Appalachian Artists: The Younger Generation; An Interview with Jack Wright of June Appal Records (Part 1)
Well hello again everybody. Welcome to another program in our series called Appalachian artists the younger generation. My name is gurney Norman and I'm playing host to this series for awhile as we try to actually define it and create it.
Perhaps some of you were listening when we talked to Bob Henry Baber and I had a good conversation with him and heard him read some poetry. Bob Henry's from West Virginia the young poet and one of literally hundreds of young people all over the the mountain region. Including. This is West Virginia North Carolina and Virginia and Kentucky and East Tennessee. One of my perception has been is that the hills are alive with with artists who are working in the media of all kinds. Filmmakers actors photographers writers singers poets and I'm interested in these people and it's been my privilege to to meet many of them and work with them in the last several years. I'm a writer myself and am originally from Hazard Kentucky and I don't remember if I was talking to Bob and said so or not but. After living for most of my life in Hazard Kentucky I've moved to California for a few years and I recently returned to my old home country and in Kentucky. And it's been a great pleasure for me to be meeting up with some old friends artists and and to meet some of the newer ones and to make new friends. Today my guest on the program is Jack Wright native of Virginia and is a singer songwriter and for the past several years has worked. In fact he's the founding director of Apple recordings over in Weisberg Kentucky which is also the home of Apple shop films. And so Jack is joining me today and I will be talking with him and getting him to tell about June Apple recordings and to talk about some of his work. There are. I hope you will tell us something of the history of Gene Apple and how it came into being and what its purpose is and what its function is and I know that has produced a series of excellent albums by musicians from all over the mountain area. And I hope we get to hear some excerpts from. From those records. So Jack gratings brother welcome and tell us a little bit about that you know Apple.
Well it's really good to be here with you gurney in the studio. We don't get much of a chance to come into the radio studio we have our own studio June Apple but it's strictly a recording studio. We have been some radio production there but it's really nice to be here and it's really a pleasure to be on this program and to be reaching out and maybe quite a few good people be able to hear this program. I hope they will.
I guess in order to talk about June Apple maybe we might go ahead and play it off one of our records that that we brought with us.
It's a group called the North Carolina group based near Asheville in Canton North Carolina a group called Luke's Mather string band and they have done one record with us and it's called Mountain swing they play a strange combination a beautiful combination of old time music and Western swing and it's called Mountain swing. Guess what we'll do here first. Good. Want to hear it. Well that for those of you might join light that was Luke Smathers string band and as an album off the June Apple recording label called brown skin girl and Luke and his brother and three other people are in that band and the banjo players the youngest member of the band he's about David Holt he's about 33 34 35 years old the rest of the band is in their late 60s and early 70s. So you can see that they there are sort of what we might call up an age but they're really still very professional and good musicians and they've got a real feel for what they do. They've been playing music since early 30s. And so it's really great to finally get their music out over the airwaves and get it out in viral so that people can carry on the tradition and I think that's what. June Apple recordings is really about is as we started in a time and place where there was a lot of activity and a lot of rebirth in the Appalachian region. That's why the name June Apple June Apple recordings of course Apple standing for Appalachian with June Apple was an old time fiddle tune and so we just took the name from that and called the company June Apple. So when was that.
Yeah that was about that happened about 1974 Of course we didn't have an album out until 1975. And June Apple started with the ad that we would try to promote and tried to not necessarily preserve that which was going on but try to make the link the ongoing process the artistic process of ongoing things like father to son or old timer to the younger people. And so our first record was Nimrod workman who is an 83 year old retired miner from Chattaway West Virginia just right over the river from Martin County Kentucky real near Williamson. He's an inspiration to us all. And. He's really been a driving force for June Apple and that he was the first record we recorded an incredible old timer full of vim and vigor. Here I'm not that talented and with with a whole range of old time songs. And he also writes songs today you know he can be in a situation and he'll write a song about today. And so he represents what we're about. He's not a folklorist dream because he does the old traditional ballads but he also makes up songs from anything any kind of situation he'll pull out a verse and make his songs right on the spot as it's an ongoing tradition and that's what we want June Apple to be is something that's not just preserving the past but is an ongoing reality in participating with the musicians of our time and being of help to them to get their work.
