In 1955, N&O writer Herbert O'Keef profiled Lunsford for the Tar Heel of the Week column.
Bascom Lamar Lunsford swears he can remember riding a horse across Big Ivy River when he was only 18 months old.
That would be some remembering, but Lunsford is sure he does remember it all. And, people who know him believe he really does, because it seems that he also remembers almost everything else that ever happened in his beloved North Carolina mountains. Especially the music the mountain people have been singing and playing for so many generations.
In his busy years, he has been teacher, lawyer, salesman, G-man and ... folklorist.
He was born on March 21, 1882, at Mars Hill College in Madison County on the waters of Banjo Branch, one of the eight children of James Basset Lunsford and Arta Buckner Lunsford.
Bascom Lamar Lunsford's father was a teacher for years in the mountains of Western North Carolina, a teacher who was largely self educated during his service as a Confederate soldier in the Civil War.
The father was teaching at Mars Hill when Bascom was born, and when he was about 18 months of age, the family moved to Asheville and another teaching job. It was on this trip that Bascom remembers riding the horse across Big Ivy River.
The family lived in Asheville for several years, then moved to the Leicester Community in Bumcombe County, and it was there that young Bascom grew up. He went to Camp Academy there, and then to Rutherford College, where he completed what would be considered junior college training today. In 1906, the whole family moved to Rutherford College to give the younger girls a chance to get to school, high schools then not being what they are today.
On June 2, 1906, Lunsford married Miss Nellie Triplett of the Leicester community. They lived at Rutherford College and he took work in school and also taught there. Later, he continued his teaching and read law. From there, he went to Trinity College Law School (now Duke University) and took second year law under the famed Dr. Samuel Fox Mordecai, and was admitted to the bar in 1913.
Then, he was appointed solicitor of Burke County Court in Morganton, and later was elected to that job. He got a lot of legal training in that job, he feels.
In 1916, he moved to McDowell County to practice law, then in the fall of 1924 moved to Buncombe. He practiced law there and in McDowell until about 1935.
During those years, too, he owned and edited the Old Fort Sentinel and was a G-man in New York during World War I. He taught school some in McDowell County and in Madison County.
In 1931, he was reading clerk in the State House of Representatives during the long session, the longest in North Carolina history until 1955.
He traveled for the East Tennessee Nursery Company, too, during the years before 1935, through the mountain counties of Tennessee and the Carolinas. It was on those travels that he picked up many of the folk songs he knows today.
"I'd make may headquarters with a family," he says. "I'd learn their songs, and they'd learn mine."
Lunsford had heard folk music at home as a boy, and had learned then to pick a banjo and a fiddle. By the time he was 10 years old, he was playing for school entertainment.
In 1925, Dr. R. W. Gordon, an eminent folklorist of Washington, came to the North Carolina mountains to search out genuine folk music. Lunsford traveled with him , and became interested in the subject. Dr. Gordon taught him how to spot the authentic folk music, how to tie it down as to its origin, and how to search for it.
After his summer with Dr. Gordon, Lunsford continued his travels of the mountains, collecting folk songs as he went.
He learned so many of them that in 1935 he was able to record 315 of them for Columbia University. Later, he re-recorded 350 songs for the Library of Congress. That recording session led Dr. Duncan Emerich, chief of the Library's Folklore Section, to say that no other one person had recorded more than a seventh of the songs Lunsford had.
In 1928, Asheville was having a civic festival and someone asked Lunsford to put on a folk music festival as part of it. It was held in the Asheville square, and the square was packed to full they had to cut off traffic.
That original civic celebration faded out, but the folk music festival continues each year during the first weekend of August. Lunsford also organized the Carolina Folk Festival, which was held in Chapel Hill from 1948 to 1953, as well as festivals in Kentucky, Kinston, and the State Folk Festival in Raleigh.
In his folklorist activities, Lunsford has covered America from coast to coast and has appeared before many audiences.
He is proudest of all, though, of an appearance he made in June of 1939. Then, he was invited to bring singers and dancers from North Carolina to the White House to entertain the King and Queen of England during their tour of America.
"It's that sort of thing that keeps me in this business," he says with a smile.-- The News & Observer 6/5/1955
Legends of Folk: The Village Scene (8pm, UNC-TV) - This PBS special looks at the folk music scene in New York's Greenwich Village during the 1960s. The Village was considered the epicenter of folk, folk rock, and singer songwriter movements, and shaped one of the most important periods in American music. Features rare performances by Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, Joan Baez, John Denver, the Lovin' Spoonful, the Mamas and the Papas, Richie Havens, Judy Collins, Neil Diamond, Tim Hardin, and Peter, Paul and Mary. More information on the special from WGBH. The Love We Make (9pm, Showtime) - This documentary chronicles Paul McCartney's poignant and cathartic journey through the streets of New York City in the aftermath of the World Trade Center's destruction, and traces the planning and performance of the star-studded benefit concert at Madison Square Garden. "The Concert for New York City" took place less than six weeks after the terrorist attacks. Includes concert performances and behind-the-scenes footage. Directed by iconic documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles and his partner Bradley Kaplan, and shot in 16mm black and white. The film documents what Showtime calls McCartney's "personal journey to help heal the city that welcomed him with open arms in 1964."
Voices from Inside the Towers (9pm, History) - An aural account of what went on inside the World Trade Center Towers on September 11 includes the recordings of victims left on message machines, accounts by survivors, and families recalling the last words of loved ones.
Portraits from Ground Zero (10pm, A&E) - Photographer Andrea Booher interviews people she photographed in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and asks them to recall the stories behind the images.
Beyond: Messages From 9/11 (10pm, BIO) - Family members of September 11 victims recall messages they've received from their deceased loved ones.