The Oxford Area Historical Association (OAHA) will present a program honoring the life and music of former local country music singer Ola Belle Campbell Reed at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 27 at the Oxford Fire Hall. Reed was a well-known country musician who lived in Cecil County, Md., and co-owned the general store formerly known as Campbell's Corner located along Third Street in Oxford.
A gifted banjo and guitar player, Reed is famous for writing and singing songs based on family traditions, religious values and social justice. The Smithsonian Institute, The Library of Congress and The Country Music Association have acknowledged her as a driving force in country music. Marty Stuart, country music star, even covered Reed's song "High on a Mountain" in 1992, earning both himself and Reed a Gold Record. There is even a revival band from New York City called "Ola Belle," which not only covers her songs, but also writes music in the traditional old-time style.
Reed founded her famous band called "The New River Boys" with her brother, Alex Campbell, in 1948. The group gained a notable following, and were employed as the house band at The New River Ranch, a popular music venue in Rising Sun, Md. They performed live for local radio stations WCOJ in Coatesville, and WASA in Havre De Grace, Md., gaining nationwide recognition during the height of the 1960's folk movement.
In addition to playing in the band, Campbell broadcasted radio programs from the general store he co-owned with Reed. Campbell's Corner, now known as Campbell's Market, is still frequented by Oxford residents today, though it is no longer owned by the Campbell family. According to OAHA Vice President John Bradley, Reed worked there until she suffered a stroke in the 1980s, splitting her time between the deli counter and broadcasting.
Though the performance stage and the old radio booth, used to broadcast the radio programs, are gone, Reed's presence is still very much a part of the store. "Customers described her as very friendly, and she was always smiling," said Bradley.
Reed's son, David, who still resides in the Rising Sun area, performed with his mother prior to her death in 2002, and will be featured as a guest speaker at next week's program. Her other son, Ralph, who is unable to attend, called the OAHA last week from his residence in Wyoming to thank members for their efforts.
"He is so proud that the music of his mother is being honored by the community," said Bradley.
Bradley is hoping that the Oxford residents both young and old will come to the program, because preserving Reed's historical presence is an important part of the community's heritage. Those planning on attending are encouraged to bring local country music memorabilia and posters, which will be added to displays depicting information about Reed's life and music
"There are a lot of really fascinating stories to come out of Oxford," said Bradley. "Sometimes you don't realize what you have in your own backyard."