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Title: Oral History Interview with Barbara Greenlief, April 27, 1996. Interview R-0020. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Greenlief, Barbara, interviewee
Interview conducted by Yarger, Lisa
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Jennifer Joyner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2007
Size of electronic edition: 184 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2007.
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.
The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2007-00-00, Celine Noel, Wanda Gunther, and Kristin Martin revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2007-11-28, Jennifer Joyner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Barbara Greenlief, April 27, 1996. Interview R-0020. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series R. Special Research Projects. Southern Oral History Program Collection (R-0020)
Author: Lisa Yarger
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Barbara Greenlief, April 27, 1996. Interview R-0020. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series R. Special Research Projects. Southern Oral History Program Collection (R-0020)
Author: Barbara Greenlief
Description: 225 Mb
Description: 32 p.
Note: Interview conducted on April 27, 1996, by Lisa Yarger; recorded in Nicholasville, Kentucky.
Note: Transcribed by Unknown.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series R. Special Research Projects, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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The text has been encoded using the recommendations for Level 4 of the TEI in Libraries Guidelines.
Original grammar and spelling have been preserved.
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Interview with Barbara Greenlief, April 27, 1996.
Interview R-0020. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Greenlief, Barbara, interviewee


Interview Participants

    BARBARA GREENLIEF, interviewee
    LISA YARGER, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
LISA YARGER:
Could you tell me when and where you were born?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
I was born in Berea, Kentucky, actually, in 1947, July second. And at that time my parents were playing at Renfro Valley, both my parents at that time.
LISA YARGER:
I know some about your mother's childhood, but could you tell me her brothers' names? That's one thing I haven't gotten.
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
Okay. There was Marion, Kermit, Coyen, Kelly, Joe, and two of them died when she was a very young girl. That was Kelly and Joe. And the rest of them, with the exception of Kermit, are also gone now.
LISA YARGER:
Was there a Custer too?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
And Custer, yeah, I forgot Custer.
LISA YARGER:
Okay. Because that's the one that married Violet.
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
Right. And Custer. I'm sorry. Yeah.
LISA YARGER:
And where was she in that line-up?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
She was third from the oldest, I believe that's right. I'm not sure about that. But I have documentation downstairs that we can look at to tell you that.
LISA YARGER:
Okay. Did you know your grandmother very well, Stella May Ledford?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
Yes. Uh huh. Yeah.
LISA YARGER:
Can you tell me a little bit about her?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
She was a very delightful, expressive person who was a very hard-working type, kind of the typical mountain woman. She was the person in the family who kept everything going. She was the worker. In her later years, of course I never met my grandfather, he was dead before I was born, but she still did gardening and killing chickens and all of the things the way she had always done them. Had the outhouse and all; that's the way she wanted it. Her influence, I think, on the children was work, work, work. You know, although I think she was very proud of Coon—I know she was very proud of the Coon

Page 2
Creek Girls' success—still her focus was: don't forget that you need to keep working and keep your eye on what is really important, which is to have a happy life. So, that was kind of her message to her children. And she seemed to model that for them—try to.
LISA YARGER:
She had a happy life?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
Yeah. She was very happy; she had a very kind of standard way of doing things day to day, very country, very down-to-earth, but kind of no-nonsense, too. [Laughter]
LISA YARGER:
You said she was proud of the Coon Creek Girls' success. Did she think that that was a worthwhile career to pursue for a woman, or for anybody?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
I think she probably was comfortable feeling that way later in life, but not when they left home. She was very concerned about it. Didn't want them to do it; felt that was for low-class people, you know, to pursue. And, although it helped the family financially, from very early on, once Mom got to Chicago and started playing on the WLS Barn Dance and started sending money back to the family, and shoes, and the kinds of things that were hard to come by. It did help the family financially, and she appreciated those things, but I think probably privately she always felt like she would have rather them to have done something else. She was not really tuned into the music very much. She didn't go around humming tunes and you know, doing the kind of thing you would think would have happened. That was from Mom's father. So, and her mother and dad weren't really partners in the music. It was all from him, and she viewed him as kind of lazy as a result of wanting to play so much music. So that was another factor that kind of entered in, is that she felt like that was taking him away from the things he should concentrate—he wasn't much of a, he wasn't ambitious in terms of providing for the family.
LISA YARGER:
When you say that she felt that the life of a musician was kind of a low-class occupation, do you know where she got that sense from?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
No, I really don't. I know they had, they lived up in Powell County, real back in, back in the [Red River] Gorge area, and she had come from Pike County, Kentucky, which is very eastern Kentucky, back in the mountains type place. Music is something people did for fun, you know, just for recreation, and a lot of times drinking went along with that. She was very opposed to drinking; she had been raised by a father who drank—this is my grandmother—and so I think she probably had real negative connotations about those two pairing up—the drinking and the music, you know, although I don't think my grandfather drank. I've never heard stories about that. She just felt like it was something that kept you from doing work.
LISA YARGER:
So her father drank?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
My grandmother's father drank.

Page 3
LISA YARGER:
That's interesting, though, because your mother, in her writings, always described him as a hard-shell Baptist, so he was religious on the one hand, but on the other hand….
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
Yeah, and he was also very harsh. And she—Mom has said she married my grandfather to get away, you know, at a very early age—from him.
LISA YARGER:
Was there also sort of a connotation with being a musician, even if that was your occupation, if you were a professional musician, that that was sort of an easy way out, or, that was sort of what lazy—was there any kind of implication of that for her, that that wasn't real work?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
Right. That's exactly right. I know she viewed Mom as lazy, because Mom was a real daydreamer and did not make good grades in school until the eighth grade when Ruby Hayes, her eighth grade teacher, took an interest in her. Before that, Mom had just practically barely made it through school, because she had no interest in it, and then would hit the hills as soon as she got home to play and hide, you know. So, yeah, that's the way she viewed it. And I think she viewed Mom probably as her most worthless child in terms of what she would ever become, you know? Because she was such a daydreamer.
LISA YARGER:
And look what happened! [Laughter] Wow. What about, for girls, particularly, girls and women, I suppose that image, or that particular pursuit would have been especially not well looked upon by a parent. Was there a fear she'd get into some kind of life-style that was immoral?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
Right. They were scared to death for her to go to Chicago. And John Lair had to promise that she would live with him and his wife in their home, and that he would transport her back and forth to wherever she had to be. There were a lot of promises made to my grandmother, you know, like that. She felt like, that, you know, if Mom was alone for two minutes on the street she could be kidnapped and gone and never heard from again. I don't think it's that she mistrusted mom; it's just that she was afraid.
LISA YARGER:
Right. Of the big city.
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
Of the big city. She didn't know anything about that, you know, she'd never been to a big city.
LISA YARGER:
Well, I can understand that.
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
And really they had very little if anything to read about what was going on. Mom said, and that surprised me, that even newspapers and anything, you know, it was hard to come by news. So, they just, I guess she just expected the worst.
LISA YARGER:
You were talking about which person in the family Lily May got most of her musical influence from. But didn't she learn some ballads from your grandmother?

Page 4
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
She did. Back then, I think, early on she sang occasionally when she was rocking them, when she would rock the babies, which was something everybody did. You know, that was the common thing. But in terms of my grandmother interacting with other people, like when other people came around—my grandfather had friends who would drop by to play music, and she never interacted, as a matter of fact, it made her angry when they would come. She felt like, well, they'll probably stay a couple of days. I remember Mom saying sometimes they would stay, and she would know that he wasn't going to work, you know. [Laughter] But I think all women in the mountains sang ballads to their children, you know, when they were rocking. It could be that she sang around the house; I have never heard those stories. You know, if mom said she sang a lot around the house, that would surprise me, because I understood that it was mostly just rocking babies, and would sing a little, and mom, you know, got really interested in the songs and kind of drew her out and learned them. And sometimes would have to go other places to learn the whole song, because my grandmother wouldn't know it; she'd just know one verse, enough to sing to the babies.
LISA YARGER:
Got you. And I know she's written in a couple of places which songs those were that she learned from her mother. I guess "Pretty Polly," "Barbara Allen," do you remember others?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
The "Little Benny" song, I think, was a song, I'm not sure about that, but I think the "Little Benny" is a song her mother song, and also "The Two Orphans," the song about the two orphans, which is a song that Jean Ritchie and a lot of others do in different versions. It's done a lot in the Kentucky mountains. Those are the only ones I know about. There's one called "The Brown Girl," which could be from her mother. I would say it probably is, because it's a very old song and it's not done much anymore. Or from someone around that area, because it's not something she would have picked up on in her teenage years in mingling with dance groups, you know, so I think that's probably another ballad that she learned at home.
LISA YARGER:
What made a song acceptable or not to your grandmother? Because I know she, there were certain things that she really did not want especially her daughters to sing.
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
I thinks she felt it was unladylike to sing driving—fast, driving songs, no matter what the subject was. Things that had to be played with a fiddle, as part of the background instruments. The fiddle has a real bad reputation among women in the mountains, as going along with drinking and carousing and all that. I think they thought it stimulated certain kinds of feelings in men, you know, that they didn't want them to have. So, the fast, driving songs were kind of a no-no. And I really—I know that she didn't, you know, the "Pretty Polly," she didn't want Mom to sing "Pretty Polly" later even though she had sung that song to her, because of the subject matter.
LISA YARGER:
Oh, really?

