It’s Friday, and ol’ AJ’s knocking off a bit early to enjoy the weather and do a little pickin’. Mountain music is one of the finest, most popular traditions of Appalachia, and there’s so much good music stretching back over hundreds of years of Appalachian history that I could write for years and never run out of tunes!

03/02/18 – Turn Your Radio On

To kick this column off right, let’s talk about a song that stretches all the way back to the late 30s, when families across America were struggling through the Great Depression and turned to the radio to forget their worries. For the first time, people across the nation could hear the same music, and old-time folk music and gospel songs were extremely popular. Albert E. Brumley’s Turn Your Radio On celebrated the new ability to reach thousands of people at once and share the same song. Brumley, who wrote over 800 gospel songs (including classics like I’ll Fly Away and He Set Me Free), was the owner of the Hartford Music Company, which has today evolved into the Brumley Music Company. They’re still a major publisher of gospel songs, and now run the Brumley Gospel Sing, described as the “Bonnaroo of Gospel Music”. It is one of the biggest gospel music events in the world, attracting over 20000 attendees every summer.

Turn Your Radio On went on to be a favorite in the Appalachian region; it was first recorded by Lulu Belle and Scotty in 1939, then more popularly in 1941 by the Blue Sky Boys. Since then, it’s been recorded by country legend Roy Acuff, Merle Haggard and the Carter Family, and was modernized by the Statler Brothers and Ray Stevens (whose rendition was a top 20 country hit in 1972).

Listen to this 1971 recording of the song by John Hartford and tell me the guitar pickin’ and old-time harmonies don’t set your toes to tappin’.

What’s on YOUR radio this week? Make sure to let us know in the comments or on our Facebook page!