Accession Number: 86
The McLain Family Band Records, 1964-1999
Bulk Dates 1968-1988
25.2 linear feet
Catalog Record (BANC)
Overview & Series Description
Series I - McLain Family Band
Series II - McLain Family Bluegrass
Overview of the Collection
These are correspondence, business records, concert programs,
photographs, sound and video recordings that document the McLain
Family Band's extensive
local, national and international performing career during the years 1968-1988.
This material was placed in Hutchins Library's Southern Appalachian Archives
on December 14, 2000, by Betty Tallmadge and were opened for research in August
The band came to be as the result of an interest in Bluegrass music developed
by Raymond K. McLain (1928-2003) while Director of Hindman Settlement School
in Knott County, Kentucky, where he had moved in 1954 with his wife, Betty.
This interest owed much to both family influence and formal academic training.
McLain's mother had been director of Southern Folk Life Studies at the University
of Alabama. He had majored in music theory at Denison University and done graduate
work in folk music studies at Harvard and the University of North Carolina.
Family musical activity that included McLain's three oldest children, Raymond
W., Alice, and Ruth, soon led to public performances. Initially calling themselves
the "Bluegrass State," they found ready acceptance at various nearby venues
including Lees College in Jackson, the Pikeville Jamboree, and WKYH-TV in Hazard.
In varying combinations over the years, the band also included the younger
McLain children, Nancy Ann and Michael; spouses, Al White, Beverly Buchanan,
Michael Riopel; and non-relative, Tom Owen. Betty McLain served as the band's
Instrumentally, the band was strictly acoustic with guitar, banjo, mandolin,
and upright bass predominating. Fiddle was used often and accordion occasionally.
Besides vocal and instrumental compositions of their own, the band's repertoire
drew upon bluegrass and country standards, novelty songs, and eastern Kentucky
In 1970, the family moved to Berea where Raymond W. and Alice entered Berea
College and Raymond K. taught Bluegrass Music courses that the College Music
Department listed as "The History of Popular Music" and "Musical Expression
in the Traditional Idiom."
The Band's first of fourteen overseas tours under the auspices of the U.S.
State Department, occurred in July of 1972, with performances in Italy, Germany,
and Belgium. Such travels would eventually take them to a total of sixty-two
Extensive touring within the United States would take them to all fifty states.
They performed at numerous community arts events, schools, and bluegrass festivals,
and appeared on Bluegrass / Country Music TV and radio programs such as the
Grand Ole Opry, Fire on the Mountain, and Nashville Now. During the early 1980s
they had a weekly show of their own on Lexington's WKYT-TV. They also produced
fourteen LP disc recordings marketed on their own Country Life label.
More unusual venues included the Kennedy Center, Louisville's
J.B. Speed Art Museum, Carnegie Hall, NBC's Today Show, the PBS
production, "Pearl and Friends at Center Stage," and the 1982 World's
Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee. Most unusually for a bluegrass band,
they made numerous appearances with symphony orchestras including
those in Cleveland, Atlanta, Louisville, Cincinnati, Phoenix, and
Calgary. Their symphonic repertorie included Phillip Rhodes' arrangements
of McLain originals, his Concerto for Bluegrass and Orchestra,
Peter Schickele's Far Away From Here, and Raymond W's Troublesome
Creek Suite, orchestrated by Newton Wayland.
In 1978, they started their own bluegrass festival. It was held that year at
Renfro Valley in Rockcastle County, and for the remaining years, on their farm
located in the Big Hill community near Berea. Annual attendance was in the
range of six to seven thousand. Major Bluegrass acts and talented up-and-comers
were featured along with bands from other countries and traditional dance groups
such as the Green Grass Cloggers and Berea College Country Dancers. A special
effort was made to include other family bands such as the Whites, the Osborne
Brothers, Jim and Jesse McReynolds, and the Lewis Family. At various times,
festival performances were carried on NPR's Folk Festival U.S.A., and in a
series distributed to PBS stations by Kentucky Educational Television.
Maintaining a heavy performance schedule became increasingly difficult as the
band members began establishing families of their own and pursuing other business,
educational, and musical interests. They formally disbanded in 1989, but reunited
briefly in 1994 for a concert at the Festival of the Bluegrass held at the
Kentucky Horse Park near Lexington.
50 Manuscript Boxes 3 Oversized Boxes
This series consists of a wide variety of print materials by or about the
McLain Family Band and it's individual members. Included are correspondence,
newspaper and magazine articles, concert programs and advertising, study guides
for school performances, photographs, sound and video recordings. Arranged
This sub-series includes presentation material introducing the band to potential
bookers, study guides used in conjunction with school performances, lists of
their commercial recordings, press clippings of performance reviews, and articles
about the band in such publications as Muleskinner News, Bluegrass Unlimited,
This sub-series, arranged chronologically, includes printed programs and related
advertising material that documents the band's concert and bluegrass festival
appearances in the United States. There is also information about radio stations
that played their recordings, and play lists from radio and TV performances
on KET, WKYT and other stations.
This sub-series, arranged alphabetically by country, documents the Band's
extensive international performing activity. Included are substantial amounts
of U.S. Government and other correspondence regarding scheduling, audience
response, and travel experiences. Also included are printed programs, newspaper
clippings, maps, and other memorabilia.
This sub-series includes booking, record sales, and other business correspondence,
letters of thanks from school groups, fan mail, and personal correspondence.
This sub-series, arranged alphabetically, includes material about various
Bluegrass and Country music artists, other individuals and a wide range of
subject areas including published sheet music, music written by various of
the family, management contracts, music and business publications, and other
This sub-series consists mainly of general ledgers documenting the band's
financial activities (oversize box 52). Included is information about performance
income, album sales, and festival income and expenses. Loose ledger sheets
relating mostly to album production expenses and sales are in box 22.
This sub-series includes performance and promotional photographic prints and
slides arranged in toughly chronological order. For some of these there are
related negatives and proof sheets. Included also are performance and promotional
photographs of several other Bluegrass musicians. Oversize photographs are
in box 53.
This sub-series includes several plaques, certificates, awards, oversized
advertising posters, a MFB belt buckle, and a script for the PBS production, "Pearl
and Friends at Center Stage" in which the Band appeared.
Most of the audio tapes in the collection are the master recordings of Raymond
W. McLain's syndicated radio program, Kentucky Blue, which was produced at
public radio station WUKY in Lexington during the 1970s and 1980s. Other audio
material includes a concert performance in Alaska and several home sound recordings
of the band's early television performances on WKYH in Hazard. Video material
includes five Umatic and nine Beta cassettes which document KET and WKYT-TV
performances. There is also one copy of each of the band's fourteen commercial
|| McLain Family Bluegrass Festival
This series consists of correspondence, clippings, financial records, subject
files, and photographs that document the McLain Family Bluegrass Festival that
was held annually from 1978 to 1988.
This sub series includes correspondence about festival physical arrangements,
promotion, performer bookings, and advanced ticket sales.
This sub-series includes press and other clippings of Festival advertising
and critical commentary.
This sub-series includes miscellaneous financial records of festival expenses
and ticket sales.
This sub-series includes performer biographies and contracts, festival print
advertising, ticket sale tallies and other festival operational material.
This sub-series includes photographic prints and slides of the festival grounds
and performers on stage. Arrangement is by size of photographs.
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