Skip to content

Hayloft Gang Documentary: Give a Gift to Squeezebox History!

December 13, 2012

Now that you’ve got some advice from Rowan and myself on stuff you can covet for yourself or another member of your commercial network (family/friends), here’s a gift-giving idea that may appeal to those of us who have everything.  The solution is to help make something new that no one already has!  And for those distressed by the commercialism at the heart of many holiday traditions, this is an alternative cause worth supporting.

Back in the summer of 2011 I wrote about the history of the accordion in Country Music and the role played by Chicago’s hugely popular and influential WLS Barn Dance, where many accordionists got work playing what was called “hillbilly,” “folk,” and then “country” music.

Now folks have produced a documentary called The Hayloft Gang: the Story of the National Barn Dance, which was broadcast on PBS, and they are nearing the end of their fundraiser to make the film available to the public (including you) for home and educational viewing.  I’ll let Stephen Parry, the very nice producer of the film tell it:

This was truly a labor of love, taking on the challenge of pulling together a story that spanned 50 years, and clearing rights for a program that had wall-to-wall music and archival materials, combined with the struggles of raising funds for an independent film….  With recent cutbacks in arts funding, this just hasn’t been enough.

 Our goal has always been to bring The Hayloft Gang to the widest, most diverse audience possible; it needs to be used in schools and libraries and available to the general public. Unfortunately our production funding only covers the costs for licensing the music for public television broadcast. We have to pay the music publishers and record companies for the additional rights for DVD and digital media distribution.

 Please help us to complete the final phase of this important media project. Your tax-deductible donation will bring the music and folk culture of this forgotten era of barn dance radio to new and diverse audiences. Your support will ensure that The Hayloft Gang documentary lives on for future generations to understand and appreciate this important untold chapter in American music and popular culture. 

I’ve had the chance to preview the film, and let me tell you it’s earned all of our support just for re-introducing audiences to the DeZurick Sisters’ wild trick yodelling.  It’s also a joy to see moving pictures of Patsy Montana, one of the earliest and biggest Country stars, who wrote her own songs and led her own band, way back before modern women like Ani DiFranco reclaimed that territory.  These people were creating popular music, with no precedents.  The DVD promises to have more accordion acts for us like the Massey Family, who brought country music to urbane audiences as the first pop-country band (at least the first who’d actually grown up on a ranch in New Mexico, rather than in some eastern city.)  Please consider offering your support to bring this historic project to fruition.  Future audiences are waiting to see it and will be thankful.

Massive crown (1,000 or more?) on city street, waiting to get in to see the National Barn Dance.

Eager fans waiting in front of the 8th Street Theatre, Chicago, IL 1933. Courtesy: Southern Appalachian Archives, Berea College

Take care y’all.

Oh, yeah!  I forgot to mention one intriguing shot from the film.  I’ll just post it here with the question:

Outdoor stage with performers in "western" gear, and an African American fiddler in an Uncle-Sam costume.

Who is the black fiddler seen momentarily at 15:32 in the documentary?

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: