Reece Shipley was born April 19, 1921 in Whitesburg, Tennessee. His parents were string musicians, and Reece grew up in a household filled with music.Radio, movies, and 78 rpm records were spreading the sounds of BobWills and Gene Autry far beyond the plains of Texas.
As a youngster, Reece learned to sing
and play guitar in a Western style. During the late 1930s, he joined the
Carolina Pals, who were actively performing in the Kingsport, Tennessee
area. With the advent of World War II, Reece joined the renowned Navy
Seabees, seeing action in the Pacific. While stationed on the island of
Saipan, Reece found the time to entertain the troops via a wartime radio
show there. When
After the war was over, Reece returned home to Tennessee. He worked at WOPI in Bristol and also WKPT in Kingsport, where his daily radio shows delighted thousands of fans. Reece became well-known throughout the region for his fine singing and rhythm guitar playing.
Reece branched out musically during the early 1950's, making a number of recordings in the Rockabilly style popular at the time. "Milk Bucket Boogie," written and recorded by Reece, became a big hit for Red Foley. Other recordings from this period include "Catfish Boogie" and "Hillbilly Jive with a Boogie Beat." The rediscovery of these recordings has made Reece Shipley somethingof a hero among "deep-catalog" rockabilly fans. Listen to the bonus cuts on this CD for some of the best of Reece's work from this period.
It is Western swing music, however, for which Reece
Shipley is most often remembered by his friends and musical associates.
During the last decades of his life, Reece was a mainstay at music festivals
from Galax (Virginia), Fiddler's Grove (North Carolina), and Renfro Valley
(Kentucky), to the Smithsonian Folk Festival of American Folklife in
Always a warm and friendly presence, Reece was well-liked, highly respected, and quite sought-after as a teacher and mentor by a generation of regional old-time and Western swing musicians. One such musician, Helen White, recalls first meeting Reece at the Union Grove Fiddler's Convention. "I was just struck by how smooth he was on the guitar - his chords and moving-bass runs - and then he opened his mouth to sing!" Helen became a devoted guitar student of Reece's, and produced the original recording from which this CD project grew. She remembers Reece as "one of the fine old gentlemen in the family of old-time music. He came to all the festivals and was always happy to play music with any of us. He really loved this music."
Reece performed at a variety of venues in the Johnson
City/ Kingsport/Knoxville area during the 1980's and 1990's. He performed
regularly at Dollywood with guitarist Red Peterson, with whom Reece had
played rockabilly music years earlier in Baltimore. Reece played music
before and after the broadcasts of old western movies on a Knoxville
Reece Shipley passed away on May 8, 1998, survived by his wife Mary, daughters Sandy and Anne (and their husbands), five grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren, one of whom is his namesake. In addition, he is surely missed by the many musicians to whom Reece was a friend, a mentor, and an inspiration.
On this recording, Reece sang and played guitar, accompanied on tenor banjo (a 1923 Paramount Style C) by Mal Cooper, a longtime musical associate of Reece's. Helen White captured this duo on tape on March 9, 1995, at Reece's home in Johnson City, Tennessee. Several years after Reece's passing, this recording was completed at the Patuxent Records studio in Rockville, Maryland with the addition of fiddles (Jeff Reynolds, Helen White, and Betty Vornbrock), bass (Daniel Knicely), and drums (Nate Leath), as well as harmony vocals. The compact disc concludes with five of Reece's previously issued recordings from the early days of country music. For those fortunate enough to have known Reece Shipley, this compact disc will bring back fond memories.
For everyone else, this will be an introduction to a musical pioneer.
Goldmine in the Sky *