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Memorial Service & Richmond Register coverage of it
Raymond K. McLain's Story
Some Wise Things He Said
Lexington Herald Leader article
Courier Journal article
Feature Story by Erin Cline
"Raymond Kane McLain, a Remembrance", by Rachael White
by Loyal Jones
Raymond Kane McLain, leader of the world-renowned McLain Family Band, educator and librarian, was born in Alliance, Ohio, on April 18, 1928. He is the son of the late Raymond Francis McLain (President of Transylvania University, the American University in Cairo, Egypt, and Vice President of Academic Affairs at the University of Alabama) and Beatrice Kane McLain (folklorist and dance leader). Raymond K. graduated from Denison University with a degree in music theory, did graduate work at Harvard University in music composition, and after two years of army service, he studied folklore at the University of North Carolina. In 1952, he married Mary Elizabeth (Betty) Winslow from Madison, Wisconsin.
McLain's study and collection of Appalachian music took him to eastern Kentucky and a job at the Hindman Settlement School as recreation director in 1954. Two years later, he became Executive Director of the School where he served for 14 more years. As director of the Hindman Settlement School, among other things he designed, replaced, and modernized buildings for the settlement's students and regional programs and raised funds, making it possible for the rural Knott County students to go to high school. With his interests in folklore, he promoted Appalachian Mountain culture, music and dancing of the region, and took Settlement School students to perform across the US at events such as the World's Fair in New York City. As Music Director for the Berea College Country Dancers, Raymond K. toured the US and South America and performed at the White House for President John F. Kennedy. McLain edited a collection of regional folk songs for the Council of the Southern Mountains published as Songs of All Time. He also worked with the War on Poverty projects in the 1960s that brought federal funds and programs into the area. His wife, Betty, who had previously been recreation director at the school, assisted with programs as they reared their five children.
Their children, Raymond W., Alice, Ruth, Nancy Ann, and Michael, grew up with a love of music of all kinds, especially the music of the Appalachian region. It was a logical step for Raymond K. to form the McLain Family Band in 1968 when they began performing and doing a weekly show at WKYH-TV in Hazard, KY.
In 1970, the family moved to Berea, KY, where Raymond K. joined the music faculty at Berea College and created the country's first university level Bluegrass and Appalachian music courses. The McLain Family Band's overseas touring began after playing for the National Endowment for the Arts Music Committee which met that year in Berea. Composer Gian Carlo Menotti was so charmed by the band that he invited them to play at his Spoleto Festival in Italy in 1972. While abroad that summer, they also had musical engagements in Germany and Belgium. Over the next 18 years, the McLain Family Band made 14 overseas tours performing in a total of 62 foreign countries.
In the mid 1970s, the McLain family bought their Big Hill Farm near Berea and for 13 years hosted the internationally recognized annual McLain Family Festival showcasing family bands from the US and abroad. Between 1969 and 1989, as one of the top traditional music bands in the US, the McLains performed at bluegrass festivals, toured for arts councils and gave community concerts in all 50 states, as well as having solo concerts at the nation's most prestigious concert halls, including Carnegie Hall, the Grand Ole Opry, the Lincoln Center and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Kentucky's Composer in Residence at the time, Phillip Rhodes, impressed by the McLains' superb musicianship, wrote orchestral arrangements of original McLain songs, commissioned by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Rhodes also wrote for the McLains the first major work ever written for bluegrass band and symphony orchestra, the Concerto for Bluegrass and Orchestra, which was commissioned by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Kentucky Arts Commission. Peter Schlickle, of "P.D.Q. Bach" fame, composed a major work for the McLains, Far Away From Here. McLain and son, Raymond W. wrote Troublesome Creek Suite and The Fast Lane which were orchestrated by Newton Wayland. As the first bluegrass band to perform with symphony orchestras, the McLain Family Band performed these pieces in over 200 concerts with more than 100 orchestras nationwide, including Cincinnati, Louisville, Atlanta, Detroit, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Anchorage, Rochester, Houston, Denver, Phoenix and the National Symphony Orchestra.
The McLain Family Band was unique, in part, because of Raymond K's background in classical music theory as well as his understanding of traditional music and culture. Raymond K. wrote many original musical pieces and arranged other classical and popular compositions for the band, one of the most stunning being his arrangement of the third movement of Bach's Second Brandenburg Concerto. His Recorder Quartet, written while he was in high school, is still available from Schirmer Music Publishers. The McLain Family Band released 14 recordings through their record company, Country Life Records.
