Saturday, December 27, 2014

Three Chords

It doesn't take long for a kid who's bought a guitar and is jamming away in the basement to figure out that all he needs is three chords. Or, let me say that another way: If you are a kid who has bought a guitar, head to the basement, or the bedroom, and learn the three chord arrangements...the I, IV, V's of music, and soon you will be on your way to music bliss. Nothing's wrong with complexity if that is what you're into, but the wonderment of it all is when you learn those three chords, like G, C and D, E, A and B, or C, F and G, and and soon you find yourself with tons of material.

What's so hard about three chords? Nothing, well it's a bit more complex than that, but consider all the famous musicians down through the years who succeeded with just three chords, four at the most. That takes in just about every single artist or band that's ever strung up a guitar, through all decades and music genres. AC/DC built a career around three chords. So did Willie Nelson and the Everly Brothers, not to mention Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash and that band from Liverpool -- The Beatles. And, consider that little ol' band from Texas, ZZ Top...same three guys, same three chords.

Country songwriter Harlan Howard said all you need is three chords and the truth, though Woodie Guthrie claimed that if you play more than two chords, you're showing off. Seriously, looking back on music during my lifetime, there are so many out there who went through twenty-five years, eighteen albums, fourteen tours, nine number ones and three chords. From Elvis to James Brown, the Ramones, Patsy Cline and on and on, right through today's musicians, it's as easy, or as hard, as three chords.

I am self-taught and mostly play by ear. I can remember when I first caught on to it. Finding the major chords led to the discovery of minor chords. I would play one, then the other. The difference was clear, and it was also amazing. It was a HUGE discovery, and when I wondered why my three chords did not sound like the three chords on the record, I stumbled upon inverted chords (the different ways to play one chord) and instantly a whole new and exciting world opened up for me. Suddenly, my chords sounded like the record. And, of course, when I discovered all the above, I discovered vocal harmony. Sitting at that old piano on our back porch, that was a great day, hahaha. I LOVE music!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Night Before Christmas With Steve Lawson

'Twas the night before Christmas when all over Facebook, not a member was posting, not even a look. The folks with computers were sitting in chairs in hopes that their weatherman would soon be there. When up on the screen there arose such a clatter, I spit Coke all over the place, what on earth was the matter.

I signed into Windows and quickly I dashed to open up YouTube and watch Johnny Cash. Keith Moon on drums with the Who, Hall & Oates, Dave Letterman and Paul Shafer on the late night TV show, when what to my wondering eyes should appear but Fleetwood Mac, I had nothing to fear.

There was an old, old drummer, so lively and quick, I knew in a moment the singer was Stevie Nicks. With more harmony than the Eagles, the Beatles they came and I whistled and shouted and called them by name:

"Now George! Now Ringo!
Now Paul and John, too!
And the 5th one, Billy Preston!
Oh, and Brian Epstein can't forget that dude!
To the top of the charts!
To Royal Albert Hall!
 She Loves You, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah
John, George, Ringo and Paul!"

Well, I grabbed a Twinkie as I heard on the roof, the shingles were dancing, it was the wind you goof! I put down my laptop after turning down the sound, in came Steve Lawson, he was back from town.

He was dressed like a drummer from his head to his foot. I started to leave but he said stay put. A bundle of drum sticks he had flung on his back. He looked like the drummer from the rock group, The Knack.

I choked on that Twinkie when he sang Chuck Berry, he sang Guns N Roses right after Peter, Paul and Mary! He had a crumb on his face and a smudge on his belly, then he asked me if I, too, wanted a peanut butter and jelly.

He wasn't chubby or plump, more like an elf on the shelf, and I laughed when I saw him, then spilled Sprite all over myself. A blink of his eye and a twist of his head soon gave me to know he was out of bread.

He said a few words, then went straight to work on a can of pop, he was a soda jerk. After taking a tissue and blowing his nose, he unplugged his iPod, then out the door he goes.

As he left he sang to a beat while I whistled. It sounded pretty much like a bear in a thistle. Then I heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight, here's the weather you all, it's gonna be a good night!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Peafowl Chronicle

Growing up, my family lived on a farm at Wago, Kentucky for 25+ years. For most of those years, a family of peafowls lived in the woods just behind our home, nesting on the ground but roosting in the trees. Even though technically the male is properly called a peacock, the female a peahen, and the immature offspring a peachick, to us they were simply, peafowls.

Sometimes more than one of the beautiful birds would come into our yard. They were always aware of us and would keep a safe distance. As small children, us kids spent a lot of time trying to chase those things down. If one of us ever succeeded, it was very, very rare.

Eventually, we left them alone for fear they would stop coming around us. It was almost as if they were our pets, like a dog or a cat. They shed plenty of their feathers in our yard, so we always had a nice collection.

