Civil War Almanac

I wonder if the title inspired Ray Davies?

As a kid I had a strange fascination with the American Civil War; did projects on it at school, collected the garishly painted bubble gum cards and saved up pocket money for the smart toy soldiers made by Britains (all of which I still have!). So seeing these two strange albums in an antique centre recently I couldn’t resist. 

Cumberland Three American Cicil War

The Cumberland Three (not to be confused with a slightly later Glasgow based trio of the same name) were formed in 1959 by three West Coast students, adding a modern edge to traditional folk music. That’s them on the front. You can imagine the photo shoot, with the band having to dress up in one uniform, pose, then dash off (presumably not into the rather small tent on sleeve two) and change into the enemy outfits for a second photo. They didn’t even bother to rearrange the cannon balls on the wall.

The group were were John Stewart (who gets his name spelt wrongly on the sleeve for his efforts), John Montgomery and Gil Robbins (who turns out to be father of actor Tim). They cut a debut folk album, then recorded this pair of albums (for Roulette) designed to reinterpret material from the time of the US Civil War. All came out in in 1960, and then they disbanded.

I’ve no idea how EMI Columbia decided which American albums to release in the UK and these don’t at first glance seem to have much resonance (not that I’ve ever seen any albums of a similar nature covering songs of the English Civil War). Nor were they even issued consecutively.

Anyhow, unable to resist the matching covers (I’d probably have bought a few more records off the stall but they’d not bothered to price them up!) I blew a fiver on the pair. On closer inspection (and once I’d washed the fronts to remove years of grime), all the lettering is actually drawn by hand (for that added folksy appeal?), based on decorative Victorian looking fonts.

The sleeves are the flip back sort, but whoever originated the cover film back in 1960 wants a telling off, the cyan registration is out by almost a millimetre on Vol 1.

Both albums were eventually issued on a CD by Rhino in 1991 after the major US TV series on the war there, albeit in a rather dull new cover (and they seem to have missed one song off). Below, one of those infamous bubble gum cards! No parental guidance warnings in the 60s…

About simon robinson

Having worked as a graphic designer in the music industry, mainly in the reissue sector, I now concentrate on the design and publication of books about popular culture - and even write some of them.
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