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Roots, Rhythm & Rock - Music That Moved Fort Smith: First Movement 1880-1945

Roots, Rhythm & Rock - Music That Moved Fort Smith: First Movement 1880-1945 opened in the Boyd Gallery at the Fort Smith Museum of History on October 15. Dr. Kevin Jones, Associate Professor of English and Rhetoric, presented a program on William Worth Bailey, Jr. and Katherine Price Bailey. The Baileys operated the Southwest School of Musical Arts in Fort Smith and started the Fort Smith Symphony in 1923, the first in Arkansas. William Worth Bailey, Jr. was a Fort Smith native and a renowned blind violinist known as the "American Paganini". 


Also featured in the exhibition are the 1887 Grand Opera House, the 1911 New Theater, and the Hartford Music Company and Institute. Musicians featured in the exhibit include: W.D.C. Botefuhr, first music director at the University of Arkansas in 1872, director of the Fort Smith Conservatory of Music in 1881 and teacher of William Worth Bailey, Jr.; jazz great Alphonso Trent and his orchestra; gospel composer Albert Brumley with the Hartford Music Institute; the inventor of the bazooka, Van Buren native Bob Burns; and KWHN Radio Station at the Goldman Hotel in Fort Smith.


Artifacts include: a “shape-note” song book with “I’ll Fly Away” by Albert Brumley; vintage instruments from the museum’s collection and loaned from the community; and a large card mounted photograph (believed to be albumen) of W. D. C. Botefuhr. View a piano from the R. C. Bollinger Music Company and pianos that belonged to Hattie Mae Butterfield and Ocie Payne, all of Fort Smith. Listen to a recording of the Alphonso Trent Orchestra and a wire recording of a quartet from the Hartford Institute. A video of Bob Burns playing the bazooka is available.


In conjunction with the exhibit are a December 10th program featuring “shape-note” singing by the Shankle Sisters of Hartford, AR and others, and an April 30th showing of a new documentary on Alphoso Trent.


This project is supported in part by a grant from the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.  


Roots, Rhythm & Rock - Music That Moved Fort Smith: Second Movement 1945-1985 is planned for next year.


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