Friday, October 21, 2011

With A Song In His Heart: Vince Meades Collector Extraordinare

We sing together softly, on occasion, while searching through several boxes of  Popular piano and vocal sheet music for hours. Hushed laughter dances around jokes and anecdotes. It's difficult to contain my excitement. Today we are looking at pre- and turn of the Twentieth Century music. Mr. Meades gingerly removes the music from their containers and shows me the proper way to handle fragile pages more than a century old. What can I say about a man who shares his love of music so freely? Each moment he guides me through another box is like walking through a sonic looking glass. This treasure chest is the collection that he has graciously donated to the San Diego States Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room.

HERE'S A SHOUT OUT 'CAUSE: the Special Collections staff is extremely knowledgeable and patiently assist when Mr. Meades is not on site. Librarian Gloria Rhodes keeps me anchored when I need to process information from my notes. Michael Lapin in the Media Center helps me find digitalized CDs, sound recordings of early Twentieth Century American music, and also DVDs on American culture. Professor Richard Thompson always amazes me with some serious discourse about musicians, gigs, Jazz and African American Art Song. And, my fellow Africana Studies Department colleagues indulge my whimsical ramblings about Folk Songs, Minstrel Songs, Vaudeville, Traveling Medicine Shows, and early 1900s Theater Music with syncopation and a "boom-chick" bass line while gently reminding me that, "It would be nice to finish, publish, and share all that information."(Composite paraphrase)

The Vince Meades Collection  is massive! Mr. Meades,  is adding more inventory to his initial donation this month. One day, after a few sessions together, I could not resist asking, "Why did you collect so many songs?" He smiled broadly and said with a plainspoken reply  from the heart, "I wanted to preserve the music of my era for future generations."

For researchers who examine sheet iconography, the Vince Meades collection holds many rare gems. The 1917 hit song below was made famous by the  Vaudevillian Emma Carus. Lyricist Coleman Goetz collaborated with composer Leon Flatow on this toe tapper.

(Reproduced by permission of San Diego State University, Library and Information Access, Special Collections and University Archives: contact for copyright info.)

It is daunting to conduct months of on site and digital music research. Mr. Meades' collaborative goodwill makes archive inquiry less tedious. Imagine the blessing of having a storehouse of musical experience spanning decades(Vince is now 81 years young!)sitting, exchanging cultural nuances that cannot be accessed by  Apps. The Africana Studies Department  is  a few hundred yards from the San Diego State University Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room. I may have to get up from the computer, but for this segment of my research, its only a short walk across campus. 

Although Carpe Noctum will stay the same ya'll, look for my new music specific site soon that features short biographies and information not only about early American popular sheet music that I have been researching in local archives, but also about American music and popular culture in general.

Music, moonlight, and ah yes . . . .Delores Fisher


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