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Blind Alfred Reed

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Floyd VA, United States (1880 – 1956)

Blind Alfred Reed (Floyd, Virginia, June 15, 1880 - Elgood, West Virginia, January 17, 1956) was an American and musician. He was one of the artists who recorded at the Bristol Sessions in 1927, alongside more famous names such as Jimmie Rodgers and The Carter Family. He played the fiddle and his son, Arville, played the guitar.

Reed was born blind. He was raised in a very conservative family and acquired a violin at a young age. He began performing at county fairs, in country schoolhouses, for political rallies, and in churches. He even played on street corners for tips. He used to sell out printed copies of his compositions for ten cents.

While playing during a convention in 1927, Ralph Peer, who was the director of Bristol Sessions, heard Reed playing “The Wreck of the Virginian”, and asked him if he wanted to make some recordings. Reed recorded four songs: one solo, “The Wreck of the Virginian” and three with Arville’s guitar accompaniment: “I Mean to Live for Jesus”, “You Must Unload”, and “Walking in the Way with Jesus”. After the Bristol Sessions, Reed kept recording until 1929, which was the year of his most famous song’s release “How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?”.

After 1929, he stopped recording and lived out the rest of his life, mostly in the Princeton area of Mercer County, West Virginia. Reed continued to perform locally until 1937 when a statute was passed prohibiting blind street musicians.

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