Thursday, January 15, 2015

Voice-O-Graph Update

Since posting the Reedy Voice-O-Graph recording last week, we have received some very interesting and helpful information regarding some questions we had. On the recording, John Reedy says that they were at a carnival-type location, but the name is unintelligible. Fred Barenstein, one of the founders of the non-profit online database called Bgrass Inc., suggested that "What sounds like “Lake Subu” could be the needle skipping on “Lakeside Amusement Park," located at the time on the west side of Dayton and a probable location of the Voice-o-Graph booth." John and Frances' son Tim Reedy also said that he thought "the carnival [John] was talking about, was an amusement park called Lakeside ... close to where we lived." 

Image from http://daytonoriginals.org/2012/08/27/lakeside-amusement-park/

According to the Southwest Ohio Amusement Park Historical Society, the Lakeside Amusement Park opened in 1890 and was facing various business challenges when the Reedys made the Voice-O-Graph recording in the early 1950's. It finally closed in 1964, but it would soon have its own interesting place in music history. "In 1968, Dayton businessman George D. Tuck purchased the park and announced that the roller coaster would be torn down and the Crystal Ballroom would be saved and remodeled. He renamed the ballroom Lakeview Palladium and used the structure to host music shows, dances and meetings. Stars such as Flip Wilson, Ike & Tina Turner, James Brown and Aretha Franklin graced the ballroom in the early 70s" (Lakeside Amusement Park, SOAPHS webpage).

On another nostalgia site called Dayton Originals, a descendant of the park owner commented, "This park belonged to my grandfather but was later turned into a bingo hall and trucking company, which was passed down to my father .... I enjoy being a part of this business because of my grandfather and his dream!" She went on to say how amazing and important the photos are to her family so they "can value where we came from" and "finally see photos, that we have never seen .... due to fires and lost footage." We shared a link to the Voice-O-Graph blog and recording to contribute to the documentation of the Lakeside Amusement Park for the Tuck family.

Timi's Uncle Tim was similarly appreciative to hear the Voice-O-Graph, and he clarified the name of the aunt they visited in addition to the location of the recording. "That was pretty cool. When Dad mentioned going to Indiana and getting those vegetables, he was referring to visiting his Aunt Myrtle. She lived on a big farm. She was his mother's sister, a Honeycutt, I think."

Thanks to everyone who has checked out the Voice-O-Graph posts and the recording over the past week, and special gratitude to Fred Barenstein and Tim Reedy who confirmed the location where it was made. Also, stay tuned for other recent research findings and some new and old publications that reference the Reedys!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Reedy Voice-O-Graph Revealed!

Note: This Reedy word cloud was generated with Wordle from the content from the “Remembering the Reedys” blog from 2009-2012. Clearly the primary author also favors the additive modifier “also,” which can also be read as an encouraging indicator of the blog’s reinvigoration and future potential, as in “also…”.
It has been quite a while since we last posted, but between homesteading, grad school, and various family concerns, we have less time and resources to dedicate to this project than we would like. However, as we sort through and organize our house, we continue to find interesting treasures like photos, handwritten notes, and memorabilia that provide new glimpses into the life experiences of Frances and John Reedy. 

We posted about one such important addition to the Reedy collection, John Reedy's Voice-O-Graph recording "To All the Family," a couple of years ago. We then contacted Harry Rice at the Berea College Special Collections and Sound Archives to find out if it would be possible to play and digitize the recording. They were able to convert the record to digital format, but we were unable to make it Special Collections to pick it up due to their limited operating hours and our own time and transportation constraints. The mystery was solved, but we were still in the dark until now!

I recently contacted John Bondurant at the Berea College Sound Archives who had digitized the Voice-O-Graph recording as well as most of the other Reedy recordings thatare housed there. He sent us an .mpg of the 1:05-minute Voice-O-Graph and the link to a comprehensive chronological Voice-O-Graph labelography that situates the Reedy record sometime between 1951 and 1995. This supports our previous estimation that Frances and John first moved to Dayton to work in the GM factory around 1953.

