Summer Music Memories

If you have ever been a listener to popular music, you’ve probably had the experience of “summer” music – when a song or an album becomes identified with the summer season.

It might be even be a particular summer – the summer just after high school graduation, or the summer you got your first full-time job, or the summer just after you met that significant other.

For whatever reason, music has always been a trigger for memory, probably exceeded only by the memory of particular fragrances.  But “summer music” has certainly played a part in many folks’ lives.

One of the biggest groups to perhaps epitomize the whole concept is The Beach Boys. Formed in 1961 in California, and composed of three brothers, their cousin, and a friend, their tight harmonies and infectious melodies alone would have earned them a spot in pop music history.  But it was their subject matter and lyrics that put them in possibly the top spot for summertime music.  Scoring thirty-six Top 40 hits, more than any other American band, their music has lived on for over 50 years.  Especially “summer” memories are found in “Surfer Girl;” “Fun, fun, fun;” “I get around;” ”Help me Rhonda;” “Sloop John B.;” “Good Vibrations;” and “Kokomo.”  All of these songs and more can be found on the music CD “Greatest Hits – 20 Good Vibrations” at the Fontana Regional Library.

Another song that resonates with many is the song “Cruel Summer” by the British female pop group Bananarama.  This song was originally released in the UK in 1983, but hit it big internationally in 1984 when it was included in the movie The Karate Kid. Other songs by the group have a definite summer feel: “Venus” and “Na Na Hey Hey,” for example, although the latter two were not original to the group; all 3 songs can be found on their Greatest Hits collection.

Jumping back to the late 50’s, “Summertime Blues” by Eddie Cochran captures the downside of being a teenager during the summer. Covered by many artists, from The Who to Alan Jackson to Jimi Hendrix, this song has been a perennial favorite; Eddie’s original version can be found on the album Absolutely the best of the 50s.

One with some personal memories for me is “Summer Breeze” by Seals and Crofts. Found on the album of the same name, the song paints a word picture of an idyllic summertime domestic world. Also on this album is the song “Hummingbird,” which has another summer memory link.

A much less idyllic but still compelling song is “Summer in the City” by The Lovin’ Spoonful from the mid-60s.  Contrasting daytime and nighttime (“at night it’s a different world”), the song incorporates the sound of car horns (a VW beetle, no less) and jackhammers. The library has the album Entertainment Weekly 1966 which includes this hit.

The group Chicago tells a story of a typical but ideal summer day in the song “Saturday in the Park.” Including lyrics about a man selling ice cream and the Fourth of July, many people have experienced the laid-back memories related in the song, which can be found on the album Chicago: Greatest Hits v. 1.

While some of the summer time hits referenced so far come from groups with many big hits, like Chicago and the Beach Boys, one of the less well-known songs comes from the group Mungo Jerry.  The group came from the UK, and this was their only US hit.  But it became one of the best-selling singles of all time, and while it was a “one hit wonder” you can still hear it played during the summer: “In the Summertime.” (And you can find it on this CD: Best of the 70s)

Another song that calls back some personal memories of summer for me is the DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince hit “Summertime.” Before Will Smith became a well-known actor, he and his friend Jeff Townes were a hip-hop duo.  This song was their biggest hit. It relates summer memories of the pair’s high school summers growing up in Philadelphia, and can be found on the New Millennium hip-hop party album.

Well, I think I probably just scratched the surface of summer music memories with these songs. I hope at least a few triggered some good thoughts for you – please let me know in the comments if you have your own favorites!

[P.S. The links will take you to a music video of the song or the library music CD so you can check them out!]

Music & Movement Make Merry

child-1065633_1280Using music and movement with young children is just plain fun!  Have you ever thought to yourself what you would do with all the energy children seem to possess?  Perhaps you have even said, “Boy, I wish I could bottle all that energy?”  I know I have!  Using music and movement can have educational benefits along with giving children an outlet for all that energy they seem to have.

Music mimics the rhythm and rhyme of language.  When we speak, our voices change and adjust to help us convey meaning.  Fortunately, we do not speak in one flat monotone all of the time. Music does this too.  No, I do not mean the flat monotone you might hear when Charlie Brown’s teacher is talking to the class.  Music rises and falls, is fast or slow, is melodic or punctuated just like our natural language.  This makes music the perfect partner for supporting children’s language development.