Occasionally, one would venture onto the front porch to catch a glimpse of its reflection in the glass door. They would spread their wings and rotate in a circle, proudly showing off their magnificent beauty. Sometimes, one might see its reflection in the bumper of one of the vehicles parked in the driveway and would spread its wings and rotate round and round in the front yard.

Many mornings, we would waken to the sound of a peacock running to and fro on our rooftop. Always, it was way before we wanted to wake up. I guess they thought if they were awake, everyone else should be, too.

One thing we discovered real soon after moving to the farm, Not only was a peafowl proud, it was also LOUD! It always happened during mating season, when we would hear it. AH AAAAH AH! several times in a row, then a break, followed by more AH AAAAH AH's! There was never an advanced warning that the 'scream' was about to take place. It would definitely hard to sleep during it. What made even more alarming was the natural reverb sound attached to each scream, thanks to the hollow wooded area where the peafowls lived. Sometimes more than one peafowl would scream at the same time. It would rival any sound coming from the stereo speakers in our cars parked in the driveway. It was something you could not ignore. The first of the screams always got your attention, like the rock quarry blasting without any advanced warning. Thankfully, for our sake, love for the peafowl was seasonal. It would begin in the early spring and sometimes continue well into the summer... it was all night, every night. Along with the raucous screams, the peafowl also made other noises that were less ear-piercingly offensive. One in particular was a honking sound, like that of a goose, which the bird usually did when confronted by something, or in our case -- someone!

The peacock you see in the photo above often found its way to that very spot outside the kitchen windows. My brother, Ronnie, would open the window and feed it loaf bread and Pringles potato chips. He thought that was a big deal and always laughed about it. The rest of us did, too! I think that's why I've kept this photo around all these years, after he was killed in the automobile accident in 1981. He died so young, and so long ago now that some of the memories are slowly fading. Thankfully, this photo helps me to recall a childhood that included him.

Supposedly, the lifespan for a peafowl is 23 years. Eventually, after many, many years, we stopped seeing or hearing the peafowls that lived on that farm with us. Whenever I recall those happy days, filled with much fun and laughter as a child growing up on that farm, I always remember those peafowls, proud and loud, always running around, strutting their stuff, always several steps ahead of one of us, always screaming. Always screaming. Those were good days.

Friday, December 12, 2014

George Reneau: "The Blind Minstrel of the Smoky Mountains"

The following is the most complete biography and discography available online for old-time freelance country and blues artist, George Reneau. All other information about him only includes his work for Vocalion Records, however, as you will read, there is more to the story of George Reneau: "The Blind Minstrel of the Smoky Mountains." The only thing missing, other than probably a few song titles, is his photograph. If you have a copy of his photograph, please let me know. - The Notorious Meddler

George McKinney Reneau was born May 18, 1902 in Jefferson County, Tennessee, at Dandridge. Presumably blind at birth, not much else is known about his growing up years, except that at some point he learned to play the guitar and the harmonica. Just after World War I, George left Jefferson County, Tennessee to make a living on downtown Knoxville streets playing guitar and harmonica and singing his songs for whomever would stop to listen.

One man who stopped was Gus Nennsteil. He worked for Sterchi Brothers Furniture, regional purveyors of phonographs, and one of the most influential recording promoters in the South. At Nennsteil's encouraging, Sterchi's sent Reneau to New York in the spring of 1924 to record songs for Vocalion Records, which desired to enter into a new field of commercially recorded music known as Hillbilly music. George Reneau was the perfect artist to get it started. Between April 1924 and October 1925, he recorded more than 50 selections for Vocalion's new hillbilly catalog at the firm's New York City studio, on West 43rd Street. The first release was the beautifully done 'Lonesome Road Blues' (Vocalion 14809B) on April 18, 1924. Take a few moments and listen to this very fine recording...

The Aeolian Company of New York had started the Vocalion label in 1916 and it was a popular label for a while. Lots of big names or future stars recorded there at one time or another. The list includes Roy Acuff, Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Carter Family, Benny Goodman, Billie Holiday, Robert Johnson, Uncle Dave Macon, Glenn Miller, Roy Rogers, Sons of the Pioneers, Lawrence Welk and Bob Wills. The first known recording of "The House Of The Rising Sun" by Clarence Ashley and Gwen Foster was on Vocalion. Later, Vocalion was sold to Brunswick Records, which sold to Warner Brothers. In 1931, the entire Vocalion operation was licensed to the American Record Corporation, which was later purchased by CBS. Finally, in 1938, Vocalion became a subsidiary of Columbia Records, only to be discontinued in 1940.

Behind the Scenes
I doubt that very people who bought Reneau's records suspected that another artist, not Reneau, was actually "ghost singing" on most of them. Reneau received all of the credit on his first 30 or so recordings, but the voice behind the records belonged to (at the time) a little-known vaudeville singer named Gene Austin, who would become the most successful pop vocalist of the late 1920s. There was hardly any cause for such suspicion, unless one might have wondered how Reneau could play the harmonica and sing at the same time, as was the case on a couple of recordings. Not that having Austin sing was a bad thing. It actually was a good thing. Go back and re-listen to "The Lonesome Road" and see just how great that recording is. Austin's vocals were perfect for that record.