In the recording “To All the Family” back in Kentucky, John addresses his sister Beulah and recounts his family’s recent experiences migrating north. They apparently came across the Voice-O-Graph recording booth at Lake Sobu(?), which is presumably in Ohio because he also talks about going “down to Indiana” to visit Mary who gave them some garden vegetables to take home. We are pretty certain that John is reporting home about the Reedy family’s very first venture to the Dayton area because he talks about how they’re "making a home" with his two jobs. He mentions “Timmy”, and Frances says, “Hello.” Marie also cuts in about Harold (Timi’s father) having a job, and the recording ends with John talking about how much Harold enjoys spending his money.

Share Music - Embed Audio Files - John Reedy Voice-O-Graph &qu...

This is a key finding because it both documents the Reedys’ first cyclical migration to Ohio and likely represents John’s first conscious self-documentation effort outside of a professional recording studio. Therefore, this recording is a telling precursor of the prolific home recordings that John and Frances made on reel-to-reel and cassette tapes in the 1960’s and 1970’s. The fact that we are able to share this unique piece of the Reedys’ early migration and recording history digitally represents another significant technological development that facilitates the continued migration and circulation of their self-documentation in another time and space.

We owe our ongoing gratitude to Harry Rice and John Bondurant at the Berea College Special Collections and Sound Archives for their continued support of the Reedy documentary project and their careful attention to the curation and preservation of the numerous multi-media artifacts that comprise it.

p.s. In the process of re-learning how to upload and post the Voice-O-Graph audio file, I discovered that the Reedy Multi-Media Library page needed updating. The page now includes both the digital audio files for the Voice-O-Graph recording and my Frankie & Johnny mash-up “Tiny Bitty Pieces Knocking on Your Door.” Finally, the Reedy Documentary video playlist has been updated and should be working again.

As an extra bonus, check out Jack White’s working model of a Voice-O-Graph recording booth in the "Novelties Lounge" of his Third Man Records studio in Nashville and this music video of a recording that Brendan Benson, a songwriter made for his wife. The record label website also includes audio recordings of other artists who have made records in the booth and information about how anyone can make one for only $15!


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Voice-O-Graph Discovery & Mystery!

Earlier this summer, Timi's Uncle Tim told her that their cousin Robin had discovered a new Reedy treasure. She found a small record among her grandmother Beulah's belongings, and she gave it to Tim to pass along to Timi because she was aware of our project. Beulah was John Reedy's sister and was never part of their band, but several of her descendants are members of a contemporary family gospel group known as The Van Nordstroms.

The record is unlike any other in the Reedy collection. It is smaller than a 45 and has a small spindle hole in the middle. It is labeled from John to "All The Family", and its date is "Aug. 10, 19..." but the actual year is difficult to discern. It looks like "1920", but this would have been before John was born.




This new discovery is intriguing for several reasons. According to Collectors Quest, a collectors website, it was produced in a Voice-O-Graph recording booth, which resembles a phone booth, where one could deposit money and speak into the receiver to record a one-of-a-kind audio recording.


Image from http://www.pinrepair.com/arcade/voice.htm
The website also indicates that the Voice-O-Graph machines were made around the late 1950s and 1960s, so this would likely place John's recording around the same time period that he and Frances were living part-time in Ohio. So he could have recorded a message "To All the Family" back home in Kentucky. 

As noted by the collector/blogger Collin David on this site, "Audio cassettes wouldn’t really become popular until the late 1970s, so in an era where recording equipment was not as readily available as it is today, these were surely thrilling machines. The idea [of] recording oneself for perpetuity and aural immortality is one that appeals to us all. Of course, these records could only be etched once, so the sounds stored on them were completely unique and existed solely on that singular recording."

Image from http://www.pinrepair.com/arcade/voice.htm
As we know from their extensive reel-to-reel home recordings (and later cassette recordings), John and Frances consciously documented themselves and their family members, and it seems like the Voice-O-Graph experience could have inspired them to acquire their reel-to-reel recorder before such technology became commonplace and inexpensive.

