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Introduction I first met Bascom Lunsford in 1956 at the North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh, but I did not have a reason to communicate with him again until I became director of the Berea College Appalachian Center in 1970. Then I wrote to invite Mr. Lunsford to come and perform a concert at the college. Within days I received a telephone call: "This is Bascom Lamar Lunsford. Why, I can't come up there. I'm eighty-nine years old. You come to see me." And so I did. In his apartment in West Asheville I spent an afternoon interviewing and visiting with him and his second wife, Freda. That visit had a profound effect on me. Lunsford had not forgotten much that was important to him, and his life unfolded in almost nonstop talk for four hours. I recorded it, and it was a marvelous story. My intention was to gather material for the Mountain Collection at Berea College and to write an article, which I did (fEMF Quarterly, spring, 1973), and then move on to something else. But Bascom would not let go of me, even though he died in September of 1973. After seeing my article, Bascom's daughters Kern and Jo called to ask ifI would write a biography oftheir father. I told them that I just didn't have the time. At a meeting ofthe Appalachian Consortium Press at Mars Hill College soon thereafter, the director asked me to look at a small manuscript on Lunsford written by Dr. Angus McLeod, retired English professor at Mars Hill College, and to see if I might work with Dr. McLeod in expanding the manuscript into a suitable account of Lunsford's life and work. I reluctantly agreed, and although this collaboration never came about, I made good use of McLeod's forty-some page manuscript. My book, slowed by my full-time job, evolved over about twelve years, changing as I gathered materials, conducted interviews, and gained insight into Lunsford's unusual career and the implications of his contributions. The book was first published by the Appalachian Consortium Press in 1984. Archie Green, my favorite folklorist, read early versions and gave advice, suggesting that I make clear my politics ofculture. This brought me up short. The politics ofculture was a vague concept to me. However, Archie got me to thinking in a new way about Bascom's work and about Appalachian traditional lore-and Appalachians themselvesin relation to mainstream culture. Archie thought my cultural politics ought to be clear throughout the book, but I had trouble because I saw it as Bascom's book, and whenever I intruded with my opinions, I didn't feel right. So, my politics ofculture are here in this introduction. I see all life as being a tension between the old and the new, between traditional and progressive ways. My mother, contemplating religion and values, would have said "Old ways are best," but she readily changed from canning to freezing foods when she was able to get a freezer. We are all pulled by the past and the promise of the future, some more one way than the other. The liberal/conservative schism in this country is a problem for many of us. Some liberals are hellbent on changing everyrhing, and some conservatives are just as determined on keeping things as they are (as if they could). On the extreme ends ofthe political continuum are those we generally call radicals or reactionaries. Some of the latter want to preserve a past that never was, and some of the former want to destroy traditions of the past in order to build a more just society. This battle challenges those of us who want to preserve and extend the enriching and strengthening traditions and values of the past while wiping out harmful prejudices, stereotypes, and exploitive practices. I want both to preserve and change elements of our culture. I believe that cultural tradition-the religion, values, and folkways handed down from the generations before us-is vital to who we are. In a sense, culture is just as real to us as the physical world in which we exist. Robert Penn Warren put it this way when asked about his childhood culture, "It is the capital we draw off of all of our lives." We draw from it, but we do not all live in the same culture we lived in as children; therefore, ifwe are to benefit from our traditional culture, we...


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