Wednesday, April 6, 2016

"I Feel Jesus" Reel-to-Reel Revisited

We previously mentioned a documentary about the Barkley Marathon that was going to include Frances Reedy's gospel song, "I Feel Jesus." Frances and her husband John recorded the song commercially in Nashville, Tennessee on the Starday label (SEP 209) as "John Reedy and The Stone Mt. Trio" in 1962. Jimmy and Flo Murphy, who were friends of the Reedys, covered the song on an unreleased Starday recording that was later included on compilation of Jimmy Murphy's Starday and REM sessions.

Frances Williebob Ridner (Reedy) Teens
While the film ultimately includes a more recent cover of the song by Anna and Elizabeth (re-titled "Oh My My"), we recently learned that Frances received a shout-out (along with a link to our blog) on the "frequently asked questions" page of the official Barkley movie website. "The end of the film and the final credits are accompanied by the song 'I Feel Jesus,' written by Francis Reedy in 1962." We are glad to see Frances and her song acknowledged, and we are grateful for the new folks who have visited our site as a result. 

We also found a reference to the song on page 199 of the January-June 1962 Catalog of Copyright Entries for music. Like other copyright entries and several commercial recordings, the entry misspells her name as "Francis," but the June 18, 1962 copyright credits her with writing the song's words and music.

Among Frances and John Reedy's several home-made reel-to-reel recordings, one tape includes Frances singing "I Feel Jesus" with her granddaughter Timi playing the washboard, Pete Cultice playing steel guitar, and Alonzo Honeycutt on mandolin. The recording would have been made in Corbin, Kentucky in the early 1970s. Having received some direct visits to our site in regard to Frances' song, we decided to post the digitized family home-recording in her honor on the 10th anniversary of her passing. We love and miss you every day, Williebob.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Quit Kickin' My Dog Around: A Reedy Remix!

We received some interesting and enlightening information from Dick Spottswood in response to our most recent updates that included a digitized recording of one of the Reedys' versions of the song, "Quit Kickin' My Dog Around." It turns out that this song was originally written as a political campaign song in 1912, and John wrote new verse lyrics of his own that he and Frances recorded a couple of different times. 

According to the Fresno State Folklore webpage, the words and music of the original "Hound Dog Song" were apparently written by Webb M. Oungst and Cy Perkins respectively, and it served as the campaign song for popular presidential hopeful James Beauchamp "Champ" Clark from Missouri. Dick also shared this 1926 version of the song recorded by Gid Tanner & His Skillet Lickers, entitled, "Ya Gotta Quit Kickin' My Dog Around":

We paid close attention to the lyrics of the song, and the verses are definitely different from John's. We love that the humorous howling and barking were part of earlier renditions of the song. We are still partial to John Reedy's lyrics and delivery of his remix, but we are glad to learn that the "hound dog song" has a fascinating and varied history of its own. 

Since we recently shared an excerpt of John's 1961 Christmas eve interview, we decided to post another excerpt of the VHS video recording that Harold Reedy made of his parents' last documented performance together. This charming and humorous rendition of "Quit Kickin' My Dog Around" shows Frances teasing and covering for John when he forgets his own version of the lyrics! However, he doesn't let this glitch keep him from hamming it up anyway. At the end, he dedicates the song to Harold's dog Mac.

Thanks again to Dick Spottswood for his active interest in our research project and providing such helpful connections. We are also grateful that he has included some Reedy tracks on his WAMU radio show in Washington, D.C. We whole-heartedly agree with his sentiments that "Frances & John were the greatest!"
(23 Jan. 2016 10:30 am)

We received another interesting tidbit from Dick Spottswood in response to this post. He sent a link to the 1912 sheet music of the song with the original verse lyrics for Champ Clark's presidential campaign. We always love hearing from other folks about the Reedys and related musical knowledge and artifacts.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Holiday Memories & New Year Updates

Happy New Year! The year 2015 was difficult in some ways, but it was also fruitful in others. The holidays are always a time when we think about family, and we spent some time researching historic traces of the Reedys again this year. So far 2016 shows promise of productivity, and we have some updates to share about some new media memories, recent findings, and news about upcoming developments.

