See copyright notice at http://www.expectingrain.com/dok/div/copyright.html

Carter Family


The box set 'The Carter Family 1927-1934' (5 CDs, JSP Records [England],
2001, JSPCD7701) is not only a remarkable piece of American popular music
documentation which can be recommended to all folk and country music
enthusiasts: it is also a treasure-trove of Bob Dylan sources.
Well-presented, the set includes full recording details for all 127 tracks
and brief but informative liner notes for each CD. The songs are all
performed by the classic Carter line-up of A.P. (Alvin Pleasant), his wife
Sara and Sara's cousin Maybelle.

As several commentators have recently noted, the Dylan/Mavis Staples
repartee on the rewritten 'Gonna Change My Way of Thinking', released on the
tribute CD 'Gotta Serve Somebody: The Gospel Songs of Bob Dylan', is closely
based on 'The Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers in Texas', a
song-and-spoken-word skit recorded on 12 June 1931 in Louisville, Kentucky.

The skit appears, along with its companion piece 'Jimmie Rodgers Visits the
Carter Family', on Disc C of the box set. The notes to that disc states of
the two recordings: 'By 1931, the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers were the
nation's top recording stars. Since both were Victor [label] artists,
[Ralph] Peer [the Carter family's manager] hatched up the idea for the first
all-star team-up in country music, bringing the two acts together to record
in June of 1931. The combination of "skits" and songs in "Jimmie Rodgers
Visits the Carter Family" was a monster hit by Depression standards, selling
24 000 copies'.

'The Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers in Texas', though recorded in
Kentucky, asks the listener to imagine the Carters paying a visit to Jimmie
in the Lone Star State. The number begins with Jimmie offering a short-lived
snatch of song on 'Yodelling Cowboy', switches into repartee as the three
Carters knock at the door, and then segues into Jimmie and his guests
performing 'T for Texas'. The Dylan/Mavis repartee is very similar to its
Rodgers/Carter predecessor, with California and Hawaii replacing Texas and
Mexico and with much the same 'fried chicken' sequence. Dylan stands in for
Jimmie Rodgers, incidentally reincarnating the spirit of the 1997
various-artists CD 'The Songs of Jimmie Rodgers: A Tribute', which he
masterminded and wrote the liner notes for, contributing his own jaunty
version of Rodgers' 'My Blue-Eyed Jane'.

Nor do the connections with the rewritten 'Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking'
stop there. Several phrases in Dylan's 'new' lyric are straight out of the
Carter Family archive. The 'welcome table' in stanza 2 was already laid in
'River Of Jordan' (on Disc A of the Carter box set), while stanza 6  ('There
are storms on the ocean / Storms out on the mountain too  / Oh Lord / You
know I have no friend without you') combines elements from 'The Storms Are
On The Ocean' (Disc A) and 'Can't Feel At Home' (Disc C); the latter number
has the Carters singing: 'Oh Lord, you know I have no friend like you'. 'The
Storms Are On The Ocean' is actually a secular love song, while the other
two numbers find the trio in 'sacred music' mode.

Listeners will find other Dylan links, too, scattered across the box set.
Disc A features the song 'Meet Me By The Moonlight, Alone', which is an
obvious precedent for the title and refrain of Dylan's 'Moonlight'. Disc E
offers a number called 'My Heart's Tonight in Texas', which contains a line
of double Dylan interest, 'the band is playing "Dixie"': not only does Dylan
quote that line verbatim in 'Man of Peace', but now, on the 'Masked and
Anonymous Soundtrack', he has released his own cover of the old-time song
'Dixie' itself.

The Carters also perform songs which connect with other traditional material
covered by Bob Dylan in official releases. 'There's No Hiding Place Down
There' (Disc E) has lyrical similarities to 'Gospel Plow'; on Disc A, the
already-mentioned 'The Storms Are On The Ocean' has a stanza which recalls
one of the verses of 'Kingsport Town'; and Disc B features 'The Cannonball',
a song not dissimilar to 'Worried Blues'.

Careful listening by the musically attentive will no doubt throw up other
points of convergence, across the tangled web of American song history,
between the Carter Family and Bob Dylan. For now, I will conclude with one
more parallel. Of the 127 tracks on the set, almost all are credited to
'A.P. Carter', without further comment. The notes to Disc A state: ''The
first family of country music also made an enduring contribution to the
music industry, selling hundreds of thousands of records and helping to
build a publishing empire by copyrighting nearly every song they recorded -
whether they wrote it or not. Songs of home, family and love, murder ballads
and scaffold songs, disaster songs, songs of mourning and plaintive gospel
tunes; Civil War ballads, cowboy ditties and African-American blues - all
became Carter Family songs'. This precedent might shed light on Dylan's own
controversial copyrighting of all the traditional, old-time etc. material
(even Stephen Foster's 'Hard Times') on 'Good As I Been To You'. Meanwhile,
this box set can be strongly recommended to all Dylan lovers: it will
provide as much pleasure, interest and enlightenment as the Harry Smith
'Anthology of American Folk Music', and I don't think I could make a higher
recommendation!

