Final Notes, Charles Wolfe

Charles Wolfe was a gentle giant, a prolific scholar and beloved colleague whose presence in the English Department and in the University gave new and unique meaning to the term “professor.” Certainly with his prolific productivity, including 19 scholarly books (with others still in the offing) and hundreds of articles on music, folklore, and popular culture, Charles could have gone to any institution in the land. But his feet were deep in the Tennessee soil. He was Missouri born and bred, having joined Middle Tennessee State University in 1970, where he remained until his retirement just this past year. Though nationally and internationally known for his accomplishments, Charles never ventured far from heart and home, from family and friends. Unpretentious, dedicated, mentor to countless students, a friend to all who knew him, Charles has left an indelible imprint. He will be missed by those who did not know him personally, and so much more by those who did.

John McDaniel,
Middle Tennessee State University
Murphreesboro, Tennessee

Charles had a resume like a New York phone book. Even his friends were regularly surprised to hear of some new project or other. His output reflected an insatiable curiosity and broad tastes in music, a storehouse memory for detail, and a compulsion to produce. A knack for accessible writing and speaking also insured that his work appealed to popular audiences. Charles not only assembled musical history, he shared it, and people loved him for that.

—Robert Cogswell
Folklife Program Director
Tennessee Arts Commission

From a former student:

There probably isn’t a week that goes by that I don't reference or depend on Dr. Wolfe’s scholarship in one way or another. Charles never bragged about his credentials or showed off his encyclopedic music knowledge. Because of his humility, I'm sure many of his students didn't realize their instructor was a world-renowned historian. On the other hand, it never took long for them to find out he was a wonderful teacher and storyteller.

When Charles was a student at the University of Kansas in the 1960s, the academy wouldn’t allow him to write a dissertation on country and blues musicians such as Jimmie Rodgers and Robert Johnson. Dr. Wolfe has played an important role in paving the way for country music scholarship, and thanks to him and a few of his like-minded contemporaries, folk music research is now taken seriously.

—Michael Gray,
Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum


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