Terrible Treasures: Wendell Hall.

We find a lot of weird content at the library. A bizarre book cover or disconcerting illustrations hiding in a children’s story, things that may have been popular or acceptable at some unimaginable time in our history but just has not age well. Or maybe it has been terrifying forever and we just uncovered it again, like a mummified sacrificial victim frozen in a scream or an eighties hair metal band. These are Terrible Treasures; too weird to live, too rare to die.

A terrible treasure should meet a few requirements to be included on the Fine Print Blog.

1.) It needs to be jarring, shocking, or stunning. There should be a visceral and sudden gut- reaction upon seeing it for the first time, especially if it freaks out a hardened library professional.

2.) The shocking nature of the object should be incidental. It wasn’t produced specifically to horrify. By the grace of time and changed sensibilities, it simple does.

3.) Only material from our collection should be featured, extra points if the item was found by an unsuspecting coworker.

Keeping these things in mind, one of our fantastic pages found a really terrible treasure while putting away sheet music in our little-known and under-utilized Liz Bannister collection.

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This is Wendell Hall. According to experts on Wikipedia he was a famous hillbilly musician who focused on ukulele, banjo, and something called a tiple. He was known as the Red-Haired Music Maker as well as the Pineapple Picador in the 1920’s and 1930’s. he may have also been the first person involved in a broadcast wedding when he was married live on the radio in 1924 to Marion Martin. Many would recognize his most famous piece of work, a cover of Harry McClintock’s ‘Big Rock Candy Mountain,’ but his best seller was a song we also have the sheet music for called ‘It Ain’t Going to Rain No’ Mo.‘ .

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The seductive tiple

By the 1950’s Wendell had a five-day a week radio show. Based on his former red headed identity, he sold a line of ukuleles and banjos with red tuning heads. He died in 1969. Hall was a surprisingly interesting fellow and, based on these sheet music covers, he also was a regular visitor to R’lyeh.

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His maniacal smile, while terrifying, seems to distract from a larger issue. WHY, oh God why, is the space between his teeth blue? Did he want to match the back drop and painted his mouth? Did he just finish a delicious blue raspberry slushy and it happened to match?  Is he missing the backside of his head allowing us to see right through? What is he looking at that is presumably both hilarious and terrifying?  So many questions….

His eyes are wide and turned upward and to the right. He looks like he is either on the verge of cracking up at some inappropriate joke or he’s going to rip the throat out of a tiple strumming rival. Or that might just be how his face looks….

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If you would like more information on the Liz Bannister collection come in and see us at the Reference Desk. The works featured in the collection are also in the online catalog so if you are looking for an old, obscure piece of sheet music, give our catalog a roll. You never know what kind of treasure is lurking beneath the surface!

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