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The Beautiful Music All Around UsField Recordings and the American Experience$
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Stephen Wade

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780252036880

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252036880.001.0001

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Kelly Pace

Kelly Pace

Coworker in the Kingdom of Culture

Chapter:
(p.47) 2 Kelly Pace
Source:
The Beautiful Music All Around Us
Author(s):

Stephen Wade

Publisher:
University of Illinois Press
DOI:10.5406/illinois/9780252036880.003.0002

This chapter focuses on the song “Rock Island Lime”, which was performed by Robert Kelly Pace, a twenty-one-year-old convict, along with a group of inmates at Cummins Camp One, a unit of the Arkansas penal system. Their performance involved a closely patterned call-and-response, their voices dispersed in three- and sometimes four-part harmony. Between the choruses one of them imitated a train whistle. “Rock Island Line” began its journey in Little Rock, Arkansas, at the repair shops of the Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific Railroad. Based on a traditional form and arising within a commercial setting, the song soon moved beyond this work site making new stops, shifting its contents, and streamlining its load. It migrated from a gospel quartet that the Arkansas prisoners performed to a rhythmic fable that Huddie Ledbetter created as he traveled with John Lomax as chauffeur, auto mechanic, and musical demonstrator. Eventually the song reached an incalculable number of players, singers, and listeners via skiffle, rock and roll, country, pop, and the folksong revival.

Keywords:   Robert Kelly Pace, convicts, singers, Library of Congress recordings, Cummins Camp One, folksongs, railroad

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