Lily May Ledford was born on March 17, 1917, on a tenant farm in a remote area of Kentucky called Red River Gorge. “I was the seventh child of a family of ten boys and four girls,” wrote Lily May in her autobiography. “Four died shortly after birth, leaving ten of us and an orphaned cousin.” When not helping out on the farm, the Ledford children fought over the family banjo, which was made out of green hickory with a stretched groundhog-hide head.
“I was about seven years of age at this time and I was dying to get my hands on that banjo,” she recalled, “but my brothers, who were always fighting for possession of it all the time, would hang it clear to the top of the wall. And of course as soon as they were out of the house I would drag a table up to the wall and put a chair on it and take the banjo, and get away up on a hill and behind a big rock to escape Mama and the chores, and play ‘til it was time for the boys to come home.”
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