Later, Vocalion let Reneau do the singing on several great recordings, including "The Prisoner's Song" (14991), "Wild Bill Jones" (14998A) and "Jesse James" (14897B).

A Pioneer
George Reneau's recordings are quite good. Some have suggested his works were minor classics. I contend they were much more than that. Before there was Roy Acuff and the Carter Family, there was George Reneau. Before there was Jimmie Rodgers, there was George Reneau. His career began and ended before the famous Bristol sessions which led to the discovery of those three stars and most everyone else. He was before the Grand Ole Opry. George Reneau recorded a whole stack of early blues, country and gospel songs. His selections were all of great material, so he had good taste.

Listen to Arkansas Traveler, which showcases George Reneau's fine harmonica playing. Also, notice the beautiful reddish brown vinyl record, an early trait that set Vocalion Records aside from all the other record labels...

’On Top of Old Smoky’ was recorded by George Reneau, as a solo (Vocalion 15366) and with Lester McFarland, as the Collins Brothers (Paramount 3030).

The Lonesome Road Blues
Credit for the first known recording of The Lonesome Road Blues is given to Henry Whitter of Fries, Virgina. He allegedly recorded the song in December of 1923. It was released on Okeh Records in January of 1924. Vocalion Records released George Reneau's version three months later, on April 18, 1924. Edison Records released the song by Reneau and Austin as The Blue Ridge Duo in May of 1925. They had recorded the song at Edison's studio on September 22, 1924. Down through the years, the song has been recorded by many artists, including Woody Guthrie, Bill Monroe, Earl Scruggs and the Grateful Dead.

I'm going down this road feeling bad
I'm going down this road feeling bad
I'm going down this road feeling bad, Lord, lord
And I ain't a-gonna be treated this a-way
And I ain't a-gonna be treated this a-way

George Reneau's Vocalion Records Discography
Arkansas Traveler 14813B 4/24
Bad Companions 15150 10/25
Bald Headed End Of The Broom 14930B 9/17/24
Birmingham 14946B 9/12/24
Blue Ridge Blues 14815A 4/28/24
Casey Jones 14813A 4/21/24
Gambling On The Sabbath Day 15149 10/25
Here, Rattler, Here 14814 4/28/24
I'm Glad My Wife's In Europe 15194B 10/25
I've Got The Railroad Blues 14946A 9/17/24
Jack And Joe 15182 10/25
Jesse James 14897B 9/24
Letter Edged In Black 14998B 2/24/25
Life's Railway To Heaven 14811B 4/21/24
Little Brown Jug 14812B 4/18/24
Little Rosewood Casket 14997B 2/24/25
Lonesome Road Blues 14809B 4/18/24
Love Always Has Its Way 15347 10/25
May I Sleep In Your Barn 15149B 10/25
My Redeemer 15046A 9/17/24
Never Miss Your Mother Till She's Gone 14811 4/21/24
Old Man On The Hill 15347B 10/25
Old Rugged Cross 15348 10/25
On Top Of Old Smoky 15366B 10/25
Railroad Lover 15194 10/25
Red Wing 14896B 9/10/24
Rock All Our Babies To Sleep 14997A 2/24/25
Rovin' Gambler 15148A 10/25
Sinking Of The Titanic 15148B 10/25
Smoky Mountain Blues 14896A 9/15/24
Susie Ann 14815B 4/28/24
The C And O Wreck 14897A 9/16/24
The Hand Of Fate 15182B 10/25
The Lightning Express 14991B 2/24/25
The New Market Wreck 14930A 9/12/24
The Prisoner's Song 14991A 2/24/25
Two Orphans 15349 9/18/25
Turkey In The Straw 14812A 4/21/24
We're Floating Down The Stream Of Time 15046B 9/18/25
Weeping Willow Tree 15349 10/25
When I Shall Cross Over The Dark Rolling Tide 15348B 10/25
When The Work's All Done This Fall 1510B 10/25
When You And I Were Young, Maggie 14814 4/28/24
Wild And Reckless Hoboes 14999A 2/24/25
Wild Bill Jones 14998A 2/24/25
Woman"s Suffrage 14999B 2/24/25
Wreck Of The Southern 97 14809A 4/18/24

The Blue Ridge Duo on Edison Records
In addition to making records for Vocalion, Reneau and Austin were hired to records tracks for Thomas Edison's label, Edison Records. On that label, they were known as The Blue Ridge Duo. In 1924 and 1925, The Blue Ridge Duo recorded for Edison in both cylinder and record formats.

