Front row from L: James (Jimmy), Henry (holding Kieffer hymnal: The Temple Star), Zeb, Lewis, Burleigh & Bob
Back row from L: Elmer, Fred, Tressie, Flossie…Elmer & Fred are James’ sons. Tressie & Flossie are Zeb’s daughters
Open your Bibles to James 5:13, the passage reads as follows: “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.”
This subject is very dear to my own heart. For as long as I can remember I’ve had a soul that yearns for music. The need for music in my life was instilled in me at a very young age sitting in the church pew while familiar faces lifted their voices and rolled their fingers across the strings. I can remember riding in the car with my Father and Grandfather listening to the tunes of Ralph Stanley, Jimmy Martin, and my local favorite: The Lam Brothers.
In the latter portion of the 19th century and early part of the 20th century the printing company Ruebush-Kieffer of Dayton, Virginia began printing hymnals and musically based publications. Before them, Joseph Funk (Grandfather of Mr. Kieffer and of Mr. Ruebush’s wife) was printing similar publications as early as 1832 in the same area. Funk began printing a publication known as: “The Southern Musical Advocate and Singers’ Friend” in the middle of the 19th century. The publication was later named “The Musical Million” by the Ruebush-Kieffer printing company. The early printings were distributed all over including to a subscriber M. Lamb that is believed to be Matthew Lamb of the Page County area in 1879. The style taught at the time was called Shape Note seen here:
This is where I come into this story. Matthew (locally known as “Mathy”) is my GG Grandfather. According to oral history Mathy owned a good portion of land in the Jollett Hollow area. On his property stood a schoolhouse for the local children to attend. It’s believed that a voice & music teacher was employed for some time to introduce music into the young lives of the local children. The combination of musical guidance in school and reenforcement at home by Mathy surely paid off and still shows many generations later. Many of the children of Mathy were multi-talented playing numerous instruments. One son in particular made quite a name for himself and even traveled to New York to record on the Okeh label in the late 1920’s. This son was known locally as “Bela” Lam. The spelling and pronunciation are a bit different as most people pronounced his name “BEE-LEE”. We’ll chat more about Bela and his group in another article.
Today we see that the musical roots laid down by the early generations of the Lam family have branched out and the love for music is still strong. My only hope is that the generations that come after me will have the same love and appreciation for it that I have.