Southern Folk Singers

Guy Carwan (2007). Photo by Heather Carawan, courtesy of a Creative Commons License 2.5.

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Southern Folk Singers

by Charles Joyner
Southern Cultures, Vol. 16, No. 3: Roots Music

"Frank Proffitt learned most of his repertoire of songs, hymns, ballads and banjo tunes from his family and sang them in a hickory-smoked baritone that flowed subtly and poignantly through his ballads like a quiet mountain stream."

Folk singers is an ambiguous term. To folklorists it means those whose repertoires have been passed down orally from generation to generation within the family and community. To others it often means professional singers, regardless of background, who learned most of their songs from recordings and offered them to the general public as folk songs. I shall call the former traditional singers and the latter singers of folk songs.