Ozark Folksong Collection

Artifacts from the Mary Parler Collection

Please join the Libraries as we honor the legacy of Mary Celestia Parler and formally open the Ozark Folksong Collection.

August 28, 2015 Walton Reading Room, Mullins LIbrary

The University Libraries celebrates the opening of the digital Ozark Folksong Collection with a daylong celebration honoring Mary Celestia Parler's legacy, featuring lectures, a panel discussion, and live performances by local bands.


Opening Remarks: Angela Fritz will welcome attendees to the day’s events and introduce the first speaker, Brooks Blevins.

Angela Fritz serves as Interim Head of Special Collections at the University of Arkansas Libraries. She has a Ph.D. in American History from Loyola University-Chicago where she was awarded the Crown Fellowship in the Humanities. Prior to her doctoral studies, Angela worked at the Office of Presidential Libraries in Washington D.C. where she served as Presidential Library Liaison to the White House for the administrations of President William J. Clinton and President George W. Bush. Over the course of her career, she has had a special dedication to public history initiatives that foster educational opportunities, encourage cultural diversity, and increase access and appreciation of historical organizations, archives and special collections.


Brooks Blevins presents “Collectors of the Ozarks: Folklore and Regional Image.”

Dr. Blevins is the Noel Boyd Professor of Ozarks Studies at Missouri State University in Springfield, where he founded and oversees the country's only Ozarks Studies Program. A native of north central Arkansas and graduate of Lyon College and Auburn University, Blevins is the author of five books, including Hill Folks: A History of Arkansas Ozarkers and Their Image and Ghost of the Ozarks: Murder and Memory in the Upland South. In addition, he serves as editor of two new series launched by the University of Arkansas Press: a "classic" reprint series called Chronicles of the Ozarks and the Ozarks Studies Series, which will publish new scholarship from a variety of disciplines.


Lora Lennertz, Director of Academic and Research Services at the University of Arkansas Libraries, will introduce Alan Spurgeon, Professor of Music at University of Mississippi. Dr. Spurgeon will present, “Using the Parler Collection for Scholarly Research.”

Dr. Spurgeon, professor of music, is director of music education and graduate coordinator in music at the University of Mississippi. He has presented music education workshops throughout the United States and is currently working on a book on British ballads collected in the Ozarks region of Arkansas and Missouri. His research areas are the history of music education in the United States and southern regional folk music.

10:50am-11:05am: Short Intermission


Angela Fritz will introduce a panel of guests whose lives have intersected with the collection. Robert C. Cochran, Professor of English and Director of the Center for Arkansas and Regional Studies at the University of Arkansas, will moderate a conversation with Buford and Lynda Suffridge, former students of Mary Celestia Parler; Martha Estes, whose mother performed for Parler and is recorded in the collection; and Lora Lennertz, project lead on the preservation of Parler’s original recordings and the creation of the digital collection.

Dr. Cochran is a Guggenheim Fellow (1989) and three-time Fulbright lecturer (Romania, Hungary, Korea). His book-length studies include two biographies (Vance Randolph, Louise Pound), one annotated bibliography, two studies of Arkansas music, two portraits of Arkansas artists (photographer Geleve Grice and painter Dorris Curtis), and a study of Samuel Beckett’s short fiction. He has directed three documentary videos and produced two CD collections devoted to Arkansas traditional life and music, and served as guest curator for four exhibits at the Old State House Museum in Little Rock. His most recent work, Lights! Camera! Arkansas!, co-authored with his spouse Suzanne McCray, is a narrative history of Arkansas and Arkansans in Hollywood films published by the University of Arkansas Press in the spring of 2015.

Members of the panel include Buford and Lynda Childers Suffridge, graduates of the University of Arkansas, and former students of Mary Celestial Parler. Mrs. Suffridge worked for twelve years at the Arkansas History Commission, served as vice president of the National Genealogical Society, and as past-president of the Arkansas Genealogical Society, Heritage Seekers, and Arkansas Pioneers. Dr. Suffridge graduated from the University of Tennessee College of Dentistry and completed his residency in orthodontics at the St. Louis University Health Science Center. Both Dr. and Mrs. Suffridge remain active in the historical and genealogical communities.

