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CD14 -

Ray Hicks Telling Four Traditional "Jack Tales"

Jack and the Three Steers
JACK AND THE THREE STEERS (10:14)

BIG MAN JACK, KILLED SEVEN AT A WHACK (11:57)



JACK AND OLD FIRE DRAGON (12:44)

WHICKETY-WHACK, INTO MY SACK (SOLDIER JACK) (9:56)

















Four Authentic "Jack
Tales". Back in the early 1960s, I recorded a number of rare tales from this
important mountain 'folksayer" who has since been recognized as a genuine
National Treasure. Grimm's tales as told in Appalachia. An exceptional field recording.



JACK AND THE THREE STEERS (10:14)

BIG MAN JACK, KILLED SEVEN AT A WHACK (11:57)



JACK AND OLD FIRE DRAGON (12:44)

WHICKETY-WHACK, INTO MY SACK (SOLDIER JACK) (9:56)







RAY HICKS

of Beech Mountain, North Carolina, Tells Four Traditional "Jack Tales."
Recorded in 1963 by Sandy PatonUsed to be, whenever we had a long, slow job to
be done, like a corn-huskin' or something, we'd just gather all the young'uns
around and put 'em to work. Then's when we'd tell the old tales about Jack. Why,
them kids would work for hours and never a sound out of 'em, long as I'd keep
tellin' 'em tales."Thus, Ray Hicks, North Carolina mountain farmer and part-time
mechanic, put into words, more concisely than the folklorist could, one junction
of the traditional folk-tale in the lives of the back-country people of the Southern
Appalachians.

The Hicks family has been farming the steep slopes of Beech Mountain for many
generations, each generation transmitting to the next its store of songs, ballads
and tales. Ray Hicks learned the tales as a boy from his grandfather, Benjamin
Hicks, and I'm convinced that his children will pass them on to their children
in the years to come. Up on "the Beech," the old folk traditions fade
slowly and die hard.At one time or another, during my many trips to Beech Mountain
in the early 1960s, people had told me: "Why, yes, I used to hear them old
stories being told back when I was young." A few could remember enough to
outline a plot or two for me. But it takes a special sort of genius to tell a
tale the way Ray does - always delighting in it, inventing just a little each
time to keep it fresh and spontaneous. Ben Botkin has used the term "folksayer"
for those who possess this genius. Many mountain people can sing folksongs: a
few are real ballad singers, masters of that ancient art, but the true "folksayer"
is rare, indeed. Without question, Ray Hicks is one of these.Sandy Paton Sharon,
Connecticut



JACK AND THE THREE STEERS (10:14)

BIG MAN JACK, KILLED SEVEN AT A WHACK (11:57)

JACK AND OLD FIRE DRAGON (12:44)

WHICKETY-WHACK, INTO MY SACK (SOLDIER JACK) (9:56)



A booklet containing notes concerning these tales, together with Lee Haggerty's
complete transcriptions of their texts, may be obtained by sending $1.00 to Folk-Legacy
Records.



North Carolina Folk Heritage Award Recipient



Ray Hicks, North Carolina's celebrated storyteller, lives atop Beech Mountain
in Watauga County. Though his homeplace is very near Boone, it is culturally distant
from the fast-developing college town down the road. He and his wife Rosa live
in a manner more common to the pioneer than the modern mountaineer. A visitor
to the Hickses' striking two-story frame house is likely to find Rosa busy drying
apples and "putting up" produce from the garden, while Ray entertains
a group of friends and neighbors in the front room.