Two people and I know it must be great. Must have been great for musicians from around the region to suddenly realize that they had access a resource that these young people over in white had a studio that was actually dedicated to them musicians here.
Well that's what we're trying to do. We of course we we can't put every record out that we want to. We can't record everybody that we want to. We got our foot in the door sort of. And what we're doing is just trying to record people that are trying to make a living in music who have found it hard. It's a real rough road either way you go real commercial or grass roots or whatever. It's a real predicament it's hard work to make a living as a musician or any almost any kind of artist in the mountains you almost have to leave like you have been like I have for the stimulation but also just because of the economic factor and that.
Well one of the things that I've been encouraged by Jack is that to a small degree that's changing a little bit for us. Yeah. You know there's no great revolution that's taken place but the fact is. Through your work and the work of a lot of people in the collective around starting from Apple shop in wind you know Apple started in 75 I guess by now working with you know Apple there must be three or four people in the making at least subsistence Brower.
We have four people that work full time and we have two other staffers that are on that are working part time so we employ four people directly into two other people that are devoted to the record company and that's not now didn't exist before and right now.
And that's a that's an achievement. Well listen I was I was interested in talking about Nimrod workman and as you say he was his album was the first one you produced.
It wasn't just recently it came out in 75 but just recently IT WON AN ALBUM OF THE YEAR AWARD through High Fidelity magazine which we're real proud of. We knew it was a good album but it's good to get recognition from people. As such as a magazine like cough Ability Magazine they swing a lot of weight but it's really important to be recognized in the in the bigger bubble. Yeah and then we've been working in that. So at this time I guess I'd like us and I'd like. For Nimrod to sing a song that he wrote about his experience living and working in the coal mines he worked there forty two years and that's the title of this song which by the way was in the award of the Academy Award winning movie Harlan County USA. He was he was he sung this song in that movie.
So this is Nimrod workman 42 years particularly years I worked in a coal mine.
And I've got to start add to our danger for denying grandchildren. I composed a song and made it what outdoor can ruin my night. Darren Cole my knee pad. This song is for you to hear. Fardy where and I'm not. Doing a better run down and cold.
Letdown in bad beat or the bride did go.
Back in and are darker and. Made up my vaunted.
Cab. Got. That Hard.
Say to me than it were if I got high and then my.
Dad very bad. Try and meet.
The chair it too.
I went to the doctor and I say. Dude. You say you know where they be. Dad. I. Use a bad day. Go back to that cold my where they got to be when Mack said am I both to my advantage.
Say no come. On compensation pay that doctor higher.
You're a good boy.
Well that's Nimrod workman Lannan. So so he is a real inspiration to us and maybe some people can understand why sayings that way but it's really incredible especially when you get to know him. So from that point we had no idea what to do with that record because we had no distribution system we had no what we didn't know how to get these records into the stores. We didn't know how that worked. We were just young crazy hillbillies trying to. To do something and we didn't know how the system worked we didn't know how to get that record out to the public.
You literally started from scratch with a reggaeton.
And so what happened was just a process of trial and error and experimentation and communication with other small record companies to see how it worked and what made it work. And after about a year or two we got a fairly small but efficient distribution system going. And since then we've grown to have about 18 or 20 distributors and a few stores outside of those distributors that that handle our records we send our record records to a distributor and he in turn puts them in stores so that's we still don't have the distribution of some like the large record companies because our records aren't that commercial. And but anyway they're getting out to the public. And that's that's what really excited as well.
The distribution to distributors would be interested in you know Apple Records because they're good and because they're original and. So many of the musicians let's say like Nimrod there's no you know Nashville recording studio who's found a place for Nimrod I would wouldn't think there is not a commercial music that he makes. And yet it's vastly important to me and Rod and all the rest of us you know I was initially what you were saying earlier Jack that about how part of the maybe the main purpose and service that you know Apple Records is serving is that it's serving as a connecting link between nimrods generation and Luke Smathers generation. These are our seniors you know who preceded us as artists here in the mountains. And that you are.
