New Feature: Open Page(s)!

Have requests?  Comments?  Suggestions?  Now you can post them here on the new

Paper and Pen

page.  Just look at the menu below the header picture, and click on the page.  You can post your comments and discuss the comments of others.  If the page gets too long, I’ll just add a new one.  Try it!  /Cousin Lynn

UPDATE: Not many taking advantage of this new feature yet, so I’m making it a ‘sticky’ post for a while. /CL

UPDATE 2: Some are confusing this announcement post with the post on the actual Pen and Paper page.  Unfortunately, the free version of WordPress does not allow me to move comments, so I am closing comments here.

To comment on the Pen and Paper page, go to that page (click on the Pen and Paper menu heading, below the picture of the studio at top), scroll down to the end of the Comments, and add yours.  Newest comments are always at the bottom.  /CL

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It’s Opening Day—Time for “The Red Sox Song”!

Yes, we should be playing it tomorrow (the 5th).  The Red Sox lost their first game today, but it was a day of much ceremony and significance (with remembrances of the two firemen who died just a few days ago on Beacon St., and the Boston Marathon bombing still too recent; and, of course, the World Series win last fall), all masterfully described by Chad Finn, here:  Red Sox drop home opener, but no matter, for there was so much worth celebrating

But I’m staying home, HAH will be pre-recorded (see here), so “The Red Sox Song” will have to wait until next week.  Except for a few years when we lost the single, we’ve been playing Pine Tree John and the Designated Hitters since the record was released back in 1976.  From Wikipedia:

The Red Sox Song was written about the Boston Red Sox right after the 1975 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. It was written, copyrighted and published (BMI) in 1976 by Wayne Ulaky, a founding member of the rock band The Beacon Street Union.

Wayne Ulaky produced the recording with studio musicians under the fictitious name of Pine Tree John and the Designated Hitters. The lead vocal was performed by John Lincoln Wright, also a former member of the Beacon Street Union.

The recording was pressed into 45 rpm records and released as a single. It was played occasionally on many radio stations around New England, and appeared in many juke boxes in night clubs at the time. Boston TV channel 38 (WSBK) was broadcasting the Red Sox home games that year, and used The Red Sox Song (A Day In Fenway Park) as a theme song for their promotional video about upcoming game broadcasts. It was also played occasionally at Fenway Park by organist John Kiley.

The song was sold in a few record stores around greater Boston, including the Strawberries music chain. It was also sold at Twins souvenir shop on Yawkey Way next to Fenway Park.

Fortunately, someone called ‘Fenway146891427′ has uploaded the single to YouTube, so here it is:

 

 

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Terry Eagan Presents His 18th Annual Healing Garden Music Fest

It’s been almost two decades since Terry Eagan began his series of music festivals to raise funds for Healing Garden patios for cancer patients.  The first Healing Garden was at Waltham Hospital (now Children’s Hospital Boston at Waltham); others are underway or planned for Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge and hospitals in Canada.  See the list here.

The annual music festivals have always included fine local musicians as well as guests from Canada and (more recently) Nashville.  This year Jennifer McCarter, of the fabulous McCarter Sisters, will headline.  With any luck, we may be able to get her and guitarist Scott Neubert down to Hillbilly at Harvard on April 26th, to play live in the studio.

“The Sourmash Special Guesters Band” are essentially a combination of top pickers and singers from John Lincoln Wright’s Sourmash Boys (and girls), and from The Country Masters, who regularly hold forth in Waltham.  Also on the bill is Canadian Todd Sterling, who has a new album produced by Scott Neubert.

It’s all happening Sunday, April 27th at 2 PM at the French American Victory Club in Waltham.  All the details about the Healing Garden Country Music Fest are here (click on this link).

Great music, in a great cause. /CL

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Thyroidectomy Update

Endotracheal tube (from Wikipedia)

“I’ll be back on April 5th, for sure.”  That’s what I said.  But “The best laid plans. . .”