One element in music is singing.  Singing slows down language so you can hear the individual pieces and parts of language.  This supports the development of phonological awareness.  Phonological Awareness refers to hearing and playing with the smaller sounds of words.  Check out a great Every Child Ready to Read source at the Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy site to learn more about pre-literacy skills.

You can use music and songs found on CD’s, online options, songs learned along the way, and songs that have been made up by you and the child/ren.  YouTube can yield limitless options.  One of my favorites is jBrary on YouTube.  These videos feature how-to’s on simple children’s songs and incorporate movement as well.  They are led by two Canadian librarians Dana and Lindsey who take simple to a whole new level.

Some lyrics require active listening so you can follow the directions.  One of the favorites I have used in storytime is “Milton the Mouse Likes to Help Around the House” (EXERSONGS, Jack Hartmann, 2008) and “Bop ‘Til You Drop” (KIDS IN ACTION, Greg & Steve, 2000).  Both of these songs have the participants do various motions or actions to act out the song.  For example, Milton likes to help sweep so children can mimic sweeping with a pretend broom and in “Bop ‘Til You Drop” the participant has to follow what Greg & Steve are indicating for them to do such as to float like a feather or go in slow motion.   This movement encourages active learning and play.

Adding movements such as sign language or hand gestures gives a symbolic meaning which gives children practice understanding that something stands for something else.  This is a very important pre-literacy skill to develop and is vital when children are later learning to read.  Think about it.  This shape, “L”, is the letter “el” and it makes a sound and can show up in words like love, lost, and light. It’s a symbol with multiple meanings.  Giving children experiences with symbolic meaning informally will have long term benefits when they begin to learn the more complicated features of our language.

Recently, I had been using one of my favorites in storytime, “I Know a Chicken” (WHADDYA THINK OF THAT?, Laurie Berkner, 2000).  The children love it and we get to use shaker eggs which are always a hit.  I decided to add an element of movement that brought in symbolic meaning.  I added the sign language symbols for chicken and egg.  This did not slow down our use of the shaker eggs and gave the children practice in some sign language they may not have known and a chance to use symbols to represent something they knew.  Definitely a win-win-win situation!

So, keep tapping your toes and singing those tunes not just for the educational benefits but for the FUN of it!

Read It Again, Sam: 15 Music Biographies

I really fell in love with music at the same time that many of us do, as a teenager. I’d heard plenty of music in our house before then, from Big Band to the Beatles to Kiss to The Statler Brothers, but it took a bit for music to really grab hold of me, and to develop my own musical identity. Over the following decades that identity has shifted and morphed some, but not to any great degree. I like what I like, and you should too.

See, that is the thing. Music is a great unifying force, but we do allow it to be divisive as well. It shouldn’t really matter to me what music you enjoy, even if I think it is lousy. Often we will disregard an entire genre just on principal. Not cool. The fact is that music is something we should all be able to agree to disagree on. Let’s give that a try, shall we? I myself do not care for Led Zeppelin.

Girl in snow
This random picture is totally not a distraction from my inflammatory statement. Did it work?

I know, that seems almost sacrilegious, and it nearly caused a familial rift with my father-in-law. But here is the thing: I freely acknowledge that Zeppelin is a great and influential band. Just because I don’t like Robert Plant’s vocal stylings doesn’t mean I’m saying that they are no good. We should try to focus on the positives, not the negatives.

So, music biographies. There are a lot of them. We have dozens of them here at this library. Plus the ones that don’t technically qualify as biography, since biographies are about a person and a band isn’t a person. Books about bands go in the music section (782 in Dewey). I thought about some different ways I could approach this, and in the end decided it was about the music. Each title I selected is therefore accompanied by a song tidbit. Hopefully you will be inspired to read (and listen to) not necessarily these books (artists), but any that strike your fancy.

