Saturday, August 22, 2009

Appalachian Sound Archives Fellowship

Excerpted project description, timeline, and outcomes from T&T's complete fellowship proposal for Fall 2009.

Proposed Research Project

“Remembering the Reedys: Appalachian Music, Migration, and Memory”

Research Focus and Use of Berea Archives

When John and Frances Reedy moved to Dayton to work in General Motors factory in the early 1950’s, they became part of both a much larger migrant Appalachian population in Ohio as well as a substantial transplanted Appalachian Rock-a-Billy music scene of honky-tonks and independent Bluegrass record labels in the Dayton area. They lived in Dayton during the workweek and commuted home to Kentucky every weekend until the mid-1960’s when they permanently returned to live in Corbin. John is perhaps best known for writing the song “Somebody Touched Me,” and John Reedy and the Stone Mountain Hillbillies were documented as founding Bluegrass musicians in the album “The Early Days of Bluegrass, Vol. 1” produced by Rounder Records for Smithsonian Folkways. According to the liner notes of their album “Hymns from the Hills of Harlan County,” “For 17½ years they played WHLN (Harlan, Ky), sponsored the entire time by Fuller’s Furniture…”

A response to a reader’s letter in the August 2004 issue of Bluegrass Unlimited, notes that “John Reedy is an artist whose name appears on a number of song credits, but about whom little has been written. We know he and his wife Frances were from Harlan County, Ky. …We have virtually no information on Frances Reedy, but her vocal work on ‘Oh Death’ reveals her to be an excellent old-time singer, with a delivery reminiscent of the singing of Julia Mainer.” The few published items sometimes contain incorrect and conflicting information, such as in the “Early Days of Bluegrass” liner notes that erroneously refer to the Reedys as “Starting out as a sister/brother group.” It is clear from the lack of consistent information that there is need for updated, accurate documentation of their musical career. Also, most of the online bibliographic and database references narrowly focus on John and his most famous song, with only a mention of Frances as part of the band. This project proposal seeks not only to correct and expand existing documentation of the Reedys influence on bluegrass music but also to uplift Frances as John’s equal in musicianship, songwriting, and lead vocal talent. Elaborating on their story and sharing it more widely will also create new knowledge where there is a lack of substantial documentation of either musicians from Harlan or the musical influence of Appalachian culture and migration in Dayton.

The overall project involves three primary phases of research, documentation, and compilation that build upon one another:

  1. Conducting new research on Frances and John Reedy (primarily) and their contemporaries (secondarily) in the Berea College Special Collections manuscript and audio archives;

  2. Organizing, digitizing, and processing the donation of new materials (Timi’s current music and manuscript collection) for incorporation into Berea College Special Collections and Sound Archives for use by other researchers; and

  3. Compiling a comprehensive inventory and finding aid of Reedy materials in Special Collections.

The basic components of research for this project would include: identifying and collecting additional news clippings, recordings, etc. about John and Frances Reedy and their contemporaries; following new leads for other references and resources; gathering information about the historical context in which the Reedy family existed as migrant Appalachian musicians and laborers; and transcription and digital conversion of older recording media in the collection.

The Fellowship and access to Special Collections and a research carrel would provide a support base for this comprehensive documentation project. They would serve as a unique opportunity for exploring additional potential recordings and other documentation of the Reedys’ musical career, including performances at Renfro Valley, the Grand Ole Opry, and WHLN in Harlan. The Archives would also provide contextual and historical information about other musicians who were from Harlan and/or the Reedys’ contemporaries in the musical migration.

Preliminary List of Promising Collections

  • John Lair Papers, 1930-1984, SAA 66

  • John Lair - Renfro Valley Barn Dance Oral History Collection 1994-1999, SAA 95

  • Jostes Sisters Renfro Valley Photographic Collection, SAA 88

  • Kevin Parks Early Country Music Collection, SAA 129

  • Leonard Roberts Papers, 1950-1983, SAA 57

  • Reuben Powell Early Country Music Collection 1910-1982, SAA 65

  • Renfro Valley Audio Collection

This project would make unique use of the Appalachian Music Fellowship and the Berea College Sound Archives not only by utilizing existing resources in a new way but also by contributing to and expanding the archival collection for access by other scholars. Timi and Tammy plan to work with the Special Collections Sound Archivist to donate and process various media of the Reedys’ music and other documentation of their musical career. They will also use the archives to do extensive supplemental research on the Reedy family in order to create a comprehensive sound and manuscript collection about their music.

