Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Gary is looking for some "Bad Asses and Disasters"

The Idaho Songs Project and the Search for Pre-radio Era Idaho Songs - 1/12/11

Happy New Year from Pickles Butte - home of the Idaho Songs Project. The Project’s mission is to find, interpret and preserve songs written before the radio era (before 1923) about specific Idaho people, places and events. Details are given at The attachment gives information on projects we have completed to date (I wasn't able to post the attachment but go to the above website, root around for a bit and you will find most of it. jr). Audio tracks of “Early Idaho Songs of the Month” are accessible via the website.

The Project is constantly looking for early Idaho songs to add to the bibliography accessible from the website. Currently, the collection contains around 200 pre-1923 Idaho-related songs but surely many more remain to be found. Perhaps you have some handwritten lyrics from a great-great grandmother in a cedar chest, or a song in an Idaho family history, or an obscure piece of Idaho sheet music. If so, please let me know. They deserve to be preserved for future Idahoans. Note that I am most interested in event ballads, political songs and other songs about specific Idaho people, places and events. I have literally hundreds of general song tributes to Idaho, and these generally are of much lower interest to the Project (although I still add them to the pre-1923 titles to the bibliography).

I am always looking for people to record an early Idaho song, since a Project goal is to archive audio tracks of as many of the early songs as possible. It becomes very tedious, self-indulgent and boring if I do too many recordings myself. Some recordings are posted as Early Idaho Songs of the Month on the Project website and a smaller number are issued in CD/booklet projects. Some might be used in the early Idaho songs programs I do all over Idaho as a member of the Speakers Bureau of the Idaho Humanities Council.

Note that in recording early Idaho songs, it is much more important for the performers to have a sense of Idaho history and ability to sing from the heart than to be the world’s greatest singer or picker, so we are not looking for musical professionals. If you are interested, let me know and I’ll look for an early Idaho song for you to learn and will record your rendition. The only requirement is that the song be rendered in a style that is plausible for the era in which it was written. A huge range of styles is acceptable - such as a capella, rhythm sticks, fiddle and banjo, guitar, brass band, pedal organ, pennywhistle, piano, accordion, etc. What I don’t want is anything electrified or modern instrumental styles (Scruggs banjo, modern folk style finger picking, etc.). Just put yourself back in the era and imagine what it might have sounded like.

But there are exceptions to every rule…….Missing (or nearly missing) from my early songs bibliography are some important topics. Examples are Idaho-specific songs about timbering, vigilantes, Basque and Latino experiences in Idaho and notable events such as the Gilmore mine explosion (1917), North Star Mine snowslide (1917), Blackfoot asylum fire (1889), Pickett’s Corral Gang (1863). To fill this gap, in 2011 I hope to put together a project roughly titled Bad Asses and Disasters of Early Idaho that will consist of recently written songs about early Idaho events for which we have found few, if any, songs. If any of you would like to be involved by writing and performing a compelling song on this theme, let me know. Also note that for this project, modern musical styles are acceptable. If you just want to write a song and have somebody else render it, that is cool too. Or, perhaps you know of an early poem that is perfect for adapting to a song.

And finally, there are a few recent dramatic Idaho events that inexplicably are not adequately covered in song, such as the Teton Dam and Sunshine Mine disasters. These are outside the main time frame of interest for the Idaho Songs Project (people, places and events before 1923), but are terrific topics for songwriting. So I’m issuing a challenge for somebody to write some good songs about these awesome events.

Regards – Gary Eller 208-442-8844

I forgot to add this "bad ass" sample by Gary Eller and John Larsen. Dynamite Harry Orchard

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