And you know people are.
Working so closely with such people and must be it must be a great feeling and an inspiration.
Yeah it gives you a sense of of an ongoing time continuity. It really makes you feel good that you see a man say like us Nimrod workman who at the tender age of 78 comes into a whole new situation in life where most people are winding down and preparing to die. Nimrod is winding up and getting out of his coal mining business for his coal mining career and his business of raising 13 children into a public performance on the road on a whole new audience a whole new whole new audience and just coming alive coming out of there with the disease black. His health supposedly bad but now he comes out of there and surprises everybody and here he's still kickin much harder than I am with 83. You know that's a really beautiful thing to see happen that that towards the end of life he's got a whole new program going on and delighting thousands and thousands of people.
Well you see him in the larger context talking not only about the musicians but the writers you know the poets. I think as a writer myself give a good deal of thought to the fact of how fortunate I am and my generation of writers are simply to be living as neighbors to the writers who have seen your generation you know. A friend of Mr. James Steele one of Kentucky's great writers and he's been a great inspiration to me as my image for it my word for it is the whole idea of the handing down of the passing from one generation to another. And that I'm kind of in the middle generation you know and I that's why I'm going to move to try this sort of radio experiment this whole idea of having a series of interview type programs with people who are at work young people who are at work around the mountains and as artists in the various media. If you if you tuned into this program late and wonder what we're doing and who we are again. My name is gurney Norman and I'm playing host to this new series of radio programs that's called Appalachian artists the younger generation. And my guest today is Jack Wright who is a singer and a musician in his own right and in fact I want to talk him into singing to us here after a while but his work of the last five years has been too. Direct and coordinate June Apple Records in the heights of Kentucky.
So we talk about these older generation of musicians and I know that that the young folks are coming now with their music to record. June Apple and I wondered who you had. You know what you have to say about some of those folks.
Well we've recorded that June after several records but not only old people but younger people like we were saying one such person is Sparky Rucker who's from Knoxville Tennessee and he's been seriously playing music and on the road for several years now.
But he's become quite a professional rider and singer and. And like a lot of people he's sort of gotten back into his roots and he started playing blues which the primitive style blues or some of the just acoustic Delta kind of blues in the old time blues is sort of dying out you don't see too many or hear too many black people in this day and age who are say into a jazz or a more progressive rhythm and blues or yeah or something like that so Sparky is in the old tradition of Johnny. And even Robert Johnson. And so we're going to play a cut here for you call cold and lonesome on a train which is a song that Sparky wrote and it's also one that is the title song of the album my sparkies album called cold and lonesome on the train. So we'll listen to that now.
Traveling across the country just as dark as it could be. Might be flecked you don't want to just gain hardness.
That I heard and suddenly stand the kids off to go.
I sometimes feel when I'm traveling alone.
Like that in Alberta Canada when tennis things your moment and the day when you got home was. The drizzling rain. Did it hit the World and loans on.
The truth. With memories of sunsets and the love that live behind all these times that I have time just to find.
That the fading dreams and visions of friends close to again make me an offer gold and loans on the head. On the street.
A week since I slept right lota cannot read here you're traveling with this way seems to.
Be in a lot of places for my Dave and I began singing and you're.
Right. The sun set. Up behind dial. Up time and just.
The fading dream. This is a group of loans to gain making off the gold and.
The joy. On training.
What is really fun Jack as we are glad to get here sparky crank down on that line again.
I think we ought to say that Sparky's album cold and lonesome on a train and all the albums on the Juno label are. Are available through mail order or through record stores in your community if you could. Find them and if the record stores in your community don't have the June Apple Records it might be a good service to all of us to encourage them to. So I'll just make a little announcement of the June Apple address and so that some communication can go on if you're interested. June Apple recordings box 7 4 3 Kentucky 4 1 8 5 8. And I know that you know what it is too bad we don't have time just to just to play all these albums and and all the musicians. That have recorded with you you know and so on. We're going to have to leap over we're just doing the representative sampling here too to get the full range of the June Apple recording list. You'd have to have to have the catalog which is available at that same address. I tell you I'd like to hear a little hear from is Malcolm Dalglish and Grey Larsen and from banish misfortune just a few words about that and then you get into a little bit amusing.