The organization/archiving of existing music along with this supplemental research would serve as a foundation for a more long-term comprehensive documentary project in collaboration with contemporary “Rock-a-Billy” historians, collectors, and producers in the Dayton area. Another long-term goal is to digitally-re-master an anthology of the Reedys’ music for professional production and re-release to a new generation of musical connoisseurs.

Timeframe for Fellowship Residency and Research Timeline

The ideal timeline for implementation would entail a month to focus on each of the three main phases of information gathering and compilation with some degree of overlap in terms of how each of the phases would build upon one another. Therefore, the proposed timeframe for residency is three months from September 14—December 18, 2009.

1 . New Research and Documentation

Monday, September 14—Friday, October 2:

  • Begin research in pre-identified collections (looking for references to the Reedys, known peers/collaborators, and leads to other research sources)

  • Begin compiling list of actual collections and documentation available in Special Collections

  • Begin processing donated materials from Reedy collection (cleaning, sorting/identifying, cataloguing)

  • Begin list of audio materials for digitization and transcription

Monday, October 5—Friday, October 16:

  • Continue Special Collections research gathering images, clippings, and other documentation and ongoing list of successful sources

  • Begin digital conversion of audio recordings (existing and possible new finds) and video footage

  • Begin compiling and updating existing discographies of John and Frances Reedy (noting which are/will be available for access in Special Collections)

2. Processing and Digitizing New Materials

Monday, October 19—Friday, October 30:

  • Continue digital conversion and begin transcription of audio and video materials

  • Begin digitizing photos, letters, etc. (existing and new)

Monday, November 2—Friday, November 13:

  • Continue compiling itemized lists, notes, cross-references of new and existing primary sources

3. Comprehensive Inventory and Finding Aid

Monday, November 30—Friday, December 11:

  • Finalize ongoing inventory and finding aid of Reedy materials for Special Collections

  • Begin updating/correcting other known databases and documentation about the Reedys

Monday, December 14—Friday, December 18:

  • Finalize and Prepare for Final Public Presentation

While the three-month timeline of activity would be ideal, we recognize that the research timeline is dependent upon the actual time allotted should this proposal be accepted. Thus, the implementation of the three phases is flexible enough that the goals could be prioritized and condensed to accommodate a shorter timeframe if necessary. For example, new research could be limited to the stated collections in the proposal rather than following extensive new leads that might surface; or the comprehensive inventory of materials could be prioritized over the digitization of some materials.

Sharing Research Findings/Final Projects

Timi and Tammy have already made preliminary contact with several individuals who are academic and amateur Bluegrass researchers in and around Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio. Timi has had preliminary contact with independent collector/researcher Matt Baker, and this initial information-sharing would serve as the basis for further documenting the current movement of musical preservation and ongoing legacy of Appalachian, Bluegrass, and Rock-a-Billy traditions in Dayton. Tammy has also initiated contact with Tom Kopp, Fred Barenstein, and Mac McDivitt, who conduct research on Bluegrass music and oversee a non-profit organization and online database called Bgrass Inc., which “preserves and celebrates bluegrass music and its heritage in the Cincinnati/Dayton region.”

Several initial products will result from archiving the Reedy music collection and researching supplemental historical resources.

  • Donation of Reedy music collection to the Berea College Sound Archives for ongoing preservation and access for researchers, connoisseurs, and family members

  • Completion of a comprehensive inventory of Reedy music collection and finding aid for Berea College Sound Archives

  • Public Presentation at Berea College on Research and Findings

  • Compiling an online bibliography of websites and other resources related to Appalachian musical migration during the early 1950’s through the mid-1960’s

  • Digital documentation of additional media findings such as photographs, news clippings, recordings, liner notes, etc. that will bolster existing resources of Berea College, Miami University at Hamilton, and independent scholars and collectors

  • Begin collection and archiving of interview footage with other Reedy family members, Appalachian music enthusiasts in Dayton, and contemporary Rock-a-Billy performers in the Dayton area

  • Multi-media conference presentation at the 2010 Appalachian Studies Conference

  • Proposed 1-hour radio special (summarizing the history, describing the research, and sampling the Reedys’ music) for WMMT/Appalshop in Whitesburg, Kentucky

  • Beginning interviews with other researchers/collectors about the impact of the Appalachian labor migration on the musical heritage of the Dayton area and Appalachian music

  • Documenting additional obscure record labels of Appalachian/Rock-a-Billy music as well as contemporary bands/concerts in the Dayton area

All of the above research outcomes would also serve as the primary components of the two long-term projects of (1) re-mastering, producing, and releasing a new digital compilation of Reedy music, and (2) researching and producing a video documentary about the Reedys’ music, temporary migration, and their influence on the still thriving Rock-a-Billy music scene in Dayton.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Bob Dylan Covers John Reedy?!

