Saturday, July 23, 2022

Reedy CD Box Set Coming Soon!

Cover of 2-CD Collection
on Shanachie Records
In our last post, we acknowledged Nathan Gibson's public hints about Ivy Sheppard working on a "collection" of Reedy music. We are pleased to announce that pre-orders are available for the new 2-CD remastered box set "The Legacy of John and Frances Reedy," which will be released September 2, 2022! 

A couple of years ago, Ivy and Shanachie Records founder Richard Nevins contacted the Reedys' granddaughter Timi Reedy about their music housed at Berea College Special Collections and Archives. They also travelled to Kentucky last year to visit the archives and met Timi and several of her cousins in Corbin. 

Bluegrass Today recently posted about the upcoming album release,* which includes the cover image and sample tracks reposted here. The first CD includes re-releases of commercial recordings from Starday Records, and the second CD includes some never-before-heard tracks from homemade reel-to-reel recordings. Timi and her partner Tammy Clemons contributed to the liner notes in the 20-page booklet included with the CDs. 

The first page of Google search results for the phrase "Legacy of John & Frances Reedy" includes numerous retailers offering pre-orders of the album, and the second page includes Ivy Sheppard's repost of the Bluegrass Today article on her "Born in the Mountain" Facebook page and several Japanese websites. We already knew the Reedys were "big in Japan," but the global pre-release publicity is exciting to see!

Screen Image of "Legacy of John & Frances Reedy Google Search

Plans for a release party are underway, so we'll share additional details about where and when that will happen. We are endlessly grateful to Ivy Sheppard and Richard Nevins for making the dream of remastering and rereleasing the Reedys' music finally come true! We are so glad they will reach wider audiences around the world. Enjoy this brief excerpt and look for the complete 2-CD collection soon!


* Note: The Bluegrass Today author erroneously stated that Starday Records was in Dayton instead of Nashville.

Monday, March 28, 2022

Reedys Remembered in Starday EP Series

In October 2021, musician and ethnomusicologist Nathanial Gibson included the Reedys on a blog post and a "Back to the Country" (WORT) radio program playlist about the Starday Extended Play (EP) Series, including a complete Starday EP record list. We shared a blog post of "Reedy References" a few years ago that mentioned Gibson's publication,The Starday Story (2011), and several other previous posts mention Starday among the Reedys' multiple record labels.

The radio program begins about 4:43 minutes into the audio file, and Gibson first mentions the Reedys (and mentions them first) among the "best bluegrass gospel recordings Starday ever issued" about 6:03 minutes in. He later includes about 20 minutes' worth of Reedys in an extended segment!

The Reedy playlist starts at timecode 2:19:23 with Frances' opening vocals on "Oh Death" (Starday SEP 166, Side A/Track 1). After the song, Gibson sings the chorus, claps, and exclaims "What a jam!" He mentions both John and Frances Reedy by name and credits Frances singing lead even though John's name is the only one listed on the record. He also references the Stanley Brothers learning the song from the Reedys based on Reid and Rosenberg's book The Music of the Stanley Brothers (2014), also mentioned in the "Reedy References" post. [2:23:18] 

After discussing the origin of the song and recapping another Starday artist, Ramona Jones (wife of "Grandpa Jones"), Gibson introduces an extended set by the Reedys [2:24:15]. He even says that his "favorite of all the Starday EP's are those by John Reedy and the Stone Mountain Trio." He goes on, "They're pretty hard to find, but they're wonderful! That "Oh Death" is just the tip of the iceberg of some of the awesome music sung by John and Frances Reedy." He corrects the Rounder Records liner notes, which erroneously referred to them as brother and sister instead of a married couple, but he mistakenly names "Oh Death" instead of "Somebody Touched Me" as their song that was included on the "Early Days of Bluegrass" compilation (Rounder 1013). He does credit "Somebody Touched Me" as a "John Reedy original" and "very popular gospel music standard."

Gibson returns to Frances saying he "just loves her voice" and then plays an entire set of tracks with her on lead vocals! "She's one of my favorite vocalists. So let's do a set of Frances Reedy songs." 


