About the session: In 1949, taking advantage of the recently developed pencillin treatment of syphilis, the United States Public Health Service enlisted the help of radio veteran and Columbia University professor Erik Barnouw to create a series of radio programs intended to raise awareness of the disease and to influence the millions of Americans suffering from it to seek care. Targeting the rural South and industrial North, the V.D. Radio Project created a variety of programming, including public service announcements from various entertainers and politicians, interviews with patients and doctors, soap operas, and what they called "ballad dramas" or "hillbilly operas." These were the brainchild of Alan Lomax, who enlisted country, folk, and gospel performers—Woody Guthrie, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Roy Acuff, Hank Williams, the Dixieaires, and Merle Travis—to participate, thus reaching audiences that the Health Service could not.
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