“Renfro Valley Memories,” by Erwin A. Thomspon

One of the most satisfying things about Riehlife is having readers reach out to us. Matt Kulak wrote to us to share a family story about listening to Just When the Sun Went Down, by Edna Florence. You can see the lyrics to “Just When the Sun Went Down”–a Civil War song–here Here is my father’s reply to Matt about his memories of Renfro Valley, Kentucky.

Dear Matt,
Interesting story. I got hold of the words from a little magazine-paper “The Renfro Valley Bugle.” They collected old songs, among their other projects. John Lair,musician, had a group of old time musicians”The Renfro Valley Boys”. They played over WLS, the Prairie Farmer Station” in Chicago. Later it became the Sears Roebuck Station or maybe the other way around. Lair wrote the song: “Take me back to Renfro Valley.” He went back to Renfro Valley, built a big theater, a race track (for horses), and had an hour program each Saturday night on a national hook-up.

We were there in 1960 whe nwe made our Kentucky trip. We met him personally. It was a great experience. We could have been next door neighbors,stopped in to visit. He let us camp in the middle of the race track,(grass) It was Saturday, so we saw the show. They also had church service the next morning. He published the little paper,”The Renfro Valey Bugle,” and printed many songs that had been forgotten by the general public for many years. I got covered up with daily living and let my subscription lapse. I do not know what the present status is. If you have the time and energy write to The Renfro Valley Bugle,Renfro Valley, Kentucky. If they still have a post office you can get the zip from the PO dept.

It was a wonderful era, when that kind of music could be found on the air waves just be turning on the radio. Much of it will be lost forever. Ask ten of the top performers in Nashville and chances are they have never heard of John Lair and do not care to learn. It seems tome that your story and the music on the record ought to be a part of the National Archives. They recorded some of mine last summer.

Erwin A. Thompson

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