Roots of a Region: Southern Folk Culture

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George in the SC Low-country to stay for a week and attend the "tents" of family members, the worship services, and the home-cooked feasts at these hallowed family camp-grounds for the week of camp-meeting meeting. Over a period of three years, Stan Woodward met with the leaders and got permission to document the story of each of the camp meetings. The result is a set of documentaries that provide a unique opportunity for scholars - especially cultural anthropologists, musicologists, and those interested in religious history and still functioning primitive religious camp-meetings - to examine, compare and see the striking similarities and differences between the Afro-American and Anglo-American traditions: Cattle Creek founded in , still active , Cypress founded in , still active, Indian Field founded in , still active.

Afro-American traditions: Shady Grove founded in , still active , Saint Paul founded in , still active. Humanities scholars visit the Indian Field and Shady Grove camp-meetings with the filmmaker and add commentary in the areas of religious history, contemporary views of these time-worn traditions, and comparison to other regions where camp-meetings still are active. The first folk heritage foodways documentary shot by Stan Woodward.

Still purchased by individuals, university film libraries and film studies programs nationally. The filmmaker begins with a simple, straightforward question - "Do you eat grits? Grits is made from 'cawn'. People in the South like 'cawn in several ways - on the cob, in a bowl,or by the glass.

Woodward's Southern Films, A Complete Filmography | Folkstreams

In the western corner of Brunswick County, Virginia in an old churchyard, sheep stew-master, Joe Gunn, assembles women and men for the overnight and into the next day ritual necessary for cooking his recipe for sheep stew. Joe Gunn had invited Stan to come shoot his version of a sheep stew and had invited two of the "old heads" - Brunswick stew and sheep stew-masters in their late 80's - who knew the history and beginnings of the cooking of sheep stew on local farms to meet at the stew-site in the afternoon, when the stew was being sold to members of the community and folks gathered to purchase the church-ladies' baked goods.

This was the scene of a classic stew-cooking as a fundraiser to support church missions. Interviews with the elders as well as women and men working the site reveals surprising insights into the cultural and agrarian roots of the stew as well as a forecast of whether such traditions would be able to continue in these changing times. While shooting the story of Virginia Brunswick stew in Southside Virginia, Stan happened upon Jimmy Olgers who keeps alive the memories of his parents old country store which served as center of the historic Sutherland village community starting in through the end of their lives.

Today Jimmy has turned the store into a museum filled with relics from its agrarian past, antiques and miscellany from the Civil War. On the porch of the store Jimmy serves as entertainer and raconteur. On the porch in his rocking chair he waves at every car that passes, spins yarns, recites his poetry, and conducts tours of the store and museum.

When Stan asks what he knows about Brunswick stew's origin, Jimmy waxes eloquent about the stew as he fetches a sealed jar of the stuff from among the stash he keeps in the porch refrigerator.

The result is a wonderful capture of Southern Americana. This begins the story of a South Carolina share-cropper farmer's son who went to Chicago in and ended up as a sideman playing base with the Muddy Waters Chicago blues band.


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Mac Arnold took his Piedmont blues base-beat - a blend of Southern country and gospel, rock and roll, and rhythm and blues - and added this new beat to Muddy's rhythm section. The blues was in need of new blood as the popularity of rock and roll had swept the country. For Muddy, Mac was the temporary answer. Stan Woodward met Mac in while shooting a concert as a favor for another producer on the night South Carolina bluesman presented the release of his first CD, "Nothing to Prove", celebrating his return to the blues.

Stan slipped backstage. He interviewed the musician about the derivation of the name of his band, Plate Full O' Blues. From his brief interview Stan realized that here was a Southern Americana folk heritage musician whose story had to be told. In Volume 1, "The Legacy", we see Mac bring to the blues a musical throw-back to the days when Mac played with Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker, and the legendary bluesmen who were just getting their start in Chicago.

