After the previous post about The Group in Greers Ferry, it got me to thinking about Almeda Riddle, who also lived in the town.Was she aware of them? Did they ever meet? That part, we may never know.
But her story itself is worth noting. She was discovered in the early 1950s by folklorist John Quincy Wolf, a Memphis professor and Batesville, Arkansas native. Her story itself was like an old folk ballad. She was widowed at a young age when her husband and child were killed from a tornado, leaving her with three surviving children to raise. What made her unique, however, was that she had a mass repertoire of ballads, some dating back to the 1600s, that were all but given up for lost. Soon, noted musicologists wanting to keep these long lost songs alive, including noted music historian Alan Lomax, sought her out. Riddle herself shared that same passion and began singing at folk music festivals, both big and small, which, in turn, got her much recognition. She died in 1986 at the age of 87.
A documentary made two years before her death, titled “Almeda Riddle: Let’s Talk About Singing”, aired on PBS. Though the video can’t be embedded in this document, please click this link. It’s less than 30 minutes long. At the very least, go to about 6:40 in the video, where Almeda Riddle sings “Amazing Grace” at the kitchen table, joined in by younger singers anxious to get to know both her and her music. Stunningly beautiful.