J. Michael King Brings Piedmont Blues to Quarantunes

The University of South Carolina’s McKissick Museum is excited to bring accomplished musician J. Michael King to this evening’s Quarantunes music series! J. Michael King is a composer, writer, and Piedmont blues musician with an insatiable love of traditional South Carolina music. King’s passion for Piedmont blues blossomed as a teenager, where the guitar stylings of South Carolina bluesmen like Blind Willie Walker, Josh White, and Pink Anderson were tremendous influences. Apprenticing under Ernie Hawkins – a student of the revered South Carolina bluesman Reverend Gary Davis – in the 1960s, King’s blues pedigree includes composing and performing music for four documentaries; producing and co-producing multiple blues albums; and countless educational programs and music lessons on the Piedmont Blues. In 2018, he received the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award for his multiple accomplishments in Piedmont Blues across South Carolina and beyond. We loved having King perform at FOLKFabulous@theFair, and can’t wait to hear what he’ll come up with for Friday’s performance.

Tune into McKissick’s Facebook Page this Friday, May 29th to hear Piedmont blues from the comfort of your home! Click here to be directed to the event page for this performance, and stay up to date on future shows. The performance will be posted on McKissick’s Facebook Page and in the discussion tab of the linked event page. For those unable to attend the event, a recorded version of the performance will be uploaded to the McKissick Museum YouTube page.

Quarantunes is just a small piece of McKissick Museum’s mission to support the traditional arts in South Carolina. As you enjoy the sights and sounds of these influential artists, we hope you’ll consider making a donation to support the McKissick Museum. Your support will help ensure the continuation of South Carolina’s traditional arts and FOLKFabulous for years to come.

Quarantunes Continues with The Blue Iguanas Band

Quarantunes returns this Friday evening with an amazing performance of bluegrass by the Blue Iguanas Band! The Blue Iguanas Band combines a love of traditional music and modern acoustic styles such as Newgrass, Americana, and the Blues. The five-piece combo features instruments commonly associated with traditional bluegrass music, and a three or four-part harmony on vocals. The Blue Iguanas have been together for nine years and have played local and regional festivals including The Congaree Bluegrass Festival, the Edisto Bluegrass Festival, the Cherokee NC Bluegrass Festival, Columbia’s Rhythm on the River series and Bluegrass First Class, in Asheville where the band opened for The Seldom Scene. While the band focuses primarily on private events, they can be heard locally at Tombo Grille, The Good Life Café and Steel Hands Brewery, and many others.

Tune into McKissick’s Facebook Page this Friday, May 22nd to hear great sounds of bluegrass, Americana, and more! Click here to be directed to the event page for this performance, and stay up to date on future shows! The performance will be posted on McKissick’s Facebook Page and in the discussion tab of the linked event page.

Quarantunes is just a small piece of McKissick Museum’s mission to support the traditional arts in South Carolina. As you enjoy the sights and sounds of these influential artists, we hope you’ll consider making a donation to support the McKissick Museum. Your support will help ensure the continuation of South Carolina’s traditional arts and FOLKFabulous for years to come.

The Importance of Index Fossils aka Why Trilobites are Awesome.

Trilobite Specimen from The Charleston Museum

As museums continue their work from home, Matt Gibson from The Charleston Museum dives into their invertebrate paleontology collection in May’s Historic Southern Naturalists Project (HSN) update. Enjoy this adventure into the world of trilobites.

Professor Daniel S. Martin served as Honorary Curator of Geology at The Charleston Museum in the early 1900s and was responsible for all rock and mineral samples as well as invertebrate fossils. As a “work from home” project I brought home the physical records for the invertebrate paleontology collection, which includes specimens donated by Martin, and have been updating the taxonomy. Updating the taxonomy, or the classification of organisms, is important as we more forward, as many of the earlier classifications have changed over the last 100 years. While doing this, I noted the large number of trilobites that Professor Martin procured for the Museum over the years.

Trilobites are arthropods, a group that contains organisms like insects and crustaceans. Although related to modern-day organisms, the class Trilobita is more closely related to other species of extinct arthropods. Trilobites existed on Earth for almost 300 million years. They first show up in the fossil record during the Early Cambrian Period — 521 million years ago (mya) and go extinct at the end of the Permian Period — 252 mya. Because trilobites are so diverse and have been so clearly documented within specific time periods, they are incredibly useful as an index fossil. If a particular trilobite species is found in an undated sedimentary rock layer, and no redeposition has occurred, it can be assumed the layer is the same age as that species.

