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John Harrod Oral History Interview

Interviews conducted and transcribed by Scott Prouty, 2012 Berea Appalachian Sound Archives Fellow.

Beginnings of the Berea Sound Archive

SP:  You mentioned Loyal Jones earlier and of course, this collection is at Berea.  You donated in the 1990s; how did that come about?

JH:  Loyal and I got to be friends.  Loyal Jones is one the most wonderful people I've ever met in my entire life.  His heart and soul are in the right place, and he is so devoted to the culture and the people. 

SP:  He's an academic but not a folklorist, is that right? 

JH:  Loyal Jones has at times unjustifiably caught grief from other academics.  David Whisnant, in that book,[1] trashed Loyal and he doesn't know what the hell he's talking about.  I think he trashed Loyal  because he wanted to trash Berea.  I guess Loyal's old fashioned in some ways, but he loves the culture he was raised in and he has served it throughout his life.

Loyal was always so supportive and so knowledgeable.  We did some field recording together, Virgil Anderson, and he did some field recording on his own, fiddlers and banjo players, but mainly he was into things like the history of religion and social issues.  Loyal is an old progressive activist.

He was kind of running that archive in his office because nobody else was interested in it.  He had this great collection of tapes and records and videos there in a little room – that was the Appalachian music archive for most of the time I knew Loyal until his retirement.  I went in there and used it a lot.  Then it went to where it is now[2]  which is where it needed to be, but I think it was where it was because it was Loyal's baby and nobody else would have taken care of it. 

SP:  So it seemed like a good place to have your collection, a natural place to deposit things. 

JH:  Yeah, I wanted all of it to be where it would be useful.  I was thinking in particular of students or anybody who wanted to go listen to it.  I didn't want to be overrun with people coming to my house to listen to stuff although I was glad for some people to.  But it could get out of hand. 

[1]        Whisnant, David.  All That is Native and Fine: The Politics of Culture in an American Region.  Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1983.

[2]  Berea College's Hutchins Library

Donating to Two Archives

SP:  So you donated your recordings to both Morehead and Berea?  You donated your stuff to Berea at the end of the '90s – '98/'99?  Was Steve Green still there then?

JH:  Yeah.

SP:  So when did you donate to Morehead, was that later? 

JH:  Well, when Jesse [Wells] started working there, at the Kentucky Center for Traditional Music.  He started working with their archives.  I thought the more places it's available the better.  And they seemed to be two different archives serving the region although I think Morehead may seem to be more conscious of serving a particular region or at least in Jesse's mind, he's thinking of the Eastern / Northeastern corner of Kentucky whereas Berea kind of recognizes their territory as all of Appalachia and then some. 

SP:  So the missions are slightly different? 

JH:  Yeah, but I wasn't thinking of online archives, I was thinking more of a place where someone could go, listen, and research and so the more places it could be located, the better.

SP:  Do you have a donor agreement with either place? 

JH:  I do with Berea.  I don't think I've ever signed anything with Morehead because they're in a state of transition to a new building where they’ll have everything set-up.  They've been operating out of a temporary facility for the last few years.  Really, their archive is on Jesse's computer right now.  It'll get a little more official and accessible when they get into their new building.

SP:  So you pretty much had the idea that your stuff would be donated to Berea and then people would go to Berea and that's where they'd engage in it.

JH:  Yeah. The only reservation I had when I started giving them my collection was that I wanted to reserve publication rights.

SP:  Right.

JH:  Which wouldn't mean that I wouldn't let somebody else publish something if they wanted to use it, as long as it wasn't part of a project that I was already working on.

SP:  Right, you wanted to be able to review any proposals to publish.

JH:  Yeah, during my lifetime.  And only because I knew I was going to be working on some projects along the way. 

SP:  Okay.  I was just wondering about that – the two archive thing.

JH: Right, but it was always okay if somebody wanted to go in and get copies of anything, but if they wanted to put it out there on a recording then they would have to ask me for permission to do that.   It would depend on if I was planning to use it for something that I was going to produce.