the South Won the War. In addition to these accomplishments, Kennedy was a pioneering folklore collector. During the 1930s, while in charge of folklore, oral history and ethnic studies for the WPA’s Florida Writers’ Project, he collected vast amounts of Florida folklore. He also supervised other collectors, including Zora Neale Hurston. The collections his team assembled came to the Library of Congress’s Archive of Folk Song, which is now the American Folklife Center’s ar- chive. (Some of their recordings can be heard online in AFC’s online presentation Florida Folklife from the WPA Collec- tions, 1937-1942, at http://memory.loc. gov/ammen/flwpahtml/flwpahome.html)
Kennedy’s connection to the AFC archive was one of the things that intrigued Bob Edwards. More important, though, was the friendship between Kennedy and AFC director Peggy Bulger. Bulger, who wrote her dissertation about Kennedy’s work for the WPA, was asked to take part in a program honoring Kennedy on January 30, 2006. Sud- denly, as she put it, “who should come in but Bob Edwards and his producer?” Edwards, who was the emcee for the Stetson Kennedy tribute, was already well known to Bulger from his work at NPR: five years as co-host of All Things
Considered, followed by nearly twenty- five years as founding host of Morning Edition. Like thirteen million others, Bulger had tuned in regularly to hear Edwards’s mix of news, interviews and commentary. Although she said she was initially “slightly star-struck,” Bulger found Edwards easy to talk to. “We started talking about what the Ameri- can Folklife Center does, and what the Library of Congress does,” she recalled. “We realized that we could have a part- nership that we could work on together.” Edwards, impressed by what the Center and its unparalleled archive had to offer, decided he could help AFC with publicizing its many treasures. “People should know this is here!” he said.
recording constitutes a publication, and we must seek permission to publish from the families of the informants. In prac- tice, this can limit what we are able to air, but with decades of permission-cleared materials that have been released on LPs, CDs, and online presentations, AFC actually has thousands of items from which to choose. After audio selections are chosen, the AFC staff member who will be appearing on the air makes notes about each field recording, which are shared with Edwards. Using the notes and recordings as a guide, Edwards conducts the interviews at XM’s studios in Washington, DC. Finally, XM’s produc- tion staff edits the interviews and audio examples into a finished segment.
Building a Segment
A lot of work goes into the radio segment each month. First, the topic is selected by AFC staff, working with Edwards and Danyo. Danyo provides guidance on various aspects of The Bob Edwards Show that affect the selec- tion of material: their listeners’ prefer- ences, other material they have recently featured, etc. Once a topic is chosen, AFC staff members select approximately ten audio examples. According to AFC’s strict ethical policies, airing any field
Programs have included an introduc- tion to folklife, with Peggy Bulger, AFC’s director; a selection of African American recordings, with Michael Taft, the head of the AFC archive and a leading blues scholar; a presentation on traditions of work, with David Taylor, the head of AFC’s research and programs section; a discussion of the Center’s Burl Ives recordings with Stephen Winick, AFC’s writer and editor; and a set of songs about bad weather with both Winick and Nancy Groce, an AFC folklife specialist. Individual items that Edwards has aired are as varied as a description of lemon picking by a migrant laborer in 1940, an urban legend from the 1980s involv- ing lovers who become stuck together, a fiddle tune from the 1930s that we suspect is a direct precursor to the blue- grass classic “Orange Blossom Special,” and “The Christian Automobile,” a gos- pel song sung by a group of menhaden fishermen.
The results so far have met Edwards’s notoriously high standards. “It’s been very good for us, and I’m just very excited about it,” he told the AFC board. “I look forward to those interviews each month.”
Courtesy of XM Satellite Radio
“Treasures from the American Folklife Center Archive” is available to XM Radio’s approximately eight and a half million subscribers nationwide. In ad- dition, The Bob Edwards show can be purchased as a download, from www. audible.com. m