While Dr. Randolph says my vocal nerves are fine, and while his (expert) attack on my neck is healing up, I’ve still got a very sore throat, painful cough, and hoarse voice.  I think a virus may have exacerbated the damage from the endotracheal tube, though that’s not an official medical opinion.

So after much fence-sitting, I’ve decided to take another Saturday off.  But never fear: you’ll still be treated to (almost) “Four hours of the very best of that good old-time, down-to-Earth, country music”—and less talk!

I’ll put some of the calendar notices I get by email on the Country Calendar Page, so go there to see what’s happening.  And I’ll be back on the 12th, for sure!

Special thanks to David Elliott for putting these pre-recorded shows together. /CL

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Crescent Moon and Morning Star

Moon and Evening Star

Taken with my iPhone from the 11th Floor window of my overnight room at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear building, after I was awakened at 5 AM Thursday for ‘vitals’ or something.  As Larry Flint tells me, “Hospitals are not for sleeping.”  Not a great photo, complete with smudges from the window, but the sight of the crescent Moon and Venus in the morning was worth waking up for.

Fortunately, it was only one night in the hospital; I’m now back on the river in Saxonville with one less thyroid gland (yes, we have only one each, though with two lobes, so some people lose only half).  It was extracted by Dr. Gregory Randolph, acknowledged by everyone at Mass Eye and Ear as “The best.”  Dr. Randolph is a developer of  “recurrent laryngeal nerve (RLN) monitoring during thyroid surgery,” which (as his audiologist explained to me before the procedure) enables the surgeon to identify and avoid damaging the nerves to the vocal chords in the larynx, a common risk in thyroid surgery.  But though I can talk, I’m pretty hoarse from the endotracheal (or breathing) tube, so as I mentioned on the show last Saturday, tomorrow’s will be pre-recorded.  I’ll be back on April 5th, for sure.

Looking at the lunar calendar, I see that what I thought was a waxing crescent moon was actually a waning one.  Nevertheless, I thought of it as a New Moon, which should be quite dark, but clearly the one in the great old song written by Governor Jimmy Davis (first recorded by Tex Ritter) was plenty visible:

“There’s a New Moon Over My Shoulder”

Click on the title if the YouTube video doesn’t show up.  I’m never sure why sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t. /CL

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Lightning Struck Twice

UPDATE: Snopes has also declared the video a fake, and includes a demonstration video that shows how it  was done: Double Trouble.

_________________

There’s a YouTube video getting some currency, showing a fellow hit by lightning twice in a couple of minutes.  Astonishingly, he gets up and walks away each time:

It’s almost certainly a fake, as he wouldn’t be getting up after a direct hit:

http://www.livescience.com/13946-lightning-strike-survivor-video-hoax.html

But that reminded me of a recitation by Curtis Leach we used to play back when the WHRB studio was in the basement of Memorial Hall.  It was called “Lightning Struck Twice.”  Unfortunately, the single disappeared many years ago.  But to my delight, some enterprising fellow has posted it on YouTube:

Hillbilly-Music.com has an article about Curtis Leach (just click on that link).  From the article:

. . . Dewey Groom, owner of Saran Music publishing company and Longhorn Records mentioned to Mr. Cooper that Bobby Bare was going to record three tunes written by Curtis – “Big Railroad Man”, “Two Sinners”, and “Lightning Strikes Twice”. It was said that Tex Ritter was set to record a tune called “Ginny Pour The Wine”, said to be a gunfighter ballad.

One of Leach’s first recordings was a tune he did called “The Highway Man”. He was co-writer on two tunes that Phil Baugh recorded on Longhorn Records as well – “One Man Band” and “Country Guitar” – sharing songwriting credits with Phil Baugh.

All told, Texas Jim Cooper mentions that Curtis Leach left behind about 20 recordings. Ten of which originally appeared in a Longhorn LP which was titled “The Indescribable Curtis Leach” – which summed up the difficulty they had coming up with a title for the album.

