musical lives, remembered in story & sound

Blanche Coldiron -- 5. The Road Not Taken

For all its early success, Blanche’s career was short lived. The tour with Asa came to an end. The crowds died down; perhaps because of the war, perhaps because people wanted other forms of entertainment; perhaps because the novelty of Blanche the Mountain Girl had worn off; perhaps because her parents made her leave. The circumstances of its end are left only to speculation.
There had been another opportunity. Blanche got a call from Nashville, to follow in the footsteps of Stringbean, as her family imagines.
 
 But Blanche never got wind of it. Her parents never told her. It was only on his deathbed, that her brother Ossie told his sister.
 
 As Blanche’s son Jim told it, “Nashville had wanted mom. And [Ossie] had talked it over with her parents, and they said, ‘No way, no way ever,’ because she was still very, very young. They would have never let her went. But she could have had the opportunity to go to Nashville, if she had been a little older, you know, or on her own or something.”
 
Blanche’s children Jim and Sandy, reflecting on it, seventy years later, noted that their grandparents’ religion was a part of what made them discourage Blanche from a music career. Their grandfather wasn’t an ordained minister,  Jim and Sandy remembered, “but that’s all he ever did,” they said. “He would go from church to church, back in the hills… and he did his revival preaching,” Sandy said.
 
They didn’t have a problem with music, really, Sandy said, but did with “her being subjected to things you shouldn’t be, you know, subjected to. You know, like fast living, Casanovas… they felt she might be in the company of someone that would lead her astray,” Sandy said. It was more the lifestyle (and the perceived lifestyle) of the travelling musician—a lifestyle deemed rough and tumble, full of drinking— that made them wary, rather than the music itself, particularly when it came to a young girl.
 
Seventy years later leaves their grandchildren wondering. “I often wonder what she would have been,” Blanche’s daughter Sandy said, “If she would’ve put all those years into the music.” Musically, Jim thought, “she could’ve made it in Nashville, with no sweat,” though he wasn’t sure his plain, tough mom would’ve gone for any of the glitz and glam, or some of the ins and outs of the music industry.
 
Yet, they said, Blanche seemed to be without regrets; or at least none she ever expressed to her children. “She wouldn’tve traded her family for anything,” Sandy said. Jim said he remembered his mom saying “’I wouldn’t redo one thing in my life… I wouldn’t give a hair of one of my child’s heads or anything, to have that.”