Well these two young guys from Cincinnati just put this record together and they hadn't toured much they hadn't. They had just gotten to know one another and just started to play music together and now they have a whole new career that's going really well for him. And people really enjoy hearing them wherever they play. And it's Connelly an unusual kind of record. It really catches the ear of almost everyone and it bridges a lot of gaps. This no matter what kind of music fan you might be this kind of music sort of bridges the gap and what we're going to hear here is grabbing old man and cackling old woman then points to roguery.
I am above the banner the boat. The boat.
The boat. I am. The button.
OK that was Malcolm Dalglish and Gregory Larson from their album banish misfortune. That instrument was a hammer dulcimer which is gaining popularity a lot of people are starting to learn to play that instrument again. It used to be offered in 900 in the Sears Roebuck catalog and it died out shortly thereafter in most parts of the country but is enjoying a curious rebirth right now on this. It's a trap a sword shaped instrument called a hammered dulcimer with about 78 strings and it is a forerunner to the piano and the harpsichord that kind of thing. And it's quite common in some other Middle Eastern countries. Name that tune was growing old man and cackling a woman in the points of roguery.
Well you know I was as I said I've been living in California for the past several years and of I recently moved back to the mountains and it was my great pleasure back in the winter to play host to Malcolm Gray when I came out to Palo Alto California. They just just lifted their spirit for about a week after they came and played dead 200 people come out of this kind of community center we've got there. And so that was a great experience for us and what I can say is that the. June Apple label and the music coming through to the record company is just enormously popular in California and my way of looking at that is I enjoy I take a great deal of pride in the fact that there is music coming from the mountains. It's fresh and contemporary but very much growing out of our regional tradition here is is kind of going out sort of like seeds of refreshment.
You might say all over the country. It's a way I enjoy looking it at the whole.
Explosion really of artistic expression among the younger people. That happened in the past several years in all media and. So Malcolm Gray and banish misfortune has a strong audience and especially in the San Francisco area I guess. Their new album is already out isn't it.
First of all I'm yeah I was released about two weeks ago and it's doing quite well.
You know what. What are some of the other artists.
Who are some of the other artists and some of the other albums that that are available I wish we had time to play them all but perhaps we can at least make mention of some of the other artists Our man who lives in North Carolina named Kahn who put out an album with us called new wood. And we also did an album for the Carolina Brown Lung Association called brown long cotton mill Blues which is a series of songs about the male industry in the south and a lot of the songs deal with the health problems and organizing problems of workers that work in the cotton fields. Also we have a record by John Sunday one by a fiddler from North Carolina an old time fiddler named Tommy Hunter who is quite a good fiddler and judges filling contests down at Fiddler's Grove every year.
Also we have recorded two albums by John McCutcheon who is a young performer who lives over and done again in Virginia and he's he's worked real hard with us he's he works with June Apple as well as being an artist on the label he also does production work for June Apple on the apple seed project which which is a project that within June Apple we try to record the old timers and we do that through the apple seed project within June Apple. I hope doesn't confuse people who solve the same label but the apple seed puts out nothing but older musicians who are doing music more in the traditional vein. But it looks Mathers Manby in the same clothing loop Smathers band their first album was was an apple seed project and also Earl Gilmore Addie Graham Buell kasi. As well as Addie Stamper and we've got 23 out now we've got Carolyn who also is a fine performer and he also plays the hammered dulcimer as well as being a great balladeer and singer of some really fun protest songs. And.
We also have put out a record of Sheen.
Yeah I know what's going on.
Yeah yeah it's a group called roster O which hasn't been released lately. It will be out in about two or three weeks we hope.
And you can take it from there. Well Jack about tell tell me one of the main secrets. I had a great time working with Jack and Juno crew in three years ago when we made a double album that is actually contains a novel that I wrote it's called ancient creek. I consider ancient Greek to be. Well it's political satire it's an allegory. It's it was my attempt at the time to find a story in which I could combine politics religion psychology and mythology and that this all happened in the loft and watts of Kentucky was perfect for me.
