We post a new episode of Appalachian History weekly podcast every Sunday. You can start listening right away by clicking the podcast icon over on the right side of your screen. If you’d rather grab the show off itunes for later listening, click here:
We open today’s show with a 1957 interview of one Captain Jesse Hughes, of Washington County, OH. Capt. Hughes describes his experiences working for a river circus up and down the Ohio River at the turn of the 20th century: “At that time there was no such thing as an automobile, hardly. People had heard of them, but nobody had ever seen them hardly. [The circus manager] had a thing there on the boat that had four wheels on it and it was supposed to represent an automobile and boy there was a crowd around that thing all the time looking at it. It wouldn’t run. They had to pull it around when they wanted to move it and there wasn’t an engine or anything of that kind but it made a hit. Just goes to show how things were changed since that time.”
We’ll pause in between things to catch up on a Calendar of Events in the region this week, with special attention paid to events that emphasize heritage and local color.
There are family reunions and more family reunions in Alabama, but how many can claim their very own cove, complete with a pavilion in case of rain or a too enthusiastic sun? Furthermore how many have their very own museum? Or a commercial picture postcard with their name and a picture of the ancestral home site? John R. Kennamer, Sr organized the first Kennamer family reunion in 1929, and it’s still held today. Let’s listen in on how that first reunion unfolded.
Johnny Cash called the 1927 Bristol Sessions “the Big Bang of country music.” It’s a great sound bite, but it wildly oversimplifies the truth. Fiddlin’ John Carson, Uncle Dave Macon, Vernon Dalhart, Frank Hutchison, Ernest Stoneman, the Skillet Lickers, Riley Puckett and Charlie Poole were already established recording artists by the summer of 1927. We’ll poke around behind the scenes a bit to see what was bubbling up in country music prior to those famous Bristol Sessions.
We’ll wrap things up with a snippet from the memoirs of one R.D. Murphy Sr., who lived in Buchanan County, VA from 1867-1956. He was a farmer by profession, but was fascinated with the idea of Perpetual Motion, which was popular in the early 20th century. “I have always said that it could be made and would be made some time,” he concludes. “I have it so near completed at present that I know it can be finished and will be finished in the near future. If I don’t get it done myself, I hope that some of my posterity will finish it. I know science says that it can’t be done, but I say that it can be done, and will be done.”
And, thanks to the good folks at the Blue Ridge Institute Archives, we’ll be able to enjoy some authentic Appalachian music from Charles Edward Harris in a 1977 recording of Gather at the River.
So, call your old Plott hound up on the porch, fire up your corn-cob pipe, and settle in for a dose of Appalachian History.