In de voorgaande twee deeltjes van deze serie sprak Bill Clifton over ‘song collecting’. In zijn tienerjaren heeft Bill Clifton zelf een poging ondernomen om ook songs te gaan verzamelen, daarover gaat dit gedeelte van het interview. Aan het einde van zijn verhaal geeft hij aan dat A.P. Carter (ook wat het verzamelen van songs betreft zijn grote voorbeeld) daarin toch handiger was dan hijzelf. Net als de voorgaande keren wens ik je veel plezier toe met lezen en luisteren. Heb je aanvullingen en/of commentaar, laat het me op de ondertussen bekende wijze weten alsjeblieft. Ik pas dan een en ander aan…
Collecting songs in New York state
That’s the way I collected, not the way like A.P. collected or like, I know I mentioned Bascom Lamar Lunsford. And he collected by going out to people’s homes and singing them a song to encourage them to sing a song or two for him. I did try to collect that way, one time I tried to collect that way. I went up to up-state New York. I didn’t have a tape machine and I went to The Library of Congress in Washington. I was about eighteen years old and they entrusted me with one of their tape machines when I told them I wanted to collect some songs from the Adirondack Mountains. And I wanted to go up there and see what I could find. Well, I went around and I did find one person who sang me a song called ‘The Dismal Swamp’. And the Dismal Swamp is in Southwest Virginia and Northeastern North Carolina and so it was very strange for me to find that song in upstate New York. And the same person who sang that for me sang another song, which was, I think the Delmore Brothers called it ‘The Frozen Girl’. About a girl who is being taken to a dance in a horse and buggy by her boyfriend or her suitor and she was in a silk dress. And it was very cold and she kept saying that she was getting cold. And he was saying: ‘Well, are you getting warmer now?’ And she says: ‘Yes, now I’m getting warmer’. Well, that was when she was actually freezing to death. That story may come from the Adirondacks; I don’t know where it comes from.
I didn’t collect very many and I got to one person who, I thought, was going to be able to sing me some songs, he was interested. ‘Yeah, he would sing me a song’ and so I had to use the battery of the car to get electricity. And I put up the hood of the car and hooked up this tape machine and he sang me some Yale bulldog song from Yale University? And I thought: ‘How can I stop this man?’ Well, he said: ‘Can I hear that?’ and I said ‘Sure’ so I played it back for him. And he said: ‘Oh, I’ve got another song.’ And he began to sing more Yale University songs and stuff from I don’t know what but I mean nothing that I wanted. But I just couldn’t stop him. So actually there was a woman and one man that I got a couple of nice songs up there. And I got one fiddle player who played some nice old-time fiddle. I don’t know if I still have that tape. I never did anything with that tape but…
It didn’t go to the Library of Congress? No, it didn’t go to the Library of Congress. I took their tape machine back and I told them I wasn’t successful in getting anything worthwhile. That I’d found a man who had gone to Yale University and wanted to sing me a bunch of songs from Yale and that was about it. But I did think at some point that I might use the version of ‘Frozen Girl’ or ‘The Dismal Swamp’. But ‘The Dismal Swamp’ is a very, well, it’s a folk song of the type that you stretch it out for about four or five minutes but it’s a very, hmm, Fm not sure how I can put this, a bit depressing and very sort of like you’d sing at a funeral. Not something you feel very good about singing, so I never have sung it.
It would fit with the title, though… Yes, absolutely.
And why did you go and try to collect these songs? Oh, I probably fancied the idea of being able to do some of the things that A.P. had done. And tried to find some things that were worthwhile. But I didn’t have his approach. I just took a tape machine and… A.P. could meet people easily and well and I was a young kid who didn’t know how to meet people very well. I came from a different background altogether where you meet people only when you’ve introduced to them, as a formal meeting. And you don’t just come in and say: ‘Well, let me sing you a song here’ and ask if you can get them maybe to sing you a song. I did take my guitar with me and I did offer to sing but I knew I wasn’t going to be as good at it as A.P. was. I guess that was the reason I tried though.