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.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Quit Kickin' My Dog Around: A Reedy Remix!

We received some interesting and enlightening information from Dick Spottswood in response to our most recent updates that included a digitized recording of one of the Reedys' versions of the song, "Quit Kickin' My Dog Around." It turns out that this song was originally written as a political campaign song in 1912, and John wrote new verse lyrics of his own that he and Frances recorded a couple of different times. 

According to the Fresno State Folklore webpage, the words and music of the original "Hound Dog Song" were apparently written by Webb M. Oungst and Cy Perkins respectively, and it served as the campaign song for popular presidential hopeful James Beauchamp "Champ" Clark from Missouri. Dick also shared this 1926 version of the song recorded by Gid Tanner & His Skillet Lickers, entitled, "Ya Gotta Quit Kickin' My Dog Around":

We paid close attention to the lyrics of the song, and the verses are definitely different from John's. We love that the humorous howling and barking were part of earlier renditions of the song. We are still partial to John Reedy's lyrics and delivery of his remix, but we are glad to learn that the "hound dog song" has a fascinating and varied history of its own. 

Since we recently shared an excerpt of John's 1961 Christmas eve interview, we decided to post another excerpt of the VHS video recording that Harold Reedy made of his parents' last documented performance together. This charming and humorous rendition of "Quit Kickin' My Dog Around" shows Frances teasing and covering for John when he forgets his own version of the lyrics! However, he doesn't let this glitch keep him from hamming it up anyway. At the end, he dedicates the song to Harold's dog Mac.

Thanks again to Dick Spottswood for his active interest in our research project and providing such helpful connections. We are also grateful that he has included some Reedy tracks on his WAMU radio show in Washington, D.C. We whole-heartedly agree with his sentiments that "Frances & John were the greatest!"
(23 Jan. 2016 10:30 am)

We received another interesting tidbit from Dick Spottswood in response to this post. He sent a link to the 1912 sheet music of the song with the original verse lyrics for Champ Clark's presidential campaign. We always love hearing from other folks about the Reedys and related musical knowledge and artifacts.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Holiday Memories & New Year Updates

Happy New Year! The year 2015 was difficult in some ways, but it was also fruitful in others. The holidays are always a time when we think about family, and we spent some time researching historic traces of the Reedys again this year. So far 2016 shows promise of productivity, and we have some updates to share about some new media memories, recent findings, and news about upcoming developments.

Over the holidays, we talked about how many family memories that the Reedys documented around that time of year. We've previously posted a video of Frances and John singing "Little Sparrow" from an excerpt from Harold Reedy's VHS video recording of their last documented performance together during Christmas in 1980 as well as our "Holidays with Frances" video documenting the family dinner and Timi's birthday celebration for Thanksgiving 2005. While working on another project that we'll discuss more at the end of the post, we remembered a reel-to-reel recording that Timi's grandfather John Reedy made of the family Christmas celebration in 1961 when they were still living in Dayton.

The tape includes a couple of interviews that John conducted with different family members as well as a couple of song performances. The first interview is with Junior Fields, John's nephew by his sister Cledia. He asks Junior about whether he likes living in Ohio better than Kentucky, and an interesting conversation takes place. We previously mentioned this recording but had never posted it, so we decided to share it in light of its timeliness and relevance to scholarly discussions about Appalachian migration.


While researching additional references to the Reedys, we recently found some new audio and bibliographic sources that fill in some gaps in the Reedy commercial discography, which we have updated as a result. One key discovery is the digitized copy of Frances and John's 1964 recording of "Quit Kicking My Dog Around" (Jalyn 210) on the Bopping blog of various vinyl treasures. This is a really important find for us because the Jalyn 210 recording is one of the few (of their many) that we did not have a copy of from Frances' collection. The post features "Harmony duets in Hillbilly bop songs" and describes the song as a "fine uptempo tune" with "amusing lyrics." Unfortunately, we were not able to figure out how to embed the audio directly in this post, but the track can be accessed by clicking the link above.

Front CoverThe Bopping post does not include the B-side of the record, which is one of their versions of Frances' song "Tiny Bitty Pieces." However, we did discover a reference to the song on page 1757 of the July-December 1963 Catalog of Copyright Entries for music. The entry misspells her name as "Francis," but the October 22, 1963 copyright credits her with writing the song's words and music.

Front Cover

We found a similar reference on page 77 of the The Complete Library of American Phonograph Recordings for 1963 that clarifies the release date for one of the recordings on the Reedy commercial discography. The entry is for the Starday SEP 222 by the "John Reedy Trio," which we previously had listed in the general range of the early 1960s. We have corrected this entry on the Reedy discography and plan to contact folks who maintain other Bluegrass discographies and databases as well. The track-list for this EP, or "extended play," recording is not included in the entry, but it includes two songs on each side of a 45 rpm vinyl record.

Earlier in the fall, we found an entry for John's song, "Knockin' on Your Door" on an online Bluegrass lyrics database called BluegrassNet, which listed the song as a "traditional." We posted a comment letting them know that the song was written by John to Frances when they were briefly divorced. I also shared the breakup mash-up of "Tiny Bitty Pieces" and "Knockin' on Your Door" and a link to the documentary blog. 

We recently discovered that they replied to our comment and corrected the author information! "This is great info, Tammy. Thanks for sharing. I love hearing the back stories to these old tunes. The old video of Frances and John in 1980 was awesome! I've updated the credits on these lyrics to reflect John Reedy's authorship. Thanks again." It's always great when we are able to connect with other people who are interested in documenting and preserving music by artists like Frances and John Reedy.

We engaged with this material over the past couple of months while we have been writing an invited journal article about the documentary project and process. We will share more about this forthcoming publication when we have more details, but we are excited to have some new developments for everyone to look forward to...

Finally, we want to wish Frances and John's son Tim Reedy a very happy birthday today! We hope he enjoys the day with the rest of his family as well as the new updates we've shared.