Of course, the most intriguing part of this discovery is finding out what is on the Voice-O-Graph record! We have contacted Harry Rice to inform him of this new-found recording and our interest in donating it to the Berea College Sound Archives as part of the Reedy collection of commercial and home recordings that we donated and processed as part of our Appalachian Sound Archives Fellowship in 2009. We hope that it is in good enough condition to digitize its contents and thus solve the mystery of what John sent to "All The Family" and when.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Re-Reedy at ASA: Appalachian Music, Migration, & Memory Revisited


We had a whirlwind trip to Indiana, Pennsylvania, which is about an hour northeast of Pittsburgh and the farthest north the Appalachian Studies conference has ever been.  We enjoyed traveling with our ever-trusty and always fun travel companion Banjo Deborah, though we were all a little stressed out by the long trip, and neither Timi or I were feeling well that weekend.

Our multi-media presentation, "Re-Reedy: Appalachian Music, Migration, and Memory," which built on our 2010 ASA presentation, focused on (1) the findings from our Family Research Fellowship at the Kentucky Historical Society about Frances and John Reedy's early career in Harlan, Kentucky; (2) the commercial and home recordings they produced in Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio during their migration cycles; and (3) video footage of Harold Reedy and his memories of his parents' music and migration.

We experienced some frustrating technical difficulties at the beginning of the presentation, but a helpful volunteer was able to get the system to cooperate finally.  Fortunately, we had a full hour for our presentation, otherwise the technical challenges would have consumed the time allotted for a typical paper presentation.  Our audience was small (about eight people), but they were all very patient and highly knowledgeable about the Reedys' musical era and migration area.  So we had a great discussion with these folks that extended well into the lunch hour!

We used the documentary blog for presenting our fellowship research on the Reedys' early performances in Harlan, and we also played Frances' version of "Oh Death," which she and John custom recorded as a 45 rpm record when they were living in Dayton.  We concluded by sharing some of the footage we shot during Harold's visits when he was staying with us regularly.  It was difficult to talk about the shifting landscape of his memory, but it was good to share his remembrance and love of Frances and John's music as well as our story about caring for a loved one.

In honor of Harold's role in this ongoing project and process, we have posted a brief  footage segment from one of his visits to our home.  The soundtrack is the "Song Title Medley," improvised and sung by his father John Reedy and digitized from a reel-to-reel home recording circa the 1960's.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Appalachian Studies Conference Presentation March 2012

March 22-24, 2012


 "Re-Reedy: Appalachian Music, Migration & Memory Revisited"
Multi-Media Presentation by Tammy Clemons & Timi Reedy
  (Saturday, March 24, 11:00 a.m.noon, Location TBA)

Timi and I have proposed and been accepted for another multi-media presentation at the next Appalachian Studies Association (ASA) Conference in the northern reaches of the Appalachian region at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP).  This session will build on our 2010 ASA presentation on the Reedys and will focus on (1) recent findings from the Kentucky Historical Society about their early career in Harlan, Kentucky; (2) the commercial and home recordings produced in Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio during their migration cycles; and (3) video footage of the Reedys’ sons, Harold and Tim, and their memories of their parents music and migration.  We are looking forward to sharing some new material from our documentary-in-progress about the musical careers and family histories of Frances and John Reedy.  

It will also be exciting to interact with other Appalachian scholars at the ASA conference again.  Timi has now attended for the past two years, and I have attended the conference the past five years in a row (and have presented five times, though not every year).  This year, I am grateful to receive support from the University of Kentucky Appalachian Center to attend.  Since I began my doctoral program in cultural anthropology this fall, I have been attending some events and interacting with various folks there as much as I can.  In fact, one of my co-advisors, Dr. Ann Kingsolver, is the new director of the center and the Appalachian Studies program, and we both recently "published" pieces in the Appalachia issue of anthropologies: An Online Collaborative Project that "seeks to highlight not only what anthropology means to those who practice it, but also how those meanings are relevant to wider audiences."