Over the holidays, we talked about how many family memories that the Reedys documented around that time of year. We've previously posted a video of Frances and John singing "Little Sparrow" from an excerpt from Harold Reedy's VHS video recording of their last documented performance together during Christmas in 1980 as well as our "Holidays with Frances" video documenting the family dinner and Timi's birthday celebration for Thanksgiving 2005. While working on another project that we'll discuss more at the end of the post, we remembered a reel-to-reel recording that Timi's grandfather John Reedy made of the family Christmas celebration in 1961 when they were still living in Dayton.

The tape includes a couple of interviews that John conducted with different family members as well as a couple of song performances. The first interview is with Junior Fields, John's nephew by his sister Cledia. He asks Junior about whether he likes living in Ohio better than Kentucky, and an interesting conversation takes place. We previously mentioned this recording but had never posted it, so we decided to share it in light of its timeliness and relevance to scholarly discussions about Appalachian migration.


While researching additional references to the Reedys, we recently found some new audio and bibliographic sources that fill in some gaps in the Reedy commercial discography, which we have updated as a result. One key discovery is the digitized copy of Frances and John's 1964 recording of "Quit Kicking My Dog Around" (Jalyn 210) on the Bopping blog of various vinyl treasures. This is a really important find for us because the Jalyn 210 recording is one of the few (of their many) that we did not have a copy of from Frances' collection. The post features "Harmony duets in Hillbilly bop songs" and describes the song as a "fine uptempo tune" with "amusing lyrics." Unfortunately, we were not able to figure out how to embed the audio directly in this post, but the track can be accessed by clicking the link above.

Front CoverThe Bopping post does not include the B-side of the record, which is one of their versions of Frances' song "Tiny Bitty Pieces." However, we did discover a reference to the song on page 1757 of the July-December 1963 Catalog of Copyright Entries for music. The entry misspells her name as "Francis," but the October 22, 1963 copyright credits her with writing the song's words and music.

Front Cover

We found a similar reference on page 77 of the The Complete Library of American Phonograph Recordings for 1963 that clarifies the release date for one of the recordings on the Reedy commercial discography. The entry is for the Starday SEP 222 by the "John Reedy Trio," which we previously had listed in the general range of the early 1960s. We have corrected this entry on the Reedy discography and plan to contact folks who maintain other Bluegrass discographies and databases as well. The track-list for this EP, or "extended play," recording is not included in the entry, but it includes two songs on each side of a 45 rpm vinyl record.

Earlier in the fall, we found an entry for John's song, "Knockin' on Your Door" on an online Bluegrass lyrics database called BluegrassNet, which listed the song as a "traditional." We posted a comment letting them know that the song was written by John to Frances when they were briefly divorced. I also shared the breakup mash-up of "Tiny Bitty Pieces" and "Knockin' on Your Door" and a link to the documentary blog. 

We recently discovered that they replied to our comment and corrected the author information! "This is great info, Tammy. Thanks for sharing. I love hearing the back stories to these old tunes. The old video of Frances and John in 1980 was awesome! I've updated the credits on these lyrics to reflect John Reedy's authorship. Thanks again." It's always great when we are able to connect with other people who are interested in documenting and preserving music by artists like Frances and John Reedy.

We engaged with this material over the past couple of months while we have been writing an invited journal article about the documentary project and process. We will share more about this forthcoming publication when we have more details, but we are excited to have some new developments for everyone to look forward to...

Finally, we want to wish Frances and John's son Tim Reedy a very happy birthday today! We hope he enjoys the day with the rest of his family as well as the new updates we've shared. 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Music, Migration, & Memorial Day

John & Frances Reedy (Harlan, KY)
We have been thinking about Frances and John Reedy and other missed loved ones on Memorial Day. Timi keeps this favorite photo of her Mamaw and Papaw beside her near the dining table. 

