A bluegrass musician acknowledged as part of the genre's "first generation"
died Sunday. Bill Reid, of Salem, was 88.
The Rockbridge County native started playing country and hillbilly guitar professionally
in 1945 and would go on to earn a measure of regional fame in the husband-and-wife act
Bill and Mary Reid and the Melody Mountaineers, and another
act, Salt & Peanuts. The pair performed on radio and recorded
with such musicians as International Bluegrass Music Association Hall of Famers
Curly Lambert and Benny Martin.
In 1997, Bill Reid told The Roanoke Times about long-ago performances with such
acts as 39-inch-tall "Little Robert," who had a size one and a half
shoe, a 40-long jacket and a man's singing voice. The Reids had their
own radio show in Farmville and recorded for Columbia Records. The pair performed for
a couple of months in the Farmville area with A.P. Carter, of Carter Family fame.
Reid remembered a visit with Carter: "[Later] when we were playing
in Richmond, he came to see us. Mary said, 'Mr. Carter, are
you hungry?' He said, 'Well, I'm flat as a rug.' He never said much about
what he'd accomplished in song writing."
Jerry Steinberg, a bass player and bluegrass enthusiast who was friends with Bill Reid,
wrote in an e-mail Tuesday that the act traveled to distant locales such as
St. Louis; Knoxville, Tenn.; and Little Rock, Ark.
Bill and Mary Reid split up in 1959. Steinberg wrote that Bill Reid moved to
Salem and never again played professionally but went on to be a disc jockey
at radio stations in Farmville, Clifton Forge and Salem. He later remarried.
In 2001, the International Bluegrass Music Association included Bill and Mary
Reid among about 230 other "first generation" bluegrass players. According to
the association, the list honored those "who were the first creators
and practitioners of bluegrass music" between 1940 and 1954. The association
dedicated a plaque including their names at the International Bluegrass Music Museum's
grand opening ceremonies.
Steinberg wrote that "Bill was a fine southern gentleman that will be remembered
as a gifted singer and songwriter."
"Early Radio Favorites," a collection of the Reid's pioneering bluegrass work,
is available at www.countysales.com.