My new academic endeavor and my simultaneous return to a full-time position at Berea College have definitely impacted my productivity on this documentary, but I hope to find ways to integrate this project into my long-term dissertation research as well.  Dr. Kingsolver has encouraged me to think more broadly about my overall interest in documentation, identity, and social change, so it will be interesting to see what unfolds as I embark on my investigation on feminist media activism in Appalachia and continue to gather and present information on the Reedys' music and family.

That said, Timi and I now have a couple of exciting new opportunities to expand our vision and public reach on this and other topics.  I do not want to say too much just yet, but I can say that one of these will be a proposal for the upcoming Appalachian Research Symposium and Arts Showcase organized by the Graduate Appalachian Research Community at UK. There may also be another UK involved at some point, but that will have to remain a mystery for now...

Meanwhile, we are looking forward to attending and presenting at another ASA conference.  This year's theme is "The Wide Reach of Appalachia," and the featured keynote speaker and performer will be Si Kahn.  If you are interested in participating, they offer registration scholarships for folks who could not afford to attend otherwise.  (Timi and I were awarded scholarships to attend the past two years when I was unemployed.)  Scholarship information as well as a preliminary program with tentative session schedules should be posted on the ASA website in the coming months, so stay tuned for more on the ASA at IUP...

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Reedy's Records Now Open!

As we've discovered, sorted, digitized, and archived the vast volume of Reedy recordings, we continue to encounter duplicate copies of some items.  We are slowly getting organized, and are happy to announce that we now have some surplus Reedy 45's for sale on eBay!

You can check out our current selection on the new "Shop Reedy's Records" page, also in the list of blog pages in the left-hand menu.  We're new to this form of vending, but we hope this will prove a beneficial means of sharing Frances and John's musical talents and their commercial recordings on the original medium that they were produced!  

We have a modest selection to offer so far, but we anticipate new additions in the near future.  There are currently two 45's on the Viola Records (Lundy Music) label: VR-118 "Summer is Gone" / "That's the Man I'm Looking For" and VR-225 "Cherokee Lady" / "Tennessee Duels".

Frances and John recorded several 45's, an LP, and an 8-track at Lundy Recording Studio, founded and owned by David Lundy.  (A full list of Reedy recordings on the Lundy label is available on our master discography.)  Check out our oral history interview with David Lundy, meet his wife Viola, and take a tour of the studio in Barbourville, Kentucky.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Reedy Collection Finding Aid & Historical Narrative

Overview of the Collection *

The Reedy collection consists of correspondence, news clippings, photographs, liner notes, miscellaneous memorabilia, sound recordings, and videos documenting the musical career of early Bluegrass musicians Frances and John Reedy of Harlan and Corbin, Kentucky and Dayton, Ohio.  This collection was donated to the Berea College Special Collections and Archives by Timi Reedy, Frances and John Reedy's granddaughter, as part of an Appalachian Sound Archives Fellowship in Fall 2009

John Reedy is perhaps best known as the composer of the gospel song “Somebody Touched Me,” which he wrote in 1939.  A response to a reader’s letter in the August 2004 issue of Bluegrass Unlimited, notes that “John Reedy is an artist whose name appears on a number of song credits, but about whom little has been written. We know he and his wife Frances were from Harlan County, Ky.  …We have  virtually no information on Frances Reedy, but her vocal work on ‘Oh Death’ reveals her to be an excellent old-time singer, with a delivery reminiscent of the singing of Julia Mainer.”  The few published items sometimes contain incorrect and conflicting information, such as in the “Early Days of Bluegrass” liner notes that erroneously refer to the Reedys as “Starting out as a sister/brother group.” 

John William Reedy was born in Tennessee on December 9, 1918.


His parents were Elizabeth Honeycutt and Harrison Reedy, who was a law-man in Harlan County where he grew up.



Frances Williebob Ridner was born in Bell County, Kentucky on December, 31, 1922.


Her parents were Maude Miller and Bob Ridner...

...but she was raised by her paternal grandparents Nancy Ann Mullins and Andrew Jackson Ridner in Harlan as well.

