The most popular country singer on radio during the early years was a young tenor who won fame as “The Kentucky Mountain Boy”—Bradley Kincaid. He was born in 1895, near the Cumberland foothill town of Lancaster. His father, William Kincaid, led singing in the Campbellite church, reading with ease from the old shape-note songbooks. In his spare time he liked to sing songs like “After the Ball” from the Gay ’90s. Bradley’s mother, Elizabeth Hurt Kincaid, sang too, but, Bradley recalls, “She went farther back. She sang the old English ballads. I learned a lot of ballads from her, like ‘Fair Ellender,’ ‘The Two Sisters,’ and any number of English ballads. . . . My mother used to sing some of the old blood curdlers to me, and my hair would stand straight up on my head.” Later Bradley guessed that he had learned as many as eighty old songs while he was growing up. Most of these songs were performed unaccompanied, until the day when Bradley’s father, an ardent fox hunter, traded one of his old fox hounds to a Negro friend for an old, dilapidated guitar. It was the first musical instrument in the Kincaid family (Bradley had nine siblings), and Bradley soon learned how to strum it as he sang. In later years he would make much of his “Houn’ Dog Guitar,” and Sears would give the name to a cheap copy that was sold by the thousands throughout the South and Midwest. In fact, there would come a time when Bradley, going deep into the mountains to hunt up new songs, would be amazed to find one of his informants proudly holding a “Houn’ Dog Guitar.”
As a teenager Bradley tried a little farming and seemed destined to lead the life of an average hill country boy of that time. But one summer, after working hard to harvest a crop of tobacco, he figured up that he had made only $40 for his year’s work. A religious experience also caused him to want to make something of himself, and he enrolled in Berea College in 1914. There he worked toward his high school degree
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Publication information: Book title: Classic Country:Legends of Country Music. Contributors: Charles K. Wolfe - Author. Publisher: Routledge. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 2001. Page number: 125.
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