On December 14, 1965 in Mesquite, Texas, the musical career and life of Curtis Leach came to a tragic end and many are left to wonder what may have been if he had lived on.

His death was even reported by the New York Times, via UPI. The article reports that he was stabbed in his left leg. The cut severed an artery and Mr. Leach was said to have died on the way to the hospital. The article noted that no arrests had been made at the time.

Dewey Groom noted, “I think his name will be immortal, like that of Hank Williams. Curtis was a genius and left enough writing to take care of his children.”

Mr. Cooper also tells the readers that other notable songwriters such as Willie Nelson and Hank Thompson felt Curtis was “…unique as a master of the musical word.”

“Lightning Struck Twice,” but only once for Curtis Leach.

Hat tip to Paul F. and Sam3 on the MacResource Forum for the lightning-video hoax and the Live Science link; and to Speedy for the Snopes Update above. /CL

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Time for the JVF!

From Gerry Katz at the BBU:

29th Joe Val Bluegrass Festival, February 14 – 16, at the Sheraton Framingham Hotel, Framingham, MA

Master Classes and Fast Track Classes

Details on www.bbu.org

Main Stage

Main Stage lineup is now posted. I think you’ll agree that we have a pretty stout lineup of familiar friends, new faces and a couple chestnuts thrown in for good measure.

Just a few of the Main Stage highlights – Here are just a few of the exciting things on tap. . .

·         The Gibson Brothers – Two time and reigning IBMA Entertainers of the Year, Eric Gibson was named Songwriter of the Year, Vocal Group of the Year as well as Song of the Year for “They Called it Music” written by Gibson and Newberry. This will be their first Joe Val appearance with Jesse Brock on mandolin. Gibson Brothers – They Call It Music EPK

·         Blue Highway – just released The Game on Rounder Records. Blue Highway at Joe Val – Monrobro, Blue Highway  – Some Day

·         Junior Sisk and Ramblers Choice – Junior’s the 2013 IBMA Male Vocalist of the Year and will present his brand of hard driving, traditional bluegrass.

·         Russell Moore and IIIrd Tyme OutBillboard Magazine has released it’s Best Of 2013: The Year In Music, documenting the best-selling albums for the year, including the Top 15 Bluegrass Albums. Timeless Hits From The Past Bluegrassed, the latest release from Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out, ranks #5 alongside artists such as Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, Alan Jackson, and Old Crowe Medicine Show. Russell Moore and IIIrd Tyme Out – Old Home Place

·         Spinney Brothers – having a breakout year, IBMA Emerging Artist Nominee, the #1 Album again this month on the Bluegrass Unlimited charts with their newly released project No Borders, and they also have the #1 song on the chart with  “Grandpa’s Way of Life,” from their album on Mountain Fever Records. Spinney Brothers – Grandpa’s Way of Life

·         Desert Rose Band – A rare area appearance from Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Chris Hillman, along with bandmates Herb Pederson, John Jorgenson and Bill Bryson. They will perform all the DRB hits (“He’s Back and I’m Blue,” “One Step Forward,” “I Still Believe In You,” “Ashes of Love,” “She Don’t Love Nobody,” “Love Reunited”) and a healthy dose of classics from Hillman’s Byrds/Gram Parsons/Flying Burrito Brothers era (“Wheels,” “Sin City”) as well.  Desert Rose Band – Love Reunited, The Byrds – So You Want to be a Rockin Roll Star

·         Balsam Range – First time at Joe Val.  Winner of the 2013 IBMA Album of the Year for “Papertown” and 2012 IBMA Song of the Year for “Trains I Missed.” Balsam Range – Papertown

Showcase Stage

This fan favorite continues to expand, both in a larger venue as well as in terms of an expanded lineup.

Workshop Schedule

BBU education staff are still hard at work on the sixty or so workshops and directed jams planned for this year’s festival. . .

Vendors

We’ll have over a dozen vendor covering all your bluegrass needs and much more.

