Bradley Kincaid (1895-1989)

Historical Marker # 2026 is located on highway KY 52 at mile point 11 in Garrard County in commemoration of folk singer Bradley Kincaid. The “Kentucky Mountain Boy” recorded over two hundred songs and published thirteen songbooks during his lifetime and was elected to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1971.

Bradley Kincaid was born July 13, 1895 in the Point Leavell community of Garrard County. A performer from a young age, Kincaid’s father taught the boy ballads and popular songs, while Kincaid taught himself the guitar. He began his formal education to polish his musical talents at Berea Academy and graduated in just two years. He was in the U.S. Army during World War I for two more years, and intermittently worked as a clerk, busboy, and salesman while continuing his musical training.

At twenty-six, Kincaid married Berea piano teacher Irma Forman and moved to Chicago shortly after that for a religious career. However, his singing and performing made him a favorite performer at various avenues, and he made his first recording of Appalachian ballads on February 19, 1928 and published his first volume of songs in April at thirty three years old. Instead of continuing his religious education, Kincaid realized his popularity as a performer and worked as a radio announcer and ballad singer in Chicago, receiving more than one hundred thousand fan letters a year.

After Kincaid left Chicago, he worked as a regular entertainer at station WLW in Cincinnati, eventually moving to Pittsburgh, Schenectady in New York, Rochester, New York City, Boston, Hartford, back to Cincinnati, then to Nashville before moving to Springfield, Ohio and eventually retiring there. Throughout his long career, Kincaid would still tour the southern states in order to collect more information about southern ballads and folk songs. Although he never lived in Kentucky again, he annually attended the Berea College’s Celebration of Traditional Music festival, and never denounced his heritage. “I was always proud to be a Kentuckian,” he was quoted as saying.

Kincaid’s collection of folk songs highlights pride, courage, and loyalty to family, companion, honor and decency. In the songs’ contents are generally belief in an overall good, and appreciation of beauty and nature; representing the life and emotion of those southern, often isolated people who would sing them. Bradley Kincaid died at the age of 94 on September 23, 1989 in Springfield, Ohio. He is buried in the Ferncliff Cemetery.

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Grand Ole Opry

Grand Ole Opry

Kincaid™s last major radio work was while he lived in Nashville, TN. He worked on WSM at the Grand Ole Opry from 1942-1947, before moving on the Springfield. Courtesy of Berea College Special Collections & Archives View File Details Page

Radio Circus Show

Radio Circus Show

While on his “Radio Circus”, as he called it, that led him to several cities, he partnered with Kentuckian Louis Marshall “Grandpa” Jones. While he was in Rochester working for WHAM in 1939, he adopted a tent show format for his warm weather appearances. Courtesy of Berea College Special Collections & Archives View File Details Page

Young Bradley Kincaid

Young Bradley Kincaid

Kincaid™s regular stint on the Chicago radio station, WLS, led to him being billed as “the Kentucky Mountain Boy.” His renditions of old Kentucky ballads drew very large amounts of fan mail and allowed him the opportunity to produce songbooks and give personal appearances. Courtesy of Berea College Special Collections & Archives View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Ashlee Chilton, “Bradley Kincaid (1895-1989),” ExploreKYHistory, accessed May 24, 2017, http://explorekyhistory.ky.gov/items/show/764.

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