Appalachian Music Fellowship 8

Berea College Appalachian Music Fellowship

Day 8, June 10, 2009

Today I read some of the letters and contract agreements John Lair made with performers who worked (or wanted to work) on the Renfro Valley Barn Dance. In 1941, Cousin Emmy was working on WNOX-Knoxville’s Mid-Day Merry Go Round Show but she could not get along with Lowell Blanchard, the announcer/producer. In a letter she wrote to John Lair in February 1941 (handwritten, in pencil, on blue stationery), asking Lair for a job, she says: “I can tell he [Blanchard] had ruther not have me here. But he cant very well fire me with out some reson. He wanted two much of a cut.” Lair wouldn’t help her either, probably because she had a pretty fiery reputation as an independent, business-minded woman.

In another letter dated August 1937, Evelyn Lange (soon to be Daisy of the Coon Creek Girls) wrote this to Lair: “I’m writing to you once again to say I’m still craving a job at your station.” She goes on to describe how she has been practicing all summer and feels “now that I am just as good a guitar player as I am a fiddler.” She closes by promising to see the WLS Barn Dance players who are coming to Ohio for a county fair appearance and asks: “May I hear from you and the prospects of a job at W.L.S.?” Lair didn’t hire Lange until 1939.

–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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