After being Executive Director of the Hindman Settlement School, teaching at Berea College, and a 20 year career as leader of the McLain Family Band, Raymond K. moved to Lexington and earned a degree in Library Science from the University of Kentucky. He worked at the Lexington Public Library for 10 years before retiring in 1996. Denison University, his alma mater, awarded Raymond K. an honorary Doctor of Music degree.
McLain's dedication to education and music continues as all his children are involved in music and education. Raymond W. is Director of the Bluegrass and Country Music Program at East Tennessee State University, Michael leads the Bluegrass Ensemble and teaches acoustic instrument instruction at Belmont University, Al White, husband of Alice and former member of the family band, teaches similar courses at Berea College, Alice teaches first grade at Silver Creek Elementary School near Berea, and Nancy Ann and Ruth are both Directors with Usborne educational books.
Raymond Kane McLain is survived by 5 children, their mother, Betty Tallmadge, 12 grandchildren, longtime companion, Peter Taylor, sister, Rosemary Ware, who is a singer-songwriter in Jackson, Mississippi, and mother, Beatrice Kane McLain who lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
Some wise things he said:
The best thing you can do is to make the others look good.
is where opportunity meets preparation.
show your limits.
show starts when you arrive and isn't over until you leave.
you're going to make a mistake, make it big enough for everyone to enjoy
it. (he credited to Don Reno)
If you think of something you need, let me know & I'll tell you how we get along without it.
people wanting more.
Memorial Service was Monday, Feb. 17th, 4pm
In lieu of flowers,
checks may be sent to:
This was Raymond K's favorite place for the band to play. He enjoyed the mountains, the friendly sincere folks, and appreciated the Carter Music Center's showcasing traditional music as they do every weekend.
About the Memorial Service
During one of most disastrous ice storms in Kentucky's history, the service was an upbeat celebration honoring Raymond Kane McLain's life, his work, his caring spirit and his music.
Raymond K's 5 children sang songs
written by him:
Friends shared songs, music, stories and remembrances.
The Richmond Register had an article about the service on their front page:
Community Remembers Renowned Musician
Nancy Ann Wartman remembered her father as someone who loved to teach others about life and often used music to communicate emotion and wisdom. In leading a family Bluegrass band, her father taught his children lessons by which to live.
"He always said, 'The best thing you can do in a band or family or any kind of group is make the others look good,'" she said.
About 70 family members and friends gathered to remember Raymond Kane McLain Monday afternoon at the Acton Folk Center in Berea. The former leader of the McLain Family Band died from cancer Friday in his Lexington home. He was 74.
The memorial service opened up with McLain's five children - Raymond W., Alice, Ruth, Nancy Ann, and Michael - and Alice's husband, Al White, playing three of their father's songs.
Union Church Pastor Kent Gilbert encouraged others present to share stories and songs in remembrance of McLain.
"We're going to celebrate life today," Gilbert told those at the memorial service.
Life-long friends remembered meeting McLain.
Some met him during his 16 years at Hindman Settlement School in Knott County, most of which he spent as executive director. He began as recreation director in 1954 and two years later began his tenure as director. During his service at the school, McLain designed, replaced and modernized buildings for the settlement and regional programs.
"He left a legacy there, and the school is alive and well because he made good decisions when he was there," said Mike Mullins, Hindman Settlement School executive director.
Others befriended him during his 11 years at Berea College, where he introduced university-level Bluegrass and Appalachian Music courses. As music director for the college's country dancers, McLain toured the United States and South America and performed at the White House for President John F. Kennedy.
Some fellow musicians played with the McLain Family Band, which played in 50 states and 62 countries during its 20 years. Others came religiously to the internationally recognized McLain Family Festival on the family's Big Hill farm. The McLains held the event to showcase other family bands for 13 years.
Gilbert encouraged McLain's family and friends to remember how ripples in a pond travel, especially in waters of love, grace and joy.
"It's in those waters we put our hands when we hear music that takes us home," he said, " I mean really home, even a home where we've never been."
Born in Alliance, Ohio, on April 18, 1928, McLain was born into a family of educators. His father, Raymond Francis McLain, was president of Transylvania University and the American University in Cairo, Egypt and vice president of academic affairs at the University of Alabama. His mother, Beatrice Kane McLain, was a folklorist and dance leader.