Page 5
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
Yeah. That bothered her, once she got out and started singing it in public, you know, she didn't want that to represent what they were—a song about a murder. So, I don't think she had any idea that what was done there at the house would ever be a representation of the Ledford family.
LISA YARGER:
I see.
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
You know, but it was.
LISA YARGER:
When you say unladylike, what do you think that she meant by that? Why do you think that those songs were not fit for ladies to sing?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
I think that my grandmother had a very different view of what she would have liked the family to be, than my grandfather. I think she probably had more discipline built into her than he did, and she, I think she wanted them to go consistently to church on Sunday, she wanted women to act one way and men another. She had very defined roles in her mind about women should do and men should do. But, when you've got the kind of talent that I think was ingrained in him, you know, and transported to Mom, art kind of exempts that. You know, that holding down of traditional kinds [she pounds her fist into her hand to emphasize] of roles and, we don't move out of that, you know, and so, I think she was very frustrated about that. She didn't view it as a musical talent, which a lot of them got—a lot of the children got—she viewed it as learning to be lazy from their father. And it was real difficult for her to look beyond that. She just, that's the way she viewed it. So, all of the kinds of traditional things that other families did, or that the quote "acceptable" families did, they didn't do. And I think that that's where, her eye was on that. That's what she wanted, but she couldn't achieve that with this family. And maybe that came from the Baptist background, you know, the real hard-core Baptist background: if you do things one way, and that's the only way you do them and you don't step out of it one way or the other or you're going to hell. But she was always frustrated about them not walking a narrower course. Does that make…?
LISA YARGER:
Yeah. I wonder too, in your mother's autobiography, she says something about a move that the family made from the more isolated portion of the gorge to a more populated one, and there they had the chance to associate with some of the better families. Is that where your grandmother got some of these ideas too, about—it's almost like middle-class aspirations, you know?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
Yeah. I don't know. I really don't know. It's possible that that's when it really bothered her the most, you know, when they moved on down the river. But I just don't know. I don't know if it was from early on, you know. Probably when they were 11 and 12 and 13 and started going to the dances and started playing, you know. That was when they had moved on down the river. And that, [Laughter] that was when she was probably feeling the social pressure from these other families, and there weren't other girls up there playing music, you know, it was only hers. [Laughter] And Mom was going to, you know, a little bit after that was going across the mountain to Natural Bridge to play for the

Page 6
train as it came in, and they were collecting money in a hat, and she just felt it was unladylike, you know, that there weren't other girls acting like that. And I think it was privately probably embarrassing to her. I'm not sure how much; I don't know a lot about the relationship between my grandmother and my grandfather. My guess would be, knowing traditional relationships in the mountains, that she was probably very angry about it but did not say anything to him about it. It was just something she carried kind of privately.
LISA YARGER:
What do you think she would have chosen for your mother and Rosie, also, had she had more control? What kinds of daughters would she preferred to have raised? Because all three of her daughters that lived ended up as professional musicians.
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
I'd say, probably her view of what she would have thought they should have done was to get married and stay home and raise kids and let the men work, and be domestic. You know, I certainly think the more modern kinds of conveniences that came along at the time they were raising kids would have been, she would have thought that was wonderful. You know, I don't think she would have necessarily have wanted the old-style of doing things. She would have wanted them to be as progressive as they could in terms of what their homes were like, but I think that she probably viewed women working as something they shouldn't be doing, maybe unless it was a teacher. But I don't know any conversations about her influencing them to be anything in particular.
LISA YARGER:
Right. Where did your mother get such a drive to pursue music? Because all of what she writes, you know, she was always sneaking off to find time, you know, swiping her brother's banjo. I mean, she really overcame a lot of obstacles to do what she wanted to do.
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
You know, I think, myself, I've thought a lot about that. I think it's genetically inborn. I really do. I think when someone has enough of a talent—it's almost not just a talent, it's a—I think artists who have the perception in the area that they do develop a tunnel-visioned view of the world almost in order to refine that. And if you look back at artists they, you know, a lot of artists have had a very sad social life, or sad family life, because in order to do it and perfect it, they have to have almost that tunnel vision approach to it, where that is the only thing that drives them. And it's such an inborn kind of drive, that I don't think they can help it. I don't think it would be anything they could get rid of. That's sort of the way I view it. I've been around a lot of musicians, you know, and know a lot of families who have people who are successful musicians, and that seems to be what I see. Is that it's almost like a genetic mutation. You know, it's like a person who has no need to be what normal people are. They just have this inborn drive that drives them in the direction that they're going to perfect, whatever it is they have. And my brother is the same way. I mean, talk to him about business things, paying taxes, I mean his wife handles everything. He has no idea. He just keeps his eye on that one thing.
And that's kind of the way she was. The only time Mom was truly happy was when she was playing, or when she was going to play, and when she was collaborating with people

Page 7
about the next show. You know, or knew that next Wednesday someone was coming to the house and they were all going to get together to play music. It was just, that was it. That was the one thing that drove her. And it was like nothing else really—she didn't want other things to get very much in the way of that.
LISA YARGER:
Did she have to sacrifice things in her life to achieve that, to maintain that tunnel vision that you are referring to?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
She, well, I think that the combination of having that inbred talent and that desire to perfect it, mixed with the kind of subservient view that women had to men, was really a difficult thing for her all her life. She would not openly challenge a man. And, you would not think that if you saw her on stage perform, you know, because she is so powerful. Her performances are so powerful and her stories are very powerful. But she could not get away from that not directly challenging men, so that John Lair, the other men she worked with, both of her husbands, pretty much set the stage for what her life would be, in terms of her success. She wasn't a business type; she did what they told her to do. All she wanted to do was play music; she just wanted to play music. And she did not have the professional kind of success I guess that like Jean Ritchie, whose husband was interested in her career and who promoted her career. I think Mom would have had a lot more wide-spread audience had that happened. But that was a real problem for her. She was always very privately angry about the manipulation, but she would not confront it. So, yet, she was so strong-willed that it ate her up, you know, because she was angry about it.
And from a young age, I remember feeling, why don't you, you know, if you want a washer and dryer, and you don't want to go to the Laundromat any more, why don't you just go buy one and charge it, you know? And things like that, I recognized that from an early age, that she had that problem. She was always having women over and, talk about, you know, how their husbands were doing this, and they wouldn't let them have this, and they wouldn't let them do that, but yet she would not say a word to my father or to John Lair about how she felt. So, that was a big frustration for her all her life. That drive and that ability and that lack of power all combined together.
LISA YARGER:
That is very interesting, because the performances I have seen of her, you're right, I mean, she comes across as so independent and so strong-willed. And that's—one of the things I've noticed that a lot of country music scholars now writing about women performers tend to do is they tend to make her out to be a real feminist in her music. They talk about her as the leader of the Coon Creek Girls and sometimes even imply that she had the power to hire and fire band members, and she did not! It's just interesting to me how that kind of revision of history comes about. And I think it's possible that they knew her in her later years or saw her, and seeing that, could not believe that it could have been otherwise.
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
The Reel World Band, who probably the most feminist women's group of musicians we have here in Kentucky, wonderful musicians, kind of just, you know—she was their inspiration! They were over there all the time, yet, I would be, you know, they were

Page 8
always, I'd take her to a lot of the things she did, the local things she did, and they would just talk to me and talk to me about how she was their role model. And I was always just kind of, you know, nodding my head and thinking, wow, [Laughter] you know, I'm not going to ruin this image! You know? But it was not what people think, at all. It was very different than people think. And she knew, in her heart, you know, that she needed to do those things, that she needed to be more aggressive, but she just felt powerless to do it. So, that was the problem.
LISA YARGER:
Do you know why she stayed with Lair for all those years? Like 30 years or something like that, or 20, I guess it was.
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
Well, she felt that he rescued her from a very, very, poor, you know, family, which he did. He made it possible for her to send money back to the family. I think she felt a real loyalty to him. Early on, I don't think, I mean, maybe he did, but I think it was only when he got to Renfro Valley that he began to be the manipulator that he was with his musicians. It was as if he owned them: lock, stock, and barrel. Well, he did. He owned them: lock, stock and barrel. It was almost like a coal company, you know, owns the people who work the mines. But, I, she married my father, first Curt Pearson, who was a very powerful man in Berea, owned a lot of coal trucks, had a lot of money, wanted to marry a Coon Creek Girl. You know, they were a big deal then. He wanted to marry HER. She was a very beautiful woman. But I think Mom had this private need to be independent. Therefore when I think when they would tell her she couldn't do something, she would pout, and she would, you know, sulk, or those kinds of things. Or she would go off and talk to other members of the family, which created a negativism, which created a falling out of love, I guess. But she was, I don't know, she was just, she just couldn't seem to really voice to them what needed to be voiced in order for her to move on, to anybody. John Lair, once he moved to Renfro Valley, had them sign contracts that they couldn't record anything unless he said so; they couldn't talk to other people, they couldn't make any other deals. I mean he—the contracts were just—he owned them.
LISA YARGER:
With all the performers? [referring to contracts]
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
Yeah, with all the performers. Some of the men left, you know, fairly soon, like Red Foley, and Homer and Jethro, people like that who were men and who felt like they had the power to sustain themselves. I don't think she knew that she could sustain herself on her own. She had no idea. She felt that she was lucky to have A job, you know? And I don't think any of those kids in that Ledford family really valued themselves as a person. There was a real kind of depressed, kind of solemn view of themselves, or view of the world that ran through that whole clan. And, she just had no power. You know, she was not empowered in any way as a child. And she empowered herself through her music. But that was the only power she had. Privately she was, in her everyday living situation she was depressed, she was unhappy, she felt she was manipulated but wouldn't do anything about it. She knew she was manipulated. She knew she wasn't treated like she should be treated. But she didn't have the discipline or the willpower or the background training that it took to do anything about it.