We think it was taken sometime in the 1940's in Harlan County before John and Frances migrated to Dayton, Ohio, so they were likely about in their late twenties or thirties. Timi loves this picture because her Mamaw and Papaw are laughing and look so happy together. 

Ruby (Kidd) & Howard Clemons (1940's)
This year, Memorial Day is even more bittersweet with the loss of Tammy's Mamaw, Ruby May Kidd Clemons (1925-2015) in January. She and her husband (and Tammy's Papaw) were married for over 70 years. 

According to the memoirs she wrote for some of her Elkins cousins, she was born on Hatton Ridge in Menifee County, Kentucky where she lived with her parents and two sisters until her parents divorced when she was 9 years old. Her mother then moved to Ohio with the girls and later remarried. Ruby eventually moved back to Kentucky with her husband Howard where they remained.

While Ruby never produced any commercial recordings, she was very musically and artistically inclined and produced a plethora of paintings, poems, short stories, songs, and handicrafts throughout her 89 years of life. She got her first organ when she was six and was a self-taught musician who played the piano, guitar, and harmonica. She served as the pianist at several local Churches of God for over 60 years, and she performed publicly for various civic organizations that she was involved in. Ruby Clemons wrote and copyrighted more than 1000 country and gospel songs, and she self-recorded many of them on cassette tape. Tammy hopes to gather and archive her grandmother's extensive musical and artistic productions, and she plans on sharing her Mamaw's memoirs with the rest of her family.

Ruby Clemons (Hat Day at Hope Church, May 2014)
Ruby Kidd (age 13) with her cousin Mary
Ruby Clemons has always been a tremendous role model and support system for her granddaughter Tammy, and there is so much more to say about her life, accomplishments, and impact on the world around her. Meanwhile, Tammy created a playlist of videos featuring her Mamaw and Papaw, Ruby and Howard Clemons, in honor of their great influence on her life.

On this Memorial Day, we remember these and many loved ones, living and past, who we will love and miss every onward.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

New Reedy Media & Map

Our recent "Reedy References" post included a substantial discussion of Frances Reedys' influential vocals on the commercial recording of "Oh Death" by "John Reedy." Afterward, Timi's Uncle Tim asked if we could post his mother's version so that he could share it with family and friends. However, we are still researching how copyright works, how we can ensure fair use, and how music rights are inherited.

Of all the digitized material that we have posted or found online, the Reedys' version of "Oh Death" was an important but missing piece of Frances and John's audio history. We realized that we actually had a more "home-made" version of the commercial recording that we could share as a piece of regional radio history as well.

We previously mentioned an enormous archive of reel-to-reel recordings that Frances and John Reedy made during the 1960s and 1970s. Among them was a home recording of a radio "infomercial" advertising the release of the 1961 Starday Hall of Fame Series Gospel Songs By All Star Artists (SEP 168), which was broadcast on WCKY in Cincinnati, Ohio. The host was Wayne Rainey of the Rainey Family, and the extended radio promotion included several cuts from the EP, including John and Frances Reedy's recording of "Oh Death. 

So were able to upload this slightly cleaned up and edited version of the radio broadcast, which basically trims down the introduction, removes some background noise, and increases the volume. It is still a little crackly, but it is another amazing example of the Reedy's self-documentation of their music's circulation.

We also posted this audio file to the Multi-Media Library. When I sent this to Uncle Tim, he responded, "I think this was one of the best ones they ever recorded. Thanks ... !!" We're so glad that this radio recording can help complete the audio "picture" of this important song in the Reedy repertoire.

Another cool new documentary feature is the Reedy Migration, Music, & Memory Map, which is an interactive map that illustrates John and Frances Reedy's residential migration from Eastern Kentucky to Ohio and back again; their diverse commercial recording career; their documentation of their music and memories; and their ongoing influence and recognition as Appalachian songwriters and musicians.  