The Carter Family line-up on the box set is: A.P. Carter (b. Alvin Pleasant
Delaney Carter, 15 April 1891, Maces Springs, Scott County, Virginia, d. 7
November 1960, Maces Springs); his wife Sara Carter (b. Sara Dougherty, 21
July 1898, Flat Woods, Coeburn, Wise County, Virginia, d. 8 January 1979,
Lodi, California); and Sara's cousin, Mother Maybelle Carter (b. Maybelle
Addington, 10 May 1909, Copper Creek, Nickelsville, Scott County, Virginia,
d. 23 October 1978, Nashville, Tennessee). A useful Carter Family bio-sketch
can be found at: VH1.

Chris Rollason, 15 August 2003

---
"L'histoire est comme Janus, elle a deux visages"
- "History is like Janus: it has two faces"
Maxime du Camp, 1875

Christopher Rollason, M.A., Ph.D., Metz, France
Language Editor, The Atlantic Literary Review (Delhi) -
www.geocities.com/atlanticliteraryreview
Editor and contributor, Atlantic Publishers (Delhi) - see
www.vedamsbooks.com
Co-editor, Bob Dylan Critical Corner site:
www.geocities.com/Athens/Oracle/6752/magazine.html
Bibliography of writings: www.seikilos.com.ar/biblio.pdf

VISIT the Walter Benjamin Research Syndicate site:
www.wbenjamin.org/walterbenjamin.html
PETITION against Internet news privatisation:
www.seikilos.com.ar/ElPais/ElPais.php


Newsgroups: rec.music.dylan Subject: Re: The Carter Family and Dylan - 5-CD box set From: Seth Kulick - skulick at linc.cis.upenn.edu> Date: Sat, 16 Aug 2003 14:00:45 +0000 (UTC) Organization: University of Pennsylvania christopher rollason wrote: : Listeners will find other Dylan links, too, scattered across the box set. An interesting post, thanks, but I think you're missing the biggest link of all, Woody Guthrie. The Carters were a huge huge influence on Woody, who used their melodies for lots and lots of his songs. Just to name one with a Dylan connection, "I Ain't Got No Home" is based on the Carters' "This World is Not My Home" - An interesting excerpt from Joe Klein's book about this is at http://www.fortunecity.com/tinpan/parton/2/iaint.html : There' (Disc E) has lyrical similarities to 'Gospel Plow'; on Disc A, the : already-mentioned 'The Storms Are On The Ocean' has a stanza which recalls : one of the verses of 'Kingsport Town'; and Disc B features 'The Cannonball', I don't have the lyrics on hand, but you're probably referring to the "Who's Gonna Shoe Your Pretty Little Foot" verse. It's fun to note that this goes back to Child Ballad #76: http://www.peterrobins.co.uk/ballads/ballad.php?76 `O WHA will shoe thy bonny feet? Or wha will glove thy hand? Or wha will lace thy midle jimp, With a lang, lang London whang? 2 `And wha will kame thy bonny head, With a tabean brirben kame? And wha will be my bairn's father, Till Love Gregory come hame?' 3 `Thy father'll shoe his bonny feet, Thy mither'll glove his hand; Thy brither will lace his middle jimp, With a lang, lang London whang. not surprisingly, a version of the "Who's Gonna Shoe Your Pretty Little Foot" was recorded by Guthrie and Cisco Houston. There's also a great version of The Storms Are on the Ocean by Doc Watson and Jean Ritchie on their live at Folk City record, from 1963 I think. : became Carter Family songs'. This precedent might shed light on Dylan's own : controversial copyrighting of all the traditional, old-time etc. material : (even Stephen Foster's 'Hard Times') on 'Good As I Been To You'. Meanwhile, I am relatively sure that Foster was credited in the songbook of GAIBTY, although not the cd. Perhaps an interesting story there. ========================================================================== Seth Kulick "The hypnotic splattered mist was slowly lifting" University of Pennsylvania - Bob Dylan skulick at linc.cis.upenn.edu http://www.cis.upenn.edu/~skulick/home.html

Who's Who