Song Title

Record ID



"Climbing the Stairway to Heaven"

Starday SEP 179

 Side B/Track 1


"Come and Go with me"

Starday SEP 222

 Side B/Track 2


"I Feel Jesus"

Starday SEP 209

 Side B/Track 1

When the playlist ends, Gibson notes it is "Just an absolutely wonderful, wonderful collections of records." He also acknowledges Frances and John's granddaughter and documentary co-producer Timi Reedy and mentions that a "collections is in the works" (hint, hint) that Ivy Sheppard is helping work on. He shares additional biographical information about the Reedys, including their migration, brief divorce, and return to Kentucky. He also mentions the multimedia "treasure trove" on the Reedy documentary blog as well as the Reedy Collection at Berea College

Gibson says, "I don't think we've heard enough of them" and then plays another Starday set of "John Reedy and friends," including "Jonah" featuring Jimmy Murphy on lead, "Mighty Hand of God" with John Reedy on lead vocals, and "That Big Hand of God" with Jimmy Murphy singing again.


Song Title

Record ID




Starday SEP 209

Side A/Track 2


Mighty Hand of God"

Starday SEP 209

Side A/Track 1


"That Big Hand of God"

Starday SEP 209

Side B/Track 2

Nathan Gibson holding Reedy records on his
blog post "The Starday Extended-Play (EP)
Series on Back to the Country

At one point, Gibson mentions that he is holding the Reedy Starday records in the image on his related blog post (though there is no photo caption). Gibson closes the Reedy segment with another shout-out to our documentary blog [2:45:12-2:45:28]. "If you're interested in learning more about John and Frances Reedy, please check out the RemembeReedy Blogspot webpage, or check out the Special Collections at Berea, or just go to YouTube and check out some of these really cool oral histories and things that are available."

Gibson personally followed up with us and shared a link to a re-edited version of the WORT radio program that includes more complete playback of the featured songs. We are grateful and excited to see and listen to such a knowledgeable scholar and collector celebrate the Reedys' music career on the Starday label.

Friday, December 31, 2021

Frances Reedy Oral History on Appalachian Forests

Frances Reedy talking about the Appalachian forest
with her granddaughter Timi Reedy, April 19, 1996
We previously posted about the original oral history with Frances Reedy on her memories of Appalachian forests as the initial inspiration for documenting her and her husband John's Bluegrass music history. Their granddaughter Timi Reedy helped Mark Spencer conduct this VHS video interview in1996 as part of the "Appalachian Historic Forest Conditions" oral history project sponsored by the non-profit organization Appalachia-Science in the Public Interest (ASPI)

In 2020, ASPI partnered with Berea College Special Collections & Archives to apply for a Preservation Grant from the Kentucky Oral History Commission (KOHC) to digitize the analog interviews from this collection, which also includes John Reedy's sister Beaulah. Thanks to Berea College Sound Archivist Harry Rice and this valuable KOHC funding, the Appalachian forest oral histories are now publicly available online!

In honor of what would have been Frances Williebob Reedy's 99th New Year's Eve birthday today, we share this video oral history interview on her recollections of the Appalachian forests of her youth. We hope her family and many fans enjoy this nearly hour-long video that began this documentary journey. We love and miss you every day, Mamaw!

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Reedy References in Industrial Strength Bluegrass

We have previously posted about scholarly references to Frances and John Reedy and their contributions to the history and soundscape of Bluegrass music. A new book edited by Fred Bartenstein and Curtis W. Ellison, Industrial Strength Bluegrass: Southwestern Ohio's Musical Legacy (2020 University of Illinois Press), focuses on the history of Appalachian music and northern migration and includes a couple of references to the Reedys. 

There is a brief mention of John Reedy in a section about artists who recorded on Dayton-based label Jalyn Records (2020:63), and there is a commonly reproduced image of the Reedys with the Ramey brothers included in a section of photographs (2020:90). This photo was published in the Early Days of Bluegrass, Vol. 1 (1974) LP liner notes and is the primary band image on the Reedy blog. Interestingly, the photo caption states that "the Reedys brought 'Somebody Touched Me' and 'Oh Death' to the Stanley Brothers."

Bartenstein's chapter in the volume, "Using My Bible as a Roadmap: Sacred Bluegrass in the Miami Valley," includes an entire paragraph about the Reedys (2020:118) among "An Extended Cast of Characters" who were "other individuals and organizations connected with bluegrass gospel music in the region between the 1940s and the 1980s" (2020:113). 