Page 9
LISA YARGER:
And was that the main reason for the unhappiness?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
I don't know. I think the whole family is, the whole family has had depression problems, and they're a very intense group of people, emotionally. Very, a lot of them had problems feeling that they were accepted by other people. My grandmother must have preached that a lot, or something, you know, that ‘If your father would only do this…’ maybe. I don't know if she did or not. But I suspect that she was always telling them why they weren't acceptable in the community. And in general that family has had real problems feeling like they're normal people. Just withdrawn, and socially—I don't want to say inept, but socially backward kind of people. With the exception of my Aunt Rosie. She was the most outgoing one in the whole group. The way she was on stage was the way she was [Laughter] all the time. She was just a barrel of fun all the time.
LISA YARGER:
I'd like to talk about her later on; I don't know much about her. There's a wonderful quote I think in Lily May's autobiography about when your grandmother wanted to prevent her and Rosie from going to a square dance, she said something like, ‘You're poor girls, and your reputations are all you've got. When those boys get ready to marry, they're not going to marry you; they'll marry somebody from a wealthier family.’ Is that the kind of thing you're talking about?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
Yeah. They didn't not feel like they were socially acceptable, I think. And they probably were one of the poorer families on the river; they were tenant farmers, they didn't own their own land. My grandfather didn't like to work. They were flooded out really bad one time, you know, those kinds of things. Bad luck. Plus my grandfather had a brother who was very successful who lived in that area, and they worked for him a lot, and my grandmother was very jealous of that.
LISA YARGER:
Joe Ledford?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
Yeah, yeah.
LISA YARGER:
When she was growing up, we talked about the motivation she had and the love for the music. What goals did she have for herself before Lair came into her life? I mean, was he fulfilling something that she had dreamed about, or had she even thought about that as a possibility? What were her ambitions, do you think?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
I know she was a daydreamer, but I don't know if she defined it. I have never heard her say that she always knew that she was going to be a professional musician and that was her goal. I think her goal, in her mind, was probably, I'm going to play at Natural Bridge, I'm going to continue to do this. You know, I'm going to be somebody who continues to play music. I don't think she ever had aspirations of being on a national barn dance or anything like, I mean, I don't know. Maybe she did. But I don't know of that if she did. I think it was just to play music wherever she could play music.

Page 10
LISA YARGER:
Because that was so removed from her existence, I guess, at that time. I wonder if she ever even thought about the possibility.
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
Women didn't leave and go places. MEN left and went to other places and got jobs, in, you know, like other places, and coal mines, or maybe even to Ohio to work. But women didn't. They just married somebody around there. And if the man moved, then she moved, but the women didn't go anywhere.
LISA YARGER:
So when Lair came along, I guess what you're saying about how later on she felt that she didn't have the resources to strike out on her own, you know, I guess she always had depended on him from the get-go, and just felt—do you think she felt a sense of loyalty toward him or was it just a sense of dependency?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
I think it was both. I think it was loyalty and dependency. I think it was also a pride that he took a notice in her early on. He believed in her. You know, when the very first person who believes in you, and recognizes something special in you, helps you out with that, you feel a loyalty, and you feel a pride. And I think that's what it was. But I also know that she felt, I KNOW when she was married, both marriages, she felt totally powerless to strike out on her own in any way. She had no idea how she could do that. When my parents divorced, she used my father's lawyer, instead of getting a lawyer. And he had quite a bit of money by that time. He had been successful in the car business, and I was telling her myself, ‘You need to get your own lawyer and have him represent you; this lawyer's representing Daddy.’ She wouldn't do it. And got a very small portion in the settlement of what he was worth. Enough to live comfortably, but she could have done much better. And in order to not confront him, she decided to just use his lawyer and take what he gave her.
LISA YARGER:
Right, right. Wow. What year was that that they split up?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
Let's see, that was in 1967, I believe.
LISA YARGER:
And they married in….
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
They married in '45.
LISA YARGER:
As far as the particulars of—you've talked about some of the reasons why she was frustrated with her relationship with Lair as far as not having the option to record or to do other things. What about the way he sort of molded her as a performer? I'm thinking especially of, like the costumes. That seemed to be a sore point with her. Can you talk a little bit about what she felt he was trying to do, and how would she have dressed, for example, in Chicago at WLS or with the Coon Creek Girls; how would she have done otherwise and what was it about that that was so irksome to her?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
She wanted to play the fiddle; she didn't want to play the banjo, is one of the earliest disagreements that they had. I think she felt, at the very beginning, when he was dressing

Page 11
her in the calico and the button shoes and all of that, that she was supposed to wear what he told her to wear, and I don't think she thought a lot about that at the beginning. But he wanted her to play banjo instead of fiddle. And she did that, but she did not want to do that. And so, I think probably that was her first in a long series of frustrations that she talked to her girlfriends about, and she wrote home about. But she did not confront him; she absolutely did not confront him about anything. She did a lot of privately commiserating with people around the house about him. He—he was very manipulative. He was very controlling. He was like black and white on the radio. That wonderful voice, you know, that wonderful way of talking about the country. And off the air, he was stern, he was not friendly, he would call performers together and say, ‘This is the way it's going to be done now.’ He did not give explanations about why he wanted things done the way he was doing them. I guess he felt that that was the business way to do it. And it worked for a good number of years. He was able to build his house, build his farm up, build all of what he had down there, because he paid his performers practically nothing. And he controlled their lives! You know, they would go out on these road shows for three or four days a week, leave their families, come in on the weekend, play the barn dance, leave again, with enough money to barely get by.
LISA YARGER:
And at that point, a lot of people of her stature could have been making good enough money just on the barn dance not to have to go away. That must have been hard when she had children.
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
Yeah, it was very difficult for her.
LISA YARGER:
Right, right. You say that she never confronted him. Is there any rebellious streak with her at all with regards to her relationships with Lair or men in her life, like husbands? She would talk about the situation with other women; was that how it came out?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
That's how it came out. She did not, you know, like you read in books, about like the river earth [unclear] book, James Deal [unclear] talks about the woman burning the house down and having to move into the smoke house to get rid of the guy's brother that lived with them, you know, and those kind of silent manipulative things that women did to keep from having to say anything. No, she didn't do that. She was just miserable in her private life. She was very angry; she knew she was being treated like she shouldn't be, but she did not confront it. She just had, most of her friends were performers. You know, they were women who, and I can remember them sitting at the kitchen table and them telling her, Aunt Rosie, my aunt, told her constantly what she needed to do. And my aunt had my uncle wrapped around her finger. You know, it was a very different relationship than my mom had with both her husbands. But she, it was as if she wasn't worth enough privately, beyond her music, to do that. And I don't know, I've always tried to understand that. And I've tried to work in my own life, you know, I knew it at such an early age and recognized it, that I have just kind of turned a hundred and eighty degrees from the way she deals with men. But she couldn't, she just couldn't, and it's impossible for people who see her perform to understand that. You know, Anne Alban, who is the very independent woman performer here in Kentucky, she'd get with her or with the Reel World ladies later on, or

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with some of the people at Renfro and just talk about, I mean, she would just lay it on the table in terms of what was going on, how Glen was doing this, and he wouldn't let her do this, or John Lair, wasn't he horrible? She absolutely would not say a word to them about it.
LISA YARGER:
But she would be very frank in her conversations.
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
Yes, and very descriptive, you know, and not protect them in any way in terms of what they were doing. But she couldn't take it any further than that.
LISA YARGER:
Because I feel like, now of course John Lair was still living when your mother died, I guess, so everything she wrote or said in her lifetime publicly she still, I think she still protected him publicly. In her autobiography there's a hint of resentfulness, the hint of, ‘I would have done this differently,’ but she always kind of laughs it off. And I guess her being polite not to confront them in public, even not to their face, she didn't want to do it.
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
No, she didn't want to do it. I guess she saw him as kind of a father figure, in a way, you know, or a grandfather figure who had his faults, but ultimately he was the reason for her success. And in public, she was very, she had that notion that you just don't do that, it's not ladylike to, but, we paid for it, you know, because privately she was just, I mean, around the house she was just constantly arguing and fussing and talking to people about how horrible things were, and why didn't somebody do something about it? You know? But she couldn't.
LISA YARGER:
Unladylike, you started to say, unladylike to confront?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
Unladylike to publicly rebuke John Lair or anyone.
LISA YARGER:
Right, right. Cari had an idea that she might have investigated, at some point, other options? Do you know how far she ever got with any of that?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
When I was about one year old, they stopped playing at Renfro. This was my dad's idea, to go down to Georgia. There was a little barn dance going on down there. So they packed up and moved, for about a year to Georgia, and didn't play on the [Renfro] barn dance. And she did not want to do that; she did not feel like it was fair to John Lair to do that, and it didn't work out financially for them to stay, so they come back.
LISA YARGER:
Interesting that that loyalty to Lair was one of the things that would have drawn her back. And of course when the Coon Creek Girls moved with Lair to Renfro Valley to Cincinnati, two of the women didn't go.
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]

