Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Retro Reedys Making Friends with Facebook

It's hard to believe that we started this documentary blog in 2009. After gathering some feedback from our blog poll and informal conversations, we finally decided to create a Facebook page for the "Remembering the Reedys" documentary project. We had some misgivings about Facebook overtaking the focus of the media content, research, and commentary featured on the original blog site. However, we ultimately value and want to participate in the social media networks and potential for sharing the Reedys' story with new audiences.

On April 6, the day after we launched new page, we were thinking about Frances, who passed away more than a decade ago. We still miss her every day, and we're so grateful that other people love and remember Frances and John Reedy and the contributions they made to their families, region, and music history. Feel free to share this page with other friends, family, and fans... but remember to return to this documentary blog for the most recent updates and new media content. You can like and share on Facebook below without even leaving this site.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Ralph Stanley Radio Interview Refers to Reedys

We continue finding and receiving new treasures and feedback related to Frances and John Reedy. We recently learned that their rendition of the song "Oh Death" and its influence on the Stanley Brothers' version of the song is documented in a new digital audio recording and a book that was published in 2015.

We have mentioned the Reedys' recording of "Oh Death" in several previous posts, and thanks to the important work of historian Gary B. Reid, we have discovered more documentation of their background role for the Stanley Brothers' recording of the song. He recently shared an amazing archival recording that he agreed we could post. "I thought you might like the attached audio track. It's Ralph Stanley as a guest on 'The Sound of Bluegrass' radio show that was hosted by Frank Godbey in Columbus, Ohio. The date of the program is September 9, 1967. In any event, Frank asked Ralph where he learned the song 'Oh Death.'"




"We learned this song from a feller called John Reedy. He was a, him and his wife, they sang all gospel songs. They were from Harlan, Kentucky, but I think now they're probably around Dayton, Ohio." Frank responds by dedicating the song to the Reedys, saying that they might be within the broadcast reach of the station, WMNI FM. "Let's play this one for the Reedys in case they're listenin'." Timi said that her Mamaw and Papaw were already living back in Kentucky by 1967, so they likely did not hear this dedication.

Frank Godbey is well-known as a Bluegrass musician and expert aficionado, and he and his late wife Marty wrote a number of articles for Bluegrass Unlimited and other publications. He also published a cumulative index of Bluegrass Unlimited, and he is renown as the moderator of BGRASS-L, an internet bluegrass music discussion list founded in 1992. In an archived post from the list-serve, Godbey notes, "In the Summer of 1967 I had a radio show on WMNI-FM, Columbus Ohio", which is the station he identifies in the recording. Apparently he lives in Lexington and is still active as a musician in his current band, Southland Drive.

On the recording, Godbey invites the Reedys to come to Chatauqua Park the next day. According to the Cincinnati-Dayton Bluegrass Heritage list of organizations* compiled by Russell “Mac” McDivitt with help from Fred Barenstein, "The first annual Chatauqua Bluegrass Festival on September 10, 1967 headlined Ralph Stanley with Larry Sparks singing lead, Bill Monroe, the Osborne Brothers, Don Reno and Bill Harrell, Jim McCall and Earl Taylor, Moon Mullins and the Valley Ramblers, the Moore Brothers, and the Cornhuskers." An online track list of Bill Monroe's set at the concert shows that he played John Reedy's gospel song, "Somebody Touched Me." The Reedys are also included on the Cincinnati-Dayton Bluegrass Heritage list of individuals who were influential in the development of the Bluegrass music scene in Dayton and Cincinnati. While the listing is indexed under his name, Frances is included in the reference: "From Harlan County, Kentucky, John Reedy and his wife Frances appeared on radio in Harlan, Kentucky, for many years and became well-known for their bluegrass gospel recordings."

