Doc Roberts Collection, 1910-1938 (Bulk: 1924-1935)
- Doc Roberts Collection, 1910-1938 (Bulk: 1924-1935)
- Berea College
- 1.2 linear feet.
- Berea College
- Biography / History
- Dock Phillip Roberts-- (b. 1897, d. 1978) Roberts was born in Madison County, Kentucky and was among the state's first traditional musicians to be recorded commercially. His father died at an early age, leaving Dock and his brothers to take care of the family's farm. However, Roberts also found time to learn music and by age seven had begun playing the fiddle. He picked up songs from local fiddlers, and tried to emulate their styles. Early on, he met Owen Walker, an African-American fiddler who, Roberts said, greatly influenced his playing style and repertoire. In 1925 a neighbor, Dennis Taylor invited Roberts to join Welby Toomey and Edgar Boaz in a commercial recording venture for the Gennett Recording Company in Richmond, Indiana. Later he also recorded for the Paramount and American Record Companies. Among his best known tunes are: "Way Down South in Dixie," "All I've Got's Done Gone," "Deer Walk," and "Brick Yard Joe." He recorded 80 instrumental sides and as many more on which he played backup.
- Roberts was most active professionally through about 1934. With Asa Martin, Ted Chestnut, son James, and other musicians he made many stage appearances throughout Kentucky. Healthy record sales brought brief forays into radio including the WLS National Barn Dance in 1928. He also had programs in Council Bluffs, Iowa in 1932, and Lexington, Kentucky in 1934 on WLAP. It was the Chicago and Council Bluffs experiences perhaps, that made clear to Roberts that show business success wasn't important enough to him to put up with city noise and being away from home and family. He and his Kentucky Thorobreds were well received over WLAP weekday mornings and on a Saturday night barn dance program which in turn brought good paying local bookings. However by 1935 he had decided to give full attention to farming, keeping his hand in musically only with guest appearances on WLW and WHAS, and with son Donald, playing for local square dances.
- The folk revival of the 1960s and the achievement of academic respectability for the study of country music led to Robert's rediscovery (in his early 60s) when he had all but given up fiddling. Folklorists and historians such as Archie Green, Norm Cohen, and Charles Wolfe and a host of fans and fiddlers beat a path to his door. The results were lengthy treatments of his tunes and talent in Green's Only A Miner, Wolfe's The Devil's Box, the JEMF Quarterly, and recording reissues on the Davis Unlimited, County, and Morning Star labels. In 1974 a reunion concert with son, James, and Asa Martin was held at Berea College. Roberts died in 1978 at age 82.
- Scope and Content
- The business correspondence, record company royalty statements, and radio listener fan mail contained in this collection will help serve those who wish to study Roberts and/or the commercialization of traditional music during the years 1925 to 1934.
- Important subjects covered in the collection include: country music in America from the early 1920s through the 1930s and information on the commercial recording activities of the Starr Piano Company of Richmond, Indiana.
- Musician and other corespondents include: Green Bailey, Ted Chestnut, Asa Martin, Dick Parman, Paul I. Burks, F.W. Edwards, Jack W. Elliott, James T. Ellis, Roland Gaines, Bradley F. Kincaid, N.B. Knight, B. Roberts, Bob Miller, G.A. Nennsteil, C.A. Nolan, C.D. Shepherd, and D. Taylor.