Appalachian Music Fellowship 2

Berea College Appalachian Music Fellowship

Day 2, June 2, 2009

Lily May Ledford devoted her musical life and talents to the strict (some say parsimonious) control of producer John Lair, who kept her out of the national limelight and decked out in calico, and cut her pay when she agreed to move with him from WLS National Barn Dance Radio in Chicago to the Renfro Valley Barn Dance (first in Cincinnati, then in Mt. Vernon, Ky) in 1939). By 1977, Lily May Ledford was sick with rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes and in dire financial stress.

Today I read the sad letters she wrote to a musician friend in late 1977. One says: “We are in poor circumstances financially this month and next two or three. I’ve begged & borrowed so much, but should draw quite a sum of back money I’ve been ill so long. . . .In the mean time I am being dragged around to every place of human resources & it looks as tho I may get food stamps but so far no medical aid that’s what I need now so badly. . . . I wonder if you did your fall tour Oh Lord! how I wish I was out of this bed and right in that van with you.”

I also found the menu for the White House Dinner for King George VI and Queen Elizabeth I in 1939 (see Day 1). The Coon Creek Girls performed at the “Program of American Music” later that evening, but were not invited to supper. Would you eat this?
“The dinner set before the assemblage included clam cocktail, calf’s head soup, terrapin, corn sticks, boned capon, cranberry sauce, peas, buttered beets, sweet potato cones, frozen cheese and cress salad, maple and almond ice cream, white pound cake, and coffee.”

–from the Berea College Special Collections, Hutchins Library

Published by Marianne Worthington

Marianne Worthington is a poet, editor, and co-founder of Still: The Journal, an online literary magazine publishing writers, artists, and musicians with ties to the Appalachian region since 2009. She received the Al Smith Fellowship from the Kentucky Arts Council and the Appalachian Book of the Year Award for her poetry chapbook, Larger Bodies Than Mine. She was awarded grants from the Kentucky Foundation for Women and the Appalachian Sound Archives Fellowship at Berea College. She co-edited, with Silas House, Piano in a Sycamore: Writing Lessons from the Appalachian Writers’ Workshop, a writing craft anthology from teachers at the Appalachian Writers’ Workshop from the last 40 years. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Oxford American, CALYX, Grist, Shenandoah, The Louisville Review, Appalachian Review, Cheap Pop, and Chapter 16, among other places. She lives in Williamsburg, Kentucky, and teaches communication studies, media writing, and journalism at University of the Cumberlands. Her poetry collection, The Girl Singer, is available from University Press of Kentucky, 2021.

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