The Blue Ridge Duo sings "Little Brown Jug" on Edison Records:

Other songs recorded for Edison Records, cylinder and disc, include:
Lonesome Road Blues (51515-R)
Blue Ridge Blues (51515-L)
Turkey In The Straw - Breakdown (51502-R)
Susie Ann (51502-L)
Arkansas Traveler (4936: Blue Amberol/9732: Edison Record)
Little Brown Jug (4973: Blue Amberol/9730A: Edison Record)
You'll Never Miss Your Mother Till She's Gone (4961: Blue Amberol/9731: Edison Record)

This is probably an incomplete list. I haven't found any other Edison recordings by the Blue Ridge Duo. I will update this story as I find more.

The Freelance Artist
There is nothing written about why, in 1927, George Reneau started making records with Lester McFarland. Like Reneau, McFarland was a blind musician and singer who was living in the Knoxville area when the Vocalion scout making looking for talent. A champion fiddle player, he was one part of the duo, Mac & Bob, along with Robert Gardner. McFarland was originally from Gray, Kentucky and Gardner hailed from Oliver Springs, Tennessee. They met at the Kentucky School for the Blind in 1915 and soon began performing together on the Keith Vaudeville Circuit beginning in 1922, and on WNOX in Knoxville from 1925 on. Discovered by a Brunswick talent scout in 1926, Mac and Bob began a long and prolific recording career. Their biggest seller was “When the Roses Bloom Again.” In 1931, Brunswick was bought out by the American Record Corporation and Mac and Bob were retained on the Sears & Roebuck label, Conqueror. That same year, Mac and Bob became regulars on the WLS Barn Dance in Chicago. Their recording career ended when Sears decided to shut down Conqueror in 1941. Mac and Bob retired from the WLS Barn Dance in 1950. Robert Gardner died at age 81 in 1978, and Lester McFarland followed him in 1984, aged 82. George Reneau and Lester McFarland recorded several tracks, usually as the Smoky Mountain Twins, but also under nearly a dozen other names, such as The Cramer Brothers, The Collins Brothers and Lonesome Pine Twins. There songs were released on several different record labels, including Conquer, Regal, Domino, Banner and Challenge. Here is their (partial at best) discography.

Smoky Mountain Twins
A Picture From Life's Other Side 7316
Put My Little Shoes Away 7327 6/15/27
I Was Born 4,000 Years Ago 7323 6/15/27
There's No Disappointment In Heaven 7337 Sara Jane 7330 6/15
In The Good Old Summertime 7336 6/16
Where We'll Never Grow Old 7317
You'll Never Miss Your Mother Till She's Gone Catalog #: 7072

Collins Brothers
Love Always Has Its Way 7324
If I Could Hear My Mother Pray Again Cat#: 3039
On Top of Old Smokey Cat#: 3040
Put My Little Shoes Away Cat#: 3040
Sara Jane Cat#: 3041
I Was Born Four Thousand Years Ago Cat#: 3041
In the Good Old Summertime Cat#: 3042
When the Work’s All Done This Fall Cat#: 3042

Lonesome Pine Twins
There's No Disappointment In Heaven 7318
In The Good Old Summertime 7336
A Picture From Life's Other Side 7316-2
Will The Circle Be Unbroken? E25595
When They Ring The Golden Bells Label: 2019
Dem Bones Gwin Rise Again E25677
Six Feet Of Earth E25512
Dollar And The Devil E32622
Bird With A Broken Pinion E27954
Bird In A Gilded Cage E28796
When The Saints Go Marching In Label: 2023
The Vacant Chair E27964
Silver Threads Among The Gold E25496
You'll Never Miss Your Mother Till She's Gone Label: 2164
Where We'll Never Grow Old 7317
Dollar And The Devil E32622
Good Lord Takin' Care Of The Poor Folks Label: 2021
Ring Dem Heavenly Bells E27928
Let Me Hear The Songs My Mother Used To Sing Label: 2024
When You And I Were Young, Maggie Label: 2025

Cramer Brothers
Sara Jane 7065
In The Good Old Summertime 7336-3
On Top Of Old Smoky 7326
There's No Disappointment in Heaven Label: 8127alt
If I Could Hear My Mother Pray Again Label: 8058
Love Always Has It's Way 7324
I was Born Four Thousand Years Ago Label: 8059
Blue Ridge Mountain Blues 6124
Put My Little Shoes Away 7327

Unfortunately, Reneau's style of music did not fit in when the jazz era took over and by the time he turned 27, George's day as a recording artist had come and gone. Without a record contract, he was forced to once again take to the streets to make a living.