"John William (1918-1983) was born in Tennessee. His wife, Frances Williebob Ridner (1922-2006) was born in Bell County, Kentucky. They Were married in 1936 in Harlan, Kentucky where they appeared on radio for seventeen and a half years. In 1939, John wrote his most famous song, now a gospel standard, "Somebody Touched Me." Around 1953 they moved to Dayton and John went to work in one of the General Motors plants. They recorded an EP for Cincinnati's Ark label, three singles for Jalyn, one for Rusty York's Jewel label in Cincinnati, and four self-produced singles for their label at 5180 Wolf Creek Pike in Dayton. One of John self-produced singles was "Oh Death." Although he didn't write it, this recording was highly influential. In the early 1960s the Reedys cut six EPs on Starday, with Dayton's Dorsey Harvey the probable mandolin player. They moved to Kentucky the mid-1960s, went through a divorce and remarriage, and started recording again in the mid-1970s." (2020:118)

While Bartenstein includes both Frances and John by name in the the first two sentences, sadly, the reference to their "highly influential" version of "Oh Death" the song's artist credits name him and not her (2020:118), even though she is the vocalist. We have worked to correct such omissions repeatedly in this blog as well as other public platforms and discussions. Also, Bartenstein cites Mac McDivitt and the Cincinnati-Dayton Ohio Bluegrass Heritage website as the research source for the biographical profiles of the "extended cast of characters" (2020:113-114). However, neither Bartenstein or the website cite the Reedy blog even though they most likely learned about Frances' unique middle name, "Williebob," and the Reedys' brief divorce through our documentary project, which first published these personal details about their lives.

We are still glad to see the Reedys rightfully included in this publication about Appalachian music and migration. There is also a new bluegrass tribute anthology called "Industrial Strength Bluegrass" produced by Smithsonian Folkways featuring covers of "tunes that have echoed across Ohio for decades" by "some of the biggest names in bluegrass today." We are curious but uncertain about the connection between the two and would have loved to have a Reedy song included in the mix. We look forward to sharing future updates on other Reedy news and exciting developments related to sharing their music with broader audiences. 

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Reedys Reviewed in the Journal of American Folklore

We recently learned that Travis Rountree, a colleague we know through the Appalachian Studies Association, published an electronic media review of the "Remembering the Reedys" blog in the most recent issue of the Journal of American Folklore. It's a positive review with some well-taken critiques of this site's navigability, some of which reflect the limitations of using a free blogging platform to organize and share content. Thanks to Travis and electronic media review editor Natalie Underberg-Goode for sharing this work with the JAF scholarly community and for offering recommendations for improving it.

We are always pleased to see recognition of the Reedys musical legacy and the documentary blog we've maintained for over a decade to help tell their stories. After such a long-term effort, we still hope more scholars will take up the feminist focus of our project to place Frances on equal footing with her husband as a songwriter and musician. We are definitely interested in exploring additional avenues, and possible website updates, to make this theme and the overall wealth of Reedy media and memorabilia more accessible to expanding audiences.

Citation: Rountree, Travis Allen 2021 Review of Remembering the Reedys: Appalachian Music, Migration, & Memory [blog], by Timi Reedy and Tammy Clemons. Journal of American Folklore 134(532):242-243.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Riding Around in Harlan County: Appalachian Broadcasts & Podcasts

Last summer, we spent quite a bit of time in different counties in Eastern Kentucky conducting interviews for a couple of research and oral history projects we were working on. Because of Timi's family roots in Harlan County, we spent a couple of days at a time so we could interview several people in Cumberland and Harlan and drive around some of the communities and neighborhoods where she spent time as a child. 

Site of Timi's maternal great-grandmother Gigi's homeplace in Coxton (August 15, 2018)
We stayed at the Benham Schoolhouse Inn and were fortunate to see friends and conduct some interviews at the Godbey Appalachian Center at the Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College (SKCTC) campus in Cumberland. One day, Timi unexpectedly ran into Theresa Osborne, who she had interviewed for another project several years before. 

Osborne is a member of the Kentucky Oral History Commission, and she has participated in the well-known Higher Ground series of community-based plays, which is a project of the SKCTC Appalachian Program and includes oral history methodologies. Timi spent time in Harlan County during some of the early productions, and Higher Ground was one of the hosts for the Knoxville/Harlan County Micro-Fest gathering organized by the Network of Ensemble Theaters in 2012. As follow-up to this event, Timi produced an "Appalachian Mixtape” with MicroFest participants, which included recording interviews with selected regional artists, collecting music by participants, and editing/mixing content for the final single-track digital production. The feature-length production features interview excerpts with Higher Ground participants like Osborne, executive producer Robert Gipe, and others.

In 2016, several Higher Ground participants also produced a radio/podcast program called, "Shew Buddy!" that explored the theme of young people struggling to stay or leave the region by using "monologues and dialogues from past plays, interviews with actors who played those characters, new oral histories collected specifically for the show, songs that reinforce the themes of the stories, and poetry readings by local authors."

