"Brethren, we have met to worship. .." on this very special
fourth Sunday in May as have many others for the last one
hundred and one years. It all began when James R. and George
Lemon, brothers, and some others gathered at the Benton
Seminary in 1884 to join their voices in singing from the
Southern Harmony and Musical Companion, hoping to revive the
popularity of that music. From such an inauspicious beginning
has grown "the oldest indigenous musical tradition in the United

	Very soon traditions were founded: most years, the singing
was held at the Courthouse, at 10:00 A.M., beginning always
with "Holy Manna." The leader would hold the songbook in his
left hand, keeping time with the right hand without any
accompaniment. The singers first went through the song "by
note" (fa, sol, la, mi), then "by line", singing the words. If the
leader was familiar with more verses than printed in the book,
he would "line them out" in the approved manner. It was a
distinct honor to be chosen to lead the mass rendition of old
hymns and ballads. Since people came by train, buggies, jolt
wagons and on foot from great distances, they would rest from
their song at noon and gather in groups on the Courthouse lawn
for basket dinners and homecoming visits. After the last morsel
of fried chicken and angel food cake was consumed, they would
come together again to sing until 4:00 P.M., usually ending the
day with "The Christians' Farewell".

	William Walker, born May 6,1809, of Welsh descent in the
Carolinas, was author of Southern Harmony. It is not certain
when he was first called "Singin' Billy" Walker. At an early age
he joined the Welsh Baptist Church where he was exposed to the
tradition of religious songs which that church passed on to early
America and which made their way into Southern Harmony.

	Walker was fired with ambition to perfect vocal methods of
praises, which he considered an essential to religious worship:
He spent a lifetime of collecting and arranging into meter and
melody the songs he published in 1835. Southern Harmony soon
was known to every household in the southeast states.

	Congregational singing and singing schools without benefit of
instrumental accompaniment, were the norm in rural America.
As singing master, Walker taught hundreds of singing schools in
North and South Carolina, Georgia, and East Tennessee. He
became a leader in the field and later in life taught teachers in ,
what were called "normal" schools.

	His signature was always William Walker, A.S.H. (Author of
Southern Harmony). He once told friends, "I would rather have"
A.S.H. after my name than P-r-e-s in front of it." He died in I
1875. His monument notes that he was the author of four books
of sacred music and had taught music for 45 years.

	The Southern Harmony was actually a practical approach to
providing material for Walker's own singing schools. Many
seemed to agree about its value, having bought 600,000 copies
in 25 years. Prior to the Civil War, it became so popular that
general stores stocked it along with the India tea, French silk
ribbons, and rock candy.

	Walker opened his book with the "Gamut or Rudiments of
Music, " found in various forms since the age of Shakespeare.
It was the only printed instructions used in his schools. The scale
as we know it today, do re mi fa sol la ti do, was introduced to
Colonial America by foreign musicians. However, it never, in the
rural south, replaced the old English system of fa sol la fa sol la
mi fa. Long forgotten in England, it survives in Southern
Harmony and in the Sacred Harp, compiled in 1844 by B.F.
White, Walker's brother-in-law, and still used in the deep South.
Perhaps the most noticeable feature is the four shape-notes,
designed to make reading music easier. The shape of the note
indicated its name: triangle is fa, circle is sol, square is la,
diamond is mi. The position on the staff indicated its high or low
pitch. The shape-notes were introduced about 1800 by William
Little and William Smith of Albany, New York. Used for a little
while by all songbook publishers, its use is now confined to the
rural south. The songbook was not published after 1854 and
became a priceless treasure. To provide a new supply, reproductions
of the book were made in 1939 and again in 1966.

	The Southern Harmony style may possibly be only a treasured
antique in the area where Walker taught so many singing
schools. But each generation of descendants of its founders has
instilled a love and knowledge of its singing into their children,
which became a family tradition. Members of some families
have been song leaders and singers for generations. In an effort
to promote and preserve Southern Harmony singing, the
Society for Preservation of Southern Harmony made a record,
"Holy Manna", with the most popular songs of that style. The
1973 Southern Harmony singers from Benton were invited to
sing and represent Kentucky's folk life during a festival in
Washington, D.C. Of the 89 bronze plaques awarded in the
United States by the National Music Council, one was presented
to Benton in 1976 for preserving a pure and authentic music

	How did this "pure and authentic" music reach Marshall
County? It came in the summer of 1852, packed with the Bible
and a few treasured possessions in a covered wagon driven by
the father of James R. Lemon from Guilford County, North
Carolina, across the Appalachians to his new Marshall County
home. A fine tenor, James R. became a "singing master"
himself, at the same time being a schoolteacher, traveling
salesman, druggist, and finally editor of the Benton Tribune, and
postmaster. A true musician, he left a heritage matched by few
others. As he expressed in his poem, "Big Singing", in 1908,
"It is a great pleasure to us
.To meet and shake your hand;
And greet you once again,
In singing 'Happy Land'."

from pg. 32-33 History of Marshall County, 1984
 (C) Marshall County Genealogical Society.