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FT-270538-20

Patrick Joseph Huber
University of Missouri (Rolla, MO 65409-0001)
Fiddlin’ Doc Roberts (1897-1978) and the Business of Hillbilly Music

Research and writing of a book on Doc Phillip Roberts, aka “Fiddlin’ Doc Roberts,” (1897–1978) and the history of “hillbilly music” in America.

My book chronicles the life of Doc Roberts (1897–1978), whom scholars have hailed as “the most famous and widely recorded of all Kentucky fiddlers” and as “one of the most widely heard southern fiddlers of the 1920s and early ’30s.” Far more than simply a biography, this project interrogates many of the commercial dimensions of the hillbilly music industry during its formative years using Roberts’s career as the central lens. Roberts’s remarkable collection of correspondence illuminates seldom-examined aspects of the industry’s business practices and policies, especially musicians’ relations with record company officials and music retailers. My book challenges the persistent notion of hillbilly music being essentially a rural southern folk music separate from the commercial world of capitalist imperatives and profit-driven motives. Focusing on Roberts and the financial and logistical dimensions of his career helps reveal the long-neglected business history of hillbilly music.

Project fields:
Cultural History; Folklore and Folklife; U.S. History

Program:
Summer Stipends

Division:
Research Programs

Totals:
$6,000 (approved)
$6,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
9/1/2021 – 10/31/2022