45 rpm records
Yes, I know what these are. I used to have a bunch.
  1. David Bowie: Starman by Paul Trynka. It took Bowie a while to make it big in the US. One of his earliest hits on this side of the pond was “Young Americans”, from his 1975 album of the same name. Backup vocals on the track were provided by a young American (pun totally intended) who would go on to have some success of his own: Luther Vandross.
  2. Passion is a Fashion: The Real Story of The Clash by Pat Gilbert.  “Should I Stay or Should I Go” was The Clash’s first #1 single in the UK, albeit a decade after it was first released. It reached #17 on its initial release, and only #45 in the US. You can hear Mick Jones yell “Split!” on it, as he was startled by Joe Strummer during the recording session. The title of the song presaged the band’s breakup.
  3. In the Pleasure Groove: Love, Death, & Duran Duran by John Taylor with Tom Sykes. Taylor is the bass player for Duran Duran, and has some tales to tell. Note that I say “is” and not “was”. Many people view them as an 80s band, but they have never stopped recording or touring. In fact a new album drops shortly. One of their first hits was the iconic “Girls On Film”, written by lead singer Andy Wickett. Bonus points to all of you going “wait, what? Who?” Wickett was soon replaced by Simon Le Bon, and was paid £600 for the rights to the song.
  4. Take Me To The River by Al Green with Davin Seay. Green’s “Love and Happiness” was co-written with Teenie Hodges, who started on it in between intimacies with his girlfriend and watching wrestling. Loyal readers will know we are all about the wrestling here. Hodges sang (yes, sang) the guitar riff to Green while they were in the car, and they recorded it that same night.
  5. Enter Night: A Biography of Metallica by Mick Wall. Once upon a time I didn’t like Metallica, but I got better. The band broke big commercially with their fifth album, and one of the singles off of it, and their first true (power) ballad, was “Nothing Else Matters”. Singer and rhythm guitarist James Hetfield wrote the song one handed, sort of. He was on the phone with his girlfriend, and was using his other hand to pluck out a new melody on his guitar, which became this song. Hetfield is also notorious for writing the lyrics to his songs well after the music is written. Some Metallica demos feature him just sort of humming along for songs that have no words yet.
    da Vinci painting
    Leonardo da Vinci’s “Portrait of a Musician”. See what I did there?


  6. Dark Star: The Roy Orbison Story by Ellis Amburn. Orbison was at the zenith of his success in the early 60s, as he put 22 songs onto the Billboard Top 40 in those years. His song “In Dreams” was a bigger hit in the UK, propelling him into a tour with an up and coming band he had never heard of called The Beatles. He followed that up with a tour of Australia along with some chaps called The Rolling Stones.
  7. Dolly: My Life and Other Unfinished Business by Dolly Parton. It is odd now to look back and realize that Parton was once a partner. She started performing as a child, and found success early. She was asked by country singer Porter Wagoner to join his syndicated television and road show. Fans of his program were slow to warm to her, and some thought that she would never go any farther. Her single “Jolene”, which she based off of real life experiences, proved the critics wrong, and her stardom was assured. Now, who’s up for Dollyworld?
  8. Slash by Slash with Anthony Bozza. Slash has played guitar for many projects over the years, but he is still best known for his work with Guns N’ Roses. One day in the studio he was messing around on his guitar doing warm up exercises when he came up with an interesting riff. Although he didn’t think much of it, the rest of the band did and had him play it again. Hearing this going on, lead singer Axl Rose started writing lyrics (about his girlfriend, Erin Everly, daughter of one of The Everly Brothers) and voila, a song was born. That song was “Sweet Child O’ Mine”.
  9. Girl In A Band by Kim Gordon. Gordon was the bass player and a vocalist for Sonic Youth. Back in the day she was asked to interview LL Cool J for Spin magazine and the two artists clashed. In fact, they clashed severely enough that it inspired a song, “Kool Thing”. The song has several references to LL, and the video director kept the theme going by styling it similarly to LL’s “Going Back To Cali” video. On top of all that, Chuck D from Public Enemy provides guest vocals on the track.
  10. It’s Only Rock’n’roll: The Ultimate Guide to the Rolling Stones by James Karnbach and Carol Bernson. “Gimme Shelter” was a fitting song to come out at the end of the 60s. Songwriters Mick Jagger and Keith Richards (both of whom have their own biographies) channeled the turmoil of the era into a song suitable for the end of the world. Richard said that his guitar fell apart on the last take, “as if by design”.
    Record store
    Hey, a record by my favorite band is in this pic!


