End of an Old Song — Dillard Chandler

I feel sometime that I’m like that song “All my good times are past and gone. All my good times are over …

Dillard Chandler speaking in the documentary End of an Old Song, 1973

During the American folk music revival in the 1960’s, when John Cohen (musician, photograher, filmmaker) traveled to Western North Carolina to research and record traditional ballad singers, he was introduced to many of the descendants of Mitchell Wallin who played for Cecil Sharp. One of their cousins –Dillard Chandler (1907-1992) especially interested Cohen. Dillard sang in the old-fashioned manner that Cecil Sharp described when he first visited Madison County in 1916. John Cohen mentions some of the factors that he found in Dillard’s singing, including, “the assuredness of his expression with its odd musicality” and ‘the heroic-tragic qualities in the singing.” And, so, Cohen included Dillard in two of his recordings: Old Love Songs & Ballads from the Big Laurel, North Carolina and Dark Holler: Old Love Songs and Ballads (album notes) are compilation albums of these recordings.

Dillard alone was the subject of the 27-minute documentary End of an Old Song (1973) and the album (album liner notes) of the same name. Cohen was drawn to using Dillard because he “was a man confronting the challenges of modern life, but even though his experiences placed him in continual engagement with present-day America, he knew an ancient world within his head.” The movie was described by Michael Goodwin, Rolling Stone, as “a superbly conceived, masterfully executed work of art.”

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