Sadly, George Reneau died of pneumonia on June 5, 1938. He was still a young man so one can just imagine what life for him would have been like had he lived and stayed in good health and continued to make records. I encourage you to take the time to listen to his recordings. I believe you will become a fan of George Reneau, 'The Blind Minstrel of the Smoky Mountains,' as I have.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Dec. 7, 1941: Remembering Clay Cooper Rector

Henry and Margaret Huffaker of Wayne County had thirteen children. Their daughter, Hettie, was my great-grandmother. Her sister, Laura, was the mother of Wendell and Lela Rector of Albany. Who could have known that when Clay left home to join the U.S. Navy that he would never return. Clay was aboard the USS Arizona when the Japanese struck Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

The first torpedo in the assault on Pearl Harbor hit the USS Raleigh at about 7:55 a.m., Sunday morning. Battleship Row was hit at 7:57 a.m. The USS ARIZONA was moored inboard of the repair ship Vestal when the attack occurred. At 8:10 a.m. a Japanese Type 97 Attack Bomber dropped a bomb that struck the Arizona between the No. 1 and No. 2 turret. This bomb was a converted armor piercing artillery shell that ignited the Arizona's forward magazine. Blazing furiously, the once majestic battleship Arizona violently exploded, sinking to the bottom of the harbor.

This December 7th mark 73 years that 1,177 men, including Storekeeper 3rd Class Clay Rector of Albany, rest at the bottom of the harbor, encased in the Arizona's rusty hull. In the Navy's known history, there has never been a ship that has taken so many of its crew down with her.

The Notorious Meddler pauses to remember Clay Cooper Rector, and the others aboard the USS ARIZONA who paid the supreme sacrifice while in service to the United States of America.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

A Short Bio Of Thomas Wood

Thomas Wood was born on Aug. 5, 1779. He grew up on his fathers farm in Washington County, North Carolina (later Tennessee). At age 18. he served in the state militia. Afterwards, he accompanied his brothers, William, Samuel, John and George to a new life in Kentucky. He recorded 200 acres on Spring Creek, near present-day Albany, on December 18, 1798. He worked as a chain carrier on important surveys done by his brother, William. When his father died in 1800, Thomas returned to Washington County to take care of family matters. While there, he met his future bride, Mary Bayless. After marriage, they joined Thomas' brothers in Kentucky.

Thomas and Mary joined Clear Fork Baptist Church by letter in February of 1804. Thomas took an active part and filled in as church clerk when his brother, William, was in Frankfort serving in the State Legislature. Thomas was appointed deacon in July of 1811. Over the next two decades, Thomas faithfully served in his church. Then, in 1834, he went to Illinois to visit his brothers, James and Samuel. While there, he bought 160 acres intending to relocate. But, upon returning to Kentucky his boot rubbed a blister on his foot, resulting in blood poisoning that caused his death eight days after returning home.

Thomas' daughter, Mary, was the wife of well-known preacher, Isaac Tipton Reneau. Before he became a preacher in 1835, Reneau taught school at Clear Fork. He started doing that in 1830.

Thomas' son, Reuben Wood, was murdered by Champ Ferguson during the civil war. It happened on December 1, 1861 at Wood's home. Ferguson shot Reuben in his stomach, but Reuben was able to go inside his house, where he grabbed a hatchet. The two men scuffled for several minutes. At one point, Ferguson dropped his pistol onto a bed, where it got lost in the covers. Ferguson ran from the house leaving the wounded a wounded man behind. Reuben Wood died three days later on December 4, 1861.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Deacon Pleasant Smith

"Do not weep for me, for my hour is near..."

Pleasant H. Smith as born on July 12, 1818 and died on February 15, 1892 at the age of 73. He was married to Irene Wood Smith. Both of them grew up at Clear Fork Baptist Church. Their families were very involved and extremely devoted church members from the very beginning of the church's existence. For instance, Pleasant's father, Jesse, and Jesse's brother, Phillip, installed the first floor in the original church meeting house. Phillip was a deacon. Pleasant's grandfather, George Smith, was a charter member. Irene's grandfather, Thomas Wood, was a church deacon, as was his brother, Samuel. Their brother, William, was a charter member of the church and served as clerk from 1802 to 1850.

So, it isn't any wonder that on December 28, 1873, Pleasant Smith was ordained a deacon of his beloved church. He served his church faithfully. When he died in 1892, his family had been members of Clear Fork for nearly a century. Pleasant was so thought of that at his death, a committee was formed to write his obituary for a memorial page that would be added to the church minutes. The committee was comprised of deacon J.E. Reeves, trustee Hile Upchurch, clerk John Wilson and James Pittman. The obituary was published in the April 23, 1892 minutes.

"The silent messenger of death has come in our midst and removed one of our trusted sentinels from His high place in Zion."

