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Staging Tradition
John Lair and Sarah Gertrude Knott
By Michael Ann Williams
University of Illinois Press
2006
240 Pages
ISBN:  0-252-03102-4

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The colorful and detailed story of folk music's pioneering stage presenters

Based on extensive archival research and oral history, Michael Ann Williams's Staging Tradition traces the parallel careers of the creators of the Renfro Valley Barn Dance and the National Folk Festival. Through their devotion to staging of traditional culture, including folk, country, and bluegrass music, John Lair (1894-1985) and Sarah Gertrude Knott (1895-1984) became two of the mid-twentieth century's most notable producers.

Lair and Knott's discovery of new developments in theater and entertainment during the 1920s led them to the producing careers that fed their own needs to be center stage. Inspired by programs such as WLS's Barn Dance and the success of early folk events, Lair began promoting Kentucky musicians and Knott staged her own radically inclusive festival, which included Native and African American traditions, and continues today as the National Folk Festival. Through extensive original research, Williams shows how Lair and Knott fed the public's fascination with the "art of the common man," and were in turn buffeted by cultural forces that developed around and beyond them.

About the Author
Michael Ann Williams heads the department of folk studies and anthropology at Western Kentucky University. She is the author of Great Smoky Mountains Folklife and other books.