Martha Hogan Estes was born in Nevada, Missouri, but raised in the Arkansas Ozarks. She holds a BA in English from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. She worked for Miller Williams at the University of Arkansas Press as secretary, managing editor and finally journals manager, leaving in 1990 to pursue a career with Georgia Pacific, from which she retired in 2004. She now teaches a class in memoir writing, dabbles in genealogy, and resides on Canvas Mountain. Ms. Estes’ mother Phydella Gilbert Hogan was a banjo picker and contributor to the Mary Parler Collection of folk music, as were two of her sisters, Alma ‘Billie’ Allen and Helen Fultz. She and her siblings passed on to their children the musical traditions of their parents Sophia (Sophie) Scott and Joe Gilbert.

Lora Lennertz is the Director for Academic and Research Services at the University of Arkansas Libraries. She served as the head of the performing arts and media department from 2005-2013. As librarian to departments of Music and Communication she was instrumental in managing and securing funding for this digitization project. Lennertz, who has also served as a preservation librarian, oversaw the entire digitization process, working with the preservationists and catalogers to make the collection accessible and connected.

12:15-1:30: Lunch (on your own)


Carolyn Henderson Allen, Dean of Libraries, will welcome the audience back and formally open the Ozark Folksong Collection.

Carolyn Henderson Allen is the dean of the University Libraries at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. Prior to that, she served as Deputy Director of University Libraries at the University of Florida and Director for Support Services, managing the administrative operations of the University of Florida Library system. While at the University of Arkansas, Dean Allen has initiated a very active public services program that includes a regular exhibit and lecture series, which has enlivened the campus environment and has raised the profile and role of the library in campus intellectual life.


Joshua Youngblood, Rare Books Librarian and Instruction and Outreach Unit Head, will introduce the celebration’s live musical performances. Youngblood coordinates research services and outreach programming for Special Collections and provides instruction for primary source-based research using archives, rare books, and other Special Collections materials.

Special Collections invited local bands to perform songs that are representative of the collection’s influence and reach. The performances echo the sound of the collection, through covers of songs in the collection, updated arrangements, or original material inspired by Ozark folk music.


Live Performance by East of Zion

East of Zion is an acoustic, family band with deep roots in Ozark Mountain music. Mac Fultz, lead guitar and vocalist, is the son of Helen Gilbert Fultz. Jerry Hogan, bass player, is the son of Phydella Gilbert Hogan. Helen and Phydella were featured in University of Arkansas Professor Robert Cochran's book about the musical Gilbert family titled Singing in Zion: Music and Song in the Life of an Arkansas Family (University of Arkansas Press, 1999). Mac's wife Pat, lead vocalist and rhythm guitar player, has her own family musical tradition but over the years probably played more with Helen and Phydella than anyone else in the band. Nathan Miller, mandolin player and vocalist, is the son of Jeanie Fultz Miller and the grandson of Helen. Together, East of Zion continues an Ozark music tradition that is almost a century old.


Live performance by Old Ties

Old Ties is Willi Goehring and Allison Williams who both intersect with Ozark culture, folklore, and oldtime music more generally, in many ways. Goehring is a poet, folklorist, and company member with The Artist’s Laboratory Theater, a local theater company. He is a co-leader of the Fayetteville Oldtime Music and Dance Society, where he performs and teaches regionally. Williams adds old-time clawhammer banjo to their mix; her playing is influenced by Appalachian banjo techniques. When not on the road with her Hot Ash String Band, she does live and studio sound, works with Southern folklore, and plays swing bass.


Closing remarks with Angela Fritz, Interim Head of Special Collections.

Happy Hollow Foundation Arkansas Humanities Council

The University of Arkansas Libraries thanks all of those who helped make the digital collection and its official opening possible. The Happy Hollow Foundation provided generous contributions toward the preservation and digital transfer of the reel-to-reel tapes. Funding from the Arkansas Humanities Council allowed us to digitize the transcripts, so necessary to the understanding of the songs. And a grant from the University of Arkansas Artists & Concerts Committee helped support stipends for live performances from local bands at our opening celebration.

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