According to an oral history with Frances, she learned to play guitar around the age five or six by watching her uncle play and practicing what she learned afterward when her grandmother took his guitar off the wall and let her play.  She recalled learning songs and playing along with Bradley Kincaid on the radio. Because she didn't have her own guitar, she said she didn't really start playing again until around the age of 12 or 13 when she traded her hand-crank Victrola and all her records to a boy for a Regal guitar. 

John and Frances married on November 22, 1936 when Frances was 13 and John was 17 but they apparently lied about their ages on the marriage license.  Frances gave birth to their first child, a daughter named Joyce Ann in 1938 when she was 15, but the child died from leukemia at the age of fourteen months.  Frances and John’s older son (and Timi’s father) Harold William Reedy was born on August 25, 1940, and their younger son Charles Timothy (Tim) Reedy was born on January 17, 1945.  Sadly, a set of male twins were stillborn between the birth of their surviving sons.
 

In Frances’ musical oral history interview, she recalled the beginning of her and John’s musical career when they first got married.  John played harmonica, and Frances taught John's sister Marie and his brother Roger how to play guitar.  They formed a family band known as John Reedy and the Stone Mountain Hillbillies and first played at twice-monthly "songfests" in Harlan County organized by Uncle Joe Shoemaker, where they also played with Julian and Glen Rainey who played the banjo and mandolin respectively.

 
During the 1940’s and 50’s, the Reedys had a daily radio program sponsored by Fuller Furniture on WHLN in Harlan on and off for 17½ years.  According to Frances, Jay Barlow was the DJ, and sometimes the studio was so crowded with audience members from the community that they had to record the show outside in the parking lot.

The Reedys played on several other radio stations in the region, including WBVL (Barbourville), the short-lived WCPM (Cumberland), WCTW (Whitesburg), WJHL (Johnson City, TN), and WNOX (Knoxville, TN).  Frances also recounted playing at a number of other diverse outlets throughout the region, including schoolhouses (sometimes traveling in a wagon), churches, the Wise County Fair (Wise, VA), and local theatres. 

According to family documents, the Reedys would most likely have first played at Renfro Valley between the early 1940's and early 1950's (prior to their temporary migration to Dayton, Ohio). In her oral history, and Frances' recalled playing there on the weekends when the original Coon Creek Girls, Red Foley, Slim Miller and Molly O’Day and her husband Lynn Davis performed there in the early 1940’s.  While Special Collections holds extensive relevant business correspondence, publicity, and radio program transcripts from Renfro Valley, there are only a couple clues and no direct documentation of their presence there, even in the occasional references to guest musicians or “extras” in addition to the regular cast of Renfro Valley stars. 

John Lair's business correspondence does allude to some of the Renfro Valley “units” of performers who traveled to various venues such as schools, civic clubs, and communities in the region.  This could possibly correlate to Frances' recollections of the different places they played because her memorabilia includes an old ticket stub of a “Hill-Billy Show,” and a Renfro Valley booking agent uses this same phrase in a 1943 letter to responding to an inquiry about bringing performers to their community.

Throughout their regional travels and gigs, the Reedys met and/or played with many well-known country, gospel, and Bluegrass musicians.  Frances recalled opening for Earnest Tubb at the Harlan Theatre as well as playing various times with Coon Hunter, Bill Monroe, Lost John and the Allied Kentuckians, Kitty Wells, and Johnny Wright.  They played also played with Carl Story and the Ramblin’ Mountaineers somewhat regularly at the Wise County Fair.  Frances also remembered getting to meet Chet Atkins, Don Gibson, and Dolly Parton while they were doing programming on WNOX. During World War II, John was briefly stationed at Camp Atterbury in Indiana as an Army cook in 1944.  Frances recalled that they played music in some of the theatres in Indianapolis while John was in service.


John wrote “Somebody Touched Me” in 1939, but it was first recorded in 1947 (or 1949) as a 78 rpm record on the Twin City label in Bristol, Tennessee.

