Almeda Riddle was born in 1898, near Greer's Ferry, Arkansas and lived her entire life in that area. Her father was a fiddler, a singer, and a teacher of shaped-note singing. The church she attended throughout her life used unaccompanied singing and this practice reinforced her use of traditional unaccompanied style as a ballad singer.
This video tells how and where Almeda Riddle began her 10 year stint of singing old ballads all over the country. In an informal manner, folk musician Starr Mitchell chats with Riddle about her singing tours and her commitment to preserving the past for the future. The video was filmed two years before Almeda's death in 1986.
Almeda was "discovered" by John Quincy Wolfe, a professor at Arkansas (now Lyon) College who brought her to the attention of Alan Lomax, John Lomax's son. Alan had, by this time, taken up the work his father had begun and was the best known collector of American traditional music. Usually called Granny Riddle, Almeda traveled to such places as Harvard and the Newport Folk Festival to sing, and she left behind an extensive body of recorded traditional songs.
More than eighty field recordings of Almeda Riddle can be heard, along with scores by other Arkansas singers, on the website "The John Quincy Wolfe Collection: Ozark Folksongs".