We also found a new reference to Frances and John's version of "Oh Death" in a book chapter entitled, "'Won't You Spare Me Over till Another Year?': Ralph Stanley's Late Voice" in The Late Voice: Time, Age and Experience in Popular Music (2015) by Richard Elliott. The chapter includes an entire section dedicated to the song, which references John but not Frances who actually sang the iconic vocals on their 1961 Starday recording (SEP 166). "When the Stanley Brothers recorded 'Oh Death' in 1964 for the Starday label, they also provided a surprisingly uptempo rendition. But their version, which seems to have been sourced from fellow Starday artist John Reedy, is a changed song, with fewer of the 'Chandler' verses and the addition of the new refrain: 'won't you spare me over till another year, which they or Reedy may have learned from black gospel or spiritual versions." (Elliot 2015:77)


As Gary Reid helped confirm, the 1964 recording referenced in Elliott's book was actually recorded on the King label (LP-918) instead of Starday (although the Stanley Brothers did make numerous recordings on the Nashville label).

It is always good to see the Reedys' influence as founding Bluegrass musicians acknowledged in archival documentation and contemporary scholarship. We are ever grateful to Gary Reid for sharing an important piece of radio history that connects John Reedy (and Frances as his wife) to the Stanley Brothers' famous recording of "Oh Death." Because John Reedy is still emphasized in most references, even when Frances is responsible for the vocal work under discussion, we continue the work of naming her and her contributions within a male-dominated musical tradition. We are also interested in further exploration of the direct connections that Frances and John may have had with African American churches and musicians. It is increasingly clear that their music and that of their contemporaries drew upon (and likely collaborated with) African American spiritual and gospel traditions in ways that were not always publicly acknowledged.

* The Cincinnati-Dayton Bluegrass Heritage website used to be known as the Bgrass, Inc. Heritage List and was hosted by the Miami University of Ohio.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Visual Ethnography in Appalachia

Last year, we were invited to submit an article for peer-reviewed publication in a special issue of Visual Ethnography on “Exploring Digital Ethnography through Embodied Perspective, Role-Playing and Community Participation and Design.” We're proud to say that our article, "Audiovisualizing Family History: An Authoethnography of a Digital Documentary," was recently published! While the full article is not available online without a subscription, the Visual Ethnography website includes the abstract and an image of Frances and John Reedy.

Here is the complete abstract: This article discusses issues of collaboration and voice in the ongoing production of a multimedia and multimodal documentary project about Frances and John Reedy from Harlan, Kentucky, their cyclical migration from Appalachia to Ohio, and their extensive musical recordings and contributions to the founding of Bluegrass music. The authors share insights about the educational purpose and process of producing a personal and public documentary in relation to digital design and community scholarship, family history and counterstorytelling, and memory and representation. Selected multimedia content from the documentary website are featured as examples of the Reedys’ self-documentation practices and how they relate to the collaborative documentary process and productions.

Visual Ethnography is an international scholarly (peer-reviewed) journal focusing on research about “1) the production and use of images and audio-visual media in the socio-cultural practices; 2) digital cultures; 3) contemporary art and anthropology; 4) anthropology of art; 5) vision and gaze; 6) senses and culture; 7) objects, design, architecture and anthropology; 8) bodies and places in an anthropological perspective; 9) theories and methods in anthropology.” 


Thanks to Dr. Natalie Underberg-Goode, the editor of the special issue, for inviting us to write about our project for a new audience. The table of contents and Dr. Underberg-Goode's complete introduction to the special issue are available online from the Visual Ethnography website.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Barkley Marathons Documentary on Netflix

We celebrated Frances Reedy's New Year's Eve birthday on Saturday, December 31, 2016 by finally watching the documentary, The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young. We've previously written about the film and our correspondence with the filmmakers who decided to include a cover of Frances' song "I Feel Jesus" in the closing credits. 

Screenshot (1:29:10 min.) from the closing credits of The Barkley Marathons documentary
We were excited to see that the documentary is now featured on Netflix, so anyone else with an account can watch it too, which we highly recommend. The film is a fascinating, humorous, and heart-wrenching chronicle of the 2012 Barkley Marathons, its eccentric founder, and some of the people who undertake what is one of the most difficult trail races in the world. This brief trailer doesn't include Frances' song, but it offers enough intriguing detail to entice folks to watch the complete film.


