By Everett Wilkie
Ever wondered what Dolly Parton’s first record sounds like? Ever wondered what Dolly Parton looked like at 12 years old when she recorded that first record? Did you know that there is a Cajun National Anthem? Did you know that Swamp Pop is not a type of beverage? Did you ever see a woman riding a crayfish? In an unusual Americana exhibition that exists only on-line, the sights, sounds and information to answer those questions and many more are just a mouse click away.
In “Goldband Records: ‘Every One A Musical Treat,’” the Southern Folklife Collection, a division of the Manuscripts Department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, presents a history of this still-thriving record label. The exhibition is based on the company’s archives, which are held by the department. Founded in 1944 by Eddie Shuler, this Lake Charles, Louisiana, firm has introduced to America and the world numerous artists and musical genres that have become famous and influenced musical artists throughout the U.S. The exhibition includes not only traditional text but also dozens of digitized photographs and songs taken from the archives themselves.
Organized into seven components, the exhibition takes the viewer through the history of the company and some of its artists in overlapping fashion. The first section, “Artists,” is in many ways the most interesting and most worth the time spent dallying there. Featured are twenty-three artists who recorded for the label, from the obscure, such as Larry Hart, to the famous, such as Dolly Parton. Clicking on the artists’ names or pictures (when available) brings up interesting biographies of each group or person, a larger version of the thumbnail image, and, in many case, at least one recording available in either streaming MP3 or streaming RealAudio. It is here, for example, that one finds the earliest known Parton recording (“Puppy Love”) and her earliest known publicity photograph, taken when she was 12 years old. In the 1 minute, 35 seconds of this song, listeners will hear Parton sing this classic chorus, so reminiscent of youth, all the while gazing on the photo of this now-famous star:
The puppy love, the puppy love, They all call it puppy love; I’m old enough now to kiss and hug, And I like it—It’s puppy love!