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July 9, 2009

The Great Grapevine Giveaway! - Ola Belle Reed

Way back in May, I received and posted this email:

Greetings from Smithsonian Folkways Recordings,

Smithsonian Folkways Recordings is the nonprofit record label of the Smithsonian Institution, the national museum of the United States. We are dedicated to supporting cultural diversity and increased understanding among people through the documentation, preservation, and dissemination of sound.

From reviewing your website, we think a recent episode of “Tapestry of Times”, a new weekly radio program and podcast form WYPR public radio in Baltimore that explores the Smithsonian Folkways collection, would be of interest to your users. The episode, entitled “Ola Belle Reed: An Enduring Legacy” ( is online now and takes an in-depth look into the life and legacy of Ola Belle Reed, the influential singer/songwriter/instrumentalist, with testimonials, interviews, and original on-site recordings. It’s a must-listen for any fans of Ola Belle Reed, bluegrass, and old-time music, or compelling storytelling in general. The show is available for free stream or download, via the podcast.

Listen to the podcast: (

Watch the video: (

See Ola Belle Reed’s Albums at Smithsonian Folkways (still in print!): ('phrase')

With your blessing, we’d like to post the above note to your message board or forum. Alternatively, you can post this on our behalf. Our goal is to spread the word about this tribute to Ola Belle Reed and Tapestry of the Times ( In addition, we’d like to offer your listeners a discount code on any Ola Belle Reed recording from Smithsonian Folkways. Just enter “OlaBelleReed09” to save 20% off either CDs or Digital Downloads. Lastly, if you’d like a copy of an Ola Belle Reed CD to give away to one of your members as a contest, just let us know!

Please contact us if this interests you. Thank you very much for your time and consideration, and we look forward to hearing from you.

Based on readers' interest, I replied and asked for a CD to give away. And then a couple weeks later I got this email:

This is Tanesia North, with Smithsonian Folkways. Again, we at Smithsonian Folkways would like to thank you! I just wanted to let you know that we’ll be sending the CDs out to you today. You’ll be receiving one copy each of “All In One Evening”- Ola Belle Reed, “Epitaph”-Ola Belle Reed and “Classic Mountain Songs”-Various. Although this allows for three people at most to win a CD, we’d like to encourage you and your users to take advantage of the discount code on any Ola Belle Reed recording from Smithsonian Folkways. Just enter “OlaBelleReed09” to save 20% off either CDs or digital downloads.

I got the CDs a few weeks ago and I was trying to figure out some sort of quiz to give to you suckers readers, with which to make some sort of fair-seeming method to distribute said items.
Well, I couldn't think of anything trivia-related so I'm going to do it this way:

You may all send me an email (see my profile for the address).
In this email, say which of the CDs you'd like.
You can also tell me:
  1. why you want it
  2. some story or fact about Ola Belle or other affiliated folks, that you think might interest me and that I don't already know
  3. how beautiful, strange, haunting, etc. old time mountain ballad singers are, and how desperately you need to have this one in your collection
  4. who the hell this Kevin Roth fellow is and why he gets to cheese-up the All in One Evening album with his sensitive singer-songwriting antics/aesthetics
  5. something else that will liven up my inbox and entertain me, or at least be worth the amount of time it takes to read
The "contest" ends on Friday, July 17. Please get your emails in before then. You have a week.

Oh, and if you don't know how awesome Ola Belle Reed (and Classic Mountain Songs) is, read below:

