Tuesday, January 24, 2023

The Monticello & Burnside Stagecoach

When the stagecoach era in Kentucky came to an end in 1915, the last route to be in op­eration was the Monticello to Burnside route. Since Wayne County did not have direct access to a railroad, it greatly helped them reach the one at Burnside.

The cost to ride Charles H. Burton's stagecoach was $1.50. There was room for nine passengers inside and approximately five on top, plus the driver. Baggage was carried on the rear of the coach. Coming from the Burnside Depot back to Monticello, four horses would pull the stagecoach to the Cumberland River and onto a ferry, which carried them across it to a rest stop near Frazier, where the horses or mules were switched for a fresh team. From there, it was on to Monticello. The whole trip took four to six hours. It is said that during one hard winter the river froze solid immobiliz­ing the ferry boat, but knowing the mail-must go through, the driver daringly drove across the ice and on to Monti­cello.

Charles Burton's stagecoach was built in 1895 by the Abbott and Downing Company of Concord, New Hampshire. He bought it for $1,000 in 1901 from J.B. "Buck" Barbee who operated a stagecoach line from Campbellsville to Columbia. Decades late it was sold at auction for almost $39,000 to Kenneth Ballou of Burkesville, who sold it to Wells Fargo Bank in California for $85,000.

Artist Fred Thrasher painted a fine likeness of the Burton stagecoach as it ferried the Cumberland River in a popular print he titled 'Crossing the Cumberland.'

For the record, the Burton Stagecoach was not the only stagecoach to operate in our area. James Tuggle and his son, Jeremiah, also ran a successful stagecoach service from Monticello to Burnside.

* Some info taken from a 1969 article written by John Hockersmith in the Happy Hunting Ground magazine.

Monday, January 23, 2023

Dick Burnett, the Blind Minstrel of Monticello

"The Farewell Song" was first printed in the songbook, "Songs Sung by R. D. Burnett," a blind man from Monticello, Kentucky, in 1913. You might know the song as "Man of Constant Sorrow," from the 2000 movie, "O Brother Where Art Thou." The film's soundtrack was more successful than the film. "Man of Constant Sorrow," sung in the movie by Dan Tyminski of Alison Krauss and Union Station, won the 2001 CMA award for best single as well as a Grammy Award for best Country Collaboration with Vocals. It was also named Song of the Year by the International Bluegrass Music Association in 2001.

Dick Burnett is generally considered the author of the song, although he himself wasn't so sure about it. In a 1973 interview, he said, "I think I got it from somebody...I dunno, it may be my song." The composition year is most likely the same as the songbooks' publication year, 1913, judging from the line: "Oh, six long years I've been blind, friends." You see, Burnett was left blind from a gunshot wound in 1907. He was walking home from his job at a barbershop at Stearns one evening, when he was robbed at gunpoint. Rather than lose his money, he rushed the robber and was struck in the face by a shotgun blast.

Burnett, who was born at Elk Springs Valley in 1883, had learned how to play several stringed instruments at an early age; dulcimer, fiddle, banjo, guitar, etc. Unable to work anymore, he decided to become a musician to earn money for his wife and small child. He began traveling from town to town, playing on the street for nickels and dimes with a tin cup tied to his leg (see photo). Usually, he was accompanied by his musical sidekick Leonard Rutherford, who came to live with the Burnett family when only a small boy.

Burnett was willing to teach Rutherford how to play the fiddle if he would help him get around. As Rutherford improved, it became profitable for the two men to branch out, traveling first by horse, bus and railroad. Eventually, Burnett bought a car and Rutherford learned to drive it. In Burnett's words, they travelled "from Cincinnati to Chattanooga, playing every town this side of Nashville."

But, life was hard for them. For that reason, in 1929, Burnett's wife, Georgia, ran for jailer of Wayne County. "I wish to announce myself as a candidate for jailor," she wrote in the Wayne County Outlook. "My husband is a blind man and his only way of supporting his family is by playing music, in which he has found it very difficult to do. For this cause, I am asking the support of all the voters of Wayne County." She did not win.

Burnett and Rutherford recorded several songs for Columbia Records between 1926 and 1928. They recorded "The Farewell Song" in 1927, but the recording was not released and for some reason the master recording was destroyed. Although the song is in his 1913 catalog, it's too bad, he didn't copyright it as his. Imagine how much money could have been earned in his name.

