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.

No comments:

Post a Comment