Americana Music Productions

AMP-001: A Deeper Dive

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You've got to Love her WIth a Feeling…

This site acts as a companion to Hotter Than A Bulldog Spitting In A Polecat's Eye: Mable Hillery + Johnny Shines Live 1975. In the course of research for this release, we were able to unearth more material than we were able to reasonably present in a physical format. Consequently, we've gathered the highlights here in the hopes of demonstrating a more complete context to the distinguished lives and careers of these two musicians. 

Alongside Bill Farrow's recollections, you can read a short interview with Hillery's friend Janet Kerr and the unedited version of Davey Williams' essay about his longstanding relationship with Johnny Shines. In the accompanying galleries, you'll find photographs, newspaper clippings, and other ephemera, as well as rare footage and audio clips, that penetrate a little deeper into the worlds of these two masters of the blues. Finally, a set of links and references provide a further set of resources for those who want to dig even deeper.

We hope this will be an evolving page, so please check back from time to time for new content.

 
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Essays

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Bill Farrow

Guitarist for Mable Hillery

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Davey Williams

Musician and friend of Johnny Shines

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Janet Kerr

Musician and friend of Mable Hillery

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Footage

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From the Southern Folk Cultural Revival Project Collection, 1965-1989

Southern Folklife Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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Diana Davies photographs, 1963-2009

Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections, Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage

 

11/29/65 - Alan Lomax's Apartment, NYC

This contact sheet is one in a series taken by photographer Diana Davies that captures Mable Hillery alongside Bessie Jones of the Georgia Sea Island Singers, folk singer Barbara Dane, and blues guitarist Brownie McGhee at ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax's NYC apartment in late November 1965. 

This contact sheet is one in a series taken by photographer Diana Davies that captures Mable Hillery alongside Bessie Jones of the Georgia Sea Island Singers, folk singer Barbara Dane, and blues guitarist Brownie McGhee at ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax's NYC apartment in late November 1965. 

1964 & 1966 - Newport Folk Festivals

Mable Hillery turns up across several of Davies' Newport Folk Festival contact sheets. In 1964 and 1966, Hillery performed with the Georgia Sea Island Singers, while in these shots she is found in more informal circumstances around the festival grounds.

Mable Hillery turns up across several of Davies' Newport Folk Festival contact sheets. In 1964 and 1966, Hillery performed with the Georgia Sea Island Singers, while in these shots she is found in more informal circumstances around the festival grounds.

 
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Other Resources

We are greatly indebted to those whose work our release builds on. For those who would like to dig deeper into primary and secondary sources, we've gathered them here. 

Mable Hillery

Unfortunately there is no suriving life history interview with Mable HilleryHedy West's liner notes to Hillery's It's So Hard To Be A Nigger are excerpts of an interview done in Philadelphia during the summer of 1967, but both the recording of that interview as well as any additional transcripts remain unaccounted for. (Perhaps they are amongst the Hedy West Papers at the University of Georgia.) There are several biographical sketches of Hillery that are reflected in our new, more comprehensive biography. These include the Association for Cultural Equity's Peter Stone, Sheldon Harris' Blues Who's Who, Eileen Southern's Biographical Dictionary of Afro-American and African Musicians, Edward Komara's Encyclopedia of the Blues, and Folk Music: More Than A Song by Kristin Baggelaar and Donald Milton.

Additional biographical details can be gleaned from the few profiles of Hillery, most notably in Melody Maker (October 28, 1967). Finally, obituaries in The Black Perspective in Music, Vol. 4, No. 3; The New York TimesVarietyLiving Blues 28 (July/August 1976); and a longer piece in Sing Out! 25/1 (May/June 1976) by Hedy West also reveal and emphasize different details of Hillery's life and work. For more information on Mable Hillery's research on children's games and pedagogy, readers are referred to her co-authored book (with Patricia M. Simmons) The Guide to the Use of Street/Folk/Musical Games in the Classroom in two volumes, as well as the archival collections with audio examples found below. 


Johnny Shines

We are fortunate in their is a great deal more documentation on the life and work of Johnny Shines. Aside from entries in Sheldon Harris' Blues Who's Who, Eileen Southern's Biographical Dictionary of Afro-American and African Musicians, Edward Komara's Encyclopedia of the Blues, our biography draws from three long-form interviews. "A Lifetime in the Blues" is an account of his early years that Johnny Shines dictated to his friend, the photographer John Earl. The original version was published in Blues World 46/49, but Earl revised the piece in 2010. In 1989, Jas Obrecht and Johnny Shines sat down for an interview that took in the entirety of Shines' career. While parts of the interview were published as “Johnny Shines: Whupped Around and Screwed Around But Still Hanging On” in Living Blues 90 (March/April 1990), Obrecht has graciously posted a transcript of the complete interview online.

Finally, Bob Rusch and Mike Joyce conducted an interview with Shines in August and September 1977, where he establishes himself as an astute observer and critic through discussion of topics such as musical philosophy, racism, and his audience. A transcript was published in Cadence Vol. 3, No. 10 (February 1978). 


Disco-
graphy

For a look at their recordings, Stefan Wirz maintains invaluable discographies: Mable Hillery and Johnny Shines.

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Archival Resources

In terms of archival resources, the Southern Folklife Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has several remarkable bodies of materials, much of it available online. The Southern Folk Cultural Revival Project, Inc. Collection, 1965-1989 comprises Anne Romaine's archives of the organization, including artist files, clippings, correspondence, publicity and live photos, and many recordings. The latter include live concert recordings from various SFCRP tours, as well as interviews with Shines and examples of the children's games that so fascinated Hillery. Of particular interest to purchasers of this record may be the 1973 performance in Atlanta believed to be the first recording of Hillery and Shines in performance. In addition, the Mike Seeger Collection, 1923-2010 contains audio reecordings of note, including a live performance of Hillery at the Smithsonian Festival in 1967. The Guy and Candie Carawan Collection, 1955-2010 also contains interesting recordings of Hillery, such as early solo recordings from Christmas concerts on St. Johns Island, Georgia in 1964 and 1965; further examples of children's games; and a workshop from 1975. 

Alan Lomax's Association of Cultural Equity (ACE) is the custodian of the Alan Lomax Archive, which contains a number of wonderful materials related to his friend and colleague Mable Hillery. These include photographs from the 1960 The Music of Colonial Williamsburg documentary that brought her to the attention of the Georgia Sea Island Singers; recordings of the August 1965 Newport Folk Festival preview concert in Central Park; and a conversation between Mable Hillery and anthropologist Joan Halifax in which they discuss sexual education, home remedies, and homebrew. 


Thanks

Finally, we ask that you check out and support the wonderful people who have been so generous in the course of putting this release together. Their investment is a testament to the character of Mable Hillery and Johnny Shines and reinforces the notion of community so central to their work. These friends, old and new, include: Bill Farrow, Janet Kerr, Davey Williams, Rachel Meirs, Janice Hathaway, Erin Kornfeld, Abby Ruby, and Elizabeth Lovero.


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