About John Reedy
A singer with a mug like a movie star, John Reedy was part of a family singing act with sister Frances Reedy, who played the guitar accompaniment as well as providing an alto harmony for his smooth lead. Early on, the pair clicked with a gospel number that was apparently the creation of Reedy, although it is most often credited as a traditional number. At any rate, the number of recordings the song "Somebody Touched Me" subsequently received might put Reedy in the running for status as one of the most covered gospel artists. The group under his leadership, the Stone Mountain Hillbillys, also featured brothers Glenn and Julian Ramey filling out the sound with mandolin and banjo respectively. The early recordings of this ensemble are as historic as any from the early days of bluegrass; in fact, the session that produced the lovely aforementioned gospel classic is said to have taken place on the same day in the late '40s as the Stanley Brothers cut their classic side "White Dove," but on other sides of town.
The Reedy group enjoyed one of the longest sponsorship stints for a band in radio history: 17-and-a-half years on Harlan, KY's WHLN with the furniture company Fuller's paying the ad tabs, to be precise. Only Flatt & Scruggs and their relationship with a certain flour company appears to have the edge on this record. The group also worked for a coal company which sent them to regional radio outlets all around the state, sometimes resulting in as many as four broadcasts each day. Reedy has recalled a typical venue from this era as being an unheated one-room schoolhouse with no electricity, the audience arriving from the mountains on sleds by the light of oil lanterns. The "Somebody Touched Me" number was reputed to be quite popular with the group's audiences, with tall tales growing up of bootleggers tossing 20-dollar bills at Frances Reedy to inspire multiple repeat performances. She reached a tolerance level of some sort when one of these low lives dropped his gun while clumsily trying to pull out a bill, huffing off to the parking lot to regain her composure before she could sing again.
The group also toured in packages with guitarist Chet Atkins during the early days of his career, as well as with the Stanley Brothers, Archie Campbell, and Brother Claude Ely. The latter artist eventually abandoned his country music career to become a preacher. The Reedy group evolved a second career as a gospel outfit on the prompting of Starday producer Don Pierce, but once again it was a natural result of the "Somebody Touched Me" success, since the song's lyrics ostensibly tell the story of a churchgoer deep in prayer who feels a sacred touch. A nice version of the traditional classic "Oh Death" was one fine by-product of the relationship with Starday. The most popular cover of "Somebody Touched Me" was by the sure-voiced Carl Dixon. Best from an artistic standpoint: Dorsey Dixon. Worst from any standpoint: Boxcar Willie. Both brother and sister Reedy continued performing into the '80s, using the name the Stone Mountain Trio and utilizing a kind of backwards progression, the music of what was originally an innovative early bluegrass outfit becoming more and more traditional and old-timey as the years went on. ~ Eugene Chadbourne, Rovi