Trilobite Specimen from The Charleston Museum

For example, layers found with the trilobite genus Phacops have been dated to be around 457 – 360 million years old. If a new layer is discovered that contains Phacops specimens, then that layer is likely 457 – 360 million years old. This relative dating technique can be incredibly useful. Of course, a more direct method would be to radioisotope date the formation. This process requires the formation to have igneous rock above and below the formation to “frame it” within more exact dates. This is not always possible at every site. Thankfully, the dates defined for index fossils come from those found in formations that do meet this criteria, so utilizing relative dates via index fossils is a relatively safe and accepted practice.

Prof. Martin was well aware of the usefulness of trilobites to paleontology and how important it was to include these fossils in The Charleston Museum collections. The Lowcountry does not have sediment layers old enough to contain trilobites, so many of his donations were from elsewhere in the U.S. including Illinois and New York. These donations included examples of Phacops rana along with other species like Calymene niagarensis and Triarthrus becki. These trilobite species are less ornate than those found in other parts of the world and are likely similar to trilobite species that would have been found in South Carolina. These species would have existed during time periods when areas of South Carolina were submerged beneath the primal ocean of the Paleozoic Era.

Specimens like these index fossils are incredibly important to The Charleston Museum’s collections, as well as to projects like the Historic Southern Naturalists Project. By updating their taxonomy, we can make it easier for modern-day researchers to find and study them. As we move forward with this project, more and more of these resources will be added to the database to showcase the impact of naturalists like Professor Daniel S. Martin.

Quarantunes to highlight Cuban Jazz in next live stream

This Friday evening, join the McKissick Museum and their Quarantunes music series in showcasing the great musical talents of Gino Castillo! Born in Quito, Ecuador and raised in Havana, Cuba, Gino Castillo is well known in Charleston as the leader of Afro-Cuban Jazz and Salsa. Gino first took an interest in drums as early as age five, trading his expensive violin for a beat up drumset. It would be after attending a concert by Grammy Award-winning band Irakere, though, that he would find his true passion: Cuban jazz. Learning from the group’s legendary conguero – or conga drum player – Gino moved to New York for a time until settling in Charleston in 2010.

During his time in South Carolina, Gino Castillo has quickly established a name for himself. He was name Jazz Artist of the Year by the Charleston City Paper in both 2013 and 2014, as well as Independent Tone Awards Jazz Artist of the Year in 2015 and 2016. In addition to being featured on a multitude of albums and countless performances, Gino has collaborated with acts such as the Charleston Jazz Orchestra, Lowcountry Latin Jazz Collective, Earl Klugh, and Oscarito Valdés, among many others. Most recently, he leads Gino Castillo & The Cuban Cowboys, as well as Buena Vista Legacy Band, a tribute to the iconic Cuban musicians featured in the documentary film and album, Buena Vista Social Club.

Tune in this Friday, May 15 at 7pm to listen to an amazing performance of Afro-Cuban Jazz and Salsa. Learn more about Gino Castillo and his career by clicking here!

Quarantunes is just a small piece of McKissick Museum’s mission to support the traditional arts in South Carolina. As you enjoy the sights and sounds of these influential artists, we hope you’ll consider making a donation to support the McKissick Museum. Your support will help ensure the continuation of South Carolina’s traditional arts and FOLKFabulous for years to come.

Freddie Vanderford Coming to Quarantunes this Friday

Quarantunes continues this Friday evening with 2010 Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award Recipient Freddie Vanderford, performing Piedmont blues harmonica. Growing up in Buffalo, SC, Vanderford first learned to play the mouth harp, or harmonica, from his grandfather, who played “old mountain songs” on the instrument. Initially, Vanderford blended the country style of his grandfather with the sound of the Chicago blues. However, an encounter with the Piedmont blues of Arthur “Peg Leg Sam” Jackson would forever change Vanderford’s musical style.

In the 1960s, Vanderford first heard Peg Leg Sam play the blues on the radio. When the Union County teenager discovered that the blues harpist and former medicine show performer lived nearby, he set out to meet him, hoping to learn something of his skill and his style. The two eventually developed a close relationship, from which Vanderford learned a great deal about the Piedmont blues. Today, his music is one of the closest links to the early masters of a unique musical tradition. Catch this amazing performance of Piedmont blues harmonica this Friday, May 8th at 7 pm EST! Want a sneak peek? Check out our Scenes from FOLKFabulous 2019 on our Youtube channel.