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LISA YARGER:
Do you know why she and Rosie would have stayed with Lair? Were things fine up until that point that they didn't mind going down to Renfro Valley with him when the other two Coon Creek Girls were splitting off?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
I think that the other two probably could see that he was not paying them what they should be paid. I think they were from more affluent backgrounds, so they didn't feel the need as much to I guess to kind of sacrifice any other kind of career they may have to go down there with him. It wasn't a sure thing. Mom and Aunt Rosie were so homesick for Kentucky. You know, they'd lived a very primitive life. And plus I don't think they knew anything else to do. You know, it would have either been go with him or go back home. They didn't know what else to do. They didn't know that you could find people to represent you to get you other jobs. They weren't savvy in that way. I really don't know if Daisy tried to influence her to do things a different way; I don't know about that. I think they just didn't know that they could do anything else. Plus I know how homesick they were. They were terribly homesick. So, and I'm sure he was doing a lot of talking about how they would be able to go home, and he would take care of them. They just, music was about all that family had that was advanced. Everything else, all the other thinking—I'm not saying they weren't intelligent, because they were. They're a very intelligent strain through the Ledford family. I think it was just the primitive means, you know, of not knowing what else to do.
LISA YARGER:
Getting back to some of the things that Lair had them do or not do that your mother may have not appreciated, can you talk a little bit about her repertoire? Because I know that she writes a little bit about that, about the kinds of songs that he wouldn't let her sing. And one thing I'm curious about is your opinion of why those particular songs that she wanted to sing, like "John Henry" and "John Hardy," why did she have a particular liking for songs like those?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
I think probably she was a very, she had a very raw, kind of intense, very feeling kind of inner self. You know, just that kind of need to express but couldn't. And I think that followed her her whole life, that need to be earthy and that need to let it all out—gut level. And those songs did that for her—did for her what she couldn't voice. I think he wanted them to be perceived as these sweet little mountain women, and not to, you know, "How Many Biscuits Can You Eat" is fine, you know, that's cute, and that's representative of the kind of songs women would have sung. I think that he probably did not want them to be perceived as harsh and raw and low-class, and maybe he, perhaps he thought that might happen if they sang those kinds of songs. He was very perceptive in terms of what he wanted the public to view. He had a lot of talent for what he thought people wanted to hear in the general audience. And I certainly think there were a lot of things he did with that show that made it successful because of his perception of a wide audience. He didn't have any idea about very traditional music, keeping—you know, I think his idea of the oral history of traditional music was that it be accepted by a very wide audience, so, that's what he wanted to keep. And, you know, his idea of oral tradition's very different from somebody's like Loyal Jones, to record it like it is, rather than to record it to be successful and publicly accepted. That's the view that I have, from things she said.

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LISA YARGER:
What do you think he was trying to achieve with the Coon Creek Girls? How did he want them to be perceived?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
He probably wanted them to be perceived as unique, you know, the first women string band, but yet, he did not want them to be perceived as feminists, or someone who would upset the apple cart in their community. You know, they were women who played music at dances or that would have been the representative, if there were women who played at dances, but he did not want to, like on a religious level or a social level, for them to be perceived as people who would go over the line.
LISA YARGER:
And those songs we talked about would have been pushing it because of the behavior in them.
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
Right. He wanted them to be spunky on stage, but he didn't want them to be feminists on stage. You know. And so he controlled that very closely. The kinds of things they said on stage—he didn't want them to say much. He just wanted them to play. And the things that they said on stage were usually led by men. You know, men were the emcees, or Slim Miller was the comedian. And they responded to that, rather than doing very much initial talking on their own.
LISA YARGER:
Although at one point, I don't know if Daisy told me this or I read this that your mother has said, that there was one emcee that was always nervous when the Coon Creek Girls were on stage because he never knew what they were going to say.
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
Oh!
LISA YARGER:
Maybe Daisy told me that. But it made me think that maybe they had a little bit of leeway, and this was in Cincinnati, but a little bit of leeway to kind of play around, to cut up a little bit?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
Hmm! That's interesting.
LISA YARGER:
And she may not be remembering that—it's been so long—quite as it happened, but that's just a little bit of a different take on that. That at least in Cincinnati things weren't as scripted as much and they could play around a little bit. I don't know if that's true. To what extent were her goals, I guess her ambitions, professionally and personally, met in her lifetime? I know you say she wasn't happy…
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
I think her goals were met at WLS to the extent that they ever were. Once she got to Renfro Valley, well, once she got married, then she became doubly controlled and had very little independence, very little avenue to be happy, because she was happy only when she was playing music, and once she got to Renfro Valley, that was very controlled by John Lair. Her first husband was not a musician, and there was no music, you know, there was no one coming to their house to play music or do any of that. They had a child, she

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said, to bring happiness into the house. She thought that would save the marriage, and that just failed miserably. That was a sad situation with that child her whole life, because he ended up living—she was going on lots of road shows when he was a baby, and he ended up living with the father's aunt and uncle who lived down on the same farm where he lived. And when she married my father, he did not want to—well, Curt wouldn't have allowed it anyway—for Benny Joe to come live with us. So that was a thorn for her her whole life. That he was not really a part of her family. You know, and then she began to have to leave us the same way she'd left him.
Of course, my dad was going with her, and that was a support, because they were musicians on the same road show. My father was also a very controlling kind of person. He was very talented too, but he was more talented in the business area, really, than any other way. He did not recognize the importance of traditional music; he just wanted successful country music to be the way it was. So she could not express her innate talent at home very much with him. When people came to play, the gospel music was really—he liked gospel music, and that's what they mostly sang at home when people would come over, they would get these gospel groups and she loved that. I think she felt a real influence of black music, you know, the gospel music of the south in the Appalachian kind of music, and it is. There's a lot of that kind of flavor that runs through it, and so she was able to feel that when she, you know, when they played gospel. But she never really got any support much from him in terms of maintaining or hooking up with people in the '60s who were beginning to recognize the importance of oral tradition and that kind of thing. He had no interest in that whatsoever. And they stopped playing at Renfro in about, well, actually, we moved to Berea when I was seven, in about 1955, and then they went back and did a few more weekend things after that for a few years. But Renfro's popularity just kind dissipated with the coming on of rock and roll and more interest in that. Once she moved to Berea and stopped performing at Renfro at all she really had a hard time. She just was very depressed and didn't know what to do with herself, and just really struggled during that time. She had Aunt Rosie living there, who tried her best to, you know, Aunt Rosie would get involved in social clubs, gardening clubs, and all that kind of thing; she was always you know, finding something to do. Had a life beyond music. And she was always trying to rope Mom into it. Mom always felt, oh, those people don't like me, I don't like that kind of thing, I just want to, you know, no, I'm just going back home. So.
LISA YARGER:
And what, did she play music at all in that time span? I'm not sure what year she was rediscovered by Mike Seeger and others, but do you know about what that [unclear]
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
That was during the time we lived, I married and we lived in South Carolina during that time. It was between like, it was about 1976, I think.
LISA YARGER:
Oh, that late?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
Yeah. That she really, now, she had done a few little things here and right around Lexington. But it was in the late seventies when she started traveling with Mike and

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started really getting into the college scene, you know, of performing and going with them. So there was a lot of time span in between there.
LISA YARGER:
That must have been so hard.
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
Yeah. But she just, she did, like hook up locally. As I said, once she moved to Lexington, she started to hook up locally with some people there who would come by the house and play. People who were interested in folk music. But the Seegers didn't come along 'til the late seventies.
LISA YARGER:
Okay. So it wasn't as if she wasn't playing at all.
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
Right. They were going to dam the Red River Gorge, the Army Corps of Engineers. And they started having these things up there to raise money to stop that. You know, these political kinds of gatherings, and she would go back and play those, and that was fun for her to get involved in that. She, there were a couple people at UK [University of Kentucky] who found out about her who did folk classes, and so they would come over and interview her from time to time. So she had a little bit of outlet, but not much.
LISA YARGER:
Loyal Jones.
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
Loyal Jones. That happened in the '70s, too, that he had her come to Berea College to do the classes there, and that was when he started encouraging her to write her autobiography.
LISA YARGER:
Were there songs that, we've talked about how Lair restricted some of the repertoire of the Coon Creek Girls and of your mother. Were there songs that he had her play that she did not like? Or, did she just not mind those and just wish she could play additional ones? What was the situation with that.
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
I don't remember her not wanting to sing particular songs. I do remember her talking about, you know, he would always write up what they were going to sing and she didn't like that. She wanted to choose it herself. But I don't remember her ever saying she didn't like any song that they did. She did not like bluegrass music at all. She thought it was kind of a more modern, you know, trying to do away with traditional music and bring something more modern on. She did not like that to be performed on the barn dance; she hated it. And very often she was introduced as a bluegrass performer, and that really made her mad. [Laughter] But I don't remember her talking about not wanting to do a particular song.
LISA YARGER:
What did she like best about performing or about being on stage?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
She was very charismatic. She really knew how to take an audience in her hand. And I think as much as anything else, just that power that she felt when she was performing. The fact that she was able to get them when there were men performers who

