Racist Records: 4 Vintage Albums to Make You Feel Uncomfortable

1. U.S. Senator Robert Byrd – Mountain Fiddler
AKA The Klan’s Greatest Hits

sentator robert byrd album (2)

If you’re not familiar with Robert Byrd, he was a Representative and Senator from West Virginia serving from 1959 through 2010…. and a prominent member of the Ku Klux Klan.

Some of the racist things the late Senator Byrd is on record as saying would make a Grand Wizard blush.  Yet, he had a seat in Washington DC for over fifty consecutive years.  In 1978 Byrd found time to record an album.  Here is the back cover…

robert byrd album (1)

Here is a song from his album titled “Rye Whiskey”

2. Hey, Mr. Banjo

hey mr banjo

A guaranteed embarrassment to any record collection.  Yes, I know.  Blackface and minstrel shows were common forms of entertainment once upon a time.  Still, the sight of  a white dude in blackface is still uncomfortable to look upon regardless of whether it’s a part of music history.

And speaking of uncomfortable blackface moments, I would be remiss not to mention Neil Diamond in The Jazz Singer (1980).  The scene is supposed to be comical, but it ends up being cringeworthy.  (For more soundtrack horrors see 8 Movie Songs From the 1970s And 1980s That Will Destroy Your Will To Live)

 

3. Phil Harris – The South Shall Rise Again

phil harris (1)

I’ve lived in the South for a number of years myself, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with Southern pride.  It’s when you start saying things like “The South Shall Rise Again” (which is on an ample number of pickup truck bumpers) that you may want to reign it in, and think about what that means.  I can’t speak to Harris’ beliefs on race (after all, he’s the voice of Baloo singing “The Bare Necessities” in The Jungle Book – so I like to think he’s A-OK).  That being said, you have to admit this is a pretty racist looking album.

Of special note is Harris’ line at the bottom on the back cover…

phil harris (2)

“I’ll just amble back to my hole in Palm Springs and hope the album is such a success that even old Uncle Sambo will get his cut.”

Nice one, Phil.  Real nice.

 

4. Magic of the Minstrels from The Black and White Minstrel Show

minstrel show

There are a plethora of old minstrel records out there, but I thought we needed a British entry in this list of shame.  Sadly, minstrel shows weren’t exclusive to the States; in fact, they apparently took England by storm according to the liner notes….

 

minstrel

If you’re into painfully racist line notes, than I suggest you read on….

Here they are again – one of the most remarkable phenomena to appear on the British show business scene for many, many years – the Black and White Minstrels! What makes them so remarkable – indeed, unique? Well, in the first instance, it is incredible that a minstrel show should have taken this country by storm in an age when this form of entertainment was generally considered a relic of the past….

It has been suggested by a few cynics that black faced minstrels are out of place in these days of more enlightened attitudes towards the coloured races – but this theory presupposes that the minstrel show is detrimental or derogatory to coloured folk, and certainly the Black and White minstrels cannot be accused of any such approach; and their overwhelming acceptance throughout Britain and the Commonwealth would indicate that the vast majority of people accept them for what they are – honest to goodness entertainers….

How can we analyse the Minstrels’ success? In a nutshell, it boils down to good, clean family entertainment which virtually no one – irrespective of age, sex, or personal taste – can resist.  To see the show on stage or television, one is first struck by the colour of the production – if I may use a paradox, in applying colour to black-and-white television and, indeed, Black and White Minstrels!