Ola Belle Reed
Biography by John Lupton

Take a stroll through the campground at just about any festival -- folk, bluegrass, old time, Celtic, or any mixture -- and at some point it's a good bet that a haunting refrain will drift into consciousness from a nearby jam or song circle: "High on a mountain, standing all alone, Wond'ring where the years of my life have gone" To some, it's a timeless line from a song that must certainly be at least a hundred years or more old. To others, it speaks of the new age mysticism and introspection of the latter-day singer/songwriter. The truth is somewhere between. "High on a Mountain," along with many other classic folk and country songs, came from the fertile mind- and soul-searching lyricism of North Carolina native Old Belle Reed. Popular among old time country and bluegrass audiences for decades, the '90s saw her music gaining currency in Nashville and points beyond as well. Ola Belle Campbell was one of thirteen children of Arthur Campbell, whose family had lived in the New River Valley of the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina since colonial times. Born into a musical family in 1916, Ola Belle learned to play guitar and clawhammer banjo as a young child, coming to love not only the old traditional tunes taught to her by her parents, but also the early country music on radio and 78-rpm discs which were making their way into the mountains. In her teenage years, she first teamed with her brother Alex in an early version of the North Carolina Ridge Runners. Like many Blue Ridge residents during the Depression years, Arthur Campbell left the mountains and moved north looking for work, taking his family with him and eventually settling in the region along the Mason-Dixon Line where Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania come together. Alex Campbell saw military service in the Normandy invasion, and was later heard on Armed Forces Radio during the Occupation as part of Grandpa Jones' Munich Mountaineers. Returning home after his discharge from the service, Alex and Ola Belle teamed up for what would be a long-running radio pairing that would be heard live and in syndication over much of the country on a number of stations, including Wheeling, WV's WWVA, which for many years was a powerful rival to Nashville's WSM for the country audience. In 1949, Ola Belle married Bud Reed (himself a noted country singer), and with Alex Campbell they formed the New River Boys and opened New River Ranch near Rising Sun, MD, one of the premier country music parks of the '50s. Around 1960, they closed New River Ranch and moved a short distance up U.S. Route 1, across the Pennsylvania border to Sunset Park near West Grove, where they performed regularly for another 26 years. As interest in old time and early country music revived during the '70s, Ola Belle and her family (now including son David Reed) found enthusiastic audiences for their brand of music at events like the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and the Brandywine Mountain Music Convention. Many of the songs she had written and performed on radio over the years also began to be recorded widely. Early in his career leading his own band, Del McCoury (a resident of nearby Gettysburg, and for many years a regular at Sunset Park) made "High on a Mountain," a bluegrass standard. Farther west, out in Minnesota, Stoney Lonesome (fronted by the Prairie Home Companion favorite, Kate MacKenzie) recorded Ola Belle's "I've Endured" in the late '80s, and the Ohio-based husband/wife duet singers Ann and Phil Case made her "The Springtime of Life" the title track of their widely acclaimed 1996 debut CD. In 1995, Ola Belle struck Nashville gold when Marty Stuart's rendition of "High on a Mountain" settled in for an extended stay on the country charts. In 1986, Ola Belle Reed received long overdue recognition for her contributions to American folk music and culture when she was named recipient of a National Heritage Fellowship. A year or so later, her career as a songwriter and performer was brought to an abrupt end when she suffered a severe stroke that left her an invalid. Still surrounded by loving family and friends (including brother Alex), though, she continued to live in Rising Sun, enjoying the occasions when she heard her own songs still being played on country radio. In February, 1999, she and Bud celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.