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couldn't, necessarily. She was the main act at Renfro Valley, you know, whenever she performed, or whenever they performed, they were the main act. It was a being able to hold the audience in your hand kind of thing. And so, I think she loved the music, but I think even more than that, she loved that capturing the audience and knowing that she had the power to do that, you know. That just really was wonderful for her, because she couldn't do it any other time.
LISA YARGER:
When she sang—she had such a wonderful voice—what do you think she putting into it, besides the message of the lyrics, besides whatever that is—what else is going on, do you think, in her voice and in the way she sings? She's got such a hard, really forceful sound.
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
I think probably all of her frustration, all of her wishing people could recognize, or wishing the people she struggled with could recognize the depth of her feelings, the depth of who she was. She had a difficult time doing anything more than—I don't know how to describe this—her, the way she expressed herself to people was like a lecture. When she talked to her friends or her family about herself, it was almost like a lecture. It was almost like, this is the way I feel, and this is the way it is, and I don't understand why I can't communicate this to Glen, or why he doesn't understand. She would have been a great teacher, you know, she would have been a great teacher of her music, because she had the ability, when she was talking, to just capture whoever it was that was listening to her. But that same thing, that same kind of persona that made her so appealing to hear by other women, by historians, was a real turn off to my father or to people who were very close to her. Because it was as if she wasn't communicating with us; she was lecturing to us. And so, to get real personal with us was, she just didn't do it. And she didn't know how to do it. She thought she was doing it, when she would be in that kind of, you know, that kind of mode of telling a story, telling her story. I don't really know how to describe any better than that.
LISA YARGER:
So, the people that she could and would share those feelings with, she would just pour them out. She would be open and honest about them, but it was all kind of one way?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
She didn't even look at you. It was like she was looking over there, you know, just telling it all. Yeah. So, she thought constantly. I mean, a lot of the times, even when she was working around the house, her lips were moving. She was talking to herself. She wanted desperately for people to understand, but she couldn't hook up on a real personal level and just see close, you know. It was always kind of a lecture kind of thing, kind of a philosophical presentation. [Laughter] And I think that's what drew a lot of musicians to her, is because, they could just sit and listen to her, you know, tell these stories. And I think artists in general have difficulty with that. You know, they know how they feel, they are driven by certain things, they want people to understand them, but they can't stop long enough to really make a decision about what it is they're going to do and step off of that and do it, you know. It's just part of their art, almost.
LISA YARGER:
What was it that you think she wanted people to understand about her?

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BARBARA GREENLIEF:
[pause] That she could, that she could make decisions, that she could be independent if she would only be allowed to. She felt that she could not get through to my father, she could not get through to John Lair. She could not—why did they not understand where she was coming from, or where the girls were coming from? But she could not, she could not talk to them! You know, she talked to everybody else about why they wouldn't understand, but yet, whether it was a small issue like putting down a new piece of carpet. You know, why couldn't they, why couldn't they see that that needed to be done? And she would talk all day about it, but she wouldn't talk to them about it. So, and I just think it's, I think that was her upbringing. I think that—although, my Aunt Rosie was totally different, so I don't know.
LISA YARGER:
Yeah, that's interesting.
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
My other aunt, who they called Black-eyed Susan, Minnie? Was a very unusual personality. She explored like eastern religions and things like that at an early age that nobody was doing in the '50s. I mean, she was a very Bohemian thinker, but yet subservient to men also. A very unusual combination of, you know.
LISA YARGER:
How do you think Rosie ended up so different?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
I think she married a man who was—Uncle Cotton was, you know, Red Foley's brother. He was from a fairly affluent family there in Berea. I can't imagine why they got together in the first place. I mean, I can't—she was more outgoing. She was always THE one in the family who was most outspoken and funny and, she just had a real funny flair to her personality. Which I think was probably genetic, I mean I think it just was always there. But he was a very unusual man; her husband empowered her and just worshipped her. And maybe it was that outgoingness, that willingness to just have fun. I don't know, I don't know what—but he would even try to convince Daddy to be more giving to Mom, you know, because they were pretty close friends. Not because—Daddy respected him because of who he was. You know, he was a Foley. I think my father was very impressed with prestige. I don't know. I don't know where that came from. But her kids, my cousins, were given anything they wanted. You know, they were just lavishly—had motorcycles and ponies, and things that, you know, were unheard of when I was growing up. I don't know. I don't know but Mom—she worked on Mom constantly, trying to get her to confront Daddy about things, and she never would. And she would get so tired. I remember her saying, ‘Lily May, I've talked to you 'till I'm blue in the face about this. Why don't you just do something?’ You know? [Laughter] She couldn't.
LISA YARGER:
With Lair, did your mother even—you say she didn't confront him—would she ever have ventured, like the girls did when they said, ‘Mr. Lair, we thought we'd call ourselves Wildwood Flowers.’ Would she have ever ventured to say something like, ‘Mr. Lair, I'd like to pick some songs for the program.’ Would she have tried to raise some things and then he didn't listen so she didn't push it? Or would she not have even bothered?

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BARBARA GREENLIEF:
I feel like she probably made some suggestions, yeah. She would never have, if he said no, that would have been the end of it. I don't know. I wasn't, you know, I was never around those kinds of things. But I would guess that she would probably make an occasional suggestion. She would do that with my father, but that's, you know, he would very quickly, [she hits one palm with her fist]. So, she seemed to surround herself with men like that. And I don't know whether she saw them as models of people she'd like to be like, and that's what attracted her to, you know, men like that? Or what. But both of her husbands were very—just like John Lair. Very controlling. You know. You did not—and I [Laughter] she, I was the one in our family who confronted my father. And the way she reacted to that was, ‘You're just like your father!’
LISA YARGER:
Oh, interesting!
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
Yeah. She saw me as just like Glen. You know, I was always just like Glen. The way I was just like Glen was that I was just as outspoken as he was, and would not allow myself to be, you know, controlled by things that I felt were unfair. So, her perception of that was: Barbara's just like Glen. So, you know, there must have been that strong message of: be a lady, you know, be subservient to men. That is the way that we women here are to—you know, it's in the Bible, you know, that you're supposed to let the man make the last decision. And I don't think it was only a not knowing how, it was too the way women were supposed to be. And I think she viewed—I remember her always having a lot of sympathy for Cotton, when Aunt Rosie would, she felt would over-manipulate him. You know? She would say, poor Cotton, you know, Rosie's just gone out and bought another couch, or she's gone out and done this, and she would sympathize with him!
LISA YARGER:
Interesting.
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
So, it was a combination I'd say.
LISA YARGER:
So she bought into the system but resented it at the same time, was kind of what was going on there.
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
Mm-hm.
LISA YARGER:
Yeah.
Was there anybody in her later years—you say she kind of gravitated towards men that were manipulative and controlling. Did that happen in her later career too, that she ended up being attached to somebody who was helping her out that that was sort of the operative sort of dynamic? Or was that different?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
I think when she got away from, you know, when my parents divorced, she moved to Lexington. She had the means—she had a house and she had so much money a month from my father. So I think that gave her some independence that she had never had before. She didn't know she could have. So, the people that she, now, she did, there were several characters who would come there and spend all day talking to her and, you know, taking notes that were just trying to produce some little—I'm not going to mention names, but who would produce little books about her that she was very embarrassed by.
LISA YARGER:
I know who you're talking about. [Laughter]

