Monday, September 28, 2009

McCravy Brothers, the Gleaner Quartet and the importance of old 78s

Graeme and I were out last night playing/singing at the Iron Hall in east Belfast. We played "Victory in Jesus", a hymn I learned from an old 78 that my aunt Rhoda loaned me a few years ago. The recording was by the Gleaner Quartet from Belfast and recorded in the late 40s / early 50s. So I told that story after we sang it, and to my amazement at the end of the evening 4 or 5 of the older men in the church made a beeline towards us when the meeting was over.

One of them was the son of one of the Gleaners! - and, better still, the folk in the church had found an old reel-to-reel tape of their recordings and had digitised it. So they gave us a CD each of 9 Gleaners recordings, and all really good stuff! The best part of the story is that the old 78 had a song on the B side which wasn't on the old tape, and which these men have never heard. The son told me that his father had died about 3 years ago, and that his mother plays the cd regularly as a reminder of her husband. Poignantly, the song that I have, which they don't have, is "If We Never Meet Again this side of Heaven". So I'll be posting it to them on a CD this week.

Also, the McCravy Brothers were an American (South Carolina) brother duet that Rhoda also had a few 78s of. Both of the Brothers are now dead, but one of their cousins, Paul McCravy, has been in touch with me by email. He's amazed that people across the Atlantic had even heard of the McCravy Brothers, and so he's going to send me photos and information about them that have never been published.

To think of the old recordings, books and photographs that have been dumped over the years... what a legacy they held, and how much has been lost! I'm just fortunate to still have some that were passed down to me, and to be able to make connections with today's families - both here in Ulster and across the Atlantic - through the surviving recordings of 50 years ago.

Clips of both are below, firstly Johnny Cash doing "If We Never Meet Again", and then the McCravy Brothers doing "The Glorious Gospel Train":