All the details on these festival activities available via www.bbu.org

And, if you get this far, you deserve an ode to my dog the Duke of Cambridge – Desert Rose Band -  Hello Trouble

All the best,

Gerry Katz

Boston Bluegrass Union

29th Joe Val Bluegrass Festival

February 14 – 16, 2014

USATODAY picked Joe Val as one of Ten Great Places to Go to Bluegrass Festivals

PS Notice the new logo above!

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The Montreal Express

During the latest cold snap, as I tired of frantic media references to a “polar vortex,”* I was reminded that here in New England it used to be called the “Montreal Express,” and that we had a song called “Montreal Express,” by Al Sears and his Countrymen, issued as a promotional one-sided single by the Boston Gas Company (now less memorably part of NStar). A short version appeared in a one-minute radio commercial featuring the great Dick Curless.  Our CDR copy came from Gordy Brown, who writes:

I used to play this record on cold blistery days of Winter and on annual Christmas Shows on WHRB Boston’s Hillbilly at Harvard, WCAV (Brockton’s) Homegrown Tomatoes and MIT and BC country shows.

There was a series of radio commercials written by Courtney Crandall (who wrote many memorable commercials back when) for Boston Gas, which became very popular. The Dick Curless commercial Courtney sent me, I sent to Bear Family and it is included in one of the first Curless Box Sets. [Note: You can buy the Curless Boston Gas commercial on Amazon.]

Courtney Crandall wrote the longer version and the one-sider you played was used as a fund raiser for some non-profit. I believe there were only 500 copies pressed.

Al Sears was a folk singer from Middleboro, MA. Names of the backup band escape me. Mass. Hall of Fame fiddler Herb Hooven called in years ago to say he and one of the Lilly Brothers were in the group, but memory fails on complete group.

—Gordon Brown, Founder NE Country Music Historical Soc.

Fortunately a public-spirited person called ‘HistoryBoston’ has posted the song on YouTube, along with a photo of the label:

* For those who may be interested in the history of much-hyped “polar vortex” and how it works, here’s a long discussion by Dr. Tim Ball: “It’s The Circumpolar Vortex Not The Polar Vortex And Other PR Deceptions.”

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Off to Maryland for My Mother’s 100th Birthday

My mother, Mildred Appelbaum Joiner, as a teenager (date uncertain).

My mother, Mildred Appelbaum Joiner, as a teenager (date uncertain).

Hillbilly at Harvard will be pre-recorded this Saturday (the 18th), as Dr. Janie and I will be heading south Thursday morning, to join with other family members to celebrate my mother’s 100th birthday.  Her eyesight’s unhappily gone, but she still listens to the radio (classical music and opera), and is still pretty articulate, especially when you get her talking about growing up in her immigrant family from Minsk (Belarus); she was the youngest of eight siblings, seven sisters and one brother.  She likes to say that there were three important events that distinguished 1914: “World War I began; the Panama Canal was finished; and I was born.”

We’ll be taking on Amtrak’s Northeast Regional Train No. 93 to Washington, DC’s Union Station, returning on Monday the 20th on No. 164 (for those who keep track of such things, 164 is the weekend version of 174, but is running Monday because it’s a holiday: Martin Luther King’s birthday).  Why am I burdening listeners and readers with such trivia?  Because you never know—there might be a railfan amongst you!

Thanks to WHRB’s indefatigable David Elliott for mixing and matching the pre-recorded hours so they’ll be fresh.  You may have heard one or two in the past, but it was probably a good while ago.

Amtrak AEM-7 electric motor no. 944 pulling Northeast Regional Train 93 southbound into the Route 128 station, 10Oct13. We’re taking the same train this trip. (Photo copyright © L. E. Joiner 2013)

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Phil Everly (1939–2014)

The Everly Brothers
By Bruno of Hollywood [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

We never have played much by The Everly Brothers on Hillbilly at Harvard.  Though they were certainly at the level of The Louvin Brothers as a country duet, and their roots were undeniably as country as it gets, they were playing rock ‘n’ roll.  To tell the truth, growing up I heard a lot more Everly Brothers than I did any country music.  Driving around in my dad’s red ’54 Ford convertible in Maryland, what I listened to was Bill Haley, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, and the Everly Brothers.  Were there any lyrics more titillating for teenagers than “Wake Up Little Susie” and “Bird Dog”?

