Appalachia Cataloochee Music

Ola Belle Reed

I discovered the music of Ola Belle Reed about 6 months ago. How I missed her all my life-I’ll never know. One afternoon when I picked the girls up from JAM (Junior Appalachian Musicians) they had a cd of Ola Belle’s music. Their teacher, JD, had sent it home for them to listen to.

Curious about what music he wanted them to hear-I popped it in the cd player. From the first song I was mesmerized. More than that-I was totally connected. The music felt like home-it felt like me.

Ola Wave Campbell was born in Ashe County NC in 1916. During the tough depression years, Ola’s large family moved north to Maryland where there was fertile land to farm and more work to be found.

There was musical talent on both sides of her parent’s families. So it seemed only natural that Ola Belle would make music too. Over the years, Ola Belle was honored by The Smithsonian, The Library of Congress and The University of Maryland for her musical contributions.

I tried to figure out why Ola Belle and her tunes comforted me in an uncanny sort of way-I mean I’d never heard of her before so what could it be? One of the first reasons that came to mind was the prominent guitar picking in most of her songs. Not all old time or bluegrass music feature flat top picking-and since I come from a family of guitar pickers the songs that do always standout to me.

There’s an undertone of strength to her music. Even the songs about despair-have a strength to them-almost a rebellious defiant feel. But I’m not sure defiance is the right word-perhaps it’s more a self awareness or knowledge that the world and all it holds resides in each of us if we’ll only look.

When I think of those undertones being why I identify with her music I find myself asking: Am I a prideful rebellious person? Do I kick against the prick? And I have to answer yes. Not in a radical way of arguing with every authority I run across or having to win every argument I hear or even having to offer my opinion to people I come in contact with. It’s more of a quiet fierce strength that lives deep inside me-and my people. Living with the knowledge that life is not only unfair-but sometimes down right mean. Knowing that the only life you have is the one you’re given and it’s your choice as to what you do with it.

I’ve read the words above-my thoughts on Ola Belle’s music, more than a few times-and even though I truly feel that way-I must admit what I’ve written sounds silly.

The reason we love music is the way it makes us feel right? I can be so moved by Ola Belle’s tunes that I connect the emotion I feel to some higher meaning of strength and survival-while you may give her a listen and think to yourself “Tipper is crazy-all I hear is a bunch of old songs.”

After listening to J.D.’s cd for a week-I got my own cd of Ola Belle Reed-and as the weeks passed I drove around listening to it-letting her music tell me the story it was meant too. Besides the screen door slamming, barefeet, guitar picking on the porch, we will survive tale each song wove around my body-there was one more story that I kept coming back too. The one about the boy and the girl back in the mountains. Come back in a day or so and I’ll tell you that story.




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  • Reply
    Kent Lockman
    August 7, 2011 at 10:42 am

    Tipper, I know of what you feel from Ola Belle’s songs. Using old time mountain banjo, I perform “I’ve Endured”. Those beautiful lyrics move me every time I perform it…..simple words with such powerful meanings about life. I am glad you discovered Ola Belle’s music and are sharing it with us here.

  • Reply
    Brenda S 'Okie in Colorado'
    August 5, 2011 at 3:26 am

    You just made my day. I love Ola Belle. I had never heard of her, but I’m definitely going to try to find her music.
    I think Miss Cindy’s comment described you to a tee. You are so wonderful and have given us all so much pleasure with your beautiful writings, history, family, and down to earth honesty. Keep it coming sweet lady!

  • Reply
    Vicki Lane
    August 4, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    A wonderful essay, Tipper. And Ola Belle Reed is well worth listening to.

  • Reply
    August 4, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    I loved that song! Gonna buy a cd for sure!

  • Reply
    August 3, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    Ola Belle….I love the old names. Thank you for sharing Tipper.

  • Reply
    Sheila Bergeron
    August 3, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    Aww Tipper this music is wonderful! The way this is played on the guitar goes through my very being. You are never silly with your writings and thoughts–it makes us understand what you are feeling–well done.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    August 3, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    Tipper–Your thoughts about knowing how you feel yet finding it difficult to translate those feelings into words are, in essence, the ultimate challenge for any writer. In my experience, and in my considerable reading on the experiences of others, the challenge is one no writer is ever able to respond to fully. Those who come closest often achieve greatness.
    Read the best of the writings of North Carolina’s own Robert Ruark (“The Old Man and the Boy”) and you get a fine glimpse of how one writer was able to take personal experiences and feelings and share them with others in a powerful fashion.
    Now I need to listen to some of that music.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Paul Certo
    August 3, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    I like her music, too. You might also google The Field Recorders Collective and look for more of her stuff.

