Doc Roberts Collection, 1910-1938 (Bulk: 1924-1935)

Descriptive Summary

Title
Doc Roberts Collection, 1910-1938 (Bulk: 1924-1935)
Creator
Berea College
Extent
1.2 linear feet.
Finding Aid Author
Processed by: staff; machine-readable finding aid created by: Eric Weig
Repository
Berea College

Collection Overview

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.

Contents of the Collection

Series I: Recording Company Materials

This series contains information on the companies for which Doc Roberts recorded. Items included are record release brochures and catalogs, recording contracts, royalty statements, and correspondence with the Gennett, American, and Paramount Record Companies.

Agreements with the Starr Piano Company, September, 1925- April 1930

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Gennett Correspondence, 1926-1927

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Gennett Correspondence, 1928

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Gennett Correspondence, 1929

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Gennett Correspondence, 1930

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Gennett Correspondence, 1931

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Gennett Correspondence, 1932-1934

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Release Sheets (Gennett Records), March 15, 1929- February 1, 1930

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Gennett Record Catalogs, January, 1928-January, 1930.

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Gennett Royalties, July 1, 1928- February 8, 1934

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Misc. Envelops from Gennett

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Misc. Items Associated with Gennett

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Correspondence with Paramount Record Company, 1927-1929

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Paramount Record Co. Envelopes and Misc. items

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Brunswick Record Company Correspondence

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Vocalion and Melotone Record Company Brochures

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American Record Corporation: Misc. Documents

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Correspondence with the American Record Corporation, 1930-1934

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Champion Record Release Brochures, Oct., 1928-March, 1930

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Series II: Roberts' Music and Fellow Musicians

This series includes song lists, information on fiddlers' contests, and correspondence with fellow musicians. These correspondents include: Green Bailey, Ted Chestnut, Asa Martin, Dick Parman, Paul I. Burks, F.W. Edwards, Jack W. Elliott, James T. Ellis, Roland Gaines, Bradley Kincaid, N.B. Knight, B. Roberts, Bob Miller, G.A. Nennsteil, C.A. Nolan, C.D. Shepherd, and D. Taylor.

Song Lists

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Fiddlers' Contests Information

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Correspondence with Green Bailey, 1928

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Correspondence with Ted Chestnut, 1927-29

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Correspondence with Asa Martin, 1928-31; 1934

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Correspondence with Dick Parman, 1927-30; 1934

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Correspondence with Paul I. Burks, 1927-1928

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Correspondence with F.W. Edwards, 1927

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Correspondence with Jack W. Elliot, 1928

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Correspondence with James Tandy Ellis, 1927

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Correspondence with Roland Gaines, 1931

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Correspondence with Bradley Kincaid, 1930

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Correspondence with N.B. Knight Variety Store, 1930

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Correspondence with Burton Roberts

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Correspondence with Bob Miller

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Correspondence with G. A. Nennsteil (Sterchi Brothers), 1926; 1927

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Correspondence with, C.D. Shepherd, 1927

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Correspondence with, C.A. Nolan, 1928; 1931

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Miscellaneous Personal Correspondence, 1912; 1930; 1934; n.d.

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Series III: Fan Mail

The bulk of the fan mail in this collection is from 1934, and is addressed to Doc Roberts and his group, The Kentucky Thorobreds, when they played on Lexington, Kentucky radio station, WLAP.

Fan mail, 1927-1930

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Fan mail while at WLAP, April, 1934

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Fan mail while at WLAP, April, 1934

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Series IV: Ephemera Items and Envelopes

Items include bank statements, catalogs, consumer brochures, and mailing envelopes that Roberts saved throughout the years.

Envelopes addressed to Roberts at WLAP

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Misc. Envelops

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Samples of Envelopes from the Starr Piano Co.

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Samples of Envelopes from the Starr Piano Co.

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Samples of Envelopes from the New York Recording Laboratories

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Ephemera

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Photographs

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Home Disc Recording recorded 5-15-54 by James Roberts. Six fiddle tunes by Doc Roberts accompanied…

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