Madisonville Arts, Native American History, and Our New Theme Song!

By Joyce West | 10/19/16 9:00 AM

Go into the recording studio with Doug Flynn and songwriter Greg Austin as Kentucky Life debuts its new theme song “Kentucky Bound”, the Glema Mahr Center for the Arts in Madisonville showcases regionally and nationally known performers, and learn more about Native American life in northern Kentucky prior to Columbus.

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New Theme Song: ‘Kentucky Bound’
Kentucky Life has a new theme song this year, “Kentucky Bound.” The song was written by Greg Austin, Ray Adams, and Keith Barrett in the late 1980s, and the Greg Austin Band put together a new version of the song for the show.

Greg Austin, a singer/songwriter who Flynn described as his oldest and best friend, has been playing music for 41 years. Austin said the first song he and Flynn wrote together was “Tip Your Bottle.” Flynn thought “Kentucky Bound,” a song about being on the road, was the “perfect song for us to kick off ‘Kentucky Life,” he said.

For the new version, recorded at the KET sound studio in Lexington, Ray Adams and Austin brought in “some of the old musicians that have worked with us over the years and a couple of new guys,” said Adams.
The musicians for the session:

  • Dwight Dunlap, on drums: he has played with Exile
  • Curt Chapman on bass: he has played with J.D. Crowe and band
  • J.D. Miller, on keyboard: he wrote the Nationwide Insurance jingle and is honored for his gospel music work
  • Zach Lafferty, on acoustic guitar and Telecaster guitar: a young musician who impressed Adams
  • Greg Erwin, on slide guitar: “I thought he’d be perfect for the project,” said Adams
  • Ethan Vivian, on banjo: “Banjo drives the song so we had to have a good banjo player,” Adams said

Glema Mahr Center for the Arts
In Hopkins County, art and culture have a home at the Glema Mahr Center for the Arts, located on the campus of Madionsville Community College. “I truly believe that humanity, that individuals need something outside themselves to help them laugh and sing. It is different things for different people,” said Brad Downall, director of the Glema Mahr Center.

The center began as a dream among arts-minded citizens in the 1970s, and the center opened in 1991. Arts supporter Janet Woodall Corum recalled the opening. “It was a great event because it was the dream…of so many people in Madisonville and Hopkins County who had really devoted a lot of hours to making this happen,” she said.

Glema Mahr devoted many volunteer hours to the center, Corum said. In 1991, Mahr donated money to fund a charitable trust for the center, and the center was named for her, said Downall. “This was her heart,” he said.

Downall said the center not only presents artists from the national and international scene, but it nurtures artists in its community. “We took it as part of our mission, and we started a community theater,” he added.

Schoolchildren come to special matinee performances for schools. “A lot of these children have never been out of Hopkins County. So it opens their eyes to the world,” said Corum.
Corum believes that everyone should be able to be involved in the arts in some way: “Because it brings out an emotional value in a person. It brings out a love for creativity, an acknowledgment that each of us is different. And it just makes your eyes and your heart and your brain open to the beauty of life and of this world. And not just the beauties, but things that need to be changed.”

Native American Life in Northern Kentucky: Fort Ancient
“Fort Ancient” refers to the Native Americans who lived in the middle Ohio Valley from 1000 AD to about 1750, the time of European contact, according to A. Gwynn Henderson of the Kentucky Archaeological Survey.

Their territory extended from the Falls of the Ohio at modern-day Louisville upriver to what is now Parkersburg, W.Va., and north from present-day Columbus, Ohio, south to what is now Corbin, Ky.

The Fort Ancient people hunted, but they were primarily farmers. David Pollack, director of the Kentucky Archaeological Survey, said they grew corn, beans, and squash. Bridget B. Striker, a historian with the Boone County Public Library, said those crops enabled them to create settlements.

Around 1200 AD, the Fort Ancient people moved into more circular villages. “These were built as concentric rings around a central plaza,” said Pollack. “Much like if you look at a central park in a city today.”

Around 1400 AD, their communities became bigger, Pollack said. “They pretty much outgrew the circular arrangement of houses and so their houses really were more organized in clusters around the community.” Cemeteries were in distinct areas that were marked. In their social hierarchy, leadership wasn’t inherited, but achieved.

Henderson said the Fort Ancient people traveled by foot. “They did not have horses,” she said. “They walked the trails that crisscrossed the landscape, connecting villages to each other. And the long distance walks they would take on trading expeditions.” Pollack said the Warriors’ Path — the trail that Daniel Boone took through the Cumberland Gap — was part of a network of trails the Native Americans had used for centuries.

Their culture was thriving when Europeans arrived. And with them came infectious diseases. “The most virulent disease that arrived was smallpox,” said Henderson. “Between 75 percent and 90 percent of the indigenous people who lived in the Ohio Valley died. The people who were most susceptible were the very young and the very old. The saddest part of that is that the people who died were the future and the past of Fort Ancient peoples.”

Those that survived became dispersed throughout the region. The Fort Ancient culture exists today, Henderson said, among the diverse indigenous peoples in the places where the Fort Ancient people used to live. “We live in their homeland,” Henderson said.