Friday, January 9, 2015

Reedy Voice-O-Graph Revealed!

Note: This Reedy word cloud was generated with Wordle from the content from the “Remembering the Reedys” blog from 2009-2012. Clearly the primary author also favors the additive modifier “also,” which can also be read as an encouraging indicator of the blog’s reinvigoration and future potential, as in “also…”.
It has been quite a while since we last posted, but between homesteading, grad school, and various family concerns, we have less time and resources to dedicate to this project than we would like. However, as we sort through and organize our house, we continue to find interesting treasures like photos, handwritten notes, and memorabilia that provide new glimpses into the life experiences of Frances and John Reedy. 

We posted about one such important addition to the Reedy collection, John Reedy's Voice-O-Graph recording "To All the Family," a couple of years ago. We then contacted Harry Rice at the Berea College Special Collections and Sound Archives to find out if it would be possible to play and digitize the recording. They were able to convert the record to digital format, but we were unable to make it Special Collections to pick it up due to their limited operating hours and our own time and transportation constraints. The mystery was solved, but we were still in the dark until now!

I recently contacted John Bondurant at the Berea College Sound Archives who had digitized the Voice-O-Graph recording as well as most of the other Reedy recordings that are housed there. He sent us an .mpg of the 1:05-minute Voice-O-Graph and the link to a comprehensive chronological Voice-O-Graph labelography that situates the Reedy record sometime between 1951 and 1955. This supports our previous estimation that Frances and John first moved to Dayton to work in the GM factory around 1953.

In the recording “To All the Family” back in Kentucky, John addresses his sister Beulah and recounts his family’s recent experiences migrating north. They apparently came across the Voice-O-Graph recording booth at Lake Sobu(?), which is presumably in Ohio because he also talks about going “down to Indiana” to visit Mary who gave them some garden vegetables to take home. We are pretty certain that John is reporting home about the Reedy family’s very first venture to the Dayton area because he talks about how they’re "making a home" with his two jobs. He mentions “Timmy”, and Frances says, “Hello.” Marie also cuts in about Harold (Timi’s father) having a job, and the recording ends with John talking about how much Harold enjoys spending his money.

This is a key finding because it both documents the Reedys’ first cyclical migration to Ohio and likely represents John’s first conscious self-documentation effort outside of a professional recording studio. Therefore, this recording is a telling precursor of the prolific home recordings that John and Frances made on reel-to-reel and cassette tapes in the 1960’s and 1970’s. The fact that we are able to share this unique piece of the Reedys’ early migration and recording history digitally represents another significant technological development that facilitates the continued migration and circulation of their self-documentation in another time and space.

We owe our ongoing gratitude to Harry Rice and John Bondurant at the Berea College Special Collections and Sound Archives for their continued support of the Reedy documentary project and their careful attention to the curation and preservation of the numerous multi-media artifacts that comprise it.

p.s. In the process of re-learning how to upload and post the Voice-O-Graph audio file, I discovered that the Reedy Multi-Media Library page needed updating. The page now includes both the digital audio files for the Voice-O-Graph recording and my Frankie & Johnny mash-up “Tiny Bitty Pieces Knocking on Your Door.” Finally, the Reedy Documentary video playlist has been updated and should be working again.

As an extra bonus, check out Jack White’s working model of a Voice-O-Graph recording booth in the "Novelties Lounge" of his Third Man Records studio in Nashville and this music video of a recording that Brendan Benson, a songwriter made for his wife. The record label website also includes audio recordings of other artists who have made records in the booth and information about how anyone can make one for only $15!

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