  • Reply
    August 3, 2011 at 11:42 am

    Ola was my grandma’s name, my
    daddy’s mama. I’m a bit surprised
    that I never heard of Ola Reed
    or her songs, but you are always
    the gentle communicator and bring
    us lots of information thru the
    Blind Pig and the Acorn. This is
    why so many enjoy your blog every
    morning. Thank you…Ken

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    August 3, 2011 at 11:33 am

    I don’t know Ola Belle but I know you and every word you wrote is true to the bone. That is who you are and you have articulated it perfectly…..make no apologies. Strong women are a beauty to behold. You can see it in Ola Belle’s picture. You are one and you are raising two more.
    You are not prideful or rebellious but you do stand steady in what you believe in. There is most certainly a quiet fierce strength that lives in you and your people. I know because I am one of them.
    I love the way you lived with her music till it permeated your soul then and only then did you speak!

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    August 3, 2011 at 11:26 am

    Downloading Ola Belle’s album from iTunes now. I am enjoying the guitar as well as the clawhammer banjo.
    Nothing silly about your post today, Tipper. I have difficulty making my non-musical friends understand how music drills down to the depths of my soul. It is an emotional experience that Is not equalled anywhere else.

  • Reply
    August 3, 2011 at 11:21 am

    I agree with Lonnie, and I will definitely give Ola Belle a listen; I trust what you recommend,Tipper. On Vicki Lane:I just read THE DAY OF SMALL THINGS- now,that’s quite a read!

  • Reply
    Eva M. Wike, Ph.D.
    August 3, 2011 at 10:42 am

    Tipper: You have dun it agen! Making us wanaw tomara to hurey so we can learn more! I ain’t never heerd of that lady Olla Belle! But now I will!
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    Lonnie L. Dockery
    August 3, 2011 at 9:39 am

    I never heard of Olla Belle Reed and I haven’t listened to the music yet, but your words were certainly not silly. As I read through them I found myself saying “Yep, that’s her.” I think most of us, after we’ve lived a while, know who we are, but not many of us are able to communicate that to others. I thought you did that quite well.

  • Reply
    August 3, 2011 at 8:58 am

    Mamabug-County Sales has a cd here:
    You could also check Amazon-just search for her by name-and anything they have should just pop up : )

  • Reply
    August 3, 2011 at 8:41 am

    She had a nice clear voice. Enjoyed listening to her.

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    August 3, 2011 at 8:40 am

    silly- absolutely not! Music speaks to our innermost soul if we are lucky. Some people never go beyond a tune or lyrics -just a surface enjoyment. Music soothes me, lifts me up, brings forth emotion, keeps me company, awakens my memories and gives me joy. Thanks for introducing us to Ola Belle.

  • Reply
    August 3, 2011 at 8:35 am

    Tipper what an outstanding post this morning. I listened to her singing and it just goes straight to your soul. Please tell us where to find a copy of the CD.

  • Reply
    August 3, 2011 at 8:28 am

    Tipper- the reason you are so drawn to Ola Belle (I think is simple); You and her are kindred spirits. That is why so much is there between you two that needs no words.
    My great grand ma had a dog just like the one in the photo. Its name was Pepper.

  • Reply
    Debby Brown
    August 3, 2011 at 8:14 am

    that was so wonderful, Tipper. Thank you so much for sharing that with us, I would never have found that singer! You are right, she touches ones heart, softly , slowly, but so deeply. Her voice seeps into your soul and you don’t even realize it till the song is done. Those great old time singers, forgotten so easily, but people like you help to keep them known and enjoyed for future generations.

  • Reply
    August 3, 2011 at 8:00 am

    I am listening to high on the mountain right now while type. i like her voice and it is that old sound from my child hood and that always speaks to me. I agree each song appeals to something with in us it does to me, and what speaks to me might speak to you, even the same type music.

  • Reply
    Paulette Tonielli
    August 3, 2011 at 7:53 am

    Thanks for posting this, Tipper – I love the music! I’m going to track down a CD today.

  • Reply
    August 3, 2011 at 7:37 am

    That was absolutely wonderful to read. Music of different sorts touch each and everyone of our lives.
    Some tunes just take us back to a day in our past, rekindling the youth we once had. Others make us move in a way we might not want others to see 😉 Some bring joy, spirtitual awareness, comfort and still some music grips us deep within telling us our deepest secrets. Reminding us where we came from, who we really are and that’s a real good thing.
    Thank you Tipper!

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