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Max F. Hunter worked as a traveling salesman from Springfield beginning in the early 1950s. His route often took him into northern Arkansas, and to help pass the time while he was on the road and staying in hotels, he began to collect songs on a reel-to-reel recorder that he stored in his car's trunk. Between 1956 and 1976, he recorded nearly 1600 folk songs and ballads from the men and women that he encountered as he drove the back roads of Arkansas and Missouri.
He used his salesmanship skills to help earn the trust of the men and women that sang songs into his tape recorder. To "close the deal," he would often offer to help with chores or run errands in exchange for a song! His son, David Hunter, recalled his father's unique arrangements in a 2000 newspaper article. He said, "It was very well known that he ran moonshine into Arkansas on several occasions. Then he would go back and get a song for doing the delivery. I think they respected that."
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This digital collection, compiled by Missouri State University faculty mermber Michael F. Murray (with assistance from the Springfield-Greene County Library, Kathy Murray, and Mark Bilyeu), contains nearly 1600 field recordings from a wide range of singers, including Almeda Riddle, Fred High, Jimmie Driftwood, Ollie Gilbert, and Vance Randolph.
Photocopies of Mr. Hunter's fieldwork notebooks from 1956-1976 are housed at the Meyer Library music collection. The original notebooks and tapes are in the Rare Book Room of the Springfield-Greene County Library's Library Center.