Uncle Remus Stories

Sterling Holloway
Decca A-521 ©1947
Total Time: 17:44

Uncle Remus is a fictional character, the title character and fictional narrator of a collection of African American folktales adapted and compiled by Joel Chandler Harris, published in book form in 1881. A journalist in post-Reconstruction Atlanta, Georgia, Harris produced seven Uncle Remus books.

Uncle Remus is a collection of animal stories, songs, and oral folklore, collected from Southern United States blacks. Many of the stories are didactic, much like those of Aesop’s fables and the stories of Jean de La Fontaine. Uncle Remus is a kindly old slave who serves as a storytelling device, passing on the folktales to children gathered around him.

The stories are told in Harris’s version of a Deep South slave dialect. The genre of stories is the trickster tale. At the time of Harris’ publication, his work was praised for its ability to capture plantation negro dialect.

Br’er Rabbit (“Brother Rabbit”) is the main character of the stories, a likable character, prone to tricks and trouble-making who is often opposed by Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear. In one tale, Br’er Fox constructs a lump of tar and puts clothing on it. When Br’er Rabbit comes along he addresses the “tar baby” amiably, but receives no response. Br’er Rabbit becomes offended by what he perceives as Tar Baby’s lack of manners, punches it, and becomes stuck. Using the phrase “tar baby” to refer to the idea of “a problem that gets worse the more one struggles against it” became part of the wider culture of the United States in the mid-20th century.

Sterling Price Holloway, Jr. (January 4, 1905 – November 22, 1992) was an American character actor who appeared in 150 films and television programs. He was also a voice actor for The Walt Disney Company. He was well-known for his distinctive tenor voice, and is perhaps best remembered as the voice of Walt Disney’s Winnie the Pooh.

Born January 4, 1905, in Cedartown, Georgia, Holloway was named after his father, Sterling Price Holloway, who himself was named after a prominent Confederate general, Sterling “Pap” Price. His mother was Rebecca DeHaven (some sources say her last name was Boothby). He had a younger brother named Boothby. The family owned a grocery store in Cedartown, where his father served as mayor in 1912. He was said to have had a theatrical bent from an early age and reportedly bore a distant relationship to a historical London stage actress named Lady Penelope Boothby. After graduating from Georgia Military Academy in 1920 at age 15, he left Georgia for New York, where he attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.

Holloway acted on many radio programs, including The Railroad Hour, The United States Steel Hour, Suspense and Lux Radio Theater. His distinctive tenor voice retained a touch of its Southern drawl and was very recognizable. Holloway was chosen to narrate many children’s records, including Uncle Remus Stories (Decca), Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes (Disneyland Records) and Peter and the Wolf (RCA Victor).

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