"Obituary of P.H. Smith"

"Tribute of respect by the members of Clear Fork Church of Christ to the memory of brother P.H. Smith. Dearly beloved brethren and sisters, we have no words by which we can express the gratitude due from us to our heavenly Father for sparing the lives of the dear brethren and sisters who are letting their light shine that others might be constrained to glorify our Father in heaven. Yet, the silent messenger of death has come in our midst and removed one of our trusted sentinels from His high place in Zion. And, we feel that his long life of usefulness secured for him the confidence of our entire brotherhood and entitles him to a memorial page upon the Clear Fork Church book. He joined the Clear Fork Church the fourth Saturday of October 1871. He lived a religious life in which he enjoyed uninterrupted fellowship and served as deacon 'til his death. His faithfulness entitles him to more than a passing notice. Bro. P.H. Smith was ordained deacon the fourth Sabbath in December 1873 by elders J.B. McCallon, John Garrett and Joseph Denton. Bro. P.H. Smith departed this life February 15, 1892, aged 73 years, 4 months, and 3 days, but the labors of love with him have ended and his works following him. We believe our loss is his gain, hence we ought to submit to the will of our Heavenly Father who called His child (our brother) from labor to the rest of the good, and bind us more strongly in the bands of unbroken brotherhood. Nearly at deaths door, he tells his friends "do not weep for me, for my hour is near." Then, he entered into that sweet sleep from which none ever wake to weep. While we pay this last tribute of respect to the memory of him, we would shed tears of sympathy and Christian condolence with his grief smitten widow who was languishing on the bed of affliction at the time of her companion's death, and to his bereaved children."

Respectfully submitted,
J.E. Reeves
Agile Upchurch
James Pittman
J.A. Wilson
- Committee

Done and signed by order of the church.
Alvin Bertram, moderator
J.A. Wilson, clerk

Pleasant and Irene Smith are buried at Irwin Cemetery.

Note: Regarding the phrase used in the obituary, "Clear Fork Church of Christ." The church has always been Baptist. For years, Clear Fork Baptist Church used the phrase, "The church of Jesus Christ on Clear Fork Creek."

Harvest Bells, The Hymnal

My church, Clear Fork, was established in 1802. I have always wondered which hymns those early church members might have sung. Recently, while I was looking at some of the old church minutes, I read where on January 26, 1895 the church voted to purchase twelve Harvest Bells songbooks.

Harvest Bells songbooks were published by William Evander Penn. Born near Murfreesboro. Tennessee, he became a well known evangelist, leading gospel crusades and tent meetings all over the south and in other areas of the U.S., as well as overseas in England and Scotland. His ministry is estimated to have resulted in the conversion of 50,000 people.

Because of his beautiful bass singing, Penn was both a preacher and a singer at his services. Eventually, it was suggested that he publish his own song books. The result was the Harvest Bells collection. In all, there were seven Harvest Bells hymnals. Penn believed that Harvest Bells was the only hymnal of the day that was distinctly Southern Baptist in thought, doctrine and regional appeal. The hymnals were endorsed by many prominent church leaders.

Some of the more familiar works in his hymnals were All Hail The Power of Jesus Name, Amazing Grace, Blest Be The Tie That Binds, Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing, Guide me, O thou great Jehovah, Jesus Paid It All, Must Jesus Bear His Cross Alone and Rock of Ages.

William Penn died in 1895.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Darrell Speck: Behind The Record (Rockabilly)

In the early 1940's, Syd Nathan was having success selling used records in his downtown Cincinnati dry goods store, so he decided to make his own records and in 1945, launched King Records. He hired both white and black artists and successfully cross-marketed their songs in the rhythm & blues and country markets. This cross-pollination of musical styles would be a major influence in the development of rockabilly and popular rock and roll.

In the early 1950's, a growing market for recording local artists was recognized. Nathan had already created a company known as Royal Plastics, located at 1540 Brewster Avenue in Cincinnati, to master, press and print his records and over the next 15 years, King produced thousands of releases for small independent labels.

How I Love You (AV-45-101)

One such label was AL VIC Records, owned by Allie and Lefty Combs. The studio operated out of the Harrod Theatre Building in Harrodsburg, Kentucky. Besides being a theater owner, Lefty was also a country music singer. Naturally, he released his music on his own label. Others who recorded on AL VIC were Gary Link and The Rock-A-Fellas, The Rhythmettes, Clarence Walls, George and Pee Wee - The Tennessee Pals, Gordon Sizemore, Jay Hammond, Le Troy Reed, The Vandells, Lefty Combs, Tommy Howard, The Routeens, The Hocking Hillbillies, Don Youngblood, The Blue Grass Mt. Boys, Dale Anderson, Wanda K. Lefler, Mary Jane Hisey, Old Joe Clark and Darrell Speck and The Rebel Rousers.

