By 1933 Randolph was recognized as one of the leading authorities on the Ozarks region, and was subsequently hired as a scriptwriter by MGM Studios in Hollywood, California. He and another writer wrote a script about the Ozarks. When the producer read the script, he told Randolph and his writing partner that the script “lacked authenticity.” Angry, Randolph left Hollywood and returned to the Ozarks. Instead of returning to Pineville, he settled in Galena, Missouri, in Stone County. Marie Randolph died from cancer in 1937. The couple did not have any children.
Hired during the height of the Great Depression
In late October 1929 a devastating stock market crash occurred on Wall Street. The crash was the result of risky financial decisions made by investors in the stock market. The value of stocks fell dramatically, sending the economy into a tailspin. Many people went broke and faced tough times. The crash was followed by the Great Depression, a severe worldwide economic downturn that lasted until World War II. Many people were unemployed during this time, income dropped, and many families became homeless.
to work as an assistant state supervisor of the Federal Writer’s Project in Missouri, Randolph travelled throughout the Ozarks recording folk songs and collecting stories and folklore with pen and paper. Randolph established lasting relationships with area residents that enabled him to collect large amounts of material.
Fiddler Joshua C. Keithly
Vance Randolph collected a stanza of Sourwood Mountain from Joshua C. Keithley of Ridgedale, Missouri, in 1940. This song appears in Volume III of Ozark Folksongs and is an example of a humorous song. Keithley’s stanza went like this:
“Old man, old man, I want your daughter, Hi ho diddle dum, hi ho day,
To make my bread an’ pack my water, Hi ho diddle dum a day.
Young man, young, man, you can have her, Hi ho diddle dum, hi ho day,
But she won’t work, an’ I caint make her, Hi ho diddle dum a day.”
[Vance Randolph, Ozark Folksongs Collection, 1919-1957 (C3774),The State Historical Society of Missouri, Manuscript Collection-Columbia]
These relationships were important when he was later hired to collect songs and ballads in the Ozarks for the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress. This time, however, Randolph was able to purchase recording equipment to make sound recordings of old-time Ozarkers singing hymns and mournful ballads.
Randolph used the material he gathered to produce his most important and impressive work. In 1946 the State Historical Society of Missouri published Ozark Folk Songs.
A four volume set, Ozark Folk Songs
contains over 900 ballads and songs that Randolph gathered, including African American spirituals; ballads brought to the United States by British, Irish, and Scottish immigrants; religious hymns; Civil War
The Civil War was a military conflict that began on April 12, 1861, when Southern forces fired on Fort Sumter outside of Charleston, South Carolina. Several Southern states had seceded from the United States (also known as the Union) and formed the Confederate States of America (also referred to as the Confederacy) out of fear that the United States' newly elected president, Abraham Lincoln, would not allow the expansion of slavery into new western states. Battles and skirmishes were fought throughout the country by Union and Confederate forces. General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, Virginia, on April 9, 1865. As other Confederate forces heard the news of Lee's surrender, they surrendered as well and the war was soon over. Over half a million men were killed or wounded in the war. Thousands of former slaves gained their freedom. After the war, the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution were passed prohibiting slavery, providing equal protection for all citizens, and barring federal and state governments from denying citizens the right to vote due to their race, color, or status as a former slave.
tunes; and humorous songs.
Vance Randolph admitted his work focused on people he called “hillbillies and ridge-runners” who lived in isolated areas, not individuals who lived in cities or towns, or people he thought were tainted by modernization. He presented a narrow, romanticized view of the Ozarks as he focused on the upper White River Valley of Missouri and Arkansas, and not the entire Ozark region.