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Cadle, Tillman, 1902-1994


Biographical Note

Tillman Cadle was born on June 27, 1902 in Bryson, Tennessee to Letitia and Joseph Cadle. When Cadle was a young boy, his family moved to Bell County, Kentucky, where he began work as a trapper boy in a coal mine in Fonde, Kentucky. By 1917, when Cadle was working in Fonde, the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) organized the Kentucky coal fields. Cadle joined the union but was not very active until 1930 when he helped organize in Harlan County, Kentucky, where, years before, operators had broken the miners' union. He remained active until 1935 when he sustained a shoulder injury.

Cadle was unable to get satisfactory medical care for his shoulder and thus, upon the urging of his friend Jim Garland then living in New York City, Cadle journeyed to the city to have surgery on his shoulder. Cadle recuperated at Garland's residence, where he met Mary Elizabeth Barnicle, who then was teaching folklore at New York University. Barnicle and Cadle discovered they both were interested in collecting ballads. Thereafter, when Barnicle planned a trip to the South to collect ballads, she told Cadle, who would contact people for her to record. During this period (1935-50), Cadle traveled between New York City and Kentucky, staying for extended times in both locales, where he (at times with Barnicle) made field recordings of folk artists.

Cadle and Barnicle married around 1936, but apparently until United States entry into World War II in 1941, they lived apart for periods of time, with Barnicle staying in New York City and Cadle in Kentucky. Shortly after Japan's bombing of Pearl Harbor brought the United States into World Ward II, Cadle, who was living in New Jersey, moved to Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada) to work in the shipyards. While there he contracted pneumonia and, thus, returned to the East, where he found work at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. After the war ended, Cadle moved to Middlesboro, Kentucky and in 1949 to Rich Mountain Gap, near Townsend, Tennessee, not far from Knoxville, where Barnicle had secured a teaching position at the University of Tennessee (UT). Barnicle taught for almost three years at UT. Upon her retirement in 1950, Cadle moved with her to Natick, Massachusetts. The two lived there and in Worcester, Massachusetts until 1971, when they moved back to Rich Mountain Gap. After Barnicle's death in 1978, Cadle stayed in the Rich Mountain Gap home, where he remained interested in folk music and in supporting organized labor. Cadle died on October 22, 1994.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Mary Elizabeth Barnicle and Tillman Cadle Recordings

Identifier: AppMs-0347
Scope and Contents The bulk of this collection is 567 field recordings, most on lacquer discs, made by Mary Elizabeth Barnicle and Tillman Cadle of music, stories, and speech in New York City, Florida, Georgia, the Bahamas, Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee during collecting trips between 1935 and 1950. The recordings document both African-American and Anglo-American folk culture.Supporting materials include a 1989 interview with Tillman Cadle, tape logs, photographs, song lyrics and the disc...
Dates: 1935 - 1989; Majority of material found within 1935 - 1950