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Volume 24, Number 3 — March 2017

ETSU professor wins awards for liner notes

April 28, 2015

Dr. Ted Olson, an East Tennessee State University faculty member in Appalachian studies, served as co-producer and co-writer of the liner notes for the Bear Family Records' boxed set of "The Johnson City Sessions 1928-1929: Can You Sing or Play Old-Time Music?"

After receiving worldwide positive reviews and the Certificate of Merit for Best Historical Research in Country Music from the Association for Recorded Sound Collections, the boxed set has now received the Jack Spadaro Documentary Award for Best Documentary on Appalachia from the Appalachian Studies Association.

The Johnson City Sessions, overseen by Columbia Records, followed on the heels of the better known 1927-1928 Bristol Sessions, conducted by Victor records. Of the Johnson City Sessions boxed set, music historian Ed Ward, a journalist for NPR's "Fresh Air" show, tweeted "Johnson City Sessions: lots more fun than the Bristol Sessions. Fewer stars, more insight into a vanished world."

Olson and his collaborator Tony Russell, a pioneering music scholar who lives in England, also co-produced and co-authored liner notes for the earlier boxed set from Bear Family Records, "The Bristol Sessions, 1927-1928: The Big Bang of Country Music." Released in 2011 the Bristol Sessions boxed set received two Grammy Award nominations. Olson and Russell, working with the Knoxville-based Tennessee Archive of Moving Image and Sound, are preparing a new boxed set collecting the complete 1929-1930 Brunswick/Vocalion recordings from Knoxville.

Olson recently completed work as the sole producer and liner notes author for another summer 2015 release, a Bear Family Records boxed set to contain the 1950-era studio recordings by Bristol-born Tennessee Ernie Ford. This forthcoming boxed set will be a cornerstone of several celebrations of Ford's legacy to be held in Bristol and around the nation in 2015 — the 60th anniversary of Ford's enduring hit single "Sixteen Tons."

In addition, Olson produced and wrote liner notes for a forthcoming CD and book titled, "Blind Alfred Reed: Appalachian Visionary," to be issued by Dust-to-Digital in 2015. Reed, a West Virginia native and 2007 inductee into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame, recorded at the 1927 Bristol Sessions. His critically praised recordings have been overshadowed by those by two other Bristol Sessions acts, The Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers.

Among Olson's earlier works are two CDs he co-produced for the Great Smoky Mountains Association: the 2012 Grammy Award nominee "Old-Time Smoky Mountain Music" and "Carroll Best and the White Oak String Band," both non-profit releases intended to benefit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Olson notes, "The goal of all these projects has been to encourage local, regional, national and international awareness of and pride in Appalachia's diverse musical legacy.