Program 5

Supplementary Program:
Cosmo-Regional Appalachian Forefront

Part one: cut off from the world
Welcome to Celebrated Sounds, this hour we will be looking into the contradictory nature of Appalachian music. Some see Appalachian music as unchanging while others have remarked on it’s genre inventing and bending forefront. How can the music of one place be seen in very different ways? this hour we will explore the music and history of this conflict to find out.
(“Siúil A Rún performed by Judy Young”)

In 1965 in Glenville, West Virginia, a town of less than 1,500 people, a young woman at their annual music festival named Judy Young sang the english and Irish language ballad Siúil A Rún for a small crowd. For some it may not have been a surprise that a Revolutionary War song, with earlier versions from the Glorious Revolution a century earlier in England, was being sung in the Appalachian Mountains, given region’s reputation for tradition and oral history; The idea that settlers from Great Britain settled in Appalachia and stayed there holding on to old traditions and shutting out new ones.
The first attention for Appalachian Music came around in the early 20th century when Musicologists  such as the english folklorist Cecil Sharp realized that old english ballads were still being sung in the region. Sharp was taken aback by the way the Appalachian people took pride in their history. Sharp collected these centuries old ballads, some thought lost forever from history, and took them back to Europe. This helped shaped the way people viewed Appalachian music.
Of course ancient Ballads were not the only songs sung in the region but for a long time this was what the outside world paid attention to. Sharp collected versions of old Irish and English ballads such Rose Connelly (also called Down in the Willow Garden) but on further notice, many of these songs had gone through evolutions in the mountains. Irish versions of Siúil A Rún have the love interest refusing to go to war, and here he dutifully obliged.   Despite the reputation of Appalachia of being a place where old songs and traditions remain without change, some of the older songs were retooled for changing tastes. Let’s here jean Ritchie talk about the old song “On Jordan’s Stormy Banks” and sing a variation of it called “Evergreen Shore”
Jean Ritchie
(“Evergreen Shore” performed by Jean Ritchie) (

But it wasn’t just outsiders that manipulated how the outside world saw Appalachia. Some Appalachian born music collectors couldn’t help but to shape Appalachian culture the way they thought it should be. Jean Thomas, born in Ashland Kentucky in 1881, collected songs, hosted Festivals, and promoted musicians. Thomas said  that in Appalachia, "the speech, song, and traditions of old England still survived" although she often controlled what performers wore,  changed their names, and in the case of fiddler Jilson Setters,  changed his name and even personal history. Born James Day, Thomas didn’t think his name sounded Appalachian enough and changed it to Jilson Setters and fabricated his past to sound more dire, even referring to him as ‘The fiddler of Lost Hope Holler’ a fictitious place. With the heavy handed help of Jean Thomas, Setters became a star, eventually playing the Royal Albert Hall. Let’s hear a track by James Day called The 6th of January where we hear Jean Thomas pulling the reins.

Part Two: Outside Influence
Appalachian music did have a way of holding onto songs and sounds from the old  country, which ever country it may be, but as we will hear they also had a way of mixing and experimenting them with the sounds of the other old countries represented in the mountains.
In this next song we will hear the Irish ballad Rose Connelly, sung in the Old regular baptist style common in the Appalachian mountains and accompanied by the Banjo that has African origins.
(“Rose Connelly” [also known as Down In The Willow Garden] played by Roscoe Holcomb)
This version was played by Roscoe Holcomb in 1971. Holcomb came to prominence after another song collector, John Cohen, came across him on a song collecting trip in 1959.