Overall, The Barkley Marathons is a well-made and entertaining documentary about an unusual annual event that takes place in Appalachian Tennessee. People from all over the world apply for one of 40 spots to compete in the 60-hour, 100-mile wilderness trek competition. The individual stories of the marathon founder and the people who undertake the grueling challenge are powerful and compelling examples of how much the human spirit and body can aspire to, endure, and sometimes miraculously achieve.

Our main critique was that the film focuses primarily on male voices, and the couple of women who participate barely have any speaking role at all. This is a significant omission in light of the film's focus on the way the race comprises layer upon layer of difficulty, all of which are consciously implemented to confound and compound the complexity of participation from beginning (i.e., finding out how to apply) to end (e.g., the 3-lap "Fun Run," the full 5-lap course, or worse... not finishing at all). So to ignore gender as such an obvious additional layer of difficulty for female participants diminishes the richness of the primary narrative. 

Gender was also an important factor in the record-breaking success of a two-time finisher and the winner of the 2012 race, whose family camped out at the park where the race takes place. Both his mother and wife were diligent and reliable caregivers who constantly fed, nursed, and encouraged him during his brief pit-stops between laps. That said, we were particularly inspired by the story of the graduate student who finished the entire course his first time participating. He achieved his own record-breaking distinction by finishing the closest to the 60-hour time limit for the race. In contrast to the winner, he didn't have a family support network pampering him between laps, but it was amazing to see many of the people who had already dropped out of the race providing him with crucial aid before he began his fifth and final lap.

We really enjoyed The Barkley Marathons and hope other folks will take time to watch it. We thought that Frances' song "I Feel Jesus" was a fitting song to end this unique film about a one-of-a-kind ritual in the Appalachian region. Happy birthday, Frances Reedy, we miss you!

p.s. We also discovered that the version of the song that was included on the soundtrack (recorded by Anna and Elizabeth as "Ooh My My") is finally available online. Happy New Year to all!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Labor Day at Howard Brothers

When we first began digitizing and archiving Frances Reedy's music and memorabilia collection in 2009, there were several items that we were not able to identify their content or origin. For example, this news clipping advertising a concert featuring the Bluegrass Drifters and John Reedy and the Stone Mountain Trio included only the general location with no city, and the month and day without the year.

We recently discovered (through Newspapers.com) that the announcement was published on page 8 of the August 31, 1975 issue of The Corbin Times-Tribune. The concert was part of a larger newspaper advertisement and promotion of a Labor Day sale at the Howard Brothers Discount Store in Corbin, Kentucky. Timi was almost 12 years old at the time, and while she doesn't remember this concert in particular, she said she was likely there with her grandparents selling 45's in the parking lot. She remembers the Howard Brothers store, which was part of a larger chain of departments stores in the Southeastern US.

Source: https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/30594718/
The Reedys were playing with the Bluegrass Drifters who were headlining the concert and had released their Bluegrass Covered with Snow LP (Jewel 524) that year. The 1975 album was among the numerous vinyl recordings of other country and Bluegrass artists that Frances collected throughout her and John's musical career and that we donated to the Berea College Sound Archives. We did not digitize many of these additional artists, but we found the entire album and playlist on a bluegrass channel on YouTube that is based in Japan.


Frances and John recorded on the Cincinnati label in 1973 as John Reedy and The Stone Mt. Trio, which was a 45 of "Little Sparrow" and Frances' song "Tiny Bitty Pieces" (Jewel 1017). So they may have encountered the Bluegrass Drifters through their connection to the Jewel label, but they also could have crossed paths with the band at Renfro Valley. In his book It All Happened in Renfro Valley (1999), Pete Stamper recounts that in the late 1960s "... the Bluegrass Drifters, Renfro Valley's second Bluegrass band, was expanding its role on the show. They would establish themselves as a permanent fixture in one way or the other for a long time to come. The group included lead singer/guitar player John Cosby; Bill Ferguson, playing bass; Charles Durham, playing fiddle; and Vester Parker on banjo" (p. 111).

