$12 in advance

$15 at the door

Ninety years ago a set of historic musical recordings were made in downtown Asheville.    The recordings on old 78 rpm records brought together a wealth of regional talent and were among the very earliest recordings of music from the southern mountains.

White Horse Black Mountain is proud to celebrate this historic event along with other early recordings by musicians from the hills of Western North Carolina.

The evening begins with a multi-media presentation by Brody Hunt featuring slides and discussion of these early musical artists.   As a special treat, Brody will be playing old 78 rpm records from the era.

The program continues with a variety of  musicians paying tribute to this important part of our southern history including:

David Holt 
Adam Tanner 

Rayna Gellert
Brody Hunt and the 
Carolina Cud Chewers.

Excerpt from a recent article in Mountain Xpress by Ali Marshall

Local country musician Brody Hunt is a lot of things — a recovering hobo, a butterfly rancher and a dedicated collector of 78-rpm recordings. “Every collector gets their own niche,” Hunt says. His is pre-World War II country blues, including hobo songs and artists associated with Asheville. “It’s a rabbit hole,” he says. “You go through it and you find all these gems that nobody knows about, and there comes a time when you want to share them.”

Through collecting and research, Hunt discovered the Okeh Record sessions that took place in Asheville nearly 100 years ago. The New York-based label, in a bid to discover lesser-known Southern musicians, took trips to various locations where, with a portable studio, its engineers pressed wax test records. The Asheville session, held the last week of August in 1925, attracted musicians and vocalists from around the region, with styles ranging from jazz and minstrel offerings to gospel and country. A total of 60 records were cut in a makeshift studio on the rooftop of the Vanderbilt Hotel. All are exceedingly rare because, soon after they were made, electric microphones replaced acoustic.

Even if the technology was outdated, says Hunt, many of the songs captured during the sessions were wildly innovative. To celebrate the 90th anniversary of those recordings, he’s planned a celebration — part listening party, part history talk, part concert — on Friday, Aug. 28, at White Horse Black Mountain.

Among those who recorded during the Okeh sessions were: Ernest V. Stoneman, an autoharp player and ballad singer from Galax, Va.; West Asheville-based half-Cherokee multi-instrumentalist Ernest Helton; and fiddler J.D. Harris, who was living near Asheville at the time. But even though fiddles were prevalent and banjos even more so — and at a time that predated the popularity of clawhammer style — there were some surprises among the recordings. “When you listen to Fisher Hendley, it’s one of the most archaic things,” Hunt says of an artist performing a minstrel song with a particularly racist-sounding title. “But he’s singing from the black man’s perspective. It’s not a hateful thing. It’s a weird mix of different things he’d gleaned over the years and played in his own way.”

CLICK HERE to read the full article

Excerpt from a 2008 story by Kent Priestly in the Mountain Xpress:

It was the last week of August 1925, and the music industry had come to Asheville. Its temporary home and workshop was a turret-like structure atop the Vanderbilt’s roof, where, earlier in the week, the Okeh men assembled their make-do “laboratory.” The walls were hung with blankets in order to mask the faint clack of the trolleys, the bleat of horns and human voices rising from Haywood Street below, and the periodic rumbles and moans of the Vanderbilt’s elevator. The “reproducing device” was put together and leveled, and chairs set out for the musicians.

The next morning, the Asheville Citizen had the story: “There is a lot of respiration and perspiration connected with the making of phonograph records. This was demonstrated in the recording laboratory of George Vanderbilt Hotel yesterday when the Okeh Record Company began making a series of ‘hill country records.’”

“Today, a number of singers and players from the mountain country will be tried out before the reproducing device,” the Citizen newspaper story continued. “The first test is said to be one of the severest experiences the singer or player ever has to undergo and more difficult than an appearance before a large audience.”

In charge of all of this was Ralph S. Peer, artists-and-recording director for New York City-based General Phonograph Company and its label, Okeh Records. It was an increasingly familiar routine for Peer: arrive at a Southern city, set up, audition whichever musicians responded to the company’s advertisements, winnow the talent from the chaff, make some wax “test” records and return to New York. Already that year, Peer had led nine of these “field recording” excursions, including two dates in Atlanta, one in St. Louis and another in Kansas City.

Okeh’s Asheville stay, the Citizen report explained, was “the first time phonograph records have ever been made in the Carolinas.” Yet, already the company had found the atmosphere of Asheville “to be the best in the country for the reproduction of the human voice and instrument music.” It was expected, the story went on to relate, “that the company will make the majority of its Southern records in this city.”