This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held in the Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the World Wide Web. See the Duplication Policy section for more information.
|Size||3.5 feet of linear shelf space (approximately 1200 items)|
|Abstract||John Edwards (1932-1960) of Sydney, Australia, was one of the first collectors of early American country music and a pioneering discographer of this music. Edwards's collection of about 2,500 rare records and tapes is now housed in the Southern Folklife Collection, Manuscripts Department, Academic Affairs Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Correspondence, discographies, writings, and other materials of Edwards, chiefly letters to Edwards from fellow collectors and Edwards's record collection inventories. There are also some letters from John Edwards, writings, legal papers, copies of song lyrics, photographs, and material about Edwards. The letters generally concern record finds, discographical information, and tape or record trades.|
|Creator||Edwards, John, 1932-1960.|
The following terms from Library of Congress Subject Headings suggest topics, persons, geography, etc. interspersed through the entire collection; the terms do not usually represent discrete and easily identifiable portions of the collection--such as folders or items.
Clicking on a subject heading below will take you into the University Library's online catalog.
In his short life, John Edwards (1932-1960) amassed a valuable collection of early American folk music from his home in Sydney, Australia.
While in his teens Edwards started listening to, playing, and collecting what he called American "hillbilly" music. As his collection grew in the mid-1950s, he also began compiling professional discographies of early American country music of the 1920s and 1930s. Edwards, along with a few others, such as Eugene Earle, pioneered discographical research in this field. Around 1953, he started corresponding with other record collectors in Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. He continued both activities, producing a greater output each year until he died in an automobile crash in 1960.
After he was graduated from high school, Edwards accepted the job he would hold until his death, roster officer in the Department of Transport. He apparently worked there chiefly to earn money to build his collection.
Edwards had another avocation, hiking. He was a "bush walker," and also apparently an amateur botanist and map maker. In 1967, Mount Edwards was named in commemoration of his outdoor work.Back to Top
This collection consists chiefly of letters from fellow collectors and Edwards's record collection inventories. There are also some letters from John Edwards, writings, legal papers, copies of song lyrics, photographs, and material about Edwards. Edwards was a prolific correspondent in the period 1954-1960. The letters generally concern record finds, discographical information, and tape or record trades.
Ever the meticulous record keeper, Edwards logged his outgoing correspondence for 1956 and 1958. Beginning in 1958, Edwards produced typed copies of his record collection discographies, updating them several times annually. These listings will help researchers determine the original holdings of what became the John Edwards Memorial Collection.
Photocopies of letters from John Edwards to Jim Evans. Originals are housed at the Country Music Foundation.Back to Top
Correspondence between John Edwards and his early country music-collecting colleagues, and two letters from his mother Irene Edwards to two of these colleagues after Edwards's death in 1960. The bulk of this series runs 1953 to 1960, consisting chiefly of letters from John Edwards to others. The letters chart the development of Edwards's record and tape collections, as well as his discographical work. Edwards's chief correspondents were Eugene Earle, Keith Christie, Jim Evans, D. K. Wilgus, Archie Green, and Will Roy Hearne. He also corresponded frequently with the "hillbilly" musicians he admired. With these musicians' help, he began building his discographical inventories. Edwards also wrote to many record companies for discographical information.
The letters show several important developments in collecting this type of folk music. Edwards and his friends were the first to apply discography to "hillbilly" music. They also used technology, taping records on reel-to-reel players in the mid-1950s.
Edwards's collecting habits, his extraordinary energy, and his professional approach also are revealed by the letters. He completed his collection of Jimmie Rogers records by the late 1950s, but was still collecting his favorite group, the Carter Family, when he died. By purchasing and trading for better copies of records that he already had, Edwards improved his collection in later years.
The correspondence series has been divided into two subseries: incoming correspondence and outgoing correspondence.
Arrangement: alphabetical by last name of correspondent..
Some of these letters are originals, apparently added by their recipients to this collection before it arrived at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Some are photocopies of originals, the whereabouts of which are unknown to the Manuscripts Department staff. Edwards held mail auctions of items from his collection and distributed want lists; records of both activities are included here. Correspondent registers list the correspondent, date, and the subject of Edwards's letters.
Acquisitions information: Accession 93105
Edwards compiled typed and handwritten lists of his record collections. It appears that in the beginning he did so mainly for himself. After 1955, however, he sent copies out to his collecting friends. These lists, with supplements for 1958-1960, will give researchers a notion of the original John Edwards Collection (which has swelled tenfold since 1960). A book list of John Edwards's personal library also is included.
Arrangement: by subseries, as noted below.
An essay, notes, and letters-to-the-editor by John Edwards, song lyrics copied by him, a copy of Edwards's will, and tributes to Edwards.
Arrangement: by type of writing.
While only one essay is included here, Edwards wrote many essays on country music that appeared in magazines such as Hillbilly-Folk, International Discophile, Disc Collector, and Country and Western Spotlight, from 1954 to 1960.
As a guitar and banjo player, Edwards copied hillbilly song lyrics and chords. He kept lyrics to songs by Jimmie Rogers, the Carter Family, and others in notebooks and on loose papers.
Edwards drew up his will in 1958; it provided that Eugene Earle be made executor of his collection and that the collection would be housed in the United States.
After his death, Edwards was recognized for his record collecting and his outdoor trail-blazing. The tributes include an essay, a song by Jim Hulgan, and a mountain named after him.
Clippings, programs, and other items collected by Edwards, relating to Australian and American folklore and music. Similar items have been placed according to subject in the vertical files of the Southern Folklife Collection.
Arrangement: by subject.
Chiefly images of John Edwards and his bedroom. The photographs show Edwards in informal moments such as playing his guitar. Several photos also may give researchers some idea of Edwards's collecting habits--they picture bins of carefully arranged records and desk compartments stuffed with correspondence. The photographer is unknown, although the pictures of Edwards's room were presumably taken by a family member.
The two photo albums contain pictures of some early country music stars. All of the pictures appear to be reprints of earlier photographs, and hence are of little research value. The albums were labeled "#3" and "#5" by Edwards. The staff does not know if other albums, i.e., #1, #2, or #4, exist.
Photograph Album PA-20000/1-2
Processed by: Chuck Israel, November 1988 and additions
Encoded by: ByteManagers Inc., 2008Back to Top