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The documentary moves with the band from local concerts and festivals to Helena and Memphis and the Mississippi Delta, then to an opportunity to compete at the prestigious International Blues Competition in Memphis. As Mac moves back into the midst of the blues festival circuit he re-establishes old friendships as he is welcomed back by legendary blues artists. With Mac back in the mainstream he and his band strengthen their promotion and schedule of bookings and invest in their own bus, which they gut and reconfigure so that the Arnold brothers, Vonda, Mac's wife, the band, and invited fans can travel to distant performances.

Mac recalls the old playing days with Muddy during Volume 2, "Mac is Back! But when Mac begins performing in the Blues in the School program we see a change in him. He becomes focused on encouraging young people to discover and develop their talents in music. Shot with five cameras interspersed with interviews, the two-day festival manifested Mac's heart for encouraging and showcasing young musicians who were serious about playing their music by having them perform alongside blues greats. Along the banks of the Roanoke River near Weldon, NC, and below the rapids where the native rockfish swim up-river to spawn each year when the dogwoods are in bloom and the water temperature reaches 73 degrees, a stew that locals called "rockfish muddle" used to be cooked during the Rockfish run.

This stew tradition faded when the wildlife department banned the use of specially fabricated nets made by craftsmen and used among the local fishermen who could haul-in an entire spawn-field in one netting. This would include 40 to 60 pound females which were set aside for the traditional cooking of rockfish muddle on the banks of the Roanoke around Weldon. However, several seasons occurred in succession when the river was low and resulted in a decline in the return of the rockfish females to the spawning ground.

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This reduced the rockfish population and produced higher prices and greater demand for the large-sized fish, prompting locals to overfish and sell to the black market the females that brought the most money pound for pound. The further depletion of females put the fish on the list of endangered species bringing about laws restricting use of the nets and the keeping size of fish in the early 's. This ended the netting tradition and cut off the availability of large fish and consequently shut down the rockfish muddle tradition.

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When Stan learned about rockfish muddle from a Brunswick stew-master while shooting the Virginia Brunswick stew documentary, he was referred to a Weldon elder named J. Evans, considered by locals as an excellent muddle stew-master. The filmmaker helped JE. The result is the documentary of a traditional Rockfish Muddle cooked by J. Evans - his last, it turns out.

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While interviewing stewmasters from Brunswick, Georgia at a nearby Interstate Highway rest area where a black iron stewpot is mounted as a monument to Brunswick, Georgia being the birthplace of Brunswick stew, Stan overhears the conversation as a the mother of a family from Virginia begins explaining how this monument's tablet contains statements that cannot be true. Quickly Stan swings his camera around and initiates a conversation with the Boy Scout who is a member of the family and is the target of the explanation. What ensues is a hilarious dialogue that ends up with the Virginia Boy Scout questioning the authenticity and "Scout's Honor" pledge of the local Boy Scout troop that is credited with having sponsored the tablet for the plaque.

A slice of the life of controversy about the origin of the stew. A spontaneous stop at the sighting of a four-story tall mobile circling above a grove of Georgia pines with an enormous metal fabricated fish being chased by an equally enormous metal fabricated man in a huge boat who has hooked the fish with his giant fishing rod drew the attention of folklorist, Dr.

Grimsley, who was used to stoppers-by who were drawn by his "big-fish" mobile, came out of his house to welcome his new visitors. When he saw Stan shooting video he got excited and shared how he came to make artworks from scrap material and gave a guided tour through his most peculiar collection, explaining the different pieces and how he had visualized them into being. By the end we have seen his home-made casket made of "space- material", met his wife, who expounds on how long she has lived with this man and his quirky ideas, and says how our appreciation of Charlie helped her see Charlie as a "real artist.

Stopping to interview a lady dressed in a clownish polka dot costume with huge, over-exaggerated white-rimmed dark glasses and holding up a sign saying "Quik Cuts" every time cars passed by yields a humorous and unexpected slice of Southern Americana. Throughout the South the tradition of cooking communal stews in huge black iron pots and stirring with wooden paddles has long been one of the ways of feeding people at any kind of gathering - whether at hunt clubs, church or family reunions, at the end of harvests, to feed workers putting up tobacco or helping out at hog killing time.

