52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week 13
PROMPT: Any musicians in the family? How about someone who loved music and dancing? What about someone who makes you think of a song?
I am a professional musician. My parents are both musicians. But even before that, members of my mother’s paternal line–the Hardings—were professional musicians as well.
The musical performances and accolades of my Great-Grandfather Reginald Harding (1886-1956) are the subject of numerous Junction City (Kansas) newspaper articles. Besides possessing a lovely singing voice, he perhaps had some dramatic and dancing experience as well based upon the fact that, at one point, he travelled with a theater troupe.
Reginald and my Great-Grandmother Jennie Nell Taylor (1886-1953) married in Junction City on December 26, 1903.
Jennie was an entertainer too, presumably a musician, and she and Reginald worked as traveling performers in their early years as a married couple.
Reginald and Jennie had three children. Their first-born was a daughter, Gladys Minerva Harding (1908-1981), born in Salt Lake City (where perhaps the Hardings were on tour at the time?) My grandfather, Clifford Lorraine Harding (1909-1976), was the couple’s second child. Virginia Maxine Harding (1911-2006) was their third child.
Maxine pursued a career in music and worked professionally as a blues singer in the 1930s. She performed with the big band ensemble Red Nichols and his Five Pennies. She also sang with Wally Stofler’s Band and with bandleader/violinist Henry Halstead and his Orchestra.
Wikipedia entry for Henry Halsted.
But Reginald and Jenny’s musical proficiency and talents were also passed along to their son–my Granddad Harding.
My maternal grandfather played the piano. He was known to be able to sit down years after being away from a keyboard and still be able to play a mean Robert Schumann “Happy Farmer,” upon request. He played cornet and French horn in the Clay Center band.
My grandfather seems to have gotten a lot of satisfaction from his years as a member of the Hillbilly Band–a group of local Kiwanis Club members from Iola, Kansas. The ensemble performed for many functions and events, locally and across the state and in locales as far away as Saint Louis. My grandfather played melodies on the kazoo while also acting as the rhythm section. He commonly wore ten thimbles on his fingers and thumbs, playing on his unique “trap set” consisting of a cow bell, woodblock, and wash board.
“Is It True What They Say About Dixie?”— a hit for the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra in 1936–was in the Hillbilly Band repertoire.
The Harding musical gene was passed along to my mother as well. Reference to her musical talent at a young age–she would have been almost fourteen–is made below:
One of my Granddad Harding’s happiest days, I hear, was when he had the money and was able to purchase a brand new upright piano for his talented daughter, my mother. I doubt that that kind of money was easy for him—a farmer—to set aside. The instrument, played by me as well, remains in my childhood home—where my mother and father still live—to this day.
My mother still plays this family heirloom: an instrument that, like my ancestors’ lives, is rich with musical history and an association with countless pleasant childhood and adult memories for both my mother and for me.
The length of this post necessitates that subsequent generations of musical talent in my family–including that of my mother, my father, myself, and my daughter–must be the subject of a separate post in the future.
Please consider this, then, a mere prelude.