In 1947, after the United States had recovered from a rationed economy that must have seemed like it would never end, and had beaten the odds to conquer world fascism. anything was possible.
The short film here from the great Alan Lomax examines Southern music as it existed to that point. A banjo-playing Pete Seeger is joined by luminaries Woody Guthrie, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, among others, in an exploration of folk, country, blues and gospel music. They celebrate the Scotch-Irish roots of much of the region's music, its patchwork tapestry.
What strikes us is the air of innocence about the culture to that point, the absolute lack of irony in what the characters say and do, their open faces. This was the moment before rock & roll burst onto the scene from its roots in the Southern Delta.
American society may be much coarser now than then, but we are certain rock & roll is not the cause. Rather, it may be some consolation. Perhaps rock & roll can even help lead us back around to the honest expression that we see here.
John Morgan was an executive at Billboard Magazine's parent company for nine years, and notably led the launch of the magazine's Website, www.Billboard.com. He was also founding editor of the "This Day in Music Almanac," and created the BPI Entertainment News Wire. He has a special fondness for Southern music and other Southern art, from literature to crafts and photography.