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Frank Proffitt - Memorial Album :

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CD36 -

Frank Proffitt - Memorial Album

Poor Man
Will the Circle Be Unbroken
Man of Constant Sorrow
Shake Hands With Mother Again
Blackberry Wine
Everybody's Got to Be Tried
Got No Sugar Baby Now
I'm A Long Time Traveling Here Bel
Little Birdie
Little White Robe
Lord Lovell
Man of Constant Sorrow
Oh, Lord, What a Morning
Poor Man
Poor Soldier
Satan Your Kingdom Must Come Down
Shake Hands With Mother Again
Shulls Mills
Single Girl
Will the Circle Be Unbroken?

Not long before Frank died in 1965, we recorded more of his traditional songs, plus a couple that he had written himself. A number of these are included here, accompanied by guitar, dulcimer, or Frank's home-made fretless banjo.

We had hoped to make additional tapes documenting this important artist, but his untimely death prevented our doing so. This recording represents Frank's "final session".


When Frank Proffitt died, in November of 1965, America lost one of her truly great traditional artists. This album has been produced from the last tapes made of the North Carolina singer, and is offered as our own personal tribute to the memory of a fine man and a very dear friend.

In a very real sense, Frank was instrumental in the founding of Folk-Legacy, Our first album was made from tapes which I recorded of his singing at his home near Reese, North Carolina, in the winter of 1961. Frank's artistry, shaped by his profound respect for the tradition he inherited, so impressed us that we decided to release the recordings ourselves, rather than offer them to others who would be less personally involved. It was this decision which led to the formation of this company.

But Frank Proffitt was a great deal more than just an artist to us. Over the years during which we knew him, his gentle wisdom, his wry humor, and his deep sense of the value of each individual's share of the human spirit led us to admire and love him. He soon became our close and treasured friend.

When Frank visited us in Vermont after his appearance at the Newport Folk Festival in 1963, we managed to find time to wander together across our part of the Green Mountains. It was an experience that I shall always remember. Frank's keen eyes constantly probed the underbrush, singling out and identifying various herbs which he knew from his own section of the Blue Ridge Mountains. He described the medicinal values of each and the manner in which his people used to prepare them for use. Frank was mountain born and bred, and his knowledge of woods lore stands unequalled among mountain men I have been privileged to know. He had very little formal education, but his was an inquisitiye mind and he never stopped learning from his surroundings. I am convinced that much of his wisdom came directly from the mountains he loved so well. His quiet dignity and strength seemed to reflect qualities one finds in those brooding hills, while his quick laughter could be likened to a stream tumbling brightly through the darkness of the somber forest. A friend of mine once described Frank's voice as "hickory-smoked", and as I listen again to these tapes 1t occurs to me that his nature could well be described as closely resembling the hickory itself: springy-tough, resilient, with a seasoned strength hard-tempered by the elements. That's how one should think of a man like Frank, for he was inseparably a part of the heavily timbered mountains from which he came to share his music with us all.

Frank is now buried in a small cemetery a short distance down the valley from the home he built with his own hands for his family. His grave is marked by a stone upon which is carved two lines from a song he recorded for his first Folk-Legacy album:

Going across the mountain.
Oh, fare you well.

Yet I suspect that his final message to those who loved him can be found in one of the songs recorded here:

Come on, brothers, and let's go home;
I'm going where my troubles will be over.

Sandy Paton
Sharon, Connecticut December, 1968

Side I, Band 1. POOR MAN (Proffitt)

"Ralph Heath, district chief of the United States Geological Survey at Raleigh, N.C., said that the ground-water level and stream flows in many parts of the state were at record low levels, and that North Carolina had experienced its worst drought since 1932," (The New York Times, November 12, 1968)

Events of particular importance have long been chronicled by makers of folk songs, whether they dealt with personal plights of unrequited love or such impersonal tragedies as major engagements in war. The great drought of 1932 was such an event for Frank Proffitt. Times were hired enough during the depression for all the mountain people, even when weather conditions were Ideal for the growing of crops. Frank told me that this was a "true song", written from bitter personal experience at the time of the 1932 drought, which, in his valley, was followed, ironically, by a sudden storm. What meager growth of corn, cabbage, and potatoes that had managed to survive the drought was washed down the valley by the ensuing flood. It seemed as though all of the elements were working against the mountain people who, having no money at all during what are still referred to as "Hoover Times", were dependent upon what food they could raise for their very survival.

Frank uses one of his home-made dulcimers to accompany this bitter outcry against a relentlessly hostile fate.


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