  11. Dreamgirl: My Life As A Supreme by Mary Wilson, with Patricia Romanowski and Ahrgus Juilliard. Sometimes success comes quickly. Sometimes. The first handful of singles that The Supremes released failed to find that success. In fact, they came to be known as the “No-hit Supremes” around the Motown offices. The ladies didn’t have high hopes for their next song, feeling that it might not have the hook to make it a hit. “Where Did Our Love Go” did in fact have that hook, and was their first #1 single. The next four singles they put out followed suit.
  12. Does The Noise In My Head Bother You?: A Rock ‘n’ Roll Memoir by Steven Tyler with David Dalton. Tyler is the singer of Aerosmith, and there are a legion of stories about that band’s rollercoaster career. The one I like best is about what is probably their most famous song, “Walk This Way”. You probably think this is where I do a Run-D.M.C. name drop, but you’d be wrong. No, what I like is where the name of the song comes from, which is from a line in the movie Young Frankenstein. I may not always like Aerosmith’s songs, but I have to give props to Mel Brooks fans.
  13. Can’t Be Satisfied: The Life and Times of Muddy Waters by Robert Gordon. Maybe this is an obvious one, but here goes. Waters recorded “Rollin’ Stone” in 1950 as a variation on the oldie “Catfish Blues”. How did his version come out? Both Rolling Stone magazine and The Rolling Stones band are named after it.
  14. Lovesick Blues: The Life of Hank Williams by Paul Hemphill. Thinking of Williams might make you lonely and tearful…wait, wrong song. The story goes that he wrote “Your Cheatin’ Heart” thinking about his first wife whilst driving with his second one. She wrote down the lyrics on the passenger seat for him. I’m assuming it was a pickup truck.
  15. Waging Heavy Peace: A Hippie Dream by Neil Young. Sometimes famous tunes come about in peculiar ways. Young’s “Heart of Gold” features acoustic instead of electric guitars. Why? He had hurt his back and couldn’t play the heavier electric one, hence some “softer” songs as he healed up. James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt provide backing vocals on this one.
    Aquarius Records storefront
    Aquarius Records in San Francisco. I used to buy records from Aquarius Records, but not this one. It was run by an old hippie, though.

    You all have your assignments now. Read and listen, share and discuss. Here is another good list of music memoirs. Oh, and if you aren’t sure what to listen to, maybe try The Ink Spots, or The Dresden Dolls, or Sleater-Kinney, or Dethklok, or M.I.A. And please share with me what you like.



Hit Me With Your Pet Shark

By Loretta

Most of us remember these immortal words from Pat Benatar – maybe not exactly like this.  But who can tell?  Maybe this is really what she said, instead of the alleged “Hit Me With Your Best Shot.”

Are you like me, loving music, but sometimes a little perplexed at what they just sang?  They call these misheard phrases (very often song lyrics), “mondegreens.”  By any other name, they would be easier to spell and just as funny.

When I first encountered the Internet, I looked up every musical thing I could think of.  I found the misheard lyrics fairly quickly.  Now, the artist pages seem old hat, but misheard lyrics are still a mainstay.

These are a few of my favorites:

The Beatles, Falling :
“Paul Lynde, yes I am Paul Lynde, but she keeps calling me Flanagan.”
(correct lyric : Falling, yes I am falling, but she keeps calling me back again.)

The Beatles, Michelle :
“Some day monkey gon’ play piano song, play piano song”
(correct lyric: Sont les mots qui vont tres bien ensemble.)

Elton John, Tiny Dancer:
“Hold me closer, Tony Danza.”
(correct lyric: Hold me closer, tiny dancer.)

George Harrison, Got My Mind Set On You:
“Thought my Mom sat on you.”
(correct lyric: Got my mind set on you.)

Percy Sledge, When a Man Loves a Woman:
“When a man loves a walnut.”
(correct lyric: When a man loves a woman)

Even countries aren’t exempt:

Canada’s National Anthem:
“Oh Canada, we stand on cars and freeze”
(correct lyric: Oh Canada, we stand on guard for thee.)

And of course I have a few of my own:

Dan Fogelberg, Same Old Lang Syne:
“She said she’d married her an army tent, kept her warm and safe and dry.”
(correct lyric: She said she’d married her an architect, who kept her warm and safe and dry.)