"Somebody Touched Me" (John Reedy - Twin City Records, Bristol TN)

As John’s most famous song, it is often erroneously credited as a traditional or to other composers.  The song has been re-released on compilations or re-recorded and covered by other artists more than 40 times since it was first recorded.  Commercial recordings include cover artists Roy Acuff, Boxcar Willie, Bill Monroe, Stanley Brothers, Carl Story, and even Solomon Burke and Bob Dylan.  While it remains John Reedy’s most famous song, both he and Frances were both talented songwriters, and they recorded mostly their original music throughout their musical careers.

Frances and John probably first moved to Dayton to work in the General Motors factory around 1953. The Reedy manuscript collection includes a weather-worn recommendation letter, dated April 2, 1953, from R.B. Helms, then President of Blanfox Radio Co., Inc.  The letterhead references membership stations of the “Good Coal Network” as WHLN (Harlan), WCPM (Cumberland), and WNVA (Norton, VA).  The letter is addressed simply “To Whom It May Concern,” so it most likely intended to help them secure music gigs when they moved north. 

Between the early 1950's and mid-1960's, the Reedys lived in Dayton during the workweek and commuted home to Kentucky every weekend; however; their migration during that period was also broken into alternating 5—6-month residencies in Ohio and Kentucky.  Thus, the Reedys never completely migrated away from their native home even while they worked in Dayton for more than a decade.  In the mid-1960’s, they permanently returned Kentucky to live in Corbin. 

When John and Frances Reedy moved to Dayton, they became part of both a much larger migrant Appalachian population in Ohio as well as a substantial transplanted group of Appalachian musicians who recorded on several independent record labels in Dayton and elsewhere.  During their temporary migration to Dayton, the Reedys recorded a prolific amount of material not only on commercial record labels but also on extensive homemade reel-to-reel recordings. In the early 1960's, they recorded one 45 on the Ark label (Cincinnati), three 45’s on the Jalyn label (Dayton), six multiple-track EP-45’s on the Starday label (Nashville), and custom-recorded four 45’s in Dayton. In 1962, Starday released a compilation LP entitled Tragic Songs of Death and Sorrow featuring Frances' vocals on “Oh Death.”
 

The Reedys self-recorded at least fifteen reels of material including musical performances, radio programs, sermons, and family gatherings.  Most of these are home recordings of jam sessions or what are probably multiple takes of songs that they were rehearsing prior to commercial recordings; however, some are dubs of their 45 recordings.  One tape included a recording of a radio “infomercial” advertising the release of the Starday Hall of Fame records and playing selected tracks, including “Oh, Death.”


Another reel is a 1961 recording of a family Christmas gathering in 1961, on which John interviews his family members who are visiting them in Dayton.  The reel-to-reel recordings also include at least one original song that was not commercially recorded (i.e., “Parking Meter Blues”) as well as a John singing an unusual medley combining song titles from their repertoire.  Later home recordings include a couple of cassette tapes of live material, but most cassettes in the collection are back-up dubs of previous reel-to-reel recordings.

Frances and John briefly divorced and remarried in 1963-64.

During their estrangement, she lived temporarily with her daughter-in-law in Dayton.  Years later, a newspaper article in the Corbin Times-Tribune was published about Frances and John when their song "Somebody Touched Me" was included on the Rounder Records compilation LP The Early Days of Bluegrass, Vol. 1 in 1975.
 

When they discuss the songwriting process and other songs they had written, such as Frances' song "Tiny Bitty Pieces."  She attributes the origin of this catchy country tune of lost love and trust to the demise of "a couple of friends," but it was in fact written to and for John.  Similarly, John wrote "Knocking on Your Door" to Frances as a result of their brief separation.

Shortly after reuniting, the Reedy family returned to Kentucky to live in Corbin, where their older son also settled with his children.  Timi Reedy grew up in Harlan and Corbin, and as a child, she spent a great amount of time with her grandparents.  She remembers traveling with them during mid-1960's and mid- to late-1970's as they toured the region and performed at regional churches and community gatherings as well as Renfro Valley and the Grand Ole Opry.