In Timi's conversation with Osborne last summer, she mentioned a radio program that she co-hosted/co-produced called, "History Alive." The show began with early technical support in the form of "the loan of a digital recorder from the Kentucky Oral History Commission" and was part of the SKCTC Appalachian Program's "long tradition of collecting and preserving local history through the use of oral history interviews." The show was broadcast on WCPM, a local radio station, for six years.

WCPM Radio Station, Cumberland, Kentucky (September 8, 2018)
One sunny afternoon, we were driving around Cumberland before an oral history interview, and we rounded a curve in the road and came upon the WCPM radio station, which is also one of several radio stations where Frances and John Reedy also had a regular program in their early musical career.
Source: The One Year History of 
The Tri-State Broadcasting Company 
and "Heaven's Radio Station" - WCPM
In 1949, WCPM began broadcasting in Middlesboro as part of the "Tri-State Broadcasting Company," which apparently dissolved in 1950. During that brief time, Frances and John Reedy had a regular show as the Stone Mountain Hillbillies and performed every Monday through Friday afternoon at 4:00 p.m.

In 1950, WCPM was purchased by the Cumberland Gap Broadcasting Company and merged with another local station WMIK. WCPM was apparently bought out again and then relocated to Cumberland by 1951. The "Good Coal Network" included both WCPM and WHLN in Harlan where the Reedys also had a show for more than 17 years. It seems likely that their show would then have been broadcast on both stations after WCPM moved. According to most recent news, WCPM stopped broadcasting in 2016 after 65 years, so it was not an active radio station when we drove by last summer, though the grounds were mowed and well-kept. 

Several online archives, such as American Radio History and the National Radio Club, include some digitized artifacts from WCPM and WHLN, and the early history of the station in Middlesboro includes some digitized documents and other primary research. However, there does not appear to be any audio documentation of either the original radio broadcasts or interviews with people who were involved with or listened to WCPM. We're sorry for all the voices that are lost over time as technologies change and people pass on, but we're glad to have stumbled upon WCPM while rambling through the mountain landscapes of Harlan County.

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Oral History & "Appalachian Understories" of the Forest

We have been working on the "Remembering the Reedys" documentary project for almost 10 years, and we owe its origin to the forethought of Frances Reedy who kept so much valuable family history and memorabilia and to Appalachia--Science in the Public Interest (ASPI) for including her story in an oral history project on experiences of the Appalachian forest with elder folks in the 1990s. This interview inspired a follow-up oral history with Frances about her and her husband John's Bluegrass music history, which ultimately spawned the ongoing research and documentation of their stories on this blog.

Source: ASPI Facebook page photo of forest hike along the
Zalla Trail with Notre Dame service-learning students (2016).
Some interesting synchronicities have recently developed around the ASPI oral history project on Appalachian forests. The Appalachian Studies Association (ASA) conference will take place at the University of Kentucky in 2020, and the conference theme will be "Appalachian Understories." The deadline for the preliminary call for proposals is October 7, 2019, and the conference description emphasizes forest commons, oral history, and gender, all of which are important themes and understories of the Reedy project.

"We human Appalachians are fortunate to have the world’s richest temperate forests grace our region. Inspiration for the 43rd Annual ASA Conference is rooted in these forests, and particularly in the easy-to-overlook portion of the woods known as “understory.” In the forest understory, plant and animal life grows between the earthen ground and the more visible canopy, in both shade and sunlight. Recognizing that forest understories are places of beauty and strength, the 2020 ASA Conference will bring to light the many voices of Appalachia that are often obscured. In the understories, people confront stereotypes, myths, marginalization, and violence and meet them with resilience and hope. In addition to native forests and forest-based human experiences, this gathering will highlight stories of Black Appalachians, women, gender, and sexuality, health and healing, and hope spots. Oral history and film-making, along with literature, music, photography, and other art forms, will be among our featured “understories” exploration methods. We also celebrate Appalshop’s 50th anniversary, revisiting the Whitesburg studio’s important documentary legacy and learning about the “understories” it continues to produce today. Like the forest that inspires us, and like the 42 previous ASA conferences, this gathering offers growth, beauty, hope, and nourishment."

The Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History at the University of Kentucky includes the “Appalachian Simple Lifestyle Expression and Experience Oral History Project,” which was an ASPI project conducted by Mark Spencer with whom Timi worked on the forest project. We are currently researching the status and location of these oral histories, which were recorded on VHS cassettes, and exploring the possibility of digitizing some or all of them to include as part of the ASA 2020 exhibits and collections related to the forest commons. We actually have a digitized copy of Frances Reedy's forest oral history, so we are also working with ASPI to share this with the broader public in the near future.