If you enjoy music as I do and would like a good laugh, I suggest you try and .  You’ll never be the same!

Best Place in Town!

By John

Where’s the best place to catch a “FREE movie, or to enjoy a “FREE concert? How about the best place to whet your appetite for a little action on the internet,  or quench your thirst by reading another wild, exotic, action packed adventure! How about a place to do that last minute studying with a buddy? Did I mention a cool relaxing environment to take a breather from the hectic pace, and this heat wave? That’s right, I’m talking about our local library.

For the last six months the FRL IT Services department has been visiting each of the local libraries. Mind you it wasn’t for catching a movie, although the Hudson Library’s newly renovated program room has the primo setup for it. We couldn’t help but peek in on some banjo picking and fiddle playing happening in Macon County Public Library’s meeting room. Some of our best lunch hours were spent just relaxing and watching the critters in, on, and around the pond while we sat in the quiet, peaceful “friendship garden” of the Cashiers Community Library. Marianna Black Library has the largest playroom, even if it’s called the “Auditorium” where we spent several of our lunches playing video games! Nantahala Community Library, where we’ve had to get up against walls to get out of the way of the patrons. For such a small library, it seems to be the hub of activity for that community.  Recently we’ve enjoyed our lunches on the balcony of the NEW Jackson County Public Library enjoying the vista of Pinnacle, and for today, listening to a live jazz ensemble performance.

Well, enough of what we’ve done during our lunch periods. What we’ve done during our work hours has had just a profound impact as all the events we’ve encompassed. The end result is using new technological capabilities to enhance the services to our patrons in all our libraries, large and small. To bring that service, available at one library to all our libraries, old and new.  Each of our libraries can now provide our patrons with the same computer time and reservation system, the same print management system, the same wireless laptops and netbooks, and the same wireless printing capability for their laptop. Other than the physical location and size of our libraries, our patrons will find little difference other than the personal touches of that community.

But let’s give credit where the credit is really due. All the planning involved with this humungous project was dependent upon our library staff. Which library in particular? All of them, from their technical services staff, reference and adult services staff, to their circulation and youth services staff, to the folks in some mystical place called “headquarters” land of automation, outreach, finance, human resources, and cataloging services. It was their ideas, suggestions, and comments that created the fuel for the fire, the lumber for the building. As with any large group of people with many voices trying to be heard at one time, a consultant was brought in to refine those ideas into a framework of goals and strategies for our IT Technology plan. From this plan we’ve been focusing on each and every goal and strategy to get to the point of starting this project.  It has taken us the last ten months of preparation to run cables, put together and configure networks, servers, access points, wireless gateways, and mobile computers to the implementation of all those pieces and then working out the little bugs at each library to finally say the project is complete. From the IT Services department we thank you, because it’s with your involvement that our libraries are indeed the best place in town!

Appalachian spring


By MaryAnn

Wildflowers have always been some of my favorite plants. I’m particularly fond of trillium and lady slipper,  maybe because they’re not only native, but at the same time, exotic. My mother was my first teacher when it came to wild plants and gardening. We dug up pipsissewa and other common native plants which grew in abundance on our property and created dish gardens to take to my grandmother. In fact, pipsissewa was one of the first words I learned to say and spell.

Yellow Trillium
White Trillium

As I was driving along US 441 through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in early April, I was awestruck  by the beauty of Appalachian spring. I know it happens every year, but I’m constantly and continually amazed at the soft greens, reds and pinks that color the trees and shrubs along the highway. The wildflowers were shamelessly exhibiting their full, glorious blooms. Both the yellow and the white trillium flourished in abundance all along the route, causing me to drive more slowly so I could enjoy them.

If you’re not familiar with the local flora, there are lots of resources available through your Fontana Regional Library.  Try a search for “wildflowers” and you’ll get a list of nearly 100 items. Pare that down to the ones that pertain to our geographical area, and you’ll still have plenty of information! There are books for children, books on landscaping with wildflowers, history and folklore, and field guides, too.

