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Echoes from the Archives: Almeda Riddle and Mance Lipscomb, 1970

An elder white woman with short, wavy white hair, horn-rimmed glasses, and a white bonnet tied at her neck looks on sternly.

Almeda Riddle on the 1973 Folklife Competition.

Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives

The Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives is sort of a portal—to different nations, to the minds of nice artists, and to particular moments in time.

In March, in celebration of Girls’s Historical past Month and the upcoming Ozarks program, we shared on Fb a short profile of the legendary Arkansan ballad singer Almeda Riddle, together with a photograph from the Rinzler Archives of her performing on the 1983 Competition of American Folklife (now the Smithsonian Folklife Competition). But it surely wasn’t the primary time Almeda had sung on the Competition. Hoyle Osborne commented with the next story:

I obtained to go to along with her after I was a college-age volunteer stage supervisor at Smithsonian Folklife, 1970. Almeda and [renowned Texan blues guitarist] Mance Lipscomb caught up with me. She mentioned, “Vance (sic) and I’ve been practising a tune collectively. He has a workshop in your stage ending at 3, and I’m on the following workshop. Might we do our tune proper at 3?” The very concept of two legendary elders asking permission from a twenty-year-old! The tune was “The 4 Marys.”

With simply these bits of data, Dave Walker—our audiovisual specialist within the Rinzler Archives—discovered and excerpted the recording of this exact second. In truth, we hear Hoyle asking Mance if Almeda can be part of him on stage, after which asserting the impromptu duet to the viewers. After a minute of discovering and adjusting their key, the 2 artists, each then of their seventies, sync superbly.

To dig deeper into this reminiscence, I reached out to Hoyle, now an expert people singer and pianist in New Mexico. His associate in music and in life Jane Voss, coincidentally, had been a singer on the 1976 Folklife Competition. Again in 1970, Hoyle was a scholar on the College of Pennsylvania and a people music DJ on the faculty radio station, WXPN—his entrée to the folks revival world.

When Almeda and Mance approached me about doing their duet, I used to be keenly conscious of their respective abilities and reputations. I had seen Almeda carry out on the College of Texas after I was about sixteen, and I’d seen Mance in an out of doors festival-style live performance in Zilker Park.  I understood instantly that this was going to be a singular efficiency.

After I heard Almeda check with “Vance,” I understood that she was accustomed to the identify due to the Arkansas folklorist Vance Randolph. I’ve by no means heard of one other “Mance” [a name he adopted in his youth, short for “emancipation”]. Mance was so gracious and unassuming. Again residence in Navasota, Texas, he did a lot of entertaining for white of us’ picnics and so forth. I by no means mentioned it with him, however I doubt that he would ever have corrected one thing a white individual mentioned.  As you’ll be able to hear within the recording, Almeda handled Mance as her colleague and good friend, which is exceptional for a Southern white individual of her era. They appeared completely snug collectively.

I knew on the time that I used to be having an unbelievable expertise, so it’s thrilling to have such a robust souvenir of it. Within the context of the Competition, these exceptional moments had been fairly frequent.

The truth that an archive can transport us to the Nationwide Mall round 3 p.m. on July 1, 1970, is because of the cautious recording, logging, digitizing, and information administration of our documentation workforce. However typically, in a case like this, it appears, to me, like magic.

An elder Black man plays guitar in front of several microphone. He is partly obscured by the edge of the stage. Black-and-white photo.
Mance Lipscomb on the 1965 Newport People Competition

Picture by Diana J. Davies, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives

Elisa Hough is the editor and social media supervisor for the Heart for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. Because of Hoyle Osborne for sharing his Competition reminiscence and to Dave Walker for retrieving the recording.

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