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Dock Boggs
Born:  February 7, 1898
Died:  February 7, 1971

About The Artist

Moran Lee "Dock" Boggs, a Virginia coal miner who recorded a dozen white blues numbers for the Brunswick and Lonesome Ace labels in the late 1920s, gained wide admiration among folklorists for authentic renditions of traditional songs. In the 1960's, after many years out of music he was rediscovered, recorded again for Folkways, and played at several folk festivals prior to his death on his birthday at age 73.

Boggs hailed from an area near Norton, Virginia and while he had some musical aspiration, found it necessary to go to work in the coal mines at the age of twelve. He did work some tent shows and theater in southwest Virginia and southeast Kentucky in the later 1920s, but never enough to earn a living from it.

His only real shot at the big time came in May 1927 when he went to New York and cut eight sides for Brunswick Records. They did not sell sufficiently for him to give up his job in the mines. Two years later he went to Chicago and cut four numbers for a local man who started a label called Lonesome Ace. They sold very poorly as the man had no distribution plan.

Sometime before 1920, U.S. Census records show he was married to the former Sarah Stidham. He joined the church, and believing for a time that banjo music was sinful, shelved his instrument for many years and continued working in the coal mines. In 1954, as coal production declined, he found himself out of a job. He and his wife lived frugally for years, and did a few odd jobs until he became eligible for Social Security.

By the early and mid-sixties when interest revived in old-time music, Mike Seeger "rediscovered" Boggs, interviewed him extensively and recorded him for Folkways. He eventually turned out three additional long-play albums for either Folkways or Asch. He also played a number of folk festivals including Newport.

Promo Ad - Brunswick Records - Dock Boggs - Huntsville, AL - July 1927
Promo Ad - First New York Folk Festival - Carnegie Hall - Johnny Cash - Dock Boggs - June 1965

In June of 1965, the first New York Folk Festival was held at Carnegie Hall in New York City. The festival was to feature more than "60 of the country's greatest folk singers." Dock appeared on the Friday, June 18 session that began at 8:30pm. The session's theme was "Grassroots to Bluegrass to Nashville." Others performing that night were June Carter, Jimmy Driftwood, Mac Wiseman, Blue Sky Boys, Doc Watson and the New Lost City Ramblers.

Slowing down after reaching 70, he died on his birthday in 1971. His wife, Sarah, passed away on March 18, 1975.

Credits & Sources

  • Hillbilly-Music.com would like to express its thanks to Ivan M. Tribe, author of Mountaineer Jamboree — Country Music in West Virginia and other books that can be found on Amazon.com and numerous articles in other publications for providing us with information about this artist.
  • Retired Coal Miner Will Pick Banjo At Carnegie; June 4, 1965; Kingsport News; Kingsport, TN

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Recordings (78rpm/45rpm)

Rec. No. Side Song Title
  118 A Down South Blues
  118 B Sugar Baby
  131 A Sammy, Where Have You Been So Long?
  131 B Country Blues
  132 A Danville Girl
  132 B Pretty Polly
  133 A Hard Luck Blues
  133 B New Prisoners Song
Lonesome Ace
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  1 A False Hearted Lover?s Blues
  1 B Old Rub Alcohol Blues
  2 A Will Sweethearts Know Each Other There
  2 B Lost Love Blues
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  ML319 A Lost Love Blues
  ML319 A Old Rub Alcohol Blues
  ML319 A Will Sweethearts Know Each Other There
  ML319 B Will Sweethearts Know Each Other There (Alternate Take No. 2)
  ML319 B Lost Love Blues (Alternate Take No. 2)
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  05144 A Hard Luck Blues
  05144 B New Prisoner's Song

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