And if you like music, there’s always Aaron Copeland’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Appalachian Spring. Yes, there is a Pulitzer Prize for Music, and one has been awarded every year since 1943. Copeland’s ballet score, first presented at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.  on October 30, 1944, won the prize in 1945.

The children’s book Ballet for Martha: making Appalachian Spring tells the story of the collaboration of dancer and choreographer Martha Graham, composer Aaron Copeland and artist Isamu Noguchi, who together create this American masterpiece.

For me, the season officially begins when I hear the spring peepers. Maybe because I grew up near an area locally known as “Frogtown”, hearing spring peepers always brings a smile to my face and the knowledge that winter is really over.  According to National Geographic, these small amphibians are rarely seen, but often heard throughout the Eastern US and parts of Canada, beginning mid-March.

Whether it’s spring flowers, spring music or spring peepers, enjoy your version of Appalachian spring!

Anything But Poetry

By Loretta

I had determined I would not write about poetry again this year, even though National Poetry Month is coming up April 1st.  People hear it from me all the time, so I thought I would do something different, something fun.  I played around with a few ideas, some subjects I enjoy and hoped others might enjoy, too.  But, as much as I enjoy all those things, my mind kept wandering back to poetry.  It seems when I can’t get my head wrapped around anything else, I can always read poetry.  Old, contemporary, known, unknown : it doesn’t matter.

So here I am again, back at National Poetry Month.  Last year, I shared one poem with you, Patricia Goedicke’s Lost.  This year, I am going to share a song.  Yes, the music you listen to all day is poetry.  Some songwriters are considered by many to be great poets and have published books of their poems.  Leonard Cohen (whose music I don’t enjoy, but whose lyrics I love) has several books of poetry to his credit, including Stranger Music .  Jewel also published a book of her poetry called A Night Without Armor .  And there are many others. The poem I’ve chosen this year is from one of my favorite musicians, Marc Cohn.  The song title is Ellis Island.

I was driving down Ninth Avenue
As the sky was getting dark
Didn’t have nothin’ else to do
So I kept on riding to Battery Park
I stepped out in the damp and misty night
As the fog was rolling in
Man said, “Last boat leaving tonight
Is the boat for Ellis Island”

As my feet touched solid ground
I felt a chill run down my spine
I could almost hear the sound
of thousands pushing through the lines
Mothers and bewildered wives
that sailed across the raging sea
Others running for their lives
to the land of opportunity
Down on Ellis Island

“What is this strange paradise?”
They must’ve wondered through their cries and moans
After all they’ve sacrificed
Their faith, their families, friends and homes
Then on the Inspection Stairs
They were counted out or counted in
Frozen while the inspectors stared
Down on Ellis Island

Now me I only stumbled in
Just to wander around that empty hall
Where someone else’s fate had been
Decided in no time at all
And cases filled with hats and clothes
And the belongings of those who journeyed far
They’re strange reminders I suppose
Of where we’re from and who we are

But as the boat pulled off the shore
I could see the fog was lifting
And lights I never seen before
Were shining down on Ellis Island
Shining down on Ellis Island

Ellis Island

Unfortunately, Cohn doesn’t allow his music to wander about without a chaperone, so I can’t find a video of this one.  I wish you could hear it; it’s such a beautiful song.  (You can find it on his Burning the Daze album.)

When we think of poetry, we often forget that music is a large part of it, an everyday part.  So when you celebrate National Poetry Month, remember to celebrate your music!

Yes…I’m a banjo nerd.

By Jeff

Many already know this about me, but most do not:  I’m a banjo nerd.  I mess around with banjos alot.  In the evenings and on weekends, if I’m not trying to work out a new tune on a banjo, I’m either taking a banjo apart or putting a banjo together, or I’m reading the latest issue of Banjo Newsletter, or I’m surfing the forum posts on Banjo Hangout.  I’m, in a word, obsessed.

Here’s a quick anecdote to further illustrate my obsession:

A couple of years ago I attended a banjo workshop at Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, NC.  While one of the instructors was making a rather complicated point about hand position and finger contact with the banjo strings, I raised my hand and offered the process of how I had worked through the point he was making (this involved putting black magic marker on my middle fingernail and other silly things).  While the instructor seemed impressed with my strategy, one student in the workshop looked at me and jokingly called out “banjo nerd” loud enough for everyone to hear – and laugh.