That being said, country music, and all music, has suffered a great loss with the death of half of The Everly Brothers, younger brother and harmony singer Phil.

Here’s Jon Pareles in The New York Times:

Phil Everly, Half of a Pioneer Rock Duo That Inspired Generations, Dies at 74

Phil Everly, whose hits with his older brother, Don, as the Everly Brothers carried the close fraternal harmonies of country tradition into pioneering rock ‘n’ roll, died on Friday in Burbank, Calif. He was 74.

The group’s official website said he died in a hospital near his home in Southern California. His son Jason said the cause of death was complications of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
With songs like “Wake Up Little Susie,” “Bye Bye Love,” “Cathy’s Clown,” “All I Have to Do Is Dream” and “When Will I Be Loved?,” which was written by Phil Everly, the brothers were consistent hitmakers in the late 1950s and early 1960s. They won over country, pop and even R&B listeners with a combination of clean-cut vocals and the rockabilly strum and twang of their guitars. . .

Here’s Randy Lewis in The Los Angeles Times:

Phil Everly dies at 74; half of vocal duo the Everly Brothers:
The Everlys charted nearly three dozen hits in the late ’50s and early ’60s, among them ‘Bye Bye Love’ and ‘When Will I Be Loved.’ Their harmonies influenced the Beatles and Beach Boys.

Philip Everly was born Jan. 19, 1939, in Chicago, about two weeks before older brother Don turned 2. The children of two musicians, Ike and Margaret Everly, Phil and Don early on began singing on their parents’ radio show in Iowa.
The family moved through the South and Midwest, landing radio shows in different cities until the rise of television began to supplant radio as the preferred medium for entertainment.
The brothers credited Ike with teaching them all they knew about music. Ike Everly was an accomplished guitarist who reportedly influenced country guitar legends, including Merle Travis and Chet Atkins, and facilitated his sons’ recording career by introducing them to famed guitarist and talent scout Atkins when they were in their early teens.
Atkins connected them with Wesley Rose of Nashville’s famed Acuff-Rose Publishing, and Rose offered to get them a recording contract if they would sign to Acuff-Rose as songwriters. Rose introduced them to Archie Bleyer, who signed them to his New York-based Cadence Records label, and it wasn’t long before the hits began to flow.
“The Everlys took the country brother duet tradition one step farther,” historian Colin Escott wrote in the 2012 second edition of the Encyclopedia of Country Music. “They added Bo Diddley riffs, teenage anxieties and sharkskin suits, but — for all that — the core of their sound remained country brother harmony.”
A year after the family moved from Knoxville, Tenn., to Nashville in 1955, the Everly Brothers rocketed to No. 2 on the pop charts with “Bye Bye Love,” a song by Nashville husband-wife songwriting team of Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, the first of many songs by the Bryants that the Everlys would record, including “Wake Up Little Susie,” “Bird Dog,” “Problems” and “All I Have to Do Is Dream.”
Those songs are now perceived as remnants of a more innocent age, but “Wake Up Little Susie” was banned from many radio stations because its story of two teenagers being out together into the wee hours was considered too racy.
“It didn’t even enter our minds that anybody could object to it,” Phil recalled in 1984. “But if we’d called a press conference to deny it, nobody would have shown up. They were all off listening to big bands.”

There are a lot of Everly Brothers videos on YouTube.  But there’s a TNN documentary film called “The Life and Times of The Everly Brothers” (42:37) that I recommend highly.  It’s very well done; the only thing missing is an interview with brother Phil—Don does all the talking for the brothers:

/CL

UPDATE: Bob Greene, on CNN’s website, recounts how he and others regarded the harmonies of The Everly Brothers: “Something not entirely of this Earth.”

“He’s so good,” Phil Everly said.