In 2003, “Man of Constant Sorrow” was voted the 20th greatest song of all time in CMT’s 100 Greatest Songs in Country Music.

"I am a man of constant sorrow
I've seen trouble all of my days
I'll bid farewell to old Kentucky
The place where I was born and raised"

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

To Everything there is a Season

I was thinking about this photo that appeared in my Facebook history this morning. The year was 2011. It was Halloween. Jerry Perdue and I were at Stony Point's fall festival, and there they were, Ralph Clark and Buddy Bell, two legends on stage with Cartwright Express. We couldn't wait to ask for a photograph. The plan was for us to take each others' photo, only after I took this photo I got distracted somehow and missed my opportunity to have my photo taken with them.

For a long time, I was a little bit jealous that Jerry had gotten his photo made with these icons and not I, because we never had another opportunity to be together, the three of us, as Buddy died on Jan. 17, 2012 and Ralph died on Aug. 30, 2014, and then Jerry died on Thanksgiving Day in 2017.

Time and tide wait for no man. As I get older I realize more and more that some things are just inevitable - birth, death, the sun rising in the morning, and the passage of time. There is no way to control those things.

The bible says 'to everything there is a season, a time to be born, a time to die; a time to build up, a time to weep, a time to laugh and a time to mourn.' (Ecclesiaste 3)

I miss those guys. Funny how this photo, the one I was once jealous of, now means the world to me. 💕


On April 16, 1953 the New Era reported that 29 men had gone to Louisville for Armed Forces physical examinations. Among them was Robinson Elvin Angel. He was one month shy of celebrating his 20th birthday when Uncle Sam called. He and seven others left for Louisville and induction into the U.S. Army on July 7th. The others were James Cook, Haden Dicken, Arthur Stockton, Freddie Boils, Buford Bowlin, John Nuszbaum and Lowell Davis. It was during the Korean War and Elvin was in the army for two years. For 18 months he was stationed in Alaska.

Hershell Key tells a story about Elvin's sergeant ordering him to clean a rifle. It wasn't his rifle, so Ervin said no. The sergeant repeated his command, "I said to clean that rifle!" Elvin replied, "I ain't gonna do it!" So, Hershell said, Elvin was sent to Alaska.That may or not be the exact reason, but it's funny to hear Hershell tell it that way.

When he returned home, Elvin joined the class of 1957 during their sophomore year. In the local newspaper column, Senior Class News, someone wrote "Elvin has been an asset to the class and we are proud to have this veteran among the members of our class." Elvin was 24 years old when he graduated from CCHS.

Elvin's nickname was Bookout. A couple of his friends I spoke with did not know how he got that name. One of his close friends, Harvey Aaron, said he once asked Elvin how he got it, but he couldn't remember.

By all accounts, Bookout was a great baseball and softball player. I read where, in 1957, he was a member of a softball team sponsored by Conner Motel, along with the likes of John B. Smith, Page Cook and James Brown. Another teammate and classmate, Gene Latham, said Bookout was a great pitcher. He played softball for several years.

Gene tells this story: "Bookout stood 5 feet and 5 inches tall and for the U.S. Army, the minimum weight requirement for his heighth was 116 pounds. Bookout weighed 117 pounds when he went for his physical examination. He said if he had known the minimum weight requirement was 116 pounds, he would have weighed 116 pounds!"

Robinson Elvin Angel was born on May 28, 1933, the son of the William Albert & Lula Mae Daniels Angel. His wife, Brenda Gibbons Angel, preceded him in death. Bookout was known by many. We will miss seeing him walking around town. He always walked.

Thanks to Harvey Aaron for the photo.

Saturday, January 14, 2023

John Fogerty is Finally Reunited with his Songs After 50 Years

It's official, according to Billboard Magazine, John Fogerty has gained worldwide control of his Creedence Clearwater Revival publishing rights after a half-century struggle. He just posted the following on his Facebook page. "As of this January, I own my own songs again. This is something I thought would never be a possibility. After 50 years, I am finally reunited with my songs."