The new blog page for the map includes instructions for using the map and accessing the information about different items. For example, the map includes the Reedys' commercial discography during their shared lifetimes that includes full recording information and, in some cases, images of the record labels. We have also begun mapping their radio appearances and plan to map additional multi-media material that we have already posted. We plan to update the map to include additional categories and media artifacts, so we welcome any ideas for Reedy data that we could include on the map.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Reedy References

Over the holidays, we spent some time revisiting our research findings and searching for additional online references from the past couple of years. We came across several interesting and inspiring sources and had some unexpected conversations related to Frances and John Reedy's contributions to audio history and culture.

For example, we came across this reference in the September 22, 1945 issue of Billboard Magazine that includes “John Reedy’s troupe from Harlan, Ky” among the grandstand attractions in Pennington Gap, Virginia alongside “Grandpappy Jones and Company from Grand O’l Opry” (p. 52) and other popular artists.

There were also some listings of “John Reedy” as the artist reference for a couple of the Reedys’ commercial recordings in a 1962 issue of a publication called Country Music Promoter. Unfortunately, the entire pages that the references come from are not available. However, there was an intriguing invocation of Frances as the uncredited star in the shadows in a listing for the Starday SEP 166 recording that includes her singing lead vocals on “Oh Death.” “All numbers are not vocalized by John Reedy as number 1 is surly [sic] a female voice. To [sic] bad that the identity of the singer is not listed on the record” (p. 4). 

The last reference is from a full-page Starday ad for the label's LP series of “Country,” Western,” “Bluegrass,” and “Sacred” recordings, which includes the Reedys’ version of “Oh Death” on the Tragic Songs of Death and Sorrow compilation (image source: Gary Reid).

Even more exciting than these popular music publications from when the Reedys were actively cutting and selling records are two recent scholarly publications that mention their influence on the history and icons of bluegrass music. The Starday Story: The House that Country Music Built (2011) by Nathan D. Gibson includes two references to “John Reedy” in the index. In a discussion of the spreading popularity of Bluegrass music by the late 1950s, Gibson notes that “Starday had earned its reputation as the bluegrass label” (p. 83) and mentions several famous artists who recorded with them, including the Stanley Brothers, Carl Story, Charlie Monroe, among others. He goes on to mention “John Reedy” among some of the “less well-known bluegrass acts” (p. 83). Of course, Frances Reedy talked about having played with all of the above-mentioned musicians and more in her oral history and stories she shared with her family and friends, but it is affirming to see at least John included in this history. Later Gibson discusses the Starday label's development of gospel recording series, which lists “John Reedy and the Stone Mountain Trio” among the “plethora of gospel bluegrass EPs” (p. 102).

As we have noted in previous posts, Bill Monroe has often been mis-credited with writing John Reedy’s gospel song “Somebody Touched Me.” Gary B. Reid includes two index references for "John Reedy" that point to a couple of substantial discussions that clarify this and an inverse erroneous credit in his book, The Music of the Stanley Brothers (2014). He also mentions yet another mis-credit by someone named "Ahmet Ertegun" who we also learned had copyrighted the song in 1954 and 1958. 

Reid not only cites John Reedy's authorship of the song, but he repeats anecdotal evidence that suggests the possibility that the Reedys and the Stanley Brothers produced their early historical recordings on the same date (March 1, 1949), which could support Frances' stories about playing with them in Bristol, Tennessee. He writes, "Yet the song was actually written by eastern Kentucky musician John Reedy and was recorded by him and his Stone Mountain Hillbillys for Twin City Records, allegedly on the same day that the Stanley Brothers recorded 'White Dove'" (pp. 124-125).

Reid later corrects a reversal of mis-credit in which John Reedy is incorrectly listed as the author of "Oh Death." He goes on to discuss a detailed history of the song, but what is most interesting is that he credits Frances' mystery vocals on their Starday recording of the song as "the model for the Stanley Brothers' rendition" (p. 178)!