The point of this little story isn’t that I was embarrassed – far from it.  My point is that, even in a room full of other banjo nerds, I was still the biggest banjo nerd!  So, I’m something like the “über-banjo nerd.”

All kidding aside, I have not always been a banjo nerd.  In fact, before I moved here in 2005, I don’t think I’d ever even held a banjo.  My obsession started shortly after moving here with materials found in the library.

Of course, sound recordings really got the ball rolling.  I also met, and got to know, many local musicians.  Just hearing old-time mountain music (as opposed to bluegrass music) for the first time, totally turned me on and got me interested in fiddles and banjos.  I was hooked pretty early and started checking out books on banjos.  After getting through America’s Instrument : The Banjo in the Nineteenth-Century and then Earl Scruggs and the 5-string Banjo. I pretty much knew my future.  Luckily, the library also provided some instructional materials too.  Wayne Erbson’s Clawhammer Banjo for the Complete Ignoramus helped me alot in the beginning and then Mike Seeger’s instructional video Southern Banjo Styles helped me reach new levels.

The internet also provided plenty of learning material for me, as well.  There are thousands of banjo videos on youtube (and a few really good ones too!).  Also, as I mentioned earlier, the forums at  Banjo Hangout provide a wealth of valuable information.

Again, with all kidding aside, there is a bigger point to this post.  A point that has nothing to do with banjos.  The point is that just about anyone can find information on their obsession at the library .  So, whether you’re a foodie, a political junky, or quilting freak, or a banjo nerd, the library will be there to help you with your obsessions.

I’ll end this post with a few of my favorite banjo jokes (there are hundreds of them):

Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, a good banjo player, and an old drunk are walking down the street together when they simultaneously spot a hundred dollar bill. Who gets it? The old drunk, of course, the other three don’t exist.

How can you tell if a music stage is level? If the banjo player drools out of both sides of his mouth.

What’s the difference between a banjo and a …

  • South American Macaw?  One is loud, obnoxious, and noisy; and the other is a bird.
  • Harley Davidson Motorcycle?  You can tune a Harley.
  • Onion?  No one cries when you cut up a banjo.


Purrfect Companions

Callie, photo by Deb Lawley

By Deb

June is Adopt A Shelter Cat Month.   Adopting a rescue animal can be a fulfilling and engaging experience for the entire family.  If you are thinking about adding a companion animal to your household, the library has many good books and other resources to help you with the experience.   Our communities have several shelters and organizations that can help you find the perfect match for your family.  It’s especially important these days, because the difficult financial times have forced many families to give up beloved pets.

I have been adopted by many cats (and a few dogs) over the years.  They just show up, often when we most need them.  For example, Waifer arrived on my door step the day of my mother’s funeral, and was with us for 18 years.  Shadow took up residence on our deck and refused to leave.  Callie came to us just before we lost Shadow to cancer 10 years later.  And Athena, well, I walked into my vet’s office to get cat food and Athena demanded that I take her home.  She’s like that – she doesn’t take “no” for an answer.  Even giant Anton who weighs 15 pounds more than she does can’t win an argument with her.


I currently have 5 cats who have chosen to live with my family.  They have distinctive personalities and can make life very interesting.  When Carl Sandburg wrote that “the fog comes in on little cat feet”, he wasn’t referring to my thundering hoard.  It never ceases to amaze me that a 4 pound kitten can make that much noise just running across the floor.  On the other hand, Callie has mastered the art of appearing magically on my lap without my noticing.

Cats have shared their lives with humans for thousands of years.  While the importance of cats in Egypt is fairly well-known, it appears that they originally domesticated us around 9,500 years ago in the area known as the Fertile Crescent.  From there they moved with us all over the world.  Today there are estimated to be more than 500 million domestic cats in the world, with about 82 million in the United States, alone.  A little myth-busting is in order here – that’s more than the 72 million dogs in the U.S., and surveys have shown that cats are as popular with men as with women.

