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Talking Folklore With a Radio Icon: AFC on the Bob Edwards Show.

By Stephen Winick

Bob Edwards interviews AFC folklife specialist Nancy Groce in XM’s Washington studios (Stephen Winick, AFC)


hat do the following things have in common: a Vaudeville song about peeking into people’s windows from an elevated train, an oral history in which a former slave recounts a savage beating, one of the first record- ings of the legendary blues musician Muddy Waters, and a story about U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg’s child- hood? If you guessed that they’re all ar- chival treasures at the American Folklife Center, you’re only partly right. They’ve also all been played by world-renowned radio host Bob Edwards on XM Satellite Radio’s The Bob Edwards Show.

distributed through Public Radio Inter- national. Each segment highlights audio materials from the AFC archive, along with interviews between Edwards and one or more members of AFC’s staff of experts. Together, Edwards’s two shows reach well over one million people each week, bringing the Archive’s most inter- esting recordings to a vast new audi- ence. Edwards summed up the partner- ship succinctly during remarks he made to the AFC Board of Trustees in Novem- ber. “We’re radio, we like sound,” he explained. “You have treasures here that no one has…it’s a natural fit.”

A new partnership between Edwards and AFC has resulted in a regular feature called “Treasures from the American Folklife Center Archive.” The feature airs monthly as part of The Bob Edwards Sho , and occasionally as part of Bob Edwards Weekend, which is nationally

How it Happened

The stage for “Treasures from the American Folklife Center Archive” was set in 2004, when Edwards left NPR’s Morning Edition for XM satellite radio, with the intention of doing a long-form





interview program. “I thought, ‘well, gee, who should I have on? I’d better make a list,’” Edwards remembered. “I purpose- ly went after people with long, fascinating lives, who were still around to talk about them.” This approach, which Librarian of Congress James H. Billington humor- ously referred to as “no nonagenarian left behind,” led to interviews with many prominent older Americans. Eventually, one of his producers, Andy Danyo, lo- cated the famous Florida folklorist, writer, and social activist, Stetson Kennedy.

Stetson Kennedy’s greatest claim to fame was infiltrating the KKK and publishing a 1954 exposé entitled I Rode With the Ku Klux Klan (later reis- sued as The Klan Unmasked). He also wrote several other books on civil rights issues in the southern United States, including Southern Exposure, Jim Crow Guide, and After Appomattox: How


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