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BARBARA GREENLIEF:
Okay. She would still give them her time, you know, be very gracious. But she began to make what I consider smarter choices about people she hooked up with, like Mike Seeger and like Loyal Jones. And I think, I'm so glad she met Loyal Jones. Because I think, that was, she finally found a man, you know, that she had some kind of professional relationship with, who she felt was genuine. And she just, every time I went over to talk with her, she mentioned Loyal Jones and what a wonderful person he was. And she just couldn't realize that there could be a man like that. So I'm really glad that he was able to work with her on some projects. Because it gave her the model she'd never had. And she just so highly respected him. [Phone ringing] [Recorder is turned off and then back on.]
LISA YARGER:
You were talking about her relationship with Loyal Jones and how that was a positive one for her. In general, what did she get out of those later years? It sounds like those were really rewarding years for her.
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
I think they were her best years, aside from the experience of WLS, which I don't think could have been topped in her life. She got a lot of, I guess, affirmation from people who were important, you know, and who were important in a sense that she discovered later was happening: that sense of oral history about traditional music. That was not something that she knew about in her early life. You know, that kind of scholarly approach to preserving what went on in the mountains of Appalachia. That was not something she was even aware of, I don't think. Now, she started reading, once she moved to Lexington she started reading Wendell Barry's books, and James Steele's books, and people who were writing about the Appalachian area of Kentucky. She had never done that before.
The life she lived with my father had changed from being a Renfro Valley kind of experience into a more Nashville experience. They had these things in Berea called Berea Homecoming that they got involved in helping with, and they were having people come to perform in Berea once a year. And it would be like the beauty contest, the, you know, the, all the different kind of things that a community does once a year would be involved in this, but they would also have a major performer come. And they did it out at the Indian Fort Theater, the amphitheater, which could hold a large audience outside. And, like Marty Robbins came one year, Flatt and Scruggs, people like that. And they would all, and my father would always help coordinate that, and they would always come and eat with us, and we would have a big party at the house, and they would always, and Billy Ed Wheeler was a big part of that too, from the time, I guess I remember Billy Ed starting to come to the house when I was about in the sixth grade. He was a student at Berea College at that time and was already writing lots of songs. Actually, he was a student who'd come back to do some work, and he was involved in that. And so, kind of the music experiences that she had during that time were those kinds of things. A lot of parties at the house where Billy Ed would come, and we would do Billy Ed songs, and she would sing gospel songs. There was a fellow named Shorty Van Winkle who still has a gospel group in Kentucky who would come and, those were kind of the, what kept her going. You know, those parties. And she didn't sing "Pretty Polly" and

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songs like that. She did "John Henry," and she'd do the driving songs with her banjo, but she did not do any of the old ballad kinds of stuff at those parties. Nobody was interested in hearing that at all. And so, that was what she did until, and those parties went on at our house until, pretty much until the time they divorced. Occasionally. You know, Billy Ed would come back, even when he went to Nashville, he would come back and they would have parties, or they would go down to see Billy Ed, and they would have parties. So, she had more of an influence like that. But her, what she did was shoved further and further in the background in lieu of the gospel, just singing harmony and having fun with it and, you know, and getting with these other people and hearing them play and really just, what we called music parties.
LISA YARGER:
And so, the later interest allowed her venues again
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
To come out.
LISA YARGER:
Now would you say that songs like "Pretty Polly" were the dearest to her heart? Or, you referred to that as…
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
I think the driving songs were the dearest to her heart. She sang a lot of the mournful kinds of songs around the house, but I think they were more to rock Cari, or, you know, later to rock Cari and to, you know, or earlier on to take care of kids with. But when people came to hear her play, there were local musicians like, oh, what's his name. A black musician who plays blues; what's his name, that came to the house a lot, too.
[Her husband comes in and says name is Sparky Rucker.]
He would come a lot and, once she moved to Lexington, and stopped having the music parties with Dad, you know, the kind of more Nashville like, then people started finding out she was over there who played traditional music, through UK and through Loyal and people like that, and Sparky was one who came a lot. And he was playing in other states a little bit and was hooking up with some of these festivals some. So I'd say he was probably one of the ones who was instrumental in Mike [Seeger] finding out about her. I'm trying to think of others who were more local. The Albans, you know, who would have her come play at the state parks in Kentucky, and Sparky would play those a little bit.
I'd say Jean Ritchie.
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
Jean Ritchie would be another one. Jean was playing locally a lot, so Jean would have been another one. But I think probably Mike Seeger and Alice Gerrard found something in her that was different from Jean's music. Which was a more raw, kind of more the—Jean's music was more the acceptable to the middle social class, and Mom's was the more driving, down-home kind of stuff that the poor people played. And saw a different—something different, you know, that she had that way.

Page 22
LISA YARGER:
When she sang songs like "Pretty Polly," those murder ballads, do you think there was any particular reason that she was interested in those kinds of songs?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
[Laughter] I think the songs like "Wild Bill Jones" and "Pretty Polly," some of the ones that had messages that were getting back at men, or you know that men were one way or another, appealed to her, because it was an outlet for her. Mmm hmm. Yeah, I think so. I think they appealed to her.
LISA YARGER:
Yeah, because that one song, "White Oak Mountain," I saw in the Appalshop film; there's one clip of her singing that, and it is so powerful when she talks about getting down a 44
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
And blowing off a sorry man's brains! [Laughter]
LISA YARGER:
You know, you're going, ‘God, who is she thinking about?’ Because she—she's really very serious and solemn as she sings it, and it's very—there's a lot of sadness in her voice, too.
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
She was a very frustrated woman about that element of not being able to confront men. That was a big element of her frustration in her life.
LISA YARGER:
Did she recognize that what she was doing, as far as, that she wasn't confronting them? Did she recognized that she had for some reason an inability to do that? Or did she just see that, you've been talking about how she felt like: why don't they understand!
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
She did not recognize that she had a problem with that. No. She thought they had a problem, I think. And if she did, she may have privately recognized it and not been able to voice it. I don't know.
LISA YARGER:
"Banjo Pickin' Girl" is another song that I wanted to ask you about. I know that she and Lair and Rosie all kind of, it sounds like, wrote verses to that. Do you know if that had a special meaning for her, that particular song?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
I think the wanting to break away part, you know, of ‘I'm going around the world’ probably did. Yeah, I think it was a, you know, a need to break away, a need to be independent. I don't, you know, ‘I'm going around the world; I'm a banjo pickin' GIRL,’ you know, was probably a longing she had to do that, but I've never heard her say that. She would never say that. That's a guess.
LISA YARGER:
I just have a few more questions. You said probably nothing could top the WLS experience. What was so great about that year for her?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
Well, it was a hard place to get on. You know, it was the top, it was THE show; it was the Grand Ole Opry then. And for her to be there, you know, at that young age, and to be considered such a unique, special part of it, I think was just something, I think—she

Page 23
was not married, she was living with Mr. Lair but at that time I don't think she felt that she was manipulated in any way. She was there because she had been chosen. And I think it was only when she married that she began to feel that sense of—she felt the sense of being controlled, but she didn't recognize it as being controlled. She recognized it as living with men who were not fair. But up there, I don't think she felt any of that. She just felt she was on top of the world. And this wonderful man had made that possible for her. And really, he did!
LISA YARGER:
What about the years as a Coon Creek Girl, and as far as the band goes. First of all, do you know how Lair came up with that idea?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
The Coon Creek?
LISA YARGER:
Yeah. Well, I mean the idea for an all-girl group.
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
No, I really don't. I don't know if he was looking for one. The fact that she has sisters who, you know, a sister who played and a sister who was so outlandish. I mean, Rosie, Rosie was so expressive on stage. Mom had the audience in terms of being the charismatic, stand back, and kind of, when she started to talk, everybody turned around and listened. She just had that. Aunt Rosie was just like someone who could not possibly, and that's probably the one they were thinking about in Cincinnati that they were worried about, was Rosie. Because Rosie was just, you've seen, you know, in any group there's a person who just goes off on a tangent or goes off on a limb and they're just wild and they can't be controlled. That's the way she was. She just—whatever came into her head came out. She would dance, she would just fling, you know, herself, just anything on stage she felt like doing, or off, she would do. She was kind of a Jonathan Winters, you know, of traditional music. She was just unique in terms of what she wanted to say and do, she did. Maybe, that may have had an influence, the fact that he could see in her a real performer, you know, someone who could capture the audience and who could pull off that end of a band. Because usually there needs to be a person like that in a band, who is kind of the more comedian, the kind of more social with the audience. Mom had the talent; I don't want to say the most talent, but she had the most drive to play. Rosie had the personality, you know. So maybe he saw, maybe that was the idea, you know, that he could see that the combination could do it, and he'd never seen that combination before. I don't know. Or whether it was a preliminary idea in his mind, I don't know.
LISA YARGER:
That's interesting that they were so different. And I know so little about Rosie, so that's helpful. Did she enjoy playing with an all-female group?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
Oh, yeah. I think, the, probably that saved her, that camaraderie with her sisters, or with the women, because of the private turmoil [Laughter] that she was always under with the men. But I don't think she felt competitive with them in the least. She felt very competitive with the other women who played, and was always trying to justify how they were better or how they were unique.