In 1973, Frances and John recorded a 45 of the traditional tune “Little Sparrow” and Frances’ song, “Tiny Bitty Pieces” on the Jewel label Cincinnati, Ohio.  A year later, John Reedy and the Stone Mountain Hillbillies were documented as founding Bluegrass musicians on the album “The Early Days of Bluegrass, Vol. 1” produced by Rounder Records in 1974.  The album included the original recording of “Somebody Touched Me” and was later cataloged in the Library of Congress.

 

Frances and John recorded three 45’s on the Viola label at the Lundy Recording Studio in Barbourville, Kentucky: Summer's Gone / That’s the Man I’m Looking For (1976), Moonlight and Music / Grandad’s Fiddle (1977), and Cherokee Lady / Tennessee Duals (1978).  They also recorded the LP Hymns from the Hills of Harlan County Kentucky on the Lundy label on July 15, 1977, and sometime in the late 1970's or early 80's, they released an 8-track called On My Way to Heaven in collaboration with Barbourville-based Bluegrass band the Brush Creek Grass. 

Throughout the Reedys’ musical career, they both also worked various jobs to support their family and save money for their own place.  In Harlan during the late '30's and early '40's, John worked briefly as a cab driver, coal-miner, and truck driver.  Frances was a retail saleswoman in a department store.  While living in Dayton, they both worked at the Inland division of GM.  When they finally settled in Corbin, Frances served as the primary cook and manager for Reedy’s Pizza, which was owned by her sons Harold and Tim, and she later worked as a grocery clerk at a local market.  John volunteered for various community projects in Corbin, including lobbying for paving the gravel road in their neighborhood and helping start the first ambulance service in the area. 

On Christmas in 1980, Frances and John's older son Harold captured their last recorded musical performance together with a VHS camcorder.  John had several health problems, and a few short years later, he passed away at his home in Corbin on January 30, 1983.




Frances played the guitar less and less after her husband died, but she would still occasionally sing a traditional ballad or other songs in her repertoire upon request by family members.

In 1996, Timi helped interview her grandmother at her home in Corbin for two oral history videos collected and preserved by Appalachia—Science in the Public Interest (ASPI): one was on the condition of the forest in Eastern Kentucky while she was growing up, and the other focused on her musical background and career.  Frances' music history narrative is truncated and ends before the Reedys even migrated to Dayton; however, the interview includes Frances performing a couple of traditional tunes that Timi loved from her childhood, which was a rare occurrence during the latter part of her life as well as her last recorded performance.


After struggling for several years with multiple health problems, Frances Reedy passed away in Corbin on April 6, 2006 at the age of 83.


The Sound Archives collection includes the original commercial recordings by the Reedys, including their first 78 rpm recording of “Somebody Touched Me,” fourteen of eighteen known 45 rpm records, the Tragic Songs of Death and Sorrow LP, Hymns from the Hills of Harlan County LP, Early Days of Bluegrass, Vol. 1 LP, and On My Way to Heaven 8-track. Homemade recordings include 15 reel-to-reel tapes, more than 20 cassette tapes, a DVD copy of the original VHS Christmas home video, and VHS and audio cassettes from both 1996 oral history interviews with Frances.  All of these original materials have also been digitized. 

The Reedy collection includes almost 100 original family photos, about 40 original musician photos (of the Reedys as well as other musicians, including an autographed photo of Bill Monroe), as well as other important archival material such as newspaper clippings, liner notes, and a radio station brochure, correspondence, post-marked envelopes, school records, and obituaries.  There are also more than 400 digital images, including over 200 family photos and more than 40 labels from commercial vinyl recordings. 

The Reedy manuscript collection and sound recordings reveal a sense of collaborative musicianship, a culture of family and camaraderie, and an astounding intentionality regarding the documentation and preservation of their own history and experience.
-----------------------------
* This historical narrative is a biographical summary of Frances and John Reedy's lives and music as well as a "finding aid" description of the Reedy manuscript and sound archives collections that we donated to Berea College Special Collections as part of our Appalachian Sound Archives Fellowship.