Folk biographer, Photographer, and musician John Cohen (Of the New Lost City Ramblers) was driving through Eastern Kentucky in 1959 looking for Folk musicians when he came acrossed a tall wiry 47 year old man walking home from work pouring concrete. He was told this man played several instruments and asked if he would play a tune or two. After some coaxing the man agreed to one song. Cohen was so taken aback that he showed up at this man’s house everyday for three weeks asking to hear more. Later Cohen would remember first hearing Holcomb by saying "I was hearing the avant-garde and the ancient, sitting in the middle of eastern Kentucky."
Personally I cannot think of a better way to explain Appalachian music than this.
In the same recording session where Roscoe Holcomb recorded the old Irish Ballad “Rose Connelly”, Holcomb also played “Motherless Children seen hard time” a song first recorded in Dallas Texas in 1927 by preacher and blues musician Blind Willie Johnson.
(“Motherless Children seen Hard Times” performed by Roscoe Holcomb) (
Occurrences of outside influences were not uncommon, just overlooked by the early song collectors. The black musical influence was not singular to the banjo, but spread out to songs and genres as well, but were treated like any other song by Appalachians and not seen as separate or novel,  as we will hear in this 1973 recording of Addie Graham (1900-1976) singing Sold and Stole from Africa, an anti-slavery song she had learned from black railroad workers.  
(“Sold and Stole from Africa” performed by Addie Graham) (

Part Three: Popularity and Confusion

While it’s true that Music was continually handed down from generation to generation in Appalachia, it could hardly be said that Appalachian music has been frozen in time.  After all, this is the region that brought us Bluegrass, Country, and even the proto-punk sounds of Link Wray. Carrying it’s past while sculpting new musical genres alongside it, Appalachian music is a contradictory plethora of sound  steeped in myth, legend, and fabrication.
Biographer Jeff Biggers wrote that “Appalachia needs to be embraced for it’s historic role as a vanguard region in the United States.” Vanguard may be a strange way to describe a region seen to many as old timey but this has mostly to do with how the outside world has packaged and distributed Appalachia.

wade and Julia Mainer.jpg
Julia and Wade Mainer
When radio hit it big in the 1920s music from the appalachian region became very popular. And then some strange things began to happen. Appalachian music was being put into categories like “Hillbilly” or “Race” music when for a long time it was just people playing music that they liked. We will hear two versions of the song Little Old Log Cabin In The Lane. The first will be by famed banjoist Wade Mainer, and seen as Hillbilly Music, the second will be played by Bill Williams and seen as Race Music.

(“Little Old Log Cabin In The Lane” performed by Wade and Julia Mainer)(
(“Little Old Log Cabin In The Lane” performed by Bill Williams)(

Another common occurrence is to list some songs as Country Songs and others as Jazz songs regardless if they really were or not.
We will hear two versions of the song “Black Is The Color” played by two different performers. The first, by Joan Salmon Campbell, would be listed as Jazz while the second, performed by Betty Smith, might be listed as Country or Hillbilly.
(“Black Is The Color” performed by Joan Salmon Campbell)(

The Carter Family
(“Black Is The Color” performed by Betty Smith)(

Music wasn’t just mixed up when it was exported out of Appalachia, but it was also imported and many times accidentally. In the 1920s when Appalachian Music became all the rage on the radio, many professional songwriters outside the region tried to emulate the sound. Some of these songs became so popular that were brought into the region, and played by Appalachian musicians who thought they were old songs that had been around for hundreds of years. In 1928 The carter Family had a hit with Wildwood Flower and is often mistaken as an Appalachian Song, as well as the song Rank Strangers  which is about Appalachia but written by professional songwriter Alfred E. Brumley. Let’s listen to these two songs.
(“Wildwood Flower” performed by Wade and Julia Mainer)(

Appalachian music has had a rich history of holding on to old traditions as well as incorporating new sounds, even if the outside world chooses not to see it in this respect. Weather it’s centuries old ballads and instruments, or new styles such as bluegrass, blues, or rock n’ roll, Appalachian music continues to thrive both within the world, and also in spite of it. To end this hour I’d Like to play a version of Liza Jane played by Andy Merritt in 1973. Here Merritt is singing an old Ballad but with a bit of modern popular Elvis Presley flair.
(“Liza Jane” performed by Andy Merritt)
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