Tennessee Williams

Lost and Found Sound: 1947 Recordings of the Playwright

Tennessee Williams and Pancho Rodriquez in suits in a garden. One smokes. The other waters plants.

Tennessee Williams and Pancho Rodriquez. New Orleans, 1946. Photographer Unknown, Courtesy of Virgina Spencer Carr hide caption

itoggle caption Photographer Unknown, Courtesy of Virgina Spencer Carr

Produced by The Kitchen Sisters (Nikki Silva and Davia Nelson) with Sandra Wong.

On a recent expedition to the Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound at The New York Public Library, Lost and Found Sound™ series producers, Nikki Silva and Davia Nelson, The Kitchen Sisters, asked chief curator, Donald McCormick what treasures were hidden in their collection.

A home recording of Angela Lansbury's audition with Jerry Herman for the role of Mame was high on Mr. McCormick's list. But at the top was a series of donated discs that have never been heard by the public - made by writer Tennessee Williams at a Penny Arcade in New Orleans in 1947 or 1948. Nobody is quite sure which year it is.

The Kitchen Sisters were as taken with the cardboard recordings as McCormick. And went on a quest to bring them to air. They traced the broadcast rights to a lawyer in London, who led them to The University of the South at Sewanee and then to the doorsteps of writer Donald Windham. He and Sandy Campbell, old friends of Tennessee Williams, had found the discs in a trunk of his things left behind from all the years he had come and gone from their apartment.

The trail led them to the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival in New Orleans, where Williams lived during the time these cardboards were cut. The weekend of May 28th marks the 51st anniversary of the last run of one of New Orleans most legendary streetcars, the one that ran by Tennessee's door as he worked on a play called "The Poker Night" - a play he came to call "A Streetcar Named Desire."

Special Thanks To Our Contributors

Interviewees: Kenneth Holditch, Kim Hunter, Richard Leavitt, Lyle Leverich, Dakin Williams, Donald Windham, Jack Boasberg, and Bill Dell of WWOZ.

Sound Engineers & Archival Restoration: Mixed by Jim McKee at Earwax Productions, San Francisco; Jane Pipik, WGBH; John Voci, WGBH; Ron Curtis, WWNO; David Freedman, WWOZ; Andrew Roth; Ethan Derner, American Zoetrope; Rachel Day; Archival Audio; Donald McCormick, Curator, Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound, The New York Public Library; The University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee; Paul Bowles, Irene Herrmann and the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, and The University of Texas at Austin; Mary Margaret McBride Collection, Estate of Cynthia Lowry; Charles Chamberlain, Hogan Jazz Archives, Tulane University; and Chris Strachwitz, Arhoolie Records.

Special Thanks to: Robert Bray; Virginia Spencer Carr; Paul Jordan; Mark Boasberg; Tom Erhardt and Casarotto Ramsay; Louann Morehouse, Executive Director of the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival; Jan McKee, Library of Congress; Dell Anne Hollingsworth, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin; Michael Haggerty, Estate of Cynthia Lowry; Wayne Everard, New Orleans Public Library; Musée Mecanique, San Francisco; Galatoire's Restaurant and Gilberto of Galatoire's; The Penny Arcade, New Orleans; Nick Spitzer, American Routes; Susan Stone, KPFA San Francisco; and Jeannette Etheredge, Tosca.

Related Books:

Carr, Virgina Spencer, The Lonely Hunter: A Biography of Carson McCullers, Carroll & Graf, 1985.

Holditch, Kenneth, "The Last Frontier of Bohemia: Tennessee Williams in New Orleans," New Orleans: The Southern Quarterly, 1987.

Leavitt, Richard F. ed. The World of Tennessee Williams, New York: Putnam, 1978.

Leverich, Lyle, Tom. The Unknown Tennessee Williams, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1995.

Williams, Tennessee, A Streecar Named Desire, 1947.

Williams, Tennessee, Vieux Carré, 1977.

Windham, Donald, Tennessee Williams' Letters to Donald Windham, 1940-1965, New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1977.

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