Eleanor Dickinson, an American artist and educator, captured Henry Harrison Mayes directly on audio and film. Those recordings are accessible only through the Library of Congress, but Alan Lomax’s 1930s field recordings are publicly available and offer an intriguing sense of the aural landscape of Middlesboro, Bell County, Kentucky, and the surrounding area.

Eleanor Dickinson collection, 1901-2004

Eighty-three 10-inch tapes of revival church services, creek baptisms, grave decorating services, interviews, and tent revivals, recorded in Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia by Eleanor Dickinson, 1972-81.


Videotapes of Pentecostal ceremonies, such as snake handling, laying on of hands, baptisms, foot washing, casting out of devils, dancing in ecstasy; a video interview with Brother Harrison Mayes at his home in Middleburg, Kentucky; and an audiotape of revival meetings.

  • AFS 15,456A: One tape containing an interview with Brother Harrison Mayes of Middlesboro, Kentucky, August 1972. (2 hours; LWO 7152 reel 2A)
  • AFS 19,139-19,140; 19,145: Three tapes containing an interview with folk artist and preacher Brother Harrison Mayes and Sister Harrison Mayes of Middlesboro, Kentucky, July 1976. (6 hours; LWO 9619 reels 7-8, 13)
  • AFS 20,281-20,283; 20,295; 20,305: Five tapes containing interviews with folk artist and preacher Brother Harrison Mayes, recorded in Middlesboro, Kentucky, 1978-79. (3 hours; LWO 16,506 reels 15-17, 29, 39)
  • AFS 20,288: One tape containing a lecture entitled “Appalachian Religion in the Nineteenth Century,” delivered by Loyal Jones of the Appalachian Center in Berea, Kentucky, August 1979. (45 minutes; LWO 16,506 reels 21)
  • AFS 23,165: One tape containing religious radio programs, including from Adairville, Kentucky, recorded off the air, August 1981. (2 hours; RWA 8368)
  • AFS 23,180-23,181: Two tapes containing interviews with folk artist and preacher Brother Harrison Mayes, and Lillie Mayes, recorded in Middlesboro, Kentucky. (Four hours; RWA 7820-7821)


Elisabeth and Alan Lomax, and Mary Barnicle Field Recordings 1937-1940

Around the same times, Henry Harrison Mayes was active, Alan Lomax traveled through Appalachia and recorded the music of the people there and the people themselves. Some of the recordings were released on Folkways, like When Kentucky Had No Union Men by George Davis others ended up on compilations and even better, all of Lomax Kentucky field recordings are documented online and available as stream.

This largest collection of Lomax Kentucky recordings was the result of a two-and-a-half-month trip through ten Eastern Kentucky counties made in the autumn of 1937 by Alan and his wife Elizabeth Lyttleton Harold. Performed by farmers, laborers, coal miners, preachers, housewives, public officials, soldiers, grandparents, adolescents, and itinerant musicians, they present a full spectrum of traditional expressive culture: ballads and lyric songs, play-party ditties and comic pieces, topical and protest material, fiddle and banjo tunes, hymns and sacred songs, children’s games and lullabies, and a variety of spoken lore—religious testimonies, occupational reminiscences, tall tales, jokes, and family and personal narratives.
— Kentucky 1937 | Lomax Digital Archive

Bell County is arguably the most well-represented county in this project. Heavily canvassed by both Alan and Elizabeth Lomax (in 1937) and Mary Barnicle (in 1938), the songs collected here run the gamut from sacred to downright sinful. It was in the community of Noetown, near Middlesboro, where 16-year-old Georgia Turner recorded her “The House of the Rising Sun” (as “The Rising Sun Blues,” the first version of the song captured “in the field”); you can also hear her mother Mary’s rendition of Old World ballads and newer compositions from the region, peddled on “ballet” sheet (broadside) by the blind songster Charlie Oaks.
— Bell County · County Profiles · Alan Lomax Kentucky Recordings

Music and Sermons

The field recordings that are included in the list below have nothing to do with Mayes. But I’m curious if he knew any of the people who were captured there, including himself.

Only a Miner by Cadle, Tillman

Prayer meeting (part 1) by Sizemore, Rev. Sherwin; unidentified

The Great Judgement Morning by Congregation of the Church of Ten Elders

Commentary on the Holiness Church (part 1 and 2) by Aunt Molly Jackson

A recollection of visiting a Holiness church with Mary Barnicle (presumably in Bell County) and an imitation of the preacher.

God Moves In A Windstorm by Cadle, Tillman