Page 24
LISA YARGER:
With Lulu Belle?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
Yeah, with any of those. Or at Renfro Valley even. There was always some reason why the Coon Creek Girls were better, you know, and she was that way in her private life. She was very competitive with other women; she was very suspicious of any woman who would come to the house. That was an interesting thing. It was just her close little, her little circle that she shared with, and everyone else was just kind of, you know, she was suspicious. And that was probably part of the background, too. The feeling unaccepted in the community. The Baptist preacher used to come out to our house when we first moved to Berea. He was secretly a country music fan, you know, he was kind of a ham and wanted to know things about music, but he would come under the pretext of trying to save her. And he would come out, and he would get out of the car and go around and check for beer cans behind the garage, because Mom drank beer incessantly. She loved beer; all her life she loved it. And he would go out and check for beer cans behind our garage where we burned our garbage, and then he would come in and start, you know, you should not be playing the Sunday Morning Gathering, and that's a sin, you know, and go on through this, and she'd say, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah,’ you know, ‘I know, I know.’ And then he would start asking her questions about all the performers and all the gossip and all the, you know, all the things that were going on at Renfro Valley. So [Laughter]
LISA YARGER:
[Laughter] Oh my gosh.
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
But she never felt accepted socially by people outside her little circle. And I think us kids have had that same problem. It's like, you grow up in a family like that, or you grow up in those kinds of conditions that are very different from anything anybody else does, it's difficult to feel accepted. You know, it's difficult to feel like people think you're great, or think you're okay. And she had a lot of difficulty with most people, except her little circle. Kept her circle of friends very
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]
LISA YARGER:
Do you know, in addition to the songs that your mother heard growing up from your father and other people in the community, do you know if she picked up songs—I know in her autobiography she writes that at one point, I guess when they moved to the more populated area she was listening to some records, I suppose at other people's homes?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
Mmm hmm. Yeah, at other people's homes, that would have been.
LISA YARGER:
Because a couple of her songs are very close to Carter Family songs, like the versions. I'm trying to remember which.
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
The, let's see, the orphan song. They sing that song, I think. The orphan song, I've heard on some of their records. So, I don't know if that's the one you're thinking about.

Page 25
LISA YARGER:
"Lulu Walls" or "Lulu Lee"—I get them mixed up—one of those songs is really close, I think, to the Carter Family song.
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
They probably, and I know at some times they had a radio, so they could have been hearing those on the radio, and she could have learned them from the radio as well as from records that someone had.
LISA YARGER:
So she actually would have had a radio—the family would have.
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
Mmm hmm. Mmm hmm. They had one later. I'm not sure, to tell you the truth, I'm not sure if they had a radio because she sent them one or whether they had one earlier. So, but I know other people in the community would have had. I don't know at what point they got one.
LISA YARGER:
Okay. Do you know who else she might have picked up songs from besides the Carter Family, and Jimmy Rogers was another person she mentioned in the autobiography.
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
I really don't, no.
LISA YARGER:
Cari told me that, and of course I picked this up from the film, where she tells a story right before she goes into a version of "Pretty Polly," she talks about how her mother strangely enough didn't like her to sing the drunkard songs but didn't mind if she would sing a song where a girl got murdered. And she has a really wonderful, funny way of telling that. And Cari and I were talking, and Cari said that she was just a fantastic storyteller, and that she really incorporated a lot of stories into her performances in later years. When did that start coming out?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
That was after she moved to Lexington. You mean the storytelling aspect?
LISA YARGER:
Yeah.
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
I think probably Jean [Ritchie] modeled that for her. You know, when she started going to the festivals and seeing other people do that. She'd never done that at Renfro, you know, that just wasn't part of it. But she was really kind of re-educated about a different kind of performance she could do when she started on the folk circuit. And probably Jean or someone like that modeled that for her at a festival and she started realizing she could sit down and tell about her songs as well as sing them. And she was great at it! I mean, she would just, Mom had a real knack for putting words together and being able to, she had a funny, a kind of humorous streak. It wasn't like Aunt Rosie. It could have a kind of a little twist to it, which was almost—she was really good at sarcasm. I mean, not that she was mean to people; it wasn't that at all, it was just that she, she had a way of making kind of stories that otherwise would have been, you know, kind of, I don't know, upsetting—funny. She was good at that.

Page 26
LISA YARGER:
Yeah, sort of sardonic.
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
Right. And I think she felt free to be, to let more of that come out once she divorced, you know, and was in her own home. And I remember when we were really young, she would be funny sometimes; there would be funny things she would say. And that just all went away as we got older, but it came back. [Laughter] You know. And I'm sure that traveling, you know, with these musicians, and them having a great time together and telling stories; she could probably top any they could tell, so she just developed it, and it was as accepted as the music.
LISA YARGER:
Right, right.
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
Jean's is more—Mom's was more told in a funny way, you know, laughing and just slapping her knee, and Jean's was more gracious, you know. Mom's was more raw, you know, just like people would really do, back in the mountains. She just, [Laughter] and I think she almost, I wonder if in her later years, I would be wondering when she was telling some of those stories on stage, if she were acting like her father acted, or like a man acted. You know, when he talked? It was finally a way for her to get things out. [Laughter] Because that's what it reminded me of; it reminded me of ways I'd heard men talk in the mountains, rather than women.
LISA YARGER:
Interesting.
Do you think that in those later years, when she was giving her little spiel about John Lair wanted them to do this or that, was that a way of sort of—did she hint in those little anecdotes that she would tell in between songs, during performances, did she start to hint at that kind of manipulation? Was she kind of referencing that and letting people know, very subtly, what she thought about it?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
You mean, after she left Renfro?
LISA YARGER:
Yeah.
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
Oh yeah, yeah. I think she was. She was empowered by people like Reel World. People she—she loved that band. She was empowered by women who spoke out. And she admired women, like Maya Angelou, you know, read all of Maya Angelou's books. She was an avid reader. And when she got over to Lexington, she just read constantly, and those were the kinds of things she read. And so, she was able to voice, you know, voice some of what she'd never been able to voice before. She wasn't voicing it directly to a man, but she was voicing it to an audience. It was a little bit more protected, [Laughter] you know, than the direct man link, I guess. But it was always inside her; she just couldn't let it out.
LISA YARGER:
How far did she push that? How far did you ever hear her push that publicly?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
I saw her perform at the Unitarian Church, like a picnic thing there one time with Reel World. And she was very specific about how she felt. I don't remember exactly what

Page 27
she said, but I remember being surprised. And then at the gorge, during some of the political fights they were having about the damming. She, when she would talk about the way they were manipulating the community, I felt that she was really talking about the way she'd been manipulated. It gave her an outlet, although it wasn't direct, you know. It wasn't directly related, I mean she didn't relate it directly to—I felt it's how she felt, what she was saying about what was being done to the community was really her voicing what had been done to her.
LISA YARGER:
Sounds like she was standing up to the big guy, in that case.
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
Mmm hmm, mmm hmm. And it felt really good, you know.
LISA YARGER:
Yeah, that's fascinating. Was that her biggest burst of political activism? Were there other occasions?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
That's the only one, really, that I can think of.
LISA YARGER:
And they were successful, weren't they?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
Mmm hmm, yeah.
LISA YARGER:
You talked about this preacher coming over to save her and whatever. Did she, you said that your grandmother wanted them to go to church on a regular basis, and I guess there probably wasn't a preacher around to hold services weekly, but, did she grow up sort of a religious person herself?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
I think that she probably, I think that she was like a non-church-goer religious person. And I think that's probably part of what kept her from being able to confront men, is that she felt that that was a sin, you know, or her mother felt that was a sin. I've never heard her express that she questioned, you know, God or anything like that. She, but she, I don't think she ever felt a need to go to church. We went occasionally, about the only time we ever went was at Easter, and it was because my dad made us go so he could look good in the community. [Laughter] It wasn't—didn't have anything to do with religion. So, none of us are really church-goers. We just, and I feel uncomfortable, the times that I've taken the children and tried to get involved—and I've done that several times—I've always felt that here was this group of people doing this activity, and I was on the outside of it and didn't know how to do it, and it didn't feel comfortable at all, and wanted to get away as fast as I could, so.
LISA YARGER:
Uh huh. I know that feeling. [Laughter] Yeah, yeah. The beer drinking, Sue Massek talks a little bit about that in the film, just how her mother would have rolled over in her grave or something if she had known it. Do you think that—I know she enjoyed it—do you think that was also a little bit of rebelliousness?

Page 28
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
I don't know. I think she just, I didn't sense that it was a rebelliousness, although I know they started smoking as soon as they got to—she and Rosie started smoking as soon as they got to Chicago. Which ended up killing both of them, you know. But, I know that was rebellion. They said that was rebellion as much as anything, against their mom and, you know, her thinking they had to be so protected up there, and they weren't, you know. So I know that that was rebellion. I think she really enjoyed drinking, I think it relaxed her, and I've never seen her have too much to drink to the point where she was tipsy, or anything like that. But, you know, there have been times where I wondered if she was slightly alcoholic, because she drank, she'd get up and pop a beer first thing in the morning sometimes. Not always, but sometimes, and I'd think, wow! That's one of the classic symptoms, you know. So I was always kind of wondering about that, but I think she just really enjoyed it; I think it calmed her down. And none of her family—none of the men or anyone have been alcoholics, so I think it probably was just a calming factor for her. She just liked it, you know?
LISA YARGER:
Yeah, yeah. The smoking—how would—do you think John Lair would have approved of that?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
Oh, no, they never smoked in front of him. He didn't know they smoked. They would hide. They hid and did it.
LISA YARGER:
He never knew?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
No. He may have known in very later years. I don't remember whether he did or not, but they never smoked around Renfro Valley or anything like that.
LISA YARGER:
Was that because—was there a stigma about women smoking? Or about, did that just not gel with their image as the, you know, sweet little country girls, or whatever.
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
I don't know if women smoked down there at that time or not. I don't remember that. Probably did. The dressing rooms, you know, at the barn dance, I was in them all the time. And they were pretty loose in terms of laughing and talking and having a good time. John Lair was always on the other side, the back side of the barn in the control room. He didn't mingle with any of that. And was very smart to do it, because you have to let entertainers kind of do their thing, if they're going to entertain well. You know, the more controls you put on them, the worse it's going to, you know, and I think he probably understood that. And that was probably an area where he was, you know, he let them be. Have their fun backstage and that kind of thing. He would have been a fool not to.
That's happening down there right now with, Warren Rosenthal owns Renfro Valley right now, and he won't let them smoke backstage. He puts real controls on what goes on backstage and performers are very unhappy, and that's ridiculous. You know, he just doesn't understand performers. You don't do things like that. [Phone ringing] [Recorder is turned off and then back on.]

