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playing for the man at the door boxed set


The self-taught (some would say obsessive) folklorist Robert “Mack” McCormick made hundreds of field recordings of musicians in the rural American South. But “Mack’s Monster,” with over 590 reels of sound recordings, 165 boxes of manuscripts, and thousands of photos, negatives, playbills, and posters, was never released to the public—until now. How do we organize a treasure trove of content to ensure the authors’ passion and artists’ talent take center stage?


Playing for the Man at the Door, produced by Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, is the first compilation of music drawn from Mack’s historic collection. It includes never-before-heard performances from musicians such as Lightnin’ Hopkins, Mance Lipscomb, Hop Wilson, CeDell Davis, and many others. Throughout the boxed set’s 128-page book, documentary-style photography supplements the essays, bios, and track notes to bring the artists and their music to life. To celebrate this unprecedented release, this collection was designed in two formats: a 3-CD set and 6-LP set “full of gripping storytelling and arresting instrumentals” (The Guardian).

Available on the Smithsonian Folkways website.