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Kelly Harrell

Kelly Harrell was a near-legendary country balladeer during the 1920s, when he cut more than a dozen songs for Victor and OKeh. He was also a gifted songwriter whose music was covered by other artists, including Jimmie Rodgers and Ernest Stoneman, in his own lifetime.

Harrell was born in the Virginia highlands in the western part of the state, and from his early teens worked in various textile mills. He enjoyed singing, though he didn't play an instrument, and was inspired to try recording in his belief that he was at least as good a singer as a man he met locally named Henry Whitter, who had made records.

In early 1925, when Harrell was already 35 years old, he went to New York and recorded four sides for Victor Records, among them "New River Train" and "The Roving Gambler." He recorded for OKeh later that year, including a version of "The Wreck of the Old 97," backed by "Blue Eyed Ella." Those sides elicited enough interest that Victor was interested in recording Harrell further in 1926. Those sides were his first using the electrical recording system, which was a considerable advance on the acoustic recordings he'd previously made. In 1927, Victor cut Harrell in another half-dozen songs backed by his own band (as Kelly Harrell & the Virginia String Band), with which he was performing locally. Harrell recorded another handful of recordings for Victor in 1929, after which his recording career came to a halt, owing to his inability to play an instrument -- Harrell always required backing by other musicians, and the Great Depression had so damaged the recording business that Victor was unwilling to pay the cost of hiring backup musicians in 1930 and beyond. Harrell performed locally and worked the textile mills until 1942, when a heart attack took his life. His complete recorded music was reissued by Bear Family on a triple-LP set in the 1970s, and he is also represented by an LP on the County label. ~ Bruce Eder
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Anthology Of American Folk Music

Disc 1

1. Henry Lee

2. Fatal Flower Garden

3. The House Carpenter

4. Drunkard's Special

5. Old Lady And The Devil

6. The Butcher's Boy

7. The Wagoner's Lad

8. King Kong Kitchie Kitchie Ki-Me-O

9. Old Shoes And Leggins

10. Willie Moore

11. A Lazy Farmer Boy

12. Peg And Awl

13. Ommie Wise

14. My Name Is John Johanna

Disc 2

1. Bandit Cole Younger

2. Charles Giteau

3. John Hardy Was A Desperate Little Man

4. Gonna Die With My Hammer In My Hand

5. Stackalee

6. White House Blues

7. Frankie

8. When That Great Ship Went Down

9. Engine 143

10. Kassie Jones

11. Down On Penny's Farm

12. Mississippi Boweavil Blues

13. Got The Farm Land Blues

Disc 3

1. Sail Away Lady

2. The Wild Wagoner

3. Wake Up Jacob

4. La Danseuse

5. Georgia Stomp

6. Brilliancy Medley

7. Indian War Whoop

8. Old Country Stomp

9. Old Dog Blue

10. Saut Crapaud

11. Acadian One-Step

12. Home Sweet Home

13. Newport Blues

Disc 4

1. Must Be Born Again

2. Oh Death Where Is Thy Sting

3. Rocky Road

4. Present Joys

5. This Song Of Love

6. Judgement

7. He Got Better Things For You

8. Since I Laid My Burden Down

9. John The Baptist

10. Dry Bones

11. John The Revelator

12. Little Moses

13. Shine On Me

14. Fifty Miles Of Elbow Room

Disc 5

1. The Coo Coo Bird

2. East Virginia

3. Minglewood Blues

5. James Alley Blues

7. I Wish I Was A Mole In The Ground

8. Mountaineer's Courtship

9. The Spanish Merchant's Daughter

10. Bob Lee Junior Blues

11. Single Girl, Married Girl

12. La Vieux Soulard Et Sa Femme

13. Rabbit Foot Blues

14. Expressman Blues

Disc 6

1. Poor Boy Blues

2. Feather Bed

3. Country Blues

4. 99 Year Blues

5. Prison Cell Blues

6. See That My Grave Is Kept Clean

8. Way Down The Old Plank Road

9. Buddy Won't You Roll Down The Line

10. Spike Driver Blues

11. K.C. Moan

12. Train On The Island

13. The Lone Star Trail

14. Fishing Blues

x

Track List: People Take Warning 3: Man Vs. Man

Disc 1

2. Wreck Of The Old 97

3. Bill Wilson

4. The Crash Of The Akron

5. The Fate Of Talmadge Osborne

8. Fate Of Will Rogers & Wiley Post

9. Down With The Old Canoe

10. Wreck Of Number 52

11. Kassie Jones Part 1

12. Kassie Jones Part 2

13. The Brave Engineer

14. The Sinking Of The Titanic

15. Fate Of Chris Lively And Wife

16. Wreck On The Mountain Road

17. The Unfortunate Brakeman

19. The Fatal Wreck Of The Bus

20. Last Scene Of The Titanic

21. Casey Jones

23. The Titanic

24. When That Great Ship Went Down

Disc 2

1. The Story Of The Mighty Mississippi

3. Dixie Boll Weevil

5. Ohio Prison Fire

6. Memphis Flu

7. Explosion In The Fairmount Mine

8. Storm That Struck Miami

9. When The Levee Breaks

10. Alabama Flood

13. High Water Everywhere, Part 2

14. Ryecove Cyclone

15. McBeth Mine Explosion

16. Dry Well Blues

17. Baltimore Fire

18. Tennessee Tornado

19. Dry Spell Blues, Part 2

20. The Santa Barbara Earthquake

21. The Death Of Floyd Collins

22. The Porto Rico Storm

23. Boll Weavil

24. The Flood Of 1927

Disc 3

1. Peddler And His Wife

2. The Little Grave In Georgia

3. Kenney Wagner's Surrender

4. Henry Clay Beattie

5. The Murder Of The Lawson Family

7. Railroad Bill

8. Frankie

9. Trial Of Richard Bruno Hauptmann, Part 1

10. Trial Of Richard Bruno Hauptmann, Part 2

12. Darling Cora

13. Billy Lyons And Stack O' Lee

14. Tom Dooley

17. Fingerprints Upon The Windowpane

18. The Bluefield Murder

20. Fate Of Rhoda Sweeten

21. Dupree Blues

22. Poor Ellen Smith

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