Whether the Reedys and the Bluegrass Drifters met in Cincinnati or Renfro Valley, this piece of history shows that something was happening in Corbin as well.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Front Page News! Reedys Recognized Then & Now

Mid-year is an auspicious time to share some Reedy news, both old and new, and to acknowledge the various audiences who continue to appreciate Frances and John's music. Some discoveries are old news in new formats, some provide exact dates for documents we already had, one is a new mystery to solve, and one is a new acknowledgement of our ongoing work on the documentary project. 

We previously mentioned an article about them in the Corbin Times-Tribune, which was among the many artifacts and mementos that Frances collected that we digitally scanned and archived. We knew the article was written around 1975 when John's song, "Somebody Touched Me" was included on the Early Days of Bluegrass, Vol. 1 compilation album (Rounder Records 1013). However, we recently discovered that this article was actually front page news on June 30, 1975!
https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/30578550/
Source: https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/30578550/
Historic newspapers are increasingly being digitized and made available online through projects like the Library of Congress Chronicling America Project, which provides free access to papers published from 1896-1922. However, some more recent newspapers are currently only available through paid subscriptions services like Newspapers.com, so we can only post a low-resolution screenshot of the full front page where the Reedy article appeared 41 years ago. 

Even without full access, Newspapers.com is still a valuable resource for dating and contextualizing loose news clippings. For example, another search resulted in both the particular newspaper (Middlesboro Daily News) and the date of publication (May 21, 1949) for a WCPM radio show schedule that fellow grassroots music researcher Matt Baker shared with us several years ago.

Source: https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/54393154/
We recently posted a couple of postings related to copyright entries for songs written by Frances and John. We almost overlooked an entry for an unrecorded and otherwise undocumented song that was right under our noses in the January-June 1962 Catalog of Copyright Entries for Music. The entry (p. 324) credits "John Reedy & Francis Reedy" for writing the words and music to a song entitled, "Miracle of Modern Ages," which Timi had never heard of before!

https://books.google.com/books?id=PzghAQAAIAAJ&q=%22Miracle+of+Modern+Ages%22&search_plus_one=form#v=snippet&q=%22Miracle%20of%20Modern%20Ages%22&f=false
We currently have no other reference to this song, and there is no other documentation of it that we are aware of. So we will plan to check in with some folks about whether there might be at least a copy of the lyrics if not a recording for the song. We will post any new findings as we follow this unexpected lead...
 
In more recent news, we learned that our blog is featured among the sample projects created by Kentucky Community Scholars on the newly updated website for the Kentucky Arts Council (KAC), which is now the primary center for the program. Last August, we had the pleasure of seeing Mark Brown, the KAC Folk and Traditional Arts Director who now coordinates the Community Scholars Program, at the It's Good to Be Young in the Mountains (IG2BYITM) conference in Harlan. Tammy participated in the IG2BYITM workshop offered by Mark and Sarah Schmitt, the KAC Community Arts and Access Program Director, and they emphasized that the point of community scholar projects is to “make it do something.” We are grateful to be part of the network of more than 200 Community Scholars in Kentucky and are honored that our documentary project is included on the new KAC webpage.

Reedy Readers Around the U.S.
We would like to close with a shout out to all of the people who have searched for and/or visited our blog since we created it almost seven years ago. In the past, we have posted on what we have learned about our audience through various website analytics tools. Since we began tracking website traffic on February 1, 2010, we have documented visitors from the District of Columbia and all 50 States as well as 106 other countries around the world! Almost 27% of these are returning visitors, and based on keywords and search terms that people use to find our blog, it serves as a reference resource for people who are interested in the Reedys as well as their contemporaries. Thanks to everyone who continues to visit the site. We'd love to hear from you!

Reedy Readers Around the World!

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!"
---------------------
UPDATE:
(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.



Source: http://www.bopping.org/


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.
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* 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).