Saturday, December 18, 2010

Family Research Fellowship Finale

We returned to Frankfort last week for our last two days of research at the Kentucky Historical Society to complete our full week of the Family Research Fellowship on Frances and John's family and musical legacy.  We actually spent the night on Friday this time, which made the second day far less stressful.

Timi continued genealogical research in Harlan Mountain Roots as well as other publications like Kentucky Kinfolk, a publication of the Knox County Genealogical Society, and Gateway: The Journal of the Bell County Historical Society.  She found references to her mamaw's grandparents who she grew up with and several of her uncles.  Ultimately, Timi would like to return to the KHS with her uncle Tim when the library reopens in the spring because he has additional genealogical knowledge that would be beneficial while researching.

I continued my scan through the Harlan Daily Enterprise in the microfilm room.  There was another set of ads in 1942 for the New Harlan Theatre that Frances mentioned in her oral history interview.  One is advertising the amateur auditions and one is for the actual amateur show.

Harlan Daily Enterprise, Sunday, January 11, 1942 (KHS Microfilm Box 98-0106)
Harlan Daily Enterprise, Sunday, January 11, 1942 (KHS Microfilm Box 98-0106)
Harlan Daily Enterprise, Sun. Jan. 2, 1945 (KHS Microfilm Box 98-0107)
I found several more contextual pieces of Harlan history.  For example, there was a regular  schedule of WHLN news and a weekly Fuller's ad now focusing on its musical offerings.  

Harlan Daily Enterprise, Thursday, January 1, 1948 (KHS Microfilm Box 98-0107)
I finally found some direct mentions of John Reedy and the Stone Mountain Hillbillies in 1945.  One is the new radio schedule when WHLN joined Mutual Broadcasting's Good Coal Network, which includes a daily show by the Stone Mountain Hillbillies at 3:30 p.m.

Harlan Daily Enterprise, Sunday, March 18, 1945 (KHS Microfilm Box 98-107)
The other find is an announcement about an upcoming show featuring John Reedy and the Stone Mountain Hillbillies at the Bardo Theatre.
Harlan Daily Enterprise, Wednesday, August 22, 1945 (KHS Microfilm Box 98-108)
There was a period in March--April 1945 that all mentions of WHLN were primarily dry rally notices and countless preachers and citizen speakers urging the community to "vote yes" to vote Harlan County dry.  I didn't see a direct report of the vote's outcome, but later there was a notice in April announcing that alcohol-selling establishments had agreed to stop sales on Sunday.

The Reedys started appearing again on WHLN radio schedules with weekly shows in 1948.  They were first listed as "John Reedy" on Saturdays at 12:30 p.m.  Then they took off for several weeks in August, September, and October and came back on October 22 as the "Stone Mt. Hillwilliams" at 11:30 a.m.  Finally, they wrap up the year in December as the "Stone Mt. Hillbillys" at 9:45 a.m.  (This version of the ad below was printed on December 31, 1948, which was Frances' 26th birthday.)
Fri. Dec. 31, 1948 (Box 98-110)

Fri. Feb. 20, 1948 (Box 98-109)

Fri. Oct. 22, 1948 (Box 98-110)
In Frances' oral history, she talks about playing with various well-known musicians in Harlan and elsewhere.  for example, she specifically mentions Bill Monroe and Earnest Tubb playing in Harlan.  Having found the concert ads for both in the newspaper, we've likely pinpointed the dates of the events she referenced.

Harlan Daily Enterprise, Sunday, June 10, 1945 (KHS Microfilm Box 98-107)
Harlan Daily Enterprise, Monday, February 2, 1948 (KHS Microfilm Box 98-109)

I began my newspaper review in 1936 and ended it in 1948.  There were a couple of significant gaps in years in which there would likely have been some reference to the Reedys' radio or live shows: all of 1941, July 1942 through the and of 1944, and all of 1946 and 1947.  So at least we know to search for these missing issues of the newspaper at UK or in Harlan.  We've already made preliminary contact with some archivists in Harlan, so that's an interesting lead for follow-up!

We're also excited about returning to the Berea College Special Collections and Archives to follow some additional new leads as well as wrap up a couple of unfinished collections there.  So we'll spend some time there this winter while the KHS library is closed.  We're already thinking ahead to March when we can return for more research!  I know Timi wants to bring her uncle to look at the genealogical publications again.  And I would like to return to the microfilm newspapers, but I'd also like to resume browsing the oral history collections we began.

We are very grateful for the kindness and assistance of Kentucky Historical Society library staff throughout our multiple research visits.  We are especially thankful for the careful time and attention given by Jim Kastner, Library Services Administrator, and Sarah Milligan, Kentucky Oral History Commission (KOHC) Program Administrator, and of course, for the Family Research Fellowship funding that made our visits to Frankfort possible.  Happy Holidays to all KHS staff and to all regular readers and supporters of our project!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Family Fellowship Friday

We went back to Frankfort Friday to continue our research at the Kentucky Historical Society.  We had planned to go back again today, but the weather turned unexpectedly blizzardous.  So we will have to find another day this week, in addition to our plan to go next Saturday, to complete our full week of study for the Family Research Fellowship.