One is struck first by Mr. Hicks' physical appearance--his lanky frame approaching
seven feet. But the true marvel of the man is his verbal presence. He speaks a
dialect of English that retains much of the vocabulary, phrasing, expression,
and accent of earlier English and Scotch-Irish immigrants to the region. So much
so that he was featured on Robert McNeil's PBS series The Story of English. Mr.
Hicks relishes the spoken word and is a natural storyteller. Folklorist and former
director of the Folk Arts Program at the National Endowment for the Arts, Bess
Lomax Hawes, has said, "There isn't any other Ray and never has been another
Ray, except, maybe, back in the Middle Ages. He moves into a story, and is totally
engrossed. He talks about the characters as if they'd just stepped 'round back
of his house, or gone up the road a piece." Mr. Hicks is particularly fond
of telling a group of stories known as Jack tales, which are kin to the well-known
stories "Jack and the Beanstalk" and "Jack and the Giant Killer."
The tales have ancient antecedents in Celtic and European folklore. In Ray's interpretations,
which may take the better part of an hour to complete, there is a wonderful weave
of fairy tale elements with realistic trappings of Southern Appalachian culture.Less
well known are Mr. Hicks' musical abilities. He's a powerful singer of traditional
British and American ballads and a soulful harmonica player. The North Carolina
Arts Council is not the first organization to honor Ray Hicks. In 1983, he received
the National Heritage Fellowship Award from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Though his distaste for traveling limits his public exposure, Ray has appeared
in a number of film documentaries and was profiled in The New Yorker magazine.
Mr. Hicks does regularly perform at the annual National Storytellers Festival
in Jonesboro, Tennessee, which is a good place to experience first-hand the extraordinary
qualities of the man. The event attracts large crowds each year to hear the country's
best storytellers and Mr. Hicks is the star of the festival. He remains at the
forefront of a national revitalization of a venerable art form.





Renowned storyteller

By EMERY P. DALESIO



HICKS

Watauga County storyteller Ray Hicks, who enlivened tales handed down for generations
from the earliest settlers in the southern Appalachians, died Sunday after a two-year
fight with prostate cancer. He was 80. He hated traveling from home atop Beech
Mountain where he was born and spent his life, so folklorists, documentarians
and people who read about him in National Geographic came to Hicks to hear him
weave a tale, said Connie Regan-Blake of Asheville, a fellow storyteller and friend
for 30 years.‘‘I have practically never been there when someone else
wasn’t there,’’ she said.



Hicks told stories every day of his life, Regan-Blake said. During a visit two
weeks ago, Hicks described working in saw mills and turned from words to the sound
of a screaming, whirring blade to illustrate the experience. He was the subject
of films, audio tapes and books preserving stories that captured the native oral
traditions of the mountains. He won the National Heritage Fellowship Award from
the National Endowment for the Arts in 1983. Hicks appeared in the PBS series
‘‘The Story of English,’’ because his stories were flavored
with the vocabulary, phrasing, expression, and accent of earlier English and Scotch-Irish
immigrants to the region. That accent, preserved for generations in remote mountain
communities, made listening to Hicks for the first time difficult to understand,
said Jimmy Neil Smith, president of the International Storytelling Center in Jonesborough,
Tenn. ‘‘That perhaps made him and his storytelling more engaging. Certainly
more intriguing. We may not have just been hearing the stories, we may have been
hearing the stories in the dialect of centuries ago,’’ Smith said. Hicks
was a featured bard at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough most
years since its creation in 1973 to revitalize the skill of holding an audience’s
attention without props or gimmicks, Smith said. His specialty were Jack tales,
similar to ‘‘Jack and the Beanstalk,’’ which wove together
fairy tale elements with realistic trappings of mountain culture and could take
nearly an hour to complete. In them, a boy named Jack confronted giants, witches
or the Northwest wind and would overcome the challenges through pluck. ‘‘The
way we’ve thought about Ray and the way he thought about himself was that
he was Jack,’’ Smith said. ‘‘He lived those stories himself.
He knew Jack, because he was Jack.’’ Hicks and his wife, Rosa, raised
five children living off the land that had been in his family since the late 1700s.
He would work a few months each year as a carpenter, mechanic or saw mill operator
to earn cash the family needed to buy staples like flour and sugar, and to pay
property taxes, said his son, Ted Hicks. In the last 15 years, Hicks was paid
for his storytelling skill, but chose to stay close to home rather than travel
to events in Ireland, New York or San Francisco, Regan-Blake said. ‘‘He
measured who he was not in possessions but in what he could share with other people
through his stories,’’ Smith said.

    
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