I couldn't wait to post my unlikely discovery... I worked on the discography today, and this afternoon I got online to check a few other sources before I posted it. And lo and behold...

...But wait, this treasure must first be prefaced by two very important facts: 1) John Reedy is most famous for his oft-covered (and often erroneously credited as "Traditional") gospel song, "Somebody Touched Me," and 2) Timi is a die-hard Bob Dylan fan.

So I found a helpful site that listed various recordings of the song, two by John Reedy and mostly covers by others, including a live cover by Bob Dylan! It's the first track on a Japanese-issued compilation of previously unreleased recordings, called "Bob Dylan Live 1961-2000: Thirty Nine Years Of Great Performances." (The CD itself is such a limited edition there's only one copy on Amazon, and it's almost $50!)

Someone now has a great excuse for contacting one of her all-time favorite performers to make sure he got the credits in the liner notes right...

(22 Sept. 11:58 pm)

So I was right--Timi was thrilled to learn that Bob had indeed done a cover of her papaw's song! We marveled and giggled over it for a while as I recreated my search that turned it up. Then we actually found a YouTube video of a live performance. The footage isn't great, but it's him, and he's doin' it!

There's another YouTube post of what is basically a photo slideshow that someone created over an audio track. It seems like it might be the same one as in the other video, just a higher-quality audio version of the same performance. I wonder if it might be the recording that was included on the special edition CD, though the video is referenced as 1999, and the CD track was recorded live at Portsmouth, England in 2000...

(9 May 2017 12:00 pm)

As you can see, the various YouTube videos of Bob Dylan covering John Reedy's gospel song "Somebody Touched Me" that we previously posted have been removed. However, we found another audio recording available from the soundtrack of Rolling Thunder: The Gospel Years. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Reedy Discography (V.1)

[NOTE: This version of the discography in the post below has been replaced by a standalone page that we update regularly. Please see the "Reedy Commercial Discography" page for the most recent version (additional updates/corrections are welcome).]

Thanks to several individuals and online sources* and Timi's personal collection from her mamaw, we have a substantial discography already completed. We welcome additions, questions, corrections etc., and we will continue to update the list as new information is available.
John Reedy and The (Stone?) Mountain Quartet (or Boys?) Ark 200 My Imagination / O Sinner Man / Walk Around Me, Jesus / Be Good To Mommy / The Lord Is My Shepherd / Going Up EP Cincinnati, OH 1961
John Reedy Jalyn 213 Knocking On Your Door / Lost John 45 Dayton, OH 1965 (or 1967?)
John Reedy and His Stone Mountain Trio John Reedy 413-1 I Just Dropped By / I'm Walking The Road To Heaven 45 Dayton, OH 1960
John & Francis Reedy Jalyn 210 Quit Kicking My Dog Around / Tiny Bitty Pieces 45 Dayton, OH 1964
John & Francis Reedy / John Reedy & His Stone Mountain Trio John Reedy 502 Oh, Death / Driftwood 45 Dayton, OH 1961
John Reedy And Danny Roberts Jalyn 323 (or 324?) Going To Tennessee / The Rolling Winds 45 Dayton, OH 1968
John Reedy & His Stone Mountain Boys Twin City 1021 Somebody Touched Me / Driftwood 78 Bristol, TN/VA 1949

John Reedy 502 Oh, Death / Driftwood 45 Dayton, OH 1961
John Reedy and His Stone Mountain Trio Starday SEP 166 Oh Death / A Prayer Is Worth More Than Silver and Gold / Driftwood / I Just Dropped By 45 Nashville, TN Early 60's

Starday SEP 179 Somebody Touched Me / I Say a Pale Moon / Walking the Same Road / Climbing the Stairway to Heaven 45 Nashville, TN Early 60's

