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Guthrie T. Meade

May 17, 1932 - February 8, 1991

Guthrie “Gus” Turner Meade, Jr., was born in Louisville, Ky., on 17 May 1932 to Sarah Isabel Ballard and Guthrie Turner Meade, Sr. He served in the U.S. Air Force, and afterward attended the University of Kentucky, Lexington. Meade pursued, but never completed, a Master’s Degree in Folklore at Indiana University. During graduate school, he met his wife Mary, and they married in November 1955. He worked at the Indiana University Folk Music Archives and, later, as an assistant at the Indiana University Press. The Meades had four children: Douglas Shannon, Jonathan Andrew, Morag Elizabeth, and Meredith Louise.

Meade and his wife left Indiana for Yellow Springs, Ohio, in 1961, where he began work at Wright Patterson Air Force Base as a computer programmer and systems analyst. He and his friend, discographer Bob Hyland, had a radio show in Antioch, where Meade also organized a folk festival. He taught himself to play the fiddle and often played music with friends and acquaintances. Meade also taught fiddle classes, both informally at parties and at his home. He avidly collected 78 rpm country music records, partly to help him learn fiddle tunes. Meade’s correspondents included record collectors, discographers, and music scholars around the world, including folklorist John Edwards in Australia, Archie Green, Eugene Earle, D. K. Wilgus, Fred Hoeptner, Willard Johnson, and Dan Mahoney.

In 1965, Meade began working at the Library of Congress Folk Music Archives as a programmer/analyst, automating the vast collections. He left to take a position at the National Archives, where he developed a system called Spindex II for automating archives. After the system was in place, the Archives eliminated his job, and he moved to a position in the General Services Administration where he remained until his early retirement in 1986.

Each summer, Meade went to Kentucky to research Kentucky fiddlers, who had recorded on some of the early 78 records. At this time, he worked with John Harrod and Bruce Greene, who were also researching Kentucky fiddlers. Meade became close friends with Charlie and Noah Kinney, fiddling brothers from Lewis, Ky., and recorded their music on many occasions. He also spent a great deal of time conducting personal interviews with traditional fiddlers.

In 1971, the Meade family moved to Waldorf, Md., and Meade became active in the Folk Society of Greater Washington. He recorded Kentucky fiddler Buddy Thomas and arranged for Mississippi fiddler Hoyt Ming to record and play at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. During the 1970s, Meade and Mark Wilson produced three albums of Kentucky fiddle music on the Rounder label: J. P. and Annadeene Fraley’s “Wild Rose of the Mountain” (Rounder 0037), Buddy Thomas’s “Kitty Puss” (Rounder 0032), and Ed Haley’s “Parkersburg Landing” (Rounder 1010). The Buddy Thomas recording became particularly important given the young fiddler’s sudden death only months after the project’s completion.

In 1974, the Meades moved to Alexandria, Va., where Meade became acquainted with Bob Christenson, also a fiddle scholar. Meade continued to work with John Harrod and collaborated with other traditional music scholars Steven Rice, Steve Green, and Ray Bowman on various projects. He also conducted genealogy research. In 1980, Meade and discographer Richard Nevins compiled an important three-record set of rare Gennett recordings of early Kentucky fiddle music. The Morning Star releases (45003, 45004, and 45005) include biographical information on the musicians and represent an important contribution to traditional music scholarship.

Meade’s most significant achievement may have been his annotated discography of early traditional country music, begun in 1956. This comprehensive work includes some 14,500 recordings of 3,500 songs organized into four categories: ballads, religious songs, instrumentals, and novelty songs. In 1986, Meade received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to prepare the discography for publication. Shortly afterwards, the family moved to Kentucky, where Meade worked long hours on the project. He was working on the introduction to the discography at the time of his death in 1991.

"Biographical Note," Guthrie T. Meade Collection (#20246), Southern Folklife Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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