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From The Vault

First we lis­ten to a 1976 Inter­view with Flo­ra Molton, born 1908 in Louisa Coun­ty Vir­ginia, and died in Wash­ing­ton D.C. May 311990.

Flo­ra Molton was blind and tells sto­ries of her past, sings and plays slide gui­tar, and explains why she has cho­sen to be a per­former of the street.

The inter­view is con­duct­ed by Natal­ie Reuss of Sophie’s Par­lor Media Col­lec­tive at WPFW our Paci­fi­ca sta­tion in Wash­ing­ton D.C.

We will hear some amaz­ing sto­ries but let me intro­duce you to her by read­ing a Vir­ginia His­to­ry mark­er on high­way W 212‑A.

Flo­ra Molton sang what she called Spir­i­tu­al and truth music,” a com­bi­na­tion of tra­di­tion­al reli­gious songs and her own com­po­si­tions. Born here in Louisa Coun­ty, the daugh­ter of the Rev­erend and Mrs. William Rollins, she began singing in church. At local par­ties she heard slide gui­tar played with a knife, a style adopt­ed to accom­pa­ny her­self. IN 1937, she moved to Wash­ing­ton, D.C., to make her liv­ing play­ing music on the street, and was known and loved by the gen­er­a­tions who encoun­tered her there.

She also per­formed at fes­ti­vals and clubs, record­ed three albums, and was fea­tured in two doc­u­men­tary films.

Addi­tion­al­ly, From 1963, she made appear­ances on the folk cir­cuit, and was lat­er signed by a Euro­pean record com­pa­ny when she vis­it­ed Europe in 1987. Her slide gui­tar play­ing in Vastopol (open D) was basic but intense, owing much to the blues whose ver­bal con­tent she fierce­ly rejected.

Her deliv­ery was gen­er­al­ly rem­i­nis­cent of an unso­phis­ti­cat­ed Sis­ter Roset­ta Tharpe, par­tic­u­lar­ly when Molton was assist­ed by more skil­ful musicians.

Here is a rare mix of her play­ing music and talk­ing about her expe­ri­ences. Flo­ra Molton, An Amer­i­can Woman mak­ing his­to­ry and culture.

We are proud that this record­ing, the only known copy of her speak­ing about her life.

We also fea­ture Bessie Jones.

Mary Eliz­a­beth Bessie Jones born in 1902 was an African Amer­i­can gospel and folk singer cred­it­ed with help­ing to bring folk songs, games and sto­ries She learned from her grand­fa­ther, a for­mer slave born in Africa to a 20th cen­tu­ry audience.

These tra­di­tions from the Geor­gia and South Car­oli­na islands led her to being a found­ing mem­ber of the Geor­gia Sea Island Singers. Bessie Jones died in 1984.

Her sto­ry is as inter­est­ing and incred­i­ble as our pre­vi­ous per­former, Flo­ra Molton. Here we have the priv­i­lege of hear­ing a live con­cert per­formed April 9, 1977 at The leg­endary Freight & Sal­vage Cof­fee­house in Berke­ley Cal­i­for­nia, and record­ed by the Wom­en’s Record­ing Group of KPFA at Paci­fi­ca s flag­ship sta­tion, KPFA and was pro­duced by Martha Oel­man and Joan Medlin