Soon after Syd Nathan began King records in Cincinnati, in Albany, Kentucky, nine-year-old Darrell Speck told his mother, Dimple, that he wanted to learn how to play the guitar just like her. The year was 1947. And so, she began teaching him the chords and soon Darrell was singing and playing anywhere and everywhere he could. By the age of 16, Darrell had gotten a job performing on WAIN-AM in Columbia, Kentucky. He and his band, Darrell Speck and the Rebel Rousers, would drive to Columbia every Saturday morning to do a 15 minute radio show. In 1955, a new radio station signed on the air in Monticello, Kentucky. Darrell auditioned at WFLW and soon he and his group left Columbia for a weekly show at the Monticello station. Darrell did not attend high school past 1955. In 1956, he joined the Navy and married his high school sweetheart, Glenda. After a two-year stint in the Navy at Newport, Rhode Island, Darrell returned home to help his dad put WANY-AM on the air. In addition to becoming a broadcaster, a career that would last over 30 years, Darrell also regrouped his band and continued performing on the side. By June of 1959, Darrell had written two songs that he thought were good enough to be on a record. So, in a few weeks, Darrell and his group (Buddy Bell, Larry Wayne Guffey, Don Daffron andand Jake Smith) traveled to Harrodsburg, where they recorded three tracks at the AL VIC studio. The songs were How I love You, Take Me Back and Not A Word From You. The first two songs were put on a 45 r.p.m. single and 500 copies were pressed at the King Records pressing facility in Cincinnati.

Take Me Back (AV-45-100)

The Rebel Rousers eventually split up. Darrell did several music projects during his life. He remained a radio broadcaster for more than thirty years. He and Glenda raised five children. About a year before he died, in 2003, I was online doing research for my blog, when I stumbled upon a rockabilly website that mentioned dad's AL VIC record. It was then I discovered his record had somehow managed to travel overseas and since 1981 had been released on a total of six various artist rockabilly compilation albums and CD's. Later, I found more (twelve total) in Germany, England, Spain, the Netherlands and France.

They are as follows:
1981 - Bison Bop (Germany) The Bop That Never Stopped, Vol. 11

1981 - White Label (Netherlands) Primitive Sound

1985 - Buffalo Bop (Germany) The Bop That Never Stopped, Vol. 11

1996 - Esso SP (England) "Rockabilly Ramblers 6

1998 - Buffalo Bop (Germany) Teen Town

1998 - Buffalo Bop (Germany) Campus Cutie

year? Club (Spain) Grab This And Dance, Vol. 22

2007 - Rockin' Rarities (France) Vol. 5: 16 Red Hot Rockin' Hits

2012 - Presto Records (UK) Big Bad Rockabilly Boppers Vol. 11

2014 - Thundersqueak Records (England) Rockabilly Rock and Roll Nuggets, Vol. 13 The Rare, the Rarer and the Rarest Rockers

2014 - Thundersqueak Records (England) Rockabilly Rock and Roll Nuggets, Vol. 16 The Rare, the Rarer and the Rarest Rockers

2014 - Pocatello Records - Rockin' Through The Years, Vol. 121 "A Mega Collection of Boppin', Jumpin', Jivin', Shakin' Rockers"

Elam Huddleston, Civil War Union Guerrilla

At his Nashville trial, one of the 53 deaths listed in the indictment against Champ Ferguson was that of Union guerilla Elam Huddleston. If there was one Unionist who was a thorn in Ferguson's side, other than Tinker Dave Beaty, it was Elam Huddleston.

The bad blood between them started before the war. Allegedly, Ferguson had been swindled by some Fentress County, Tennessee men in a business transaction involving hogs. Even though Ferguson received a judgement in his favor, his brother, Jim, and another man took a horse belonging to one of the Fentress County men, Alexander Evans, as attachment to the debt. Unaware of this, Champ went to a camp meeting near the Lick River in Fentress County and there was beset upon by a group of men that included Elam Huddleston. Ferguson physically fought off these men, cutting one of them with a knife. Huddleston vowed to kill Champ, who turned himself in to avoid that. On October 28, 1862, Champ and his men ran into Elam and his men near the town of Albany, and the gun battle that ensued is probably the biggest skirmish that occurred during the civil war in Clinton County. Both men escaped death that day.

Sixty five days later, on New Years night, 1863, Champ Ferguson killed Elam Huddleston.

Champ Ferguson, along with some of John Hunt Morgan's men, had caught up with Elam Huddleston at a log house in Adair County. The home was under construction. It had no floor upstairs, but a few plank on the joists. Huddleston was upstairs shooting out of a window upstairs, when someone ordered the house burned. Someone inside doused the fire with water about the time that Huddleston was shot. He was believed killed as he fell between the joists and dropped to the ground floor. He was brought outside where Ferguson put another bullet in him.

Just before Champ Ferguson was executed, the commandant, Colonel Shafter, read the charges and specifications together with the sentence of the Court. As the different charges were read he either bowed in acknowledgement or shook his head in denial of them. When the name Elam Huddleston was read, he shook his head, and remarked that he could tell it better than that. During the trial, Ferguson said this about Elam Huddleston's death: "I did not kill Elam. I was along, however, I think Ab. Hildreth shot him. I know that Elam shot at me, and the ball grazed my clothes."

According to J.A. Brents' book, Elam Huddleston was five feet ten inches tall, had light hair, blue eyes, and fair skin. He was a man of good sense, was true to his country and was as brave as any man that ever breathed.