We were sitting in a corner booth at a rural cafeteria in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky.
Phil was talking about his older brother, Don. Having spent time with the Everly Brothers on the rock-and-roll road over the years, I had long noticed something:

Whenever they were performing, Phil fastened his eyes right on Don’s. As they were creating their heartbreaking harmonies, he seldom looked away. I didn’t want to ask him about that in front of his brother, but, with just the two of us there, I did.
“I have to pay attention every second with my harmonies,” Phil said. “It’s like playing tennis with someone who is really great. You can’t let your mind wander for even a microsecond, or you’ll be left behind.”

When Phil died this month at the age of 74, I recalled that conversation. I first met him and Don during my years on tour with Jan and Dean; there were occasions when we found ourselves as part of shows at the same venues, sharing the same backstage areas, dining at the same pre-concert buffets. There are a lot of unlikely things that I managed to become used to during those years, but one thing I could never get over — one thing that never ceased to feel like a dream — was knowing the Everly Brothers. Their talent, the beauty of their voices, was something not entirely of this Earth. They were a miracle. . .

Much more here: Two voices the Beatles envied

Hat-tip: haikuman on the MacResource Forum.

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“Beautiful Star of Bethlehem”

Stanleys-Hymps from the Cross  Every year on the Hillbilly at Harvard Christmas Extravaganza, we close the show with three records: The Stanley Brothers’  “Beautiful Star of Bethlehem,” Elvis Presley’s “Blue Christmas,” and (as a special closing theme) The Moms and Dads’ instrumental version of “Jingle Bell Rock.”

Last Saturday I was speculating on the air about the authorship of “Beautiful Star.”  The version we play was released by King Records in 1964, their number 918, The Stanley Brothers with George Shuffler: Hymns of the Cross.  See here for a listing of the contents.  (I took the image from that site [Discogs.com], not having the album here in my office.) Discogs says it was been re-released on CD by Gusto in 2007; see here.  I may have to get that!  Ralph and Carter and/or King just attributed the song to “Traditional.”

Thanks to Sheila Selby and her quick on-line research, we have some more, if somewhat contradictory information about the songwriter.  In an article in the Old-Time Times from 2004, Patsy Weiler writes,

Few people today realize the popular Christmas song “Beautiful Star of Bethlehem” was written by the late R. Fisher Boyce in a Middle Tennessee milk barn in the early part of the 20th century. . .

Boyce was born in the tiny community of Link, located in southern Rutherford County, in November 1887. The third of six children, Boyce loved music and was singing solo and in quartets by the early 1900s. In the spring of 1910, he married Cora Carlton from the Rockvale community. They would become the parents of 11 children, five of whom lived to be adults. Only one daughter, Willie Ruth Eads, remains alive. Eads remembers singing as a great source of entertainment for their family.

“The neighbors would come in, and we’d all gather around our family piano,” Boyce’s daughter said. “My sister Nanny Lou (Taylor) would play, and we would sing way into the night.”

In 1911, the young couple celebrated their first wedding anniversary and saw Boyce’s song “Safe in His Love” published by the A.J. Showalter Company, one of the early publishers of shape note hymnals. As did many others from across the Southeast, Boyce later traveled to Lawrence burg, Tennessee, to attend one of the annual music normal schools conducted by the James D. Vaughan Publishing Company, which was founded around 1900. Vaughan was another major publisher of shape note hymnals. . .

In 1940, the Vaughan Company published Boyce’s song “Beautiful Star of Bethlehem.” The song was printed in the company’s song-book, Beautiful Praise. Later, the song would be republished in Vaughan’s Favorite Radio Songs. . .

Boyce wrote “Beautiful Star of Bethlehem” while the family was living on a dairy farm in the Plainview community, about two or three miles from what is now the Interstate 24 Buchanan Road Exit. The songwriter’s son, the late Franklin Boyce, recalled in a 1996 interview that his dad said he couldn’t concentrate in the house because of noise made by the children. He walked across the road to the barn to find the solitude he needed to write. . .

