Thursday, June 1, 2023

Battle Hymn of the Republic

My 106-year-old recording of "Battle Hymn of the Republic" by singer Thomas Chalmers was recorded on May 29, 1917 at Thomas Edison's recording studio in Manhattan. The recording is registered with the Library of Congress. Chalmers, who lived from 1881 to 1966, was a baritone soloist with the Boston Opera Company and the Metropolitan Opera from 1913 to 1921. He eventually became a popular stage and film actor.

"Battle Hymn of the Republic" first gained popularity around Charleston, South Carolina. It became known as "John Brown's Body," following the insurrection at Harper's Ferry, led by Abolitionist John Brown, whose actions, trial and subsequent execution made him a martyr.

"John Brown's body
lies a-mouldering in the grave
His soul is marching on"

By the time of the Civil War, the song had become a popular marching song with Union Army regiments. It was when Julia Ward Howe visited Washington, DC on November 18, 1861 that "Battle Hymn of the Republic" was first born.

Howe and her husband were active abolitionists, who had experienced first-hand a skirmish between Confederate and Union troops in nearby Virginia, and heard the troops go into battle singing "John Brown's Body." That evening in the nation's capital, Howe was inspired to write a poem that better fit the music. It began "Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord."

Here are the words to Battle Hymn of the Republic

A photo of Julia Ward Howe made in 1908

Saturday, May 6, 2023

About the Coronation Bible and Oil

As I watched the coronation of King Charles III and Camilla, the queen consort, the one thing I quickly wanted to know about was the bible used by King Charles as he recited the oath. Turns out, it was a specially commissioned King James Bible like new monarchs have been presented with since the coronation of William III and Mary II in 1689. The archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said the bible, made by Oxford University Press, is a reminder to the king that Scripture is at the heart of Christian life.”

I also learned that the coronation oil was created using olives that were harvested from groves at the Monastery of Mary Magdalene and the Monastery of the Ascension monasteries at the Mount of Olives, where Jesus prayed on the day before his crucifixion. The olives were pressed into oil just outside Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus and the oil was declared holy in a special ceremony at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, which stands on the site where Jesus was crucified.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Capt. Tuttle

In her book, "A Century of Wayne County, Kentucky, 1800-1900, copyright 1939, Augusta Phillips Johnson included extracts from the diary of attorney John William Tuttle of Mill Springs, who served as Captain of the 3rd KY Vol. Inf; Co. G during the Civil War.

Capt. Tuttle was thinking about enlisting in the civil war when he attended a rally on June 17, 1861 at Parmleysville. He said, "I could not rid myself of the idea that those whose views do not coincide with mine on the great question are either fools or traitors."

On Saturday, July 27, 1861, he wrote "We arrived at Albany about 10. The first thing we saw upon arriving at the top of the hill overlooking the town were the Stars and Stripes gaily fluttering to the breeze above the tops of the houses. Upon entering town we met a procession with thirty-four ladies in front on horseback, one of whom carried a National Banner followed by about 60 cavalry and 500 infantry. They presented quite an imposing appearance.

About two thousand people were in town. After dinner a procession was formed which marched out about a half a mile from town where they were addressed by the Hon. Thomas E. Bramlette in a speech of something more than three hours duration. He made a most thrilling appeal on behalf of the Union and called upon the loyal citizens of Clinton County to join a regiment he is raising for the purpose of aiding the Union men of East Tennessee.

About thirty men enlisted in the service under him and 87 cavalry, to compose a part of a regiment destined for the same service, now being raised by Frank Woolford of Casey County. The feeling for the Union here is very strong and the most intense enthusiasm prevails."

At its dedication on April 8, 1923, the Monticello Doughboy was unveiled by a then 86-year-old Capt. Tuttle. His diary is on file at the University of Kentucky. It spans his life before, during and after the war. He and his wife, Mollie, are buried at Elk Spring Cemetery in Monticello.

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850-1919) was an American author and poet. Her best-known work was Poems of Passion (1883), and her autobiography, "The Worlds and I," which was published in 1918 shortly before her death. She started writing poetry at a very early age, and was well known as a poet in her own state of Wisconsin by the time she graduated from high school. Her works, filled with positivism, became very popular. By 1915 her booklet, "What I Know About New Thought," had a distribution of 50,000 copies.

In "The Man Worth While" she wrote:

"It is easy enough to be pleasant
When life flows by like a song
But the man worth while is one who will smile
When everything goes dead wrong"

Her poem "Solitude" has her most famous line, one you are probably familiar with...

"Laugh and the world laughs with you
Weep, and you weep alone"

In "The Winds of Fate" she wrote...