To think about the CCR catalogue is to relive my pre-teen years. The band's most prolific and successful period began in 1969 when I was about to turn 10. For two years, CCR had a dozen consecutive top 10 singles and five consecutive top 10 albums. The band broke up in 1972, but by then we already had all of those great songs: "Bad Moon Rising," "Lodi," "Proud Mary," "Green River," "Down on the Corner," "Have You Ever Seen The Rain," "Heard it Through the Grapevine," "Run Through the Jungle," "Up Around the Bend," "Travelin' Man," "Long as I Can See the Light" and "Lookin' Out My Back Door." "Suzie Q" had already been a bit in 1968.

My favorite CCR songs were "Bad Moon Rising," "Lodi" and "Proud Mary." I have a recording of my brother, Ronnie, age eight, and myself, age eleven, jamming to "Proud Mary." He is singing and playing drums and I am playing piano and singing the repeat line on the word, "Rollin'."

Fogerty had relinquished his artist royalties to Saul Zaentz at Fantasy Records in 1980 to get out of his Fantasy deal. “I tried really hard,” he says to get them back in the decades since he signed his label and publishing deal in 1968 with Fantasy but suffered setback after setback at the hands of Zaentz, who died in 2014.

For years, Fogerty refused to play CCR songs live, unable to stomach Zaentz making money off his performances, but he softened his stance in 1987 with a little prodding from Bob Dylan during a concert in Hollywood that included Dylan, Fogerty and George Harrison. “The crowd started asking for ‘Proud Mary. Bob said, ‘John, if you don’t do ‘Proud Mary,’ everybody’s gonna think it’s a Tina Turner song,’” referencing Ike & Tina Turner’s 1971 cover. Fogerty sang the song and later that year, began incorporating CCR songs back into his set list.

When Concord bought Fantasy Records in 2004, one of the first moves the company made was to reinstate and increase Fogerty’s artist royalties, which he hadn't received in 25 years. Under the new agreement, Concord retains the CCR master recordings already in its catalog and will continue to administer Fogerty’s share of the publishing catalog for an unspecified limited time.

Fact #1: CCR’s Chronicle: The 20 Greatest Hits, released in 1976, has spent 622 non-consecutive weeks on the Billboard 200, the fifth highest of any album on the chart.

Fact #2: The music of Creedence Clearwater Revival has never left radio.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Mike Rogers and an Ungrateful Duck

My friend, Mike Rogers, told me a very story about his attempt to rescue a duck that was being chased by a dog.

"Rosie and I were on our way to church yesterday when a little black duck ran out in front of us with a large German shepherd chasing it. I swerved off the road and gave chase as the duck, the shepherd and I ran over the hill behind Slick Lowhorn's building on the Tennessee Road.

The duck went under some tree roots and before the dog could get him I caught up and slapped the canine on his rear end, Startled the dog ran off and the duck started climbing back up the steep hill when I caught up to him and snatched him to safety. Holding "Daffy" to my chest I looked down at him and said, "I guess I saved your life." Immediately, he reached up and bit me on my lip!! (very ungrateful}

I took him back to the car and handed him to Rosie and she held him untill we arrived at church. He was quiet calm now until I reached down to take him from Rosie and he bit me again. As I carried him down to the creek the ungrateful bird turned his head towards me but I made sure to keep my distance. When I sat him down on the ground next to the creek he turned towards me again, then looked at the water, wagged his tail and jumped in swimming off to another day.

All is well that ends well!"

The Town Fire of 1926

On March 20, 1926, a fire started in the Gainesboro Telephone office on the Southside of the Albany square and destroyed the entire block, including the G.A. Guinn residence, N.L. Morgan residence, Wes Lee and Claude Brent residences, First Christian Church, Dr. William L. Story's drug store, Dr. John Sloan's office and garage, W.L. Perkins' garage and Smith & Stailey Drug Store. The New Era reported the loss was about $60,000 with only about $700 insurance. They were all frame buildings. The fire at the church destroyed the original building. The church was started in 1834. After the fire, the congregation made their own bricks and moved into the new building, the one in use today, on November 6, 1927

The Monticello & Burnside Stagecoach

When the stagecoach era in Kentucky came to an end in 1915, the last route to be in op­eration was the Monticello to Burnside route. Since W...