A Note to Parents: This record has been designed to teach our children about the sights and sounds of their native country. In this fascinating lesson in living geography they learn about the vast and varied land that stretches from sea to shining sea, and about the cities, factories, roads and airports built by the people who developed America.
Our guide and narrator is a unique American: he is the Arkansas Traveler of folklore fame, and his own enthusiasm for the sights and sounds of America is decidedly contagious. Naturally, he thinks of Arkansas as the "center of America, but that's only the beginning. He takes his listeners with him on a wide-ranging tour of these United States, a tour that will bring your child a growing awareness of our continent as a geographical whole — a land containing a million wonders and surprises alongside the reassuring sights of everyday life.
"As an Arkansas Traveler traveling around the United States I've seen some mighty strange things," remarks our genial guide, and he illustrates his adventures with songs that stem from the genuine American folk tradition. The music we hear on this recording was "composed" by Americans from every walk of life. Some of the songs deal with the work we do in various parts of the country; some glorify the landscape; others are humorous or whimsical tunes, much loved by children, which express the rich comic sense that's "bred in the bone" of so much American folklore.
In this geography lesson, the accent is on people as well as scenery. Listeners are introduced to some of our great legendary heroes: the giant Paul Bunyan, who strolled through the forests with the pinetops just tickling the tops of his boots; and John Henry, who could drive more spikes in a day than any ten normal men working on the railroad (though John finally met his match when someone invented a machine to do the job). The journey takes us to the Grand Canyon, the Rockies, the palm-lined beaches of Florida, the rock-ribbed meadows of New England, the rich valleys of the Cumberland region and many other parts of the nation, which add up to a magnificent panorama of America. Songs such as "The Wabash Cannon Ball," "John Henry," "Clementine," "My Old Kentucky Home" and, of course, "The Arkansas Traveler," provide stopping-off places along our journey. And there's a banjo solo, "Old Folks at Home," played by Joe Locker, which ranks as one of the great banjo performances on records.
Frank Hamilton, who appears as the Arkansas Traveler, was actually born in Winslow, Maine, but has spent a good deal of time in Arkansas, as well as in Hollywood, California, where he established himself as an actor. Mr. Hamilton has played character roles in many films and plays, and has also distinguished himself in service to his country. He has received the Medal of Freedom, on order of the President of the United States, for outstanding services to the government, and also the Meritorious Service Award of the Department of State. Mr. Locker, one of the foremost banjo players in the United States, comes from New York City, as does Paul R. Krause, the author of this recording. Robert Douglas is from the state of Michigan, but Alex Campbell was born in Scotland. Despite his Scottish background, however, Mr. Campbell is regarded as a leading authority in American (as well as British) folksongs, and he has collected authentic music and lyrics from every corner of the United States.