Jerry Zolten

Jerry Zolten
Alma mater Penn State
Occupation Author, Music Producer, Educator
Years active 1960s - present
Notable work

Great God A'Mighty! The Dixie Hummingbirds. Celebrating the Rise of Soul Gospel Music (Oxford University Press)

Bruce Springsteen, Cultural Studies, and the Runaway American Dream [Co-Editor] (Ashgate)

Wreckin' the House The Fairfield Four (Dead Reckoning Records)

Beautiful Stars Isaac Freeman (Lost Highway Records)

Chimpin' the Blues with Robert Crumb and Jerry Zolten (East River Records).
Style American Roots Music
Awards Kjell Meling Award for Distinction in the Arts and Humanities

Jerry Zolten is an American writer, advocator for, and producer of American roots music. An Associate Professor at Penn State University, he is best known as the author of a book tracing the 30-plus year career of the African-American Dixie Hummingbirds gospel group and their influence on both sacred and secular music. He also writes about and is a noted expert on the history of American stand-up comedy. Zolten is also known for numerous articles and CD liner notes on blues, country, and gospel music as well as collaborations on musical projects with Robert Crumb and Harvey Pekar. His most recent writings and musical releases include "The Beatles as Recording Artists" in The Cambridge Companion to the Beatles, biographical and musicological entries on Paramount recording artists for The Rise and Fall of Paramount Records 1917-1927, and Chimpin' the Blues with Robert Crumb and Jerry Zolten, an audio collection of conversation and rare blues and blues related recordings from the early 20th Century.

Undergraduate Years

As an undergraduate at Penn State, Zolten was president of the Penn State Folklore Society. He performed in numerous musical groups, most notably a jug band, the New Old Time Wooley Thumpers. The Wooley Thumpers opened for Janis Joplin and Big Brother and the Holding Company at a 1968 Penn State performance. With the group and as a single, Zolten performed at diverse venues such as the Jawbone Coffeehouse, the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, and Lewisburg Penitentary.[1] The Wooley Thumpers also recorded a single in 1969 for Buddah Records. Billed on the label as "Protozoa," a name assigned by the label, the tracks, written as parodies of then popular "bubblegum music," were "Ring Around My Rosie" and "Pink Hippopotamus." (Buddah 142)

Music Production

Zolten was instrumental in resurrecting the career of the Grammy-winning Fairfield Four, producing two CDs, Wreckin' the House/Live at Mt. Hope (Dead Reckoning) and, by their bass singer Isaac Freeman, Beautiful Stars (Lost Highway). Among his public radio productions are Chimpin' the Blues , a history of early blues and pre-blues co-hosted with underground cartoonist Robert Crumb, In the Spirit , a history of Black gospel music, and Boppin' With Pekar , an overview of jazz history with Harvey Pekar of American Splendor and special guest, artist Phoebe Gloeckner. Zolten along with Mark Bernhard and Ken Womack produced in conjunction with Penn State Altoona, Monmouth University, Virginia Tech, and the University of Southern Indiana a series of GLORY DAYS/A BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN SYMPOSIUM conference/conferences. (2005, 2009, 2012) In collaboration with the GRAMMY Museum and the Guthrie Foundation, Zolten produced WOODY@100 at Penn State, a 2012 Centennial Celebration of American folk music icon Woody Guthrie.


Best Research Recorded Blues and Gospel Music Award, 2004, ARSC (Association for Recorded Sound Collections), Great God a’Mighty! The Dixie Hummingbirds: Celebrating the Rise of Soul Gospel Music by Jerry Zolten (Oxford University Press)

Recipient of the Kjell Meling Award for Distinction in the Arts and Humanities, 2010.[2]



In the News


  1. Zemple, Jerilea (6 March 1968). "Jug Band Travels to Prison". The Daily Collegian.
  2. Benson, Thomas W. (5 April 2010). "Jerry Zolten, Penn State Altoona, wins Meling Award". Penn State Altoona NOW. Retrieved 10 July 2010.
  3. Santoro, Gene (16 February 2003). "Move On Up a Little Higher". New York Times.
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