Musician Blind Alfred Reed (June 15, 1880-January 17, 1956) was a street singer and fiddler from Pipestem, Summers County. He composed and recorded some of the most creative topical country songs on Victor Records between 1927 and 1929. Although born in Floyd County, Virginia, Reed lived most of his life in West Virginia.
In 1927, he wrote ‘‘The Wreck of the Virginian’’ and recorded it in Bristol, Tennessee, in July. Other Reed ballads also dwelled on local and regional tragedies, such as ‘‘The Fate of Chris Lively and Wife’’ and ‘‘Explosion in the Fairmont Mines.’’ Still others of his songs included a lyric with an anti-flapper message, ‘‘Why Do You Bob Your Hair, Girls?,’’ and a humorous view of domestic violence, ‘‘Black and Blue Blues.’’ Some reflected a populist viewpoint such as ‘‘How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?’’ and the sacred ‘‘There’ll Be No Distinction There.’’
Deeply religious, Reed served as a Methodist lay preacher until his death. He sometimes performed with his son, Arville, and a fiddler neighbor, Fred Pendleton, as the West Virginia Night Owls. His complete recordings appeared on compact disc on the Document label in 1998. He was inducted into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame in 2007.
This Article was written by Ivan M. Tribe
Last Revised on October 22, 2010
Tribe, Ivan M. Mountaineer Jamboree: Country Music in West Virginia. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1984.