations of Dwight Diller’s original recordings of the Hammons family and discusses the ultimate fate of the recordings.

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