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Southern stews cooked for a crowd required a number of workers, with a division of labor usually split between women who would prepare vegetables for the stews on or before the evenings the stews would begin to be cooked and men working in shifts under a stew-master to constantly stir the stew for up to 18 hours to keep it from sticking to the pot and ruining the stew.

With a grant from the Southern Humanities Media Fund, this documentary was produced based on the extensive travel and field research begun when Stan Woodward shot his first Brunswick stew documentary. Stan searched out and began documenting stew cultures that were ongoing in Southern states but were under the radar as far as documentation was concerned.

The documentary, introduced and narrated by Southern food writer, John Egerton, takes the viewer into the midst of the folklore and folk heritage roots that maintain these traditions, enabling them to experience, compare and see the associations between such Southern stews as Burgoo, Brunswick stew, Carolina hash, frogmore stew, chicken bog and sheep stew.

These are stews that require long hours and hands-on hard labor and increasingly are becoming fragile traditions as the agrarian South gets away from its past and its roots. Every year in Brunswick, Georgia the town holds a folk heritage festival celebrating the roots of Brunswick stew - roots that they claim which are also claimed by Brunswick County, Virginia. Stew-masters from far and wide in Georgia - and often stew-masters from Virginia whenever a "Stew War" competition and stew cook-off occurs - gather and compete for awards for best stew.

A panel of judges is invited to sample-taste the stews in competition and vote for the ones they prefer. After learning that folklorist, Dr. John Burrison was invited to be a judge at the festival, Stan asked Dr. John Burrison, who had served as advisor on a number of other of his films, to join him as he documented the festival. Together, prior to the festival, they explore the lore and folklife surrounding the Brunswick, Georgia claim to origins of the stew and come up with surprising stories of authentication that attribute the origin to both African American Sea-Island cooks and a longer tradition of stews cooked by the coastal Indian peoples.

In Blacksburg South Carolina in the fall of the year a most unusual event occurs that is sponsored by a farm family interested in keeping alive an awareness and appreciation of what it was like on farms when mule teams and work-horses were vital to the tasks of breaking ground and furrowing rows for planting seeds. At an 's farm house and barn thousands come each year to experience what life was like in the old days and witness yarn weaving, jam-making, shucking and shelling corn and beans, making straw hats, using a small foundry to fashion tools, and many other activities that were required for a family to feed themselves and make a living off of farming.

We take the viewer to this gathering and move them throughout to the accompaniment of local country and bluegrass folk heritage musicians.

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While shooting the documentary on Barbecue and Homecooking in , Stan got a tip about one of the last great barbecue pit-men who still cooks by hand in the old fashioned Springfield, SC style. At first meeting when Morris Peeples welcomed the filmmaker to his home in his old sharecropper cottage the two men struck up a friendship that opened up into an opportunity to tell this unique Southern Americana story. Morris was a patriarch and looked upon as a man of supreme wisdom, both in life and in the agrarian knowledge that he used to manage the land of many area land-owners.

In two years of shooting, Stan captured the story of Morris as the embodiment of the very special relationship of an Afro-American ex-sharecropper to the land and to the white land-owner's estate which was once the Hatiola plantation. We see documented the inside story of how Morris, the son of his slave father who worked as foreman on the Hatiola Plantation, had become endeared to it's current owner and the hunters who had turned the "big house" into a hunt club, where Morris was honored with a membership and held the keys to Hatiola which he now managed.

Shot over an extended period of four years from to while working on the Virginia Brunswick Stew documentary, Stan captures the unique and unquenchable spirit of one of the South's most unusual and gifted humorists and raconteurs, who also is a rare primitive folk heritage foodways artisan. Jimmy Olgers is a front-porch poet and storyteller who sits in front of his parents old country store surrounded by peculiar artifacts which he uses to attract visitors as he preserves and maintains the country store as a rustic museum.

A highlight of the documentary is the celebration of National Turtle Day of Sutherland" with the stew cooked in celebration at Jimmy's "Little Cabin in the Woods".