The Harmonious Hardings

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? 
Reginald Harding

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.

The Junction City Union – 01 Mar 1904
The Junction City Weekly Union – 04 Jan 1907
The Junction City Weekly Union – 12 Apr 1907

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.

Maxine Harding

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.

Many vocalists and entertainers performed with the Henry Halstead Orchestra. Maxine Harding with her deep-dyed blues singing was a soloist with Henry Halstead’s Orchestra.”

Wikipedia entry for Henry Halsted.

Clifford Harding, Clay Center Municipal Band, 1932

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.

The Iola Register – 18 Aug 1948
The Iola Register – 5 Jun 1951
The Iola Register – 5 Sep 1953

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. 

The Hillbilly Band. Clifford Harding is seated behind his washtub.
An undated/uncredited clipping from the Harding archives.

“Is It True What They Say About Dixie?”— a hit for the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra in 1936–was in the Hillbilly Band repertoire.

The Iola Register – 07 May 1948
The Iola Register – 18 Nov 1948
Iola Register – 10 Sep 1949
The Iola Register – 21 Jun 1951
The Iola Register – 23 Jan 1952
Iola Register – 14 Jun 1960

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:

The Iola Register – 15 Oct 1952

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 parents as fellow music majors at the University of Kansas.

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.

6 thoughts on “The Harmonious Hardings”

  1. Thanks for the lovely post, Susan! I loved reading about the musical adventures of Maxine & Clifford Harding. I loved the photo of your parents. I’m glad that this is “just a prelude”. I also love music & am happy to say that the Music With Malinowski fundraiser was very enjoyable. Music makes the world go around – for me, anyway!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for reading, Barb! I had so hoped I could find a recording of Maxine’s singing somewhere on the Internet. Unfortunately, I only found a few recordings of the various bands of the swing era that she sang with.

    I’m happy to say that whenever I post my subsequent post (this is a prelude) on musicians in the family, I have plenty of documentation of performances, including audio and video, of my parents—and me!


  3. Susan, I came upon your blog regarding the Iola Kiwanis Hillbilly Band while searching the internet for information on this group. I have a few pictures of the band from back in that era. I think you said your grandfather was Clifford Harding. I am the oldest daughter of W.R. Wes Clendenen, and have such fond memories of the band. The Hardings lived across the street from us while I was growing up back then. We moved into our home in April 1951. I knew Sandra the oldest daughter, I think she was two years older than I am. Their son, Clifford, was a year or two younger than me. I think Sandra played the flute in the high school band. I played the oboe during my three years in high school. I think Sandra was also a letter girl in the band. I was a majorette. Many many memories from back then.
    My main reason for searching was to learn the name of one of the members of the band. Found it in one of the articles from the Iola Register posted on your blog. Knew them all fairly personally, except for Bill Mendell. I’m placing pictures in my family album, and of course, I’m including the picture of the band. I wanted to have all the names. Thank you so much for posting this blog. I want to try to find the Iola Registers with the above articles and print them out. I’m also into Genealogy and subscribe to and I should be able to find them so I can print them out.
    I am Judy Clendenen Fink, and I now live in Yucaipa, CA. Wondering if you keep in touch with Sandra Harding and if she remembers me. I will let you know if I’m succeesful with the Iola Register.
    Thanks again.
    Blessings to you, Judy

    Liked by 1 person

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