And it's it's a story that you hear rather than read.
I read it aloud and it's still in print I gather a few copies and they're still on the way back. OK. When I listen Jack we don't have all day I wish we had just hours and hours to actually play every album that's ever come out and you know when we don't. While we've got you here don't get to see that often. But when I do get get close to you know one of the main things is to get you to sing and I'm really interested in your music and I always enjoy it and it's one of my main pleasures in getting up why it's very nice to get you crank that. And so what what I wanted to ask was when is your album coming out and could you say a little bit about that and then I would like to hear some some of it. Well I'd also just say something about yourself as a as a singer I know you sing a lot at festivals and in clubs and in a variety of places and have been for years and and your work as a singer friend writer for the past several years is now coming to a kind of fruition through this album let's do that this year. So elaborate.
Well I'm putting out an album that I've been working on for several years just part time never sitting down and doing it all at once and just do it when I had the chance. So I have not quite finished it so we will play a few cuts on it later on. But I guess right now I'd like to talk a little bit about Sanya Yancey. Oh yeah. Yes which is a young songwriter and singer from Hazard Kentucky who we are going to be doing a record of real soon. We hope it works out that way. She at the age of 11 became a songwriter and had her first song recorded and made into a hit for Jerry Reed in nineteen 68 or 69 something like that. And after that she sort of dropped out of of the music business. And just recently has she gotten interested in her performing career she's a mother now and so that takes a little bit of her time but she's starting to get back into performing and she's writing some incredible songs so at this time I'd like for Sun Yancey to sing a song that she's unaccompanied. She and her guitar and it's called Home sweet home.
When you're sick.
Yeah that's a sign you Yancey from Hazard Kentucky and she'll be putting a record out real soon on June Apple. Hopefully it will be available within the next year.
Which sure isn't too soon to some people but it is in our calendar that's pretty soon. Who out there working with these.
Well we're also working with several new entries into the label or people that we've never recorded before and they have just or shown up and wanted to be on the label. And who represent some real progressive and ongoing new blood you know what I mean. Some people that are really working hard. Making music and making trying to home out their own style and that's what we feel is really important to record at this time in June Apple's history and such a group that we've started record and will have an album out with us within also within the next year is Robin and Linda Williams who originally are from North Carolina and they're living in Virginia now and they're working out of Virginia they spin quite a few months out of the year on the road so they're real hard working musicians and Robin and Linda are accompanied on the record and also on the road by a young man named Peter Struve go from Minneapolis Minnesota who is a fine fine songwriter a wonderful performer plays fiddle and guitar and mandolin and he plays mostly fiddle and mandolin and sings part of their harmonies on the song so.
So they're quite an exciting group.
This transcript is machine-generated and has not been corrected. It is likely there will be errors.
- Contributing Organization
- Appalshop, Inc. (Whitesburg, Kentucky)
- AAPB ID
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/138-2259zz1w).
- In this segment, radio host Gurney Norman interview Jack Wright, the director of June Appal records, an Appalachian-focused recording studio. The men discuss the creation of the studio and the variety of sounds and musicians that record at the studio. During the interview, they play several clips of songs from popular and new bands that have recorded with June Appal records.
- Asset type
- No copyright statement in content
- Media type
- Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Guest: Wright, Jack
Host: Norman, Gurney
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
Appalshop, Inc. (WMMT and Appalshop Films)
Identifier: 12977.0 (Appalshop Barcode)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
- Chicago: “Appalachian Artists: The Younger Generation; An Interview with Jack Wright of June Appal Records (Part 1),” Appalshop, Inc., American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed February 21, 2019, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_138-2259zz1w.
- MLA: “Appalachian Artists: The Younger Generation; An Interview with Jack Wright of June Appal Records (Part 1).” Appalshop, Inc., American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. February 21, 2019. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_138-2259zz1w>.
- APA: Appalachian Artists: The Younger Generation; An Interview with Jack Wright of June Appal Records (Part 1). Boston, MA: Appalshop, Inc., American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_138-2259zz1w