Quarantunes is just a small piece of McKissick Museum’s mission to support the traditional arts in South Carolina. As you enjoy the sights and sounds of these influential artists, we hope you’ll consider making a donation to support the McKissick Museum. Your support will help ensure the continuation of South Carolina’s traditional arts and FOLKFabulous for years to come!

Qurantunes presents Kristin Scott Benson

Kristin Scott Benson holding a banjo across the top of her shoulders.
Photo courtesy of Kristin Scott Benson

Quarantunes continues this Friday evening with the amazing Kristin Scott Benson, performing Bluegrass. Kristin Scott Benson is the five-time, reigning, International Bluegrass Music Association’s Banjo Player of the Year and recipient of the 2018 Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass. This year, Kristin became one of 5 recipients of the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award, South Carolina’s highest honor for traditional artists and advocates. We are overjoyed to have her perform Friday, May 1st at 7 pm EST!

She has been a member of Grammy-nominated and two-time IBMA Entertainers of the Year, The Grascals, since 2008. Kristin is one of the nation’s top bluegrass banjo players, exhibiting impeccable taste, timing, and tone. With an attentive ear to back-up, she is known and respected as a true team player among her peers.

Many consider her to be one of the first females to successfully be a side-musician in a top-tiered bluegrass band:

“There was one grass ceiling no woman could cut through—until Kristin Scott Benson came along, that is….when she joined The Grascals. Not to front the band, not to sing, not to be eye candy, but instead to drive the group with her fivestring banjo. Until then, no woman had ever been hired to play one of the most defining of the bluegrass instruments in an Alist, festival-headlining, all-male band….It’s a high profile gig, as Kristin takes the banjo where no woman has taken it before.”

Larry Nager – “Kristin Scott Benson – Cutting the Grass Ceiling” Bluegrass Unlimited: Oct, 2010

Kristin’s latest solo album, entitled Stringworks, is on Mountain Home Records and was released in July of 2016. It debuted in the top-ten on Billboard’s Bluegrass album chart and the self-penned opening track, Great Waterton, was nominated for IBMA’s Instrumental Recorded Performance of the Year. The record is a mixture of styles that reflect her tastes and features original and traditional instrumentals, as well as vocal songs that showcase her banjo playing.

Kristin has been featured on The Grascals’ albums since 2008, including the release, Before Breakfast, which topped the Bluegrass Unlimited Album Chart, holding the #1 slot for 8 consecutive months. Media performances include The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Fox & Friends, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, and CBS’ The Talk, among others. The band has performed for Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, as well as accumulating over 200 performances on The Grand Ole Opry.

Kristin Scott Benson performing with her banjo.
Photo courtesy of Kristin Scott Benson

After living 13 years in Nashville, she moved back to her original home in the Carolinas, where she lives with her husband and son.

Can’t make the livestream or don’t have Facebook? Not to worry! McKissick will upload all of these performances to YouTube and Facebook for easy viewing at the end of every Facebook Live event.

Quarantunes is just a small piece of McKissick Museum’s mission to support the traditional arts in South Carolina. As you enjoy the sights and sounds of these influential artists, we hope you’ll consider supporting McKissick Museum’s Midlands Gives Campaign on May 5th. All funds raised will go directly to 10 local artists who have been selected to participate in FOLKFabulous 2020 and heavily affected by COVID-19. Your support will help ensure the continuation of South Carolina’s traditional arts and FOLKFabulous for years to come!

Midlands Gives Banner - May 5th, 2020

Not Your Average Joe: Mr. Knozit and the Peabody Award

McKissick Museum’s Not Your Average Joe: Mr. Knozit and the Peabody Award” exhibition has been on display at the Museum since January, 2020. Our building closures, due to COVID-19, have given us the opportunity to explore news ways of presenting our exhibits. This exhibit, curated by Graduate Assistant Hannah Patton, is one of our first attempts at making our exhibits accessible online. We’d love to know what you think in the comments below! We hope you enjoy the blog post and text panels by Hannah below.

The inspiration for the “Not Your Average Joe: Mr. Knozit and the Peabody Award” exhibit began well before there was even the possibility of a physical exhibit. During my first semester as a graduate assistant at the McKissick Museum, my position was funded by the South Carolina Broadcast Association (SCBA), and I began work in the Museum’s SCBA Archive. A substantial part of this work involved processing objects related to Joe Pinner, a South Carolina Broadcasting Legend and host of the Mr. Knozit Show for 37 years. As the semester progressed, I learned more and more about the Mr. Knozit Show and Joe Pinner, the person. 