In addition to these discussions of the Reedys in print publications, we found some noteworthy online resources that reference the Reedy documentary blog. For example, our Voice-O-Graph recording post was shortly followed by an updated John Reedy discography by Dick Grant on Praguefrank's Country Music Discographies (Vol. 2). We also found our blog listed on a page of "Inspiration" links for a community history project in Central Austin, Texas as well as the University of Wisconsin-Madison Oral History Program's website among "Oral History Projects and Programs around the U.S., including University programs" in the Southeast. More direct recognition for our project was posted on the Eastern Kentucky Art Project Facebook page on January 18, 2015: "Wonderful project documenting the Bluegrass and Rock-a-billy scene in Dayton, Ohio coming out of the region's outward migration! Check it out! This is a great model for preserving all of those important stories out there related to Eastern Kentucky music."
On the music-listening front, there are some new developments with a couple of Frances' recordings, including one of her own songs. Last year we were contacted by Timothy Kane and Annika Iltis, co-directors of a documentary called "The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young" about the most difficult trail race in the world, which happens to be in Appalachian Tennessee. They were planning to use an old gospel song called "I Feel Jesus" recorded by Jimmy Murphy and his wife Flo on the soundtrack,* and they had come across the same song title on our project blog and asked if might be the same song written by Frances. We confirmed that the lyrics were the same and that they knew each other well, and they expressed interest in listening to and possibly using the original version on the Starday SEP 209 recording. They commented, "It seems that a lot of the information about the music of Appalachia has been lost. Thank you so much for all of your hard work and amazing research."

We were able to share a digitized version of the 45 rpm recording as well as a digitized reel-to-reel home recording of the song with Timi playing washboard in the background. Interestingly, they in turn shared a recent cover of the song, titled as "Oh My My" by Anna and Elizabeth, and we quickly realized that we knew who they were already! I saw Anna perform as part of her public presentation for her Appalachian Sound Archives Fellowship in 2008-09, and we saw both of them perform at the Clear Creek Festival a couple of years ago.

Anna and Elizabeth are well-known young musicians who participate in contemporary  sub-cultures that preserve and perform “traditional” music, so it was quite interesting to listen to their old-timey version of the song in contrast to Frances' original recording from the early 1960s, which at the time was a very contemporary country version with a Honky Tonk flavor. The Barkley Marathons documentary that includes the song will premiere at the Nashville Film Festival in mid-April.

Finally, Frances' ghost vocals on "Oh Death" are alive and well as an influential version of the song in the history of Bluegrass music. After discovering the generous treatment of John and Frances in The Music of the Stanley Brothers, we contacted Gary Reid to let him know that we were thrilled to see John Reedy acknowledged in a formal publication about Bluegrass music, especially when he is cited as the author of "Somebody Touched Me." We also shared a link to our blog and let him know that the woman singing on John Reedy's recording of "Oh Death" was his wife Frances and that she was also an accomplished songwriter in her own right. 

We were pleased to receive a response from Reid thanking us for "the clarification on the vocals on the Reedy recording of 'Oh Death'," and he informed us that this version of the song "was included in a single CD collection last year called '18 Best of Starday Gospel.' Catalog number GUS-2345." He also indicated that he is currently "a co-producer on an upcoming 4-CD set of classic bluegrass that was recorded for the King and Starday labels. Among the cuts chosen for inclusion is the Reedy cut of 'Oh Death'." Reid said, "The bluegrass collection is still a work-in-progress," so we look forward to updates about this future release. He also told us that he had "visited and enjoyed the blogspot site a number of times... VERY interesting." Many thanks to Reid for offering numerous insights and clarifications and for sharing the full-page image of one of the pages from the October 1962 issue of the Country Music Promoter.

Months later, we are still reeling with gratitude from this abundant holiday cornucopia of acknowledgement for Frances and John Reedy. We admire the work that so many people have done to tell the story and sing the songs of Appalachian and Bluegrass music traditions. We are exploring a possible opportunity for sharing some of this work and some of our own with a visual anthropology audience. So we will post an update when more information is available on this potential project. Meanwhile, thanks to everyone who contributes to and transmits the greater knowledge about Appalachian music, migration, and memory.
* We learned that the Jimmy Murphy cover of "I Feel Jesus" (with Flo on vocals) was an unreleased Starday recording that was later included on an Ace Records CD compilation of his Starday and REM sessions (CDCDH-714).