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.

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!

(24 June 2018 4:30 pm)

We recently realized that The Barkley Marathons has rotated off the current set of Netflix offerings (in North America, anyway). However, it is available to stream through Amazon Prime Video and can be purchased and downloaded from both iTunes and Google Play. They even have a page for how to apply to "Make-Your-Own Theatrical Screening."
(17 June 2021 8:05 pm)

JustWatch is an aggregator of what's available through different online platforms at any give time, and at the present moment, The Barkley Marathons is available on multiple free streaming services!

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 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.

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!
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, 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, 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.

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!
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.