Page 29
LISA YARGER:
One question that I asked Cari about too. I was interested, in looking at the photographs of your mother from the later years, to see that she often performed to wear the calico dresses, the long, calico dresses and the high-topped shoes. And, when I was reading about her, or her oral history interviews and the autobiography she, you know, of course, talked about how she didn't want to be wearing those things, and then I was interested that she chose in her later years to dress in something that was kind of similar to those dresses that Lair made them wear.
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
I don't know, I think it was probably just, ‘I'm Lily May, and this is the way I'm supposed to look.’ You know, when Loyal had her come to Berea, she dressed that way for the performance there; that was on the tape. And she, I think when she first started traveling around she did some of that. But that went away, and she started wearing more of what was being worn by other people, other performers. She had me make her a couple of dresses that were loose, you know, kind of like what Jean wears—loose dresses, long—that she wore a lot towards the end that weren't fitted or weren't, you know, like the old-fashioned dresses. And she wore like smock type things; she began to wear more of that. I think she just didn't know what else to do. She felt like that represented her, and that was what people expected. So that's what she did. But that didn't last long.
LISA YARGER:
Okay, okay. What did she think she was representing?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
Well, it changed dramatically. I think once she hooked up with Mike she was validated. You know, her kind of music, as it was—with no one telling her to change anything about it—was validated. So that's when, you know, the dress went away and all that. Earlier, when she was with John Lair and when she was a Coon Creek Girl, she was doing what he told her to do. You know? And nothing else. So, I'm really glad for that experience for her. Because it, the real Lily May was identified for her before she died, you know, publicly and privately.
LISA YARGER:
And what was that real Lily May? Did she think of herself in terms of—
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
Musician.
LISA YARGER:
Just musician.
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
Yeah. She was a musician first, and she was a very powerful storyteller. She understood the poor families of eastern Kentucky in terms of what they—I think, I think, you know, I said she couldn't voice that she was subservient, and would probably have scratched somebody's eyes out if they had said publicly that she was subservient. She didn't view herself as that way. But, I think that she probably felt like she was a model for what women could be who came from that situation. You know, could be with a talent. And so she always viewed herself from the perspective of the talent and the music. And, you know, that was okay, I mean, that was good. She was always very jealous of Aunt Rosie's ability to socially mix and, you know, get into things beyond music. She knew she

Page 30
couldn't do that. She just couldn't do it. She was very private and very, what she did around the house on her own, which was mostly read, and garden, and be alone.
LISA YARGER:
Did she think of herself as performing traditional Appalachian music? Would she have referred to it in those terms?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
Mountain music. She called it mountain music. She used the term traditional music because she learned it when she, you know, started. But she considered it mountain music, I think, more than anything else.
LISA YARGER:
Okay. How did she feel, going back again, about—I mean, Lair picked up on HER background when he was forming the Coon Creek Girls. It was, you know, there were four of them, but it was Rosie and Lily May's background that formed the basis for the group. I mean, he pretended they were all from that area, and sometimes passed them off as sisters, but it was their rural background that he was representing. How did she feel about the way that he represented that?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
I don't think she thought about it that much early on. I think she just, she just considered them very unique, you know, the idea of the first all-girl string band and all that. I think she did feel like he was looking out for their best interests in terms of not being viewed as just low class, you know, and that's probably part of the loyalty thing, you know, the choice of songs, the choice of costume. I don't think she felt that they had a lot of ability to make decisions about how they should be represented because they weren't social enough. And so he was, and, you know, he made the right decisions to represent them in a way that they were accepted by a wide audience, and they were socially acceptable. And she didn't know how to be socially acceptable, and her family didn't know how to be socially acceptable, but Mr. Lair knew, and they should do what he said so they would be viewed well.
LISA YARGER:
On stage and off stage?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
Mmm hmm.
LISA YARGER:
Who was their audience? Especially—I know the folks who came through Renfro Valley were a lot of tourists and so forth, but, when she was at WLS, who was listening and who do you think—and also, when they were in Cincinnati, who really liked THEM?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
I think it was just the everyday people, living out there listening to radio, you know. I think even, I don't know about townspeople, living right in town. I don't know what their music preference was at that time, you know, the more urban type people. But most people weren't urban. And I just think that was the down-home sound of what people sat around and played at home. And that's what people wanted to hear; that's what they were hungry for. You know, it was familiar, and it was the real sound. I know when I hear someone like Ricky Skaggs, it makes me furious to hear what he's become, when I know where he started, and the kind of beautiful music that he did, you know, the real genuine

Page 31
kind of sound he had, and how he's refined all of the interest right out of that. I think that people identified with it, you know, it felt like home to them. And, you know, the novelty of the women, you know, and they were pretty, and they were putting their pictures out in little magazines; WLS had a little publication that it sent around that you could subscribe to. It was maybe a fascination, like a movie star fascination for down-home people, that they were women. But I just think people are hungry for—always—are hungry for the genuine feel of anything that's real, you know, and it was the real thing. They didn't—that's one thing, he [Lair] didn't have them polish anything. You know, he wanted it just like it was.
LISA YARGER:
The music.
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
The music. Uh huh. Aside from the choice of songs.
LISA YARGER:
Uh huh. But the sound. Besides their talent, and definitely their personality, but with regards to their image, I guess, and I guess those things both play a large role, but I'm trying to think of how the women contributed to the image. That's one thing I'm looking at in my thesis. I'm thinking about, okay, Lair made these certain decisions, but within that framework that he established, the women had some room to move, or whatever. There's one incident that I just think is fascinating that Daisy told me about that I'm going to use because it illustrates this so nicely that, sometimes they played with that image, that hillbilly image. Daisy told me one time, I think it was when they were on stage with Orson Welles, that the guys in the orchestra pit kept making fun of them and their accent, and talking about those, you know, the hillbillies. The men would always ask them if they wore shoes at home. So one time when the women ran out on stage, they took off their shoes. [Laughter] And so they were kind of playing with that stereotyped image, you know, throwing it back in the guys' faces and laughing at them for thinking such a stupid thing. And I think that's really telling, and I'm wondering if you know of other incidents where, you know, the women really were playing with that image or contributing to it in some way. It's kind of a complicated question.
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
Yeah, I'm trying to think if I remember any specific—I think that Mom, from, I think that she was viewed like one of the men by the performers.
LISA YARGER:
In what way?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
Just her presence, her, not necessarily—she didn't speak out, but just, she was so strong a performer and could pick up anything and play it, was the most popular performer on the [Renfro Valley] barn dance. I think that the other men respected her, I guess, is what I'm trying to say, as they would respect another man performer. From the performers, I think she attained that. I know she did. In terms of her doing anything to— I'm trying to think. [pause] I'm sure Aunt Rosie did a lot of things. You might want to call Lois, by the way. Her daughter.
LISA YARGER:
Oh!

Page 32
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
Lives in Florida. She's handicapped, and it's hard for her to, but let me get that for you. [pause while BG gets her address book]
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
I think that probably what I'd like to say in terms of what Mom was, is that she was always trying to get it right. You know, she struggled constantly to try to have people understand and to figure out why things weren't working as they should. I mean, she was, she was a good person, I guess is what I'm trying to say. She always was kind to her family, she was kind to us, you know; she worked hard to try to make things work. But I think that that overpowering sense of subservience, that kind of mountain, in-grained, you know, was deeper in her than it was, it seems like, the other two. It just seemed to, it just seemed to kind of over-ride everything. And I guess that's, that's really it. That's the only thing, the only other thing I can think of to say, is that I wish that she could have gotten rid of it. You know, I wish she could have moved on. And I think the divorce, which was not her decision, it was my father's decision, but allowed her to do that to the extent that she could. You know, and become independent, not of her own choice, but to finally be able to hook up with the people who could give her some of that.
LISA YARGER:
In retrospect then do you think she was glad, then about that independence?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
No, I think she was bitter.
LISA YARGER:
Yeah, yeah. Did the sense of subservience disappear, though, towards the end? Or did that always kind of stay with her?
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
No, I've never seen her confront a man, period, ever. Not even my brothers. You know. [Laughter]
LISA YARGER:
Interesting. Well. Thank you. [Laughter]
BARBARA GREENLIEF:
You're welcome.
END OF INTERVIEW