McLain graduated from Denison University with a music theory degree and completed some graduate work at Harvard University in music composition. He later studied folklore at the University of North Carolina. After his Hindman Settlement, Berea College and music careers, he continued his life of learning by earning a library science degree from the University of Kentucky. He worked for the Lexington Public Library for 10 years before retiring in 1996.
" I want people to remember his interest in caring for other people," said McLain's son, Michael. "It was important for him to reach out to others."
And many times the language McLain used to reach out was music.
"Music is a natural way to do that," said McLain's daughter, Nancy Ann. "It will communicate clearly sometimes when the spoken word can't."
McLain's children continue the family's deep roots in education - Raymond W. is assistant director of the Bluegrass and country music program at East Tennessee State University. Michael leads the Bluegrass ensemble and teaches acoustic instrument instruction at Belmont University. Alice teaches first grade at Silver Creek Elementary School and her husband teaches music courses at Berea College. Nancy Ann and Ruth are both supervisors with Usborne educational books.
The memorial service ended with friends and family singing "Amazing Grace" and "Alleluia."
"Raymond K. McLain leaves more than just a family and more than just solid friends and wild ideas he somehow pulled off," Gilbert said during his closing remarks at the service. "Raymond K. McLain leaves you as a gift to the world. And he'll be waltzing with memories of you."
Click on thumbprint images for large jpg files.
MCLAIN, A REMEMBRANCE
By Rachael White, RKM's grandaughter
published in the December 2005 issue of the Lloyd Shaw Foundation newsletter
I have always admired my mother’s father, Raymond Kane McLain, and even more so after continuing to learn about his life after his death on February 14, 2003. Besides being devoted to his family, he was highly involved in the world during his lifetime. As he was raising his own five children, his love for music and his leadership qualities led him to be the recreation director and then the executive director of Hindman Settlement School for a total of sixteen years. One of his skills there was to lead students in music and dancing performances elsewhere in the United States.
Later on, he took his own children as the McLain Family Band performing bluegrass music across 62 counties, and led them to be a world famous band. Not only did he do these things, but he also moved his family to Berea, where he began the world's first college courses in Bluegrass and Appalachian music at Berea College.
Granddaddy did not quit then. He also became the music director of the Berea College Country Dancers. During that time he had one of his greatest accomplishments. Working with Ethel Capps, who was the first leader of the Country Dancers, he arranged a trip to take the Country Dancers to the White House and perform on its lawn for the then-President John F. Kennedy on April 22, 1963. I have been fascinated by this fact. Here was my own grandfather meeting and performing for the President of the United States of America!
Since his death, there has been a website made for him by my aunt Ruth, and it includes a picture of my grandfather and President Kennedy shaking hands as the students and Kennedy's wife watch. I have imagined a friendship forming between them then, knowing how friendly and sociable Granddaddy was in my lifetime. He certainly provided a great opportunity for the Berea College Country Dancers, giving them a chance to meet John F. Kennedy and perform for him and his family. Berea College itself achieved a lot through this Country Dancer performance. The college was now recognized for sending a group of its dancers to perform for the President of our country.
As I reflect upon Kennedy's assassination, I imagine it to have been a personal loss to my family and especially to my grandfather. Not only did it mean an unexpected murder of the President of the United States, it also meant that a friend of Granddaddy’s had been shot and killed.
My grandfather did not lose hope for a better future though. He went on to continue raising his children and performing music with them around the world, meeting other famous people along the way. He was also fond of his grandchildren. I remember being at a McLain Family Band reunion concert at Phelps Stokes in the summer of 2000, where I sat with my cousins and watched the performance. At one point during the concert, he had all of us grandchildren stand up and be recognized by the audience. Later on, he called on me to stand up by myself and told everyone how proud he was that I would be attending Berea College, to which he had such close connections. I have forgotten the actual words, but I certainly remember the spirit of it. I could carry on his love for the college and become a good citizen of the world. He has become a powerful role model for me. I am proud to be his granddaughter.
(Editor’s note: Kris Litchman made Rachael White’s acquaintance at Cumberland Camp and asked her to share her memories of her grandfather, Raymond McLain. A second connection is that Lloyd Shaw’s grandson Kent Obee hosted the McLain Family Band in Katmandu, Nepal when Kent was director of the US Information Service in Nepal.)
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