Source: ASPI Facebook page 
(Mark Spencer, Calendar Guru)
We recently discovered an interesting and prescient historical document about a "Forest Commons Conference" that ASPI sponsored in 1995. Father Al Fritsch is the original founder of ASPI, and he also self-published a book called Reclaiming the Commons that he wrote in 2007 and has updated several times since. Father Al is still doing really awesome "Earth Healing" work in the region, so we hope to connect the overlapping understories of ASA, ASPI, and the Reedy family in new and exciting ways over the next year!

Meanwhile, today also marks the day that Timi and Tammy assume primary leadership of the ASPI board along with long-time volunteer Father Jack Kieffer. We are grateful to outgoing ASPI board President Shane Barton and director Suzi Van Etten for their near decade of service and their commitment to ASPI's mission of practicing and promoting simple and sustainable living and livelihoods in Appalachia. 

(31 March 2020 1:20 pm)
Unfortunately, this year's ASA conference was cancelled. However, we have two other positive pieces of news to share. First, Father Al Fritsch made the excellent suggestion that we convene our ASPI panel at a later date for a YouTube discussion about the past, present, and future of the organization. Second, is that ASPI partnered with Berea College Special Collections to apply (successfully!) for a Preservation Grant from the Kentucky Oral History Commission to digitize the "Appalachian Historic Forest Conditions" oral history collection, which consists of 14 Hi-8 video tapes, one VHS tape, and one audio cassette tape.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

KFW Artist Enrichment Grant: Audio Odes to Mamaws

Box of blank cassettes from Ruby's archiving efforts
One of the primary ongoing goals of the Reedy documentary project is to recognize the contributions that Timi's Mamaw Frances Reedy made to Bluegrass music when most of the work that she and her husband John produced was listed under his name. Similarly, Tammy's Mamaw Ruby Clemons created an extensive library of original music, lyrics, and self-recorded cassette tapes before she passed away. We were both extremely fortunate to grow up with families who documented their musical endeavors and with insightful grandmothers who knew enough to keep these treasures. This is why we are committed to honoring them through feminist counter-storytelling and to sharing their stories with more diverse audiences. 

We were recently awarded a 2018 Kentucky Foundation for Women Artist Enrichment Grant for professional development to strengthen our audio skills and purchase high-quality equipment to create new audio pieces about our grandmothers’ unsung talents and enduring legacies. This grant also funded a one-year SoundChannel subscription to online audio production training content offered by the Women’s Audio Mission, a non-profit organization that focuses on "advancing women and girls in music production and the recording arts." We will both work on audio productions about each of our Mamaws, and we plan to incorporate material from oral history interviews as well as other archival audio recordings that they produced themselves into these new productions.  

Timi plans to produce a spoken-word audio piece to inaugurate a series of related poems that she is developing called, "Mamaw Says..." She has several works-in-progress, and she has one complete piece that she wrote during a spoken-word workshop with the Louisville-based Roots & Wings collective. 

Timi and Frances Reedy, ca. 1977-1978
Tammy and Ruby Clemons, March 31, 1978

Tammy plans to produce a short audio piece about her Mamaw as her primary creative inspiration and benefactor, and her cassette tape archive of original gospel songs that she recently rescued. Tammy has a working script and plans to digitize and incorporate some analog audio as well as an excerpt from an interview that was included in an oral history project about quilting.

With this project, we want to develop further in the audio medium that both of our ancestors explored musically, and we also want to use it in new ways in terms of form, content, and technology. In addition to their personal value, our Mamaws’ stories are important to women’s history in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and to the histories of country and Bluegrass music. One goal of this work is to show (aurally) how women have innovated artistically and technologically, even in spite of their own disclaimers or stereotypes about women or the region. We are grateful for the feminist artistic support that KFW has provided for this project as well as for women artists throughout Kentucky.

(11 March 2019 3:00 pm)


We recently posted a couple of one-minute "pitches" for our projects on SoundCloud. We basically used the brief summaries that we included in our KFW proposal (and this post) as our scripts. Then we recorded them and layered the voice-over with fire crackling sounds from our wood stove, which gave them an old vinyl record sound.

P.S. These project trailers were inspired by a "Make & Share" requirement for an online KQED Teach Course on "Podcasting With Youth Radio" that Tammy is taking.