Starday SEP 199 You Take One Step-He’ll Take Two / I’ll Fly High Up In the Kingdom / My Warfare Will Be Ended 45 Nashville, TN Early 60s
John Reedy Trio Starday SEP 222 St. John / Sunshine and Flowers / He’s Coming Back / Come and Go With Me 45 Nashville, TN Early 60's
John Reedy and His Stone Mountain Hillbillies Lundy 206 Hymns From the Hills Of Harlan County LP Barbourville, KY 1977 or 1982

Jalyn 210 Tiny Bitty Pieces / Quit Kicking My Dog Around 45 Dayton, OH 1964

Jalyn 213 Knocking On Your Door / Lost John 45 Dayton, OH 1964

Jewel 1017 Little Sparrow / Tiny Bitty Pieces 45 Cincinnati, OH 1973
John Reedy Berea College Sound Archives How happy are they CT Defeated Creek ORBC, KY 08/20/92
John Reedy Berea College Sound Archives Prodigal Son CT Blair Branch ORBC 03/18/90
John Reedy Berea College Sound Archives Prodigal Son CT Little Dove ORBC 04/15/90
John & Frances Reedy Berea College Sound Archives Oh! Death CT
Francis Reedy Berea College Sound Archives Prayer Is Worth More Than Silver or Gold, A CT

Reedy [Various Artists] Starday SLP-168 Tragic Songs of Death and Sorrow [Compilation: Oh, Death] LP Nashville, TN 1962
John Reedy & His Stone Mountain Hillbillys [Various Artists] Rounder Somebody Touched Me [Compilation: Early Days of Bluegrass, Vol. 1] LP
John Reedy & His Stone Mountain Boys [Various Artists] Fuel 2000? Somebody Touched Me [Compilation: Appalachian Heart: The Original Bluegrass Classics] CD
John Reedy [Various Artists]
Somebody Touched Me [Compilation: Bluegrass Early Cuts 1931-1953: Classic Recordings Remastered] CD
John Reedy & His Stone Mountain Boys [Various Artists]
Somebody Touched Me [Compilation: Authentic Rare Bluegrass: Independent Label Sides 1951-54] CD

John Reedy & His Stone Mountain Boys [Various Artists]
Somebody Touched Me [Compilation: The Appalachian Tradition: Original Bluegrass Classics] CD

*Special thanks to:

Reedy Documentary is Officially in Production!

Timi and Tambone are proud to announce that we have formally commenced production of a documentary project about Timi's mamaw and papaw, Frances and John Reedy, and their musical legacy. We are so excited about the opportunities and encouragement that continue presenting themselves, and we plan to use this blog as a space for documenting our process of research, planning, production, post-production, and distribution of this story. This will no doubt be a process of self-discovery as well as one of finding unknown, hidden treasures we didn't even know existed.

We've been brainstorming, planning, and daydreaming about the project this summer while also working on several responsibilities and programs related to the upcoming Clear Creek Festival on Labor Day weekend. It's been fun and challenging to learn to apply my administrative AND artistic skills to such an interesting and comprehensive project. I've mostly worked on much shorter videos and more abbreviated topics, so this is definitely an excellent opportunity to hone and expand those skills. An invaluable resource that I highly recommend is The Shut Up and Shoot Documentary Guide by Anthony Artis(check his highly informative and entertaining blog where you can also find info about the book).

So after the festival is over, we hope to take a mini-vacation before our Appalachian Sound Archives Fellowship begins in mid-September. We're really looking forward to spending the fall semester on campus as scholars! I'll try to post the fellowship project that we'll be working on soon (either as a document or as a blog post...). Next on my to-do list is to create an account for Timi so she can log in as herself and make posts as well.

We hope that this process will be one that others will enjoy vicariously as we embark on this adventure! Stay tuned...

p.s. A few years ago, I made a family holiday video in honor of Timi's mamaw Frances. It's just a glimpse of her late in life, but it also includes a soundtrack featuring a couple of her vocals on some of their early bluegrass recordings. Enjoy!


(20 Aug. 6:10 pm)

I also want to let folks know that the 3rd Annual Clear Creek Film Fest will include a short digital story that I made about my grandparents helping us build our house as well as a pilot program by Blair et al that includes an interview with Timi and me. All of the selections for this years festival are excellent, and we'll also be featuring some exclusive archival shorts from Appalshop in honor of their 40th anniversary. Finally, Elizabeth Barrett and Mimi Pickering will be joining us for the weekend as part of the Al Smith Fellowship Filmmakers Tour. Look for more details soon or visit