Cats have been our companions, amused us, frightened us, and inspired us.  One of Broadway’s longest running musicals was Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats, based on T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats  Our fascination with cats shows no signs of diminishing.  Besides have books, poems and musicals written about them, they appear in art, photography, and now you can follow them on twitter.  Here are a few interesting websites, books, and recordings about our feline friends:



Cats, cats, and more cats: an audio anthology, edited by Jane Garmey

Cats : complete original Broadway cast recording


National Geographic cat shots by Michele B. Slung

Planet cat : a cat-alog by Sandra Choron

Before the Park – Life in the Smokies

By Stephen

Most of us in this area of North Carolina live in close proximity to the most visited national park in the United States: The Great Smoky Mountains National Park.   Last year the park celebrated its 75th anniversary with an array of  celebrations of the mountain culture that was endemic in the park’s area before it transformed a number isolated of communities into a national treasure.  Scattered across East Tennessee and Western North Carolina are individuals and descendants from  families who gave up their home places when the park was created so all Americans could enjoy the beauty of the mountains.  This is the first of a series of blogs describing library materials about the area before it became a national park, the founding of the national park, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as it is today.

There are number of books in the regional library’s collection giving describing life in the Smokies before the park was open:  Horace Kephart’s Our Southern Highlanders describes people who lived  in the “back of beyond.”   Kephart worked as a librarian in St. Louis before  escaping to the  Smokies, where he lived a simpler life on the  Hazel Creek watershed and worked to establish a national park in the Smoky Mountains.

In her book, Dorie, Florence Cope Bush describes her mother’s hard life  in the lumber camps in the Smokies, where her father worked at various dangerous jobs in Elkmont, before moving his family to the cotton mills in the piedmont of North Carolina.  The evolution of Elkmont from a lumber camp to a tourist attraction described by Vic Weals in Last Train to Elkmont.  The railroad tracks that originally carried lumber out of the Smokies, brought tourists from Knoxville into the mountains to the Wonderland Hotel.  (Note:  The modern Wonderland Hotel can be found in Wear Valley outside the park.)

A few families had an agreement with the Park Service to live on park land after the park was opened.  The last family to do this was the Walker sisters, who lived in Little Greenbrier.  Their story is told in The Walker Sisters of Little Greenbrier.  After an article about them was published in the Saturday Evening Post in the late 1940’s, the sisters became a tourist attraction.    At Home in the Smokies is another book the explores the daily lives of residents who lived in the Smokies before the park.  Michael Ann Williams explores the arts and crafts, as well the music of  the mountain people in the book, Great Smoky Mountains Folklife.

Another area of the GSMNP popular with modern-day tourists is Cades Cove.  Cades Cove: the Life and Death of a Southern Appalachian Community,1818-1937, by Durwood Dunn, traces the history of the valley, surrounded by the Smokies, before it became a haven for travelers.  Dunn is very critical of the Park Service for interpreting the valley as a pioneer settlement, when in reality people who lived there in the 20th century had automobiles and other modern conveniences.

Before the decision was made to build Fontana Dam, the southern boundary of the park was on the crest of the mountains west of Newfound Gap.  Construction of the dam meant the Little Tennessee River would be turned into a lake, drowning a series of communities along the river, forcing people to leave their homes and the railroad to alter the route from Bryson City to Wesser.

 In Passage Through Time by Michael George and Frank Strack, published by the Great Smoky Mountain RR, a chapter describes how the railroad route was changed with the advent of Fontana Lake.    The branch that went almost 14 miles to the Fontana community is now under water.

Proctor on Hazel Creek, a tributary of the Little Tennessee, was the site of a lumber mill early in the twentieth century before was it was swallowed up by the lake. In Hazel Creek From Then Till Now, a former resident  remembers life in the community of Proctor and the families who lived there.  Hazel Creek was also the site Horace Kephart’s “Back of Beyond.”   You hike the Hazel Creek area of the park at home by viewing Hazel Creek Hike, which is available from your local branch of the Fontana Regional Library.

Fontana:  a Pocket History of Appalachia, traces the history of the land under Fontana Lake and the watershed of tributaries of the Little Tennessee River along what is now known as the north shore of the lake.  The copper mine Eagle Creek and  lumber industry of Hazel Creek  had to make way for the production of electricity to help the war effort and the communities that were not drowned by the lake were otherwise taken by the expansion of  the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The grassroots movement that was responsible for the establishment of the Great Smoky Mountians National Park will the subject of my next blog.