The Old-Time Herald Volume 12, Number 10

Feature
Addie Graham: Been A Long Time Traveling
By Rich Kirby
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Addie and her grandson Rich Kirby at the Mountain Heritage Festival, Carter Caves State Park, Kentucky, c. 1974.

This article is based on the notes to Addie Graham’s 1978 LP, Been a Long Time Traveling, written in collaboration with Barbara Kunkle. For this publication Rich Kirby, Graham’s grandson, has updated it with added reflections on the life and art of his grandmother.

Addie's Life and Times

Our family had music in them; it was borned in and you can’t get it out. That’s one thing you can’t get rid of is singing.

Addie Graham sang all her life. She was surrounded by music from birth: from neighbors, friends, travelers; from timber cutters, railroad workers, stage entertainers; most of all from her family. She grew up in a culture where music was as natural as talk; she had it all through her and was only too happy to pass it on.

She never revealed her age, but she was born before 1900 near Gilmore, Wolfe County, Kentucky, and grew up on the headwaters of the Red River, an area which includes parts of Magoffin, Morgan, Wolfe, and Breathitt Counties. It is a rough, beautiful country, and even today it seems peaceful and isolated. When Addie was born, the area had not changed all that much since the days of the earliest white settlers. There were few roads, few stores, few jobs; mostly people lived on farms and what they had was mostly what they grew or made.

This was as true of music as of anything else. We who have lived all our lives with TV, radio, movies and the Internet have little idea of the richness and variety of the homemade music of people who had little other entertainment. In Addie’s community there were banjo players and fiddlers, ballad singers, hymn singers; the African Americans who came to the area to build the railroads brought guitars and the blues. Addie learned from them all.

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