Huddleston enlisted in the 1st regiment of Kentucky cavalry, commanded by Colonel Frank Wolford. He was a private in company C.

On January 19, 1862, he took part in the battle of Mill Springs. The Union pickets were attacked at daylight, and twenty mounted men were immediately sent to their support. Elam Huddleston was one of the twenty. When they arrived, the Union pickets were confronted by an entire regiment of infantry. The pickets took a strong position, and received the attack of the rebel regiment. The latter however were held in check until other forces formed and marched to the scene of action, a distance of half a mile. It was however with considerable loss in killed and wounded. The pickets stood firm until their foes were nearly upon them, when all retired except Elam Huddleston, who remained until he was nearly surrounded, when, throwing himself flat upon his horse, he galloped to the rear without any injury. Before his return, his brother Ambrose said to an officer that Elam had acted very foolishly; that he had remained until he was surrounded, and was then killed. Elam, upon his return, reported that he saw four men fall, one he believed to be a commissioned officer. After the battle the ground was examined, and one captain and three privates were found to have been slain. Huddleston took his horse to the rear, and returned and did good service on foot. After the battle, he pointed out a spot upon which he said he had shot several of the enemy. The ground was examined, and the bodies of one commissioned officer, and ten privates were found.

Elam Edward Huddleston is buried in plot F, 0, 665 at Mill Springs National Cemetery at Nancy. Kentucky.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Dennis Hopkins, Light Horse Soldier

My great-grandmother, Della Craig Means, was the granddaughter of Ellison Leslie, who was the brother of Kentucky Governor Preston H. Leslie. During the revolutionary war, their grandfather, and my 5th great-grandfather, Dennis Hopkins, Jr. served in the Randolph County, North Carolina Militia. He was twenty years old when he joined.

Dennis filed his Revolutionary War Pension Application in Clinton County on Jan. 2, 1843, at the age of 82. Born on July 13, 1760, in Orange Co., North Carolina, he was raised in Randolph Co., where he lived during the Revolutionary War. He entered the service as a light horse soldier in Randolph County for three months, beginning in October of 1780, under Capt. Wm York and Maj. Thomas Dogin. He was drafted at the house of Betty Cole and marched down Deep River ranging throughout Randolph and Chatham counties and was stationed some considerable time at the barracks in Chatham county on the Plantation of Col. Littrell. A portion of the time he also stayed at Bell’s Hill in Randolph County, where the company's headquarters were located. He also participated in marches through Guilford and Orange counties. He was shot in his foot during a skirmish with the Tories in Randolph County but still served out the full term of three months before receiving a written discharge from Capt. York sometime in January of 1781.

Dennis volunteered for another three months on April 1, 1781 and marched down Sandy Creek to his previous station at Col. Littrell’s Plantation at Bell's Mill. During his time at war, he said he caught, whipped, killed and hung many Tories or helped drive them out of the country. Sometime around July, he marched to the Randolph County Court House, where he received his final discharge as a revolutionary war soldier.

Dennis Hopkins married in Randolph County and lived there thirteen more years before moving to Clark County, Georgia, where he lived ten years before moving to Wayne County. Kentucky, where lived some 32 years. That portion of Wayne County where he lived later became part of Clinton County.

Dennis Hopkins died on June 26, 1850 at the age of 90. He is buried at Hopkins Cemetery in Clinton County, Kentucky.

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Escape

On April 9, 1954, a man escaped from the second floor of the jail at Albany, Kentucky by sawing through the latch on his cell door and then, removing several bricks from the back wall of the jail, dropped to the ground using a rope made of blankets. Jail officials were given a clue that their prisoner might try to escape when, hours earlier, they confiscated two saws, 56 saw blades, brace and bits, a screwdriver, oil, putty, a rope and other tools from the prisoners cell. They apparently overlooked the fact that the man had been sawing on the latch and had camouflaged it with putty. He was being held on default of an $8,000 bond.

The Professor

On Gilligan's Island, the professor could do just about anything. He went on the three-hour cruise to write a book about ferns but he brought along enough books to last a year or longer. But, in those books were solutions for every single problem the castaways encountered. He thought up all the plans to get the castaways out of danger from island invaders. He could hypnotize the Skipper. He produced electric power for phonographs or washing machines by having Gilligan or the Skipper manually pedal, or turn a pulley, which the Professor engineered. He even invented a way to recharge the batteries in the radio using coconuts and bamboo. The only thing he could never do was fix a two-foot hole in the boat. RIP Russell Johnson. Thanks for all you did to bring comfort to your fellow shipmates, and for all the laughs you gave those of us who were watching from 'a thousand miles away.' You did something that every boy in the world wanted to kissed Ginger. Way to go, dude!

Long may our Land be Bright with Freedom's Holy Light

Officially, the Continental Congress declared its freedom from Great Britain on July 2, 1776, but after voting to approve it, a draft do...