Monday, February 09, 2009

North Carolina Ridge Runners

The Great Depression drove many families from the Appalachians into Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland looking for work. Ola Belle Campbell was house-keeping in Nottingham, PA after one such relocation. When her brother Alex returned from WWII they both joined the North Carolina Ridge Runners. Ola Belle picked banjo, he played guitar and fiddle. More here.

The Ridge Runners were not based in North Carolina, but many members were refugees of that area. They were based around Maryland and Delaware. they played dances and carnivals and of course at radio stations. They played on WEHC at Henry College, WHIS in Bluefield WV, WRVA in Richmond,WEEU in Reading, WORK in York, WDEL and WILM in Wilmington, and WLAN in Lancaster.

Ola Belle stayed with the Ridge Runners until 1948 when they disbanded. The following year she married Ralph "Bud" Reed. They went off performing together with Alex. This led to a regular program on WASA in Havre de Grace, MD. Campbell's Corner was a weekly half hour program of country and mountain music. The Louvin Brothers performed, as did Bill Monroe, Stoney Cooper and the Stanley Brothers. In 1960 they moved the program to WCOJ in Coatesville, also performing on WBMO in Baltimore. A few years later they moved again to WWVA, a 50k watt station reaching a dozen states. More here.

The Campbells stayed musically active for decades. Alex retired from performance but started a radio show out of WGCB in Red Lion, PA that at it's peak was syndicated to 200 radio stations. Ola Belle suffered a stroke in 1987 and was was unabel to perform thereafter. She died in 2002. Many of her notes, clipping and recordings are archived at the Library of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.