My dad's mother grew up in Missouri in the early 1900s, and she had a unique talent -- she could play piano by ear. She could hear a song and then, instinctively, pound it out on a keyboard. No training. No lessons. This became her livelihood -- she first earned money accompanying silent movies, and during the Great Depression she helped support her family by playing gigs all over Louisville, often as Dixie Lee. She played on the radio. She played with touring bands, including Clayton "Pappy" McMichen and His Georgia Wildcats, and Cliff Gross and His Texas Cowboys. She played "The Star Spangled Banner" before wrestling matches at the Louisville Armory. She performed with nationally-known musicians who would play the National Theatre, which was located at the corner of Fifth and Walnut streets downtown. (Walnut is now Muhammad Ali Boulevard.) And in 1950, Dixie Lee was part of a morning radio show that originated at a Louisville restaurant -- part of a group, according to Variety, "who have been kicking around this area on hillbilly shows and nitery floors for many a year." Here's the review from Variety:
More to come on Grandma Dixie and her colorful career.