Timi mostly resumed looking through the collection of Harlan County Roots newsletters and also started looking through some Bell County materials since that's where some of her mamaw's family was from.  She recognized numerous ancestral surnames all throughout the various communities in Harlan County and felt like she was wandering in their midst by following their paths of marriage, offspring, and residence.

I began the day by browsing through the family history section and several shelves of state-specific materials that would pertain to the Reedys' own path of music and migration.  For example, I browsed the table of contents for the Journal of East Tennessee History and several issues of the Tennessee Historical Quarterly, which was a little cumbersome to read through them manually.  I looked at both publication websites to see if they might have an index or at least a link to all of their tables of contents, but sadly, they did not.  I'd hoped to find some material on the music scenes in Bristol and Johnson City, but most of the material seemed to focus on Andrew Jackson or the Civil War rather than more contemporary history.

The last time we were here, I was confused about not finding any issues of the Harlan Daily Enterprise.  Then yesterday I checked the list of Kentucky newspapers held in the microfilm room and discovered that they had copies on reels for roughly 1928 through 1968.  I began with 1936, the year Frances and John were married, but this was likely before they practiced and performed formally as a band.  There were always weekly ads for the New Harlan Theatre, which Frances mentioned in her oral history interview, but they mostly publicized feature films in the late 1930's.

According to the liner notes for "The Early Days of Bluegrass, Volume 1," Frances and John played on WHLN  for over 17 years, and their show was sponsored by Fuller’s Furniture.  One of the first Fuller's newspaper ads to appear in the Enterprise was in 1939 under the name of "Fuller's Bargain Store" in Evarts, Kentucky.  That was also the year that John wrote" Somebody Touched Me."

Harlan Daily Enterprise, Friday, October 20,1939 (KHS Microfilm Box 98-0103)
From Frances' personal memorabilia, we have a copy of a newspaper article" Reminiscing" about WHLN, Harlan's first radio station.  There is no date or newspaper title on it, but it seems likely that it was a local memoir published in a much later issue of the Enterprise.

"Of Harlan's First Radio Recalled," Unknown Newspaper Article *

This article notes that WHLN  first began in 1941, which is unfortunately one of the years that is completely missing from the KHS microfilm collection.  However, I found an ad from January 1942 inviting local acts to audition and play at the New Harlan Theatre, which Frances mentioned in her oral history interview.

Harlan Daily Enterprise, January 5, 1942 (KHS Microfilm Box 98-0106)
Earlier ads for the theatre mostly included feature films, but following the ones for amateur auditions, they began to include some headline acts and local performers for live radio broadcast on WHLN.  And this is where I was when the library closed!   I knew I was onto something, and I couldn't wait to return to the microfilm collection and discover the documentation of the Reedy's radio career.  "The Early Days of Bluegrass" liner notes recounts that "While in Harlan they'd advertise in the 'Harlan Enterprise' and print up a lot of 5x7 cards."  We definitely have copies of their promotional cards from Frances' memorabilia, and now it seems certain that will find the newspaper ads for their radio shows and other public performances in Harlan... when the weather cooperates and we can resume our research at the library.

So for now, we must sit snowed in, in suspenseful anticipation of what the Harlan Daily Enterprise holds when we return.  But there is still another important element of the WHLN story to share.  While the "Early Days of Bluegrass" liner notes erroneously refer to Frances and John as a "sister/ brother group," the overall historical and biographical information they provide is quite detailed and useful.  For example," they were hooked up with the Good Coal Network and played live 4 stations at a time, going from one to the other: Norton, Big Stone Gap, Harlan, etc."

Among Frances' copious collection of family and musical memorabilia, we have a copy of a well-worn recommendation letter for John Reedy from the President of the Good Coal Network of WHLN , WCPM, and WNVA.

John Reedy Recommendation Letter *

This letter was written in 1953 and shows obvious wear from repeated re-use.  Since John and Frances first migrated north to Dayton in the early 1950's, this letter was likely part of their passport into radio and recording studios in Ohio as well as Nashville.

A final piece of obscure radio history is this news clipping of a radio schedule for WCPM in Cumberland.  Penpal and grassroots music collector and researcher Matt Baker shared this with us last year, but he doesn't know the exact source.  (Stone Mountain Hillbillies at 4:00 p.m. every Monday through Friday!)

WCPM Radio Program Schedule, Unknown Newspaper *

* All documents noted with an asterisk are from Frances Reedy's personal memorabilia collection (except for Matt Baker's WCPM schedule) and are housed in the Berea College Special Collections and Archives.