A Life of Music, Love and Inspiration

Ola Belle Reed was born Ola Wave Campbell on August 17, 1916, in Grassy Creek, Ashe County, North Carolina. She was one of thirteen children born to Arthur Harrison Campbell and Ella May Osborne Campbell. The Campbell family ancestors had moved to the New River Valley of Western North Carolina sometime around the 1760’s. Arthur Harrison was an educated man who spent his life as a school teacher. He also owned a general store and was a dedicated farmer during summer months on his farm. The Great Depression brought a huge economic burden on the large Campbell family, and they followed many Appalachian mountain people to Chester County, Pennsylvania and then on to Cecil County, Maryland, where there was fertile farmland and it seemed easier to secure jobs. Music was an integral part of the cultural heritage on both sides of Ola Belle’s family. Her grandfather Alexander Bolivar Campbell was a early Primitive Baptist preacher and an accomplished fiddle player. Her father played fiddle, banjo, guitar, and organ and formed a string band, The New River Boys and Girls with his brother Oliver Dockery , known as “Doc” and sister Ellen in 1910. An uncle, on her mother’s side, Herb Osborne, sang mining songs made popular in the coalmines of West Virginia. Her grandmother and mother sang ballads and topical songs in the traditional Appalachian style. In 1936, Ola Belle began performing professionally as a member of the North Carolina Ridge Runners, one of the first hillbilly bands of the Delaware-Maryland area. She played old-time banjo and guitar and sang for the Appalachian area audiences from 1936 to 1948. By the mid-1930s, scores of music parks and picnic grounds had been established throughout the region, each with a sizable audience and concession money to pay and feed the house band. "Back home in the summertime we had carnivals - they were the main thing - and little parks," Ola Belle said. "They were so little that the few times the Ridge Runners played down there, we would be the only show there. I remember one time we came back on a Monday after playing one of these parks.... We played every half-hour all day till the park closed. Up here the parks were bigger and there were more of them, especially in Pennsylvania. There weren't big music parks like that back home." In 1945, Ola Belle was offered more than $100 per week, quite a good sum in those days, to join country music legend Roy Acuff‘s band and backup group. Ola Belle declined the offer. After Ola Belle’s brother, Alex, returned from World War II in which he served in the Army and was wounded during the invasion of Normandy Beach, he joined the North Carolina Ridge Runners. In 1948, he and Ola Belle became a musical team and formed their own country music band, named The New River Boys, a name derived from the group formed earlier by Ola Belle’s father. Alex Campbell, Ola Belle and The New River Boys broadcast over the radio on WASA in Havre De Grace, Maryland. The New River Boys consisted of Alex Campbell, who sang, played guitar and some fiddle, Ola Belle, who also sang and played banjo and guitar, Deacon Brumfield on the Dobro, Ted Lundy on the 5-string Banjo, John Jackson on the fiddle and Earl Wallace on the upright string bass. The group built a strong following and they were featured on many radio programs over WCOJ in Coatesville, Pennsylvania and WBMO in Baltimore, Maryland. Alex and Ola Belle wrote over 200 songs and played hundreds more traditional songs that were featured over many other radio stations in the United States. In addition to performing, the group sponsored many musical programs at a country music park called New River Ranch, near Rising Sun, Maryland. New River Ranch was one of the most active country music parks, bringing big-named Bluegrass and Country music stars to the area, along with featuring a vast amount of local talent. In 1960, the group transferred to Sunset Park, in West Grove, Pennsylvania, where the group built quite a reputation as one of the quintessential Country Music performance parks. The group performed there for 26 years, broadcasting their own Sunday radio program live from the park. In the mid-1960’s the group was receiving national exposure on radio station WWVA in Wheeling, West Virginia. The group was heard throughout the entire eastern United States and even into Canada.In addition to all of the radio and personal appearances, Ola Belle and Alex operated Campbell’s Corner, a general store in Oxford, Pennsylvania which, in addition to general merchandise and groceries, sold Country and Gospel records and in the back of the store was a performance stage and a radio booth which Alex used to transmit his popular radio programs. Alex bought time from the large radio stations and broadcast remotely from the store. Alex was considered one of the best “pitchmen” in the radio industry. Alex and Ola Belle were on over 200 radio stations at one time and also made numerous appearances at local TV stations and musical festivals. Alex retired in 1984 but continued to keep himself busy transmitting his programs on radio station WGCB in Red Lion, Pennsylvania. He still spent much time at Sunset Park and in mail-order record sales.In 1949, Ola Belle married Ralph “Bud” Reed, who was also an accomplished local area musical performer.Ola Belle continued to perform music with her family, including her husband and son David, often at informal gatherings she organized for her neighbors and friends. "I remember one time we were having a gathering," she said. "Everyone was coming ... we bought a new linoleum rug for the kitchen ... and we played and they danced round and round. ... And I'll never forget, next morning - we never noticed it at the time - next morning, there was nothing left but black. They wore the whole top off." Through the years, Ola Belle wrote many, many songs about her Appalachian past and her commitment to family traditions, religious values, and social justice. In 1978, the University of Maryland awarded her with an honorary doctorate of letters for her contributions to the arts and culture of Maryland and the United States. She was also recognized for her historical and musical contributions by The Smithsonian Institute, The Library of Congress and The Country Music Association.In 1987, Ola Belle suffered a stroke and she was bed-ridden until her death on August 16, 2002. She passed away one day before her 86th birthday.In 1992, country music star Marty Stuart introduced his version of Ola Belle’s song “High On A Mountain” on his “This One‘s Gonna Hurt You“ album, which earned Stuart and Ola Belle a Gold Record. Ola Belle’s autobiographical song "I've Endured" perhaps best sums up her personal tenacity: "I've worked for the rich, I've lived with the poor; Lord, I've seen many a heartache, there'll be many more; I've lived, loved and sorrowed, been to success's door; I've endured, I've endured."

Ola Belle Reed - My Epitaph

Year: 1976
Label: Smithsonian Folkways

Banjo player and singer Ola Belle Reed created this album and its accompanying notes as an autobiography, a document that describes her childhood in the mountains, her experiences, and her opinions about modern life. Produced by Kevin Roth, one of Reed's protégés, this recording is based on a live interview conducted in 1976.

Buy it here.
Promo Discount Code: OlaBelleReed09

All in One Evening - Ola Belle and Bud Reed with Kevin Roth

Ola Belle and Bud Reed's Pennsylvania home was a haven for young musicians, a place where picking, singing, and good company soothed the sting of hard times. The Reeds, joined by Kevin Roth, recorded this album of traditional and original songs one evening in 1977.

Buy it here
Promo Discount Code: OlaBelleReed09

Classic Mountain Songs from Smithsonian Folkways

Year: 2002

Riding the wave of the renewed interest in traditional American music, Classic Mountain Songs From Smithsonian Folkways Recordings showcases a handful of the greatest mountain ballads as performed by some of the most influential folk singers and songwriters of the 20th century. This collection features many classic performances from a wide variety of regional instrumental and song styles. These diverse styles and songs from the mountain communities of North Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee include old-time fiddle and banjo pieces, early bluegrass, and traditional ballads, with a special emphasis on Appalachian vocal traditions. Doc and Merle Watson, Roscoe Holcomb, Clarence Ashley, and Dock Boggs are just a few of the revered roots artists who appear on this stellar compilation. This album is essential for both old and new fans of American mountain music. Compiled and annotated by Jeff Place.

Buy it here.
Promo Discount Code: OlaBelleReed09

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Not going to try for the competition, I think there are others who deserve it more., but how cool is it to get to give away Smithsonian stuff!
Great blog, love your work.