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Walter McNew Collection



Scope and Contents

Administrative Information

Detailed Description

Original Audio Recordings

Video Recordings

Scrapbook Pages and Images

Listening Copies

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Walter McNew Collection, 1930-1993 | Berea College Special Collections and Archives Catalog

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Collection Overview

Title: Walter McNew Collection, 1930-1993Add to your cart.

Extent: 6.0 Boxes (General)


The collection is arranged as follows:

Original recordings in open reel, video tape and cassette tape formats (Boxes 1-3)

Reference copies of select recording in CD and DVD formats (Boxes 4-6)

Subjects: Fiddle tunes -- Kentucky., Gospel music -- Kentucky., Gospel musicians -- Kentucky., Lifeline Hour (Radio program)., Radio programs -- Kentucky., Southern Gospel Singers., WRVK (Radio station: Renfro Valley, Ky.).

Languages: English


Walter McNew (1912 - 1998) inherited his knowledge of, and love for, shape note singing from his father, John G. McNew who was a fiddler, singing school teacher, and telegraph operator for the L&N Railroad in Rockcastle and Madison counties of Kentucky.

The earliest of his recordings were made by Walter and his siblings on reel-to-reel tape. These recordings document both Walter alone and as part of a family gospel quartet with siblings, Astor, Homer, and Bernice (Branaman).

The solo recordings, made by Walter in the early 1970s, are of his old-time fiddling and shape note hymns using a homemade system of "overdubbing" which allowed him to record his voice in two or three harmonizing parts. For fiddle instrumental pieces, he used this system to accompany himself on the guitar.

Much of his fiddle repertoire came from the playing of his father and Madison County fiddlers, Doc Roberts and Van Kidwell. Other likely influences are musicians he played with while in the Civilian Conservation Corps, in various fiddle contests, and on stage and radio at the nearby Renfro Valley county music enterprise.

The quartet recordings, made in the early 1960s were made mostly in the Wilde Christian church, both with and without organ accompaniment. Some of these recordings were used on "The Lifeline Hour" radio program conducted by Rev. Homer McNew on station WRVK in Renfro Valley, Kentucky.

Scope and Contents of the Materials

This collection consists of audio and video recordings documenting the fiddling and gospel singing traditions of Walter McNew from Rockcastle County, Kentucky.

Also included in the collection is a scrapbook containing photographs and other items documenting McNew's time in the Civilian Conservation Corps at Camp Carson River in Fallon, NV during 1937.

Subject/Index Terms

Fiddle tunes -- Kentucky.
Gospel music -- Kentucky.
Gospel musicians -- Kentucky.
Lifeline Hour (Radio program).
Radio programs -- Kentucky.
Southern Gospel Singers.
WRVK (Radio station: Renfro Valley, Ky.).

Administrative Information

Repository: Berea College Special Collections and Archives Catalog

Accruals: Reel-to-reel recordings were loaned to archivist, Steve Green, for copying in September, 1992. Later audio and video recordings in this collection were made or collected by family members and Steve Green at various times in the 1980s and 1990s.  Harry Rice borrowed several of the original reels copied in 1992  from Mark McNew in 2010 for digitizing. The resultant digital files are AC-OR-198-020 through AC-OR-198-030.

Access Restrictions: Follow the links in the recordings list to hear performances and interviews.  Records can also be accessed through the Reading Room, Berea College Special Collections and Archives, Hutchins Library, Berea College.  Some recordings are available online.

Use Restrictions: There are no restrictions on use of this material other than federal copyright regulations.

Preferred Citation: [Object identification], Walther McNew Collection, Berea College Special Collections and Archives, Berea, KY.

Processing Information: The collection was arranged by Harry Rice, Sound Archivist.  The finding aid was created in August 2015 by Harry Rice and Lori Myers-Steele, Collections Archivist.

Other Note: Collection Number: BCA 0136 SAA 136

Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Original Audio Recordings],
[Series 2: Video Recordings],
[Series 3: Scrapbook Pages and Images],
[Series 4: Listening Copies],

Series 3: Scrapbook Pages and ImagesAdd to your cart.
Photographs and other items documenting McNew
Box 3Add to your cart.
Item 1: Scrapbook PagesAdd to your cart.
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Item 2: Scrapbook ImagesAdd to your cart.
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Item 3: Civilian Conservation Corps Camp MonthlyAdd to your cart.
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Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Original Audio Recordings],
[Series 2: Video Recordings],
[Series 3: Scrapbook Pages and Images],
[Series 4: Listening Copies],

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