When the idea of an exhibit about Joe Pinner was presented to me, I was thrilled and thought it would be easy given the sheer amount of pictures, documents, and objects we have. Since this was my first time curating an exhibit, I learned the important lesson that more content did not necessarily make it easier to create an exhibit. In fact, it was challenging to craft a meaningful narrative about a man who has, and continues to live, such a full life. Ultimately, I focused on elements of his life, such as the Peabody Award, because it is those distinctions that make Joe Pinner undeniably “Not Your Average Joe.” I’m proud of the text panels that you’ll find below and I hope that you’ll enjoy them as we all stay home during this challenging time.

Panel Text: 

Joe Who?

Radio and television personality Joe Pinner was born in Morehead City, North Carolina in 1935. Pinner’s career in broadcasting began at a radio station in New Bern, North Carolina at the age of 15. While a student at UNC Chapel Hill, Pinner worked for the University radio station, WCHL. He then worked at WMBR radio in Jacksonville, Florida, before joining the U.S. Army in 1958. During his time with the Army, Pinner worked at Armed Forces Radio WFJX at Fort Jackson in Columbia, SC.

In May 1963, Pinner joined Columbia’s own WIS-TV. Only this time he would be hosting his first television show; the much-beloved local children’s program, the Mr. Knozit Show. Pinner was a part of the WIS family for 55 years and was involved a variety of roles beyond the Mr. Knozit Show. Pinner served as a weatherman, news anchor, and co-host for WIS News Midday and Today in Carolina.
Panel Text: 
The Mr. Knozit Show

The Mr. Knozit Show aired from 1963 until 2000. The show was unique for its inclusion of a live audience made up primarily of children. As Mr. Knozit, Pinner engaged the children by interviewing them, asking them their name, age, and what they hoped to be when they grew up. Over the years, the Mr. Knozit Show hosted guests such as William Shatner and other notable television personalities.

The arts, education, and safety were also important elements of the show. Mr. Knozit taught children about science, they learned about plants by studying the growth of a seed, and even explored how various types of electricity are produced. Mr. Knozit also emphasized the importance of safety and health. Children were invited to become members of his “Seatbelt Safety Club” or participate in an anti-drug poster competition. Mr. Knozit often hosted guests from the medical field to teach children about the importance of healthy practices.

Did you watch the Mr. Knozit Show as a kid or participate in the show?

Share a memory with us below!
Panel Text: 
The Peabody Award

The George Foster Peabody Award recognizes excellence in broadcasting. In 1967, WIS and the Mr. Knozit Show were awarded the prestigious Peabody Award for “distinguished achievement and meritorious public service in the category of Children’s Programs.” The Peabody Advisory Board stated that “Mr. Knozit is something more than an electronic baby-sitter.”

Recognition of the success and positive impact of the Mr. Knozit Show was not limited to the Peabody Award. Throughout his career, Pinner and the Mr. Knozit Show received countless amounts of fan mail. Both children and parents took the time to send letters of love and appreciation for the show. In 1968, one mother wrote:

Dear Mr. Penner[sic],

My Son & I watch your show Mr. Knozit almost every day and a few things which you have done lately, prompted me to write this note, namely:

1. your use of integrated groups of children on your show

2. your recent reference to the Jewish holiday – Hanukkah

3. your discouragement in the use of fireworks by young children

CONGRATULATIONS! It is good to see this in Columbia.
Panel Text: 

Joe Out on the Town

Joe Pinner’s positive impact goes well beyond the television screen or radio waves. He has participated in numerous philanthropic events, including programs with Fort Jackson, the South Carolina Philharmonic Orchestra, the University of South Carolina, and the United Way. He also served as the Master of Ceremonies for countless town and city parades.

In recognition of his contributions, Pinner received numerous awards from cities throughout the state and the South Carolina General Assembly. The cities of Columbia, Florence, and Sumter have presented him with symbolic keys to the cities. Pinner was awarded the state’s highest honor, the Order of the Palmetto, three times (1982, 1993, and 2001) for volunteerism and contributions to society as Mr. Knozit. In 1989, Pinner was awarded the honorary rank of Command Sergeant Major, by the U.S. Army at Fort Jackson, as he “has always answered the call to duty, whether it be the Fort Jackson Christmas Concert, or the Special Olympics.”

McKissick Museum is dedicated to telling the story of Southern Life, even while closed. Did you enjoy these text panels? If so, let us know in the comments. Your input will help us determine our next steps for bringing our exhibition content online.