(15 August 2019 9:50 am)


Tammy recently completed and publicly posted her audio production about her Mamaw Ruby May Kidd Clemons and posted a short summary about the piece on another blog.Thanks to the Kentucky Foundation for Women and the Kentucky Historical Society for production support!

P.S. Tammy finally completed all of the certificate requirements for the online KQED Teach Course on "Podcasting with Youth Radio".

Saturday, November 24, 2018

"Jonah" & the Reedys on "An Old Revival Meeting"

We love to discover references to the Reedys and their music, including DJ's who include them in their radio programs or podcasts. One such discovery is Ivy Sheppard's "Born in the Mountain" podcast "An Old Revival Meeting" and an hour-long episode of "obscure gospel" from June 2017 that included a Reedy track.

Near the end of Episode 27*, Ivy plays the Reedys' 1962 EP 45 recording of "Jonah" (Starday SEP 209). She introduces it by saying, "We'll head out to Harlan, Kentucky now and take a listen to John Reedy and his Stone Mountain Hillbillies. Uncle Mike... This one's for you."

The Reedys recorded this track as "John Reedy and The Stone Mt. Trio," so it seems Ivy is familiar enough with their work to know another "nom de plume" that they played/recorded under. Interestingly, neither Frances or John Reedy sing lead vocals on "Jonah," which instead is robustly sung by their long-time friend and frequent collaborator Jimmy Murphy with Frances singing amazing backup vocals on the chorus.

* Cue the player to 43:58 min. to listen to "Jonah" (Starday SEP 209), otherwise podcast plays from the beginning

Ivy is a musician, DJ, record collector/aficionado, and preservationist based in North Carolina, and her podcast is just one of numerous projects that she spearheads. She is an inspiring young woman who demonstrates her creativity and leadership in Bluegrass by integrating analog/digital media and tradition/innovation. We're really pleased to learn about her work and her inclusion of Frances and John Reedy (and Jimmy Murphy) among her podcast playlists of "good ol’ gospel you’re not likely to hear anywhere else."

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Re(e)Discovery: "Climbing the Stairway to Heaven"

We recently discovered a new digital post of "Climbing the Stairway to Heaven," one of four songs on a 1961 Reedy 45 rpm recording (SEP 179) on the Starday label. The artist credit is listed as "John Reedy and The Stone Mt. Trio," but the record features Frances Reedy on vocals. The video title lists her name as it is commonly misspelled as "Francis Reedy," which is likely why we did not come across it sooner.

This record is included on the Reedy's commercial discography and was archived and digitized in the Berea College Special Collections and Archives as part of our Appalachian Sound Archives Fellowship in 2009. Thanks to Mister Honky Tonk for sharing this recording, which we've also added to our "Rebel Reedy Radio" playlist on YouTube.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Audio Archives & Radio Races

Tammy recently rescued a significant portion of her Mamaw's cassette archive of original gospel music to move it to a more climate-controlled environment. It will be a while before we can organize and digitize the tapes, but we have been thinking about audio a lot lately. 

Tammy's Mamaw Ruby May Kidd Clemons' Cassette Archive Vol. 1

In fact, we recently decided to participate in KCRW's 2018 24-Hour Radio Race with our friend Robert Rorrer as Team OM Radio. We produced a 4-minute audio piece in response to the theme, "The New Normal," which we received the moment the 24-hour race officially started. We managed to mention both of our Mamaws in the brief segment that largely centers on the topics of audio and self-documentation.

We had a great time winging it for a last-minute audio production project on "The New Normal?" and hope to participate again next year. We also hope both our Mamaws would be proud, even of such documentation of our silliness!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Digital Storytelling Salutations & Citations

We previously wrote about the publication of an article we wrote for the scholarly journal Visual Ethnography. We recently discovered that Natalie Underberg-Goode, who edited and wrote the introduction for the special journal edition, included a reference to our paper and the Reedy documentary project in another scholarly article on "Digital Storytelling for Heritage Across Media" (2017:112).

Screenshot of paragraph about the Reedy documentary project in
"Digital Storytelling for Heritage Across Media" (Source: Google Books)

Screenshot of Reedy and Clemons bibliographic reference in
"Digital Storytelling for Heritage Across Media" (Source: Google Books)

We are very pleased and honored to learn that the Reedy documentary project is a useful example for "digital storytelling for heritage" that has been shared with a wider audience of museum and archives professionals in this publication. Thanks to Dr. Underberg-Goode for including part of our story in hers!

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.