"One ship drives east and another drives west
With the self-same winds that blow
'Tis the set of the sails And Not the gales
That tells us the way to go
Like the winds of the sea are the ways of fate
As we voyage along through life
'Tis the set of a soul That decides its goal"
And not the calm or the strife"

Her 1917 poem, "Optimism" is among my favorites:

"I'm no reformer; for I see more light
Than darkness in the world
Mine eyes are quick to catch
The first dim radiance of the dawn
And slow to note the cloud that threatens storm
The fragrance and the beauty of the rose
Delight me so; slight thought I give its thorn
And the sweet music of the lark's clear song
Stays longer with me than the night hawk's cry
And e'en in this great throe of pain called Life
I find a rapture linked with each despair
Well worth the price of Anguish
I detect more good than evil in humanity
Love lights more fires than hate extinguishes
And men grow better as the world grows old"

She once made an appearance during WWI in France, reciting her poem, "The Stevedores" ,while visiting a camp of 9,000 US Army stevedores, (men who provided movement of supplies through ports in support of the American Expeditionary Forces).

"We are the army stevedores
Lusty and virile and strong
We are given the hardest work of the war
And the hours are long
We handle the heavy boxes
And shovel the dirty coal
While soldiers and sailors work in the light
We burrow below like a mole
But somebody has to do this work
Or the soldiers could not fight
And whatever work is given a man
Is good if he does it right"

About the photo: Ella Wheeler Wilcox's poem plaque near the City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco Chinatown's Jack Kerouac Alley.

Ellison Leslie had the only Carpenter's Shop in Town

My 3rd great-grandfather, Ellison Leslie, died in Albany, Kentucky on this day in 1917.

Born in 1822, Ellison was a carpenter. In 1892, the Albany Banner newspaper reported that, while there were several carpenters in the county, there was but one carpenter shop in town, and it was owned by Ellison Leslie.

After the Clinton County Courthouse was burned by guerillas during the civil war, the fiscal court paid him $200 to put a roof on the new one, and for making the windows, shutters and door shutters (see artist Jack Amonett's drawing here).

Ellison and his wife, Adaline Smith Leslie, are buried at Albany Cemetery. Ellison was the brother of Kentucky Governor Preston H. Leslie. His granddaughter, Della Craig Means, was the mother of my grandmother, Dimple Speck.

lWhen he died at the age 95, "Uncle Ellison," as he was known, was celebrated as being the oldest male resident in Clinton County.

Saturday, April 22, 2023

Honoring my Grandfather Today

Before WANY, Sid Scott used to do a remote broadcast from Dr. William Mann's chiropractic office in Albany for Monticello's WFLW radio station. One day, the doctor told Sid he had heard an AM frequency was available for Albany and that he was interested in applying for it. Sid had a better idea.

Being a lifelong friend to my dad, who was away in the Navy, he went to my grandfather, Cecil Speck, a local businessman who, along with Wallace Allred operated the indoor and outdoor movie theaters here, and suggested they beat Dr. Mann to the draw and apply for the license. That was the beginning of WANY.

I tell you this as my way of honoring my grandfather, who was born on this day in 1917. He has been in Heaven for 37 years now and I do miss him. He always encouraged me to stay in radio. I'm glad I listened.

I have always been proud of myself for being able to read family, friends and co-workers obituaries on the radio without my voice cracking. Today it cracked for the first time ever when I dedicated a song to him on my bluegrass gospel radio show. I guess it's because I am older and more sentimental. 💕

Thursday, April 20, 2023

Kenneth Wisdom's Teen Center Begins

Who used to hang out at Kenneth Wisdom's Teen Center, where McDonald's is now located? The Mystic Sounds played there on opening night. Formed in 1967, that group consisted of Mike Lawson on guitar, Larry Sloan on organ and guitar, Junior Byers on bass guitar and Lynn Avery on drums. I'm sure Cecil Pryor played there. My music buddies Donnie Ray Johnson and Terry Murphy also played there.

According to Judge Lawson, The Mystic Sounds wore ties, following the lead of the Beatles. They heard that Mr. Wisdom had a large room with hardwood flooring in the middle of the old Locker Plant building. They asked him about playing there. He said, "You boys help clean out the room; you can have your Saturday night dance and we will split the admission charge taken in at the door."

Judge Lawson stated, "Mrs. Wisdom took up the money at the door. I can still see her sitting in a chair right in front of the doorway. Every Saturday night we would have a short intermission, which allowed us to take in the fist fight in the parking lot that would happen at every engagement." Mind you, we were not the favorites of all the community in that many thought the dance was taboo. We just lived the music and loved playing and seeing people respond in a positive way."

"I have often thought of Mr. Wisdom thinking that much of the younger generation to provide a space for us," he said.

Battle Hymn of the Republic

My 106-year-old recording of "Battle Hymn of the Republic" by singer Thomas Chalmers was recorded on May 29, 1917 at Thomas Edis...