Peggy Bulger interviews Freeman Kitchens, 1974
Drake Vintage Music & Curios, 2011 - Photo by Jennifer Joy Jameson.
Some months ago, to my delight, I transcribed an archival interview with Freeman Kitchens conducted by Peggy Bulger, Director of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, while she was an MA student in the WKU Folk Studies program.
Over the years, many scholars interested in country music history and culture have interviewed Freeman, gathering important data from the great source material of the Sunny Side Sentinel and associated fan journals.
Below is an excerpt from that interview, now held in the WKU Folklife Archives. In it, Freeman explains the origins of the Carter Family Fan Club and his involvement with the production of the early country music mag, Disc Collector, the “Official Organ of the National Hillbilly Record Collector’s Exchange.” Hear some of this audio at the exhibit!
LOCATION: Kitchens’ Grocery — Drake, Kentucky
DATE: September 22, 1974
FIELDWORKER: Margaret “Peggy” [Bulger]
DISCLAIMER: For perfect accuracy, refer to the recording. This transcription is as accurate and complete as possible. In any question of interpretation, the researcher is referred to the recording itself as the primary document representing this event.
PB: How did you get started, well—say, how did you get started as the Carter Family Fan Club President?
FK: Well, I started collecting the records, see?
PB: When was that?
FK: Forties, I guess…the 1940s. About ’51 or ’52, I believe, I heard from A.P. Carter saying something about fan clubs, or some way to get the records going again.
And I guess I started just to help [with it], and also just to help me find all the other [Carter Family] records that I had not found.
PB: How did he [A.P.] find out about you?
FK: Well, I had written him, I believe—or the ACME Record Company, asking about different records, you know.
PB: I see, okay. And so he asked you to kind of start it?
FK: Oh, well, he didn’t say a fan club, but some way to get their records going, and to let all their fans know, and so, I just formed a fan club. But, the Carter Sisters already had one – Miss Frances Lyle had started one, and put out a journal for it. So, I had been corresponding with her, and we all just combined it into one, and I ended up with it when she gave it up.
PB: Oh, so when did you start?
FK: In the early fifties.
PB: Now, was this about the time that you got together the “Disc Collector” magazine?
PB: Well, how did that start?
FK: Well, this Joseph Nicholson in Michigan had it going, I believe, and asked me to help with it. You know, I put records for sale in it, and information on the artists that I could gather.
PB: And anything that you would happen to know…articles that you had written up?
FK: I had written an article on the Carter Family for it once. And, I believe [folklife scholar] Archie Green told me it was the first that he’d known to be written about them.
PB: Oh, wow!
The new-fangled Carter Family Fan Club started with 25 or 30 members. At the time of this 1974 interview by Peggy Bulger, Kitchens indicated a membership of about 300 to 400.
— Jennifer Joy Jameson
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