Hoping to capture a way of life and a dialect of the people living in and near the recently created Great Smoky Mountain National Park, the National Park Service hired graduate student Joseph S. Hall in 1939. A linguist by training at Columbia University, Hall traveled throughout the Great Smoky Mountain region for eight months, recording stories and songs to document the speech of the people in the region before their way of life became modernized.
During the course of his field work, he interviewed 58 people, ranging in ages from 12 to 96. What’s incredible is the equipment he used, which seems impossibly antiquated today. One of his recorders was powered by a truck battery. The other was a portable battery pack. In addition to recording conversations, though, Hall recorded the songs and music of the region, which ranged from blues and country to gospel, British Isle ballads and folk.
Music CD with 34 Historic Recordings
In 2010 the Great Smoky Mountains Association released an album of these original recordings called “Old-Time Smoky Mountain Music.” It became a hit and was nominated for a 2013 Grammy Award for Best Historical Album. Along with the album, which can be purchased from the Great Smoky Mountains Association, music lovers can delve into a 40-page booklet that includes historic photos, song lyrics and more. Purchase the music CD of 34 original recordings from the Great Smoky Mountains Association at www.smokiesinformation.org/shop/oldtime-smoky-mountain-music-3
For new recordings of the old songs captured by Hall, check out “On Top of Old Smoky: New Old Time Smoky Mountain Music.” The Great Smoky Mountain Association worked with a number of singers to produce this album. Performers include Dolly Parton and Norman Blake. www.smokiesinformation.org/shop/new-old-time-smoky-mountain-music-3197
Great Smoky Mountains Association