Dean Boyce, Franklin’s wife, remembers how her late sister-in-law, Nanny Lou, talked about helping her father put down the music for the song. “I believe,” she said, “they worked all morning on the music at the piano, and it rained hard all the time they were working on it.”

Nell McKee, a retired educator who lives in the Buchanan area, attended Mt. Carmel Baptist Church where Boyce was a deacon and song leader when the song was written. Now in her 90s, McKee still attends the same church and recalls that Boyce would sing the lead part and his wife would sing the harmony in her clear alto voice.

“Fisher and Cora would sometimes sing the song at church,” McKee remembers. “Cora would weep every time they sang together. She was very proud of her husband for writing that song.”

Ironically, the family has never received royalties from the song. As was commonplace during that time in history, the legal copyright became the property of the company that published the material. As a rule, the song-writers were paid a one-time fee. To make a living, Boyce taught private voice lessons and worked at a variety of jobs including dairy farming and insurance and nursery sales. . .

This story is corroborated by Jeff Mowery in his blog, “Hymn of the Week”:

I recently was given a copy of the history of this particular song from a great pianist and dedicated “Hymn of the week” reader.  It is not a very old song, but one written in 1938 by a Tennessee farmer.   Robert Fisher operated a small dairy farm just south of Murfreesboro.  He was a religious man and served as a deacon at Mt. Carmel Baptist Church.  One summer afternoon, Mr. Fisher felt inspired to sit down and write the words to “Oh, Beautiful Star of Bethlehem.”  Although he was a farmer, he did not write this song sitting on his back porch overlooking a pastoral setting.  He didn’t write the words sitting under a starry sky thinking about Christ’s Advent.  No, he wrote the words inside his dairy barn while seated on a milk stool.  His daughter later helped him compose the music to this song, and it has been recorded by several well-known artists including The Judds, Patty Loveless, and Bill and Gloria Gaither. . .

However, the website Hymnary.org: a comprehensive index of hymns and hymnals, lists the Author of “Oh, Beautiful Star of Bethlehem” (clearly the same song, as they list the first line) as Adger M. Pace (1882-1959).  A bit more clicking in the Hymnary site, though, does credit R. Fisher Boyce for “Theme by.”  And, on another page, Adger M. Pace is listed as “Harmonizer,” while Mr. Boyce is listed as “Composer.”  So did Mr. Pace or Mr. Boyce write the song?

Adger M. Pace was member of the Vaughan Radio Quartet, a teacher of gospel music at the Vaughan School of Music in Lawrenceburg, TN, and a writer of some thousand songs.  Also, “Beginning in 1920, he served for 37 years as Music Editor for all Vaughan publications.”

Ah-ha!  So Mr. Pace was the Music Editor for the company that published “Beautiful Star of Bethlehem” (and never paid Mr. Boyce any royalties).  Citing the musicologist and folklorist Charles Wolfe, Patsy Weiler writes:

Wolfe . . . thinks the earliest professional recording of the piece was performed by the John Daniel Quartet on their private Daniel label. Initially, this group had been one of the Vaughan Company’s traveling quartets. The job of these traveling musical groups was to perform, for free, the Vaughan songbook compositions in churches through-out the Southeast and beyond so that congregations, once given a sampling of the music, would want to order songbooks.

So my guess is that Adger M. Pace arranged R. Fisher Boyce’s song for the Daniel Quartet and published the arrangement, taking credit variously as “Author” and “Harmonizer.”  On lyrics sites (which seem ubiquitous on the Internet) when composers are mentioned, both seem to be given credit.  I think it fair to say, though, that the song is well and truly R. Fisher Boyce’s composition.

There does not seem to be a YouTube video of the Stanley Brothers’ recording of “Beautiful Star,” but here are three performances that we don’t have at WHRB.  A very merry Christmas to all listeners, and one as beautiful as that song!

The Chigger Hill Boys and Terri

Dailey and Vincent

Patty Loveless

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