By Josh Shepherd, News writer
In the move from the old log building to WCYN’s current location on Main Street, Patty Drake came across a reel-to-reel audio tape stored in a closet. Curious about what, if anything, was recorded on it, she had a friend transfer the recording to a compact disc.
That the recording was of a broadcast of the Harrison County Hymn Sing from back in the early 70s or 60s was not that surprising. It was even pleasant to hear host Roscoe Bedford’s voice announcing the beginning of the Hymn Sing.
But it was a highly ironic coincidence to hear Bedford introduce Drake’s in-laws as the evening’s singers.
“The singers that evening were from the Curry United Methodist Church where Jim [Drake] grew up. There was his father and grandfather and other members of his family in the choir,” Patty Drake said.
The coincidence becomes all the more astonishing when considering that the tape recording could have come from almost any one of the thousands of Harrison County Hymn Sing shows that have happened in the last 57 years.
During this interview, Drake smooths out a worn sheet of notebook paper containing the names of musicians and singers who gave their time to the Harrison Hymn Sing.
The Drake family legacy in Harrison County belongs to her husband. Jim Drake was born and raised in this area. Patty came to Cynthiana with her husband after growing up and working in the funeral business in Louisville.
“When Jim and I moved to Cynthiana, it got out that I could sing and play piano. Like most everyone else that’s been associated with the hymn sing, I agreed to perform one Sunday a month,” Drake said.
That one Sunday a month eventually became two, then three and before she knew it, she was showing up every Sunday evening to help with the show.
In the decade or so since she has been a regular fixture at the hymn sing and, after Bedford’s death, the Hymn Sing has been something of an extended family affair for her.
“There is something about this show that has made it such a fixture in this area. It’s exactly like when we heard my husband’s family singing — the Hymn Sing goes back generations,” Drake said.
When Bedford passed away in 2000, many thought his death would be the end of the show. But the show’s many listeners called in demanding that the show continue.
“One of our regular listeners moved out of the WCYN broadcast area, but even though she cannot hear the show, she still calls in to request Where the Roses Never Fade,” Drake said.
Nearly six decades have passed since the Harrison Hymn Sing first broadcast its show. It has moved from the third floor of the Harrison Deposit Bank Building to the historic log building to its contemporary office location on Main Street.
Many of this area’s most talented and beloved gospel musicians — regulars of the Harrison Hymn Sing — have been called to join Bedford in that greater gospel hymn sing in the sky.
Folks like Russell Ray Fryman and Charlie Franklin. But every time the hymn sing loses someone, there always seems to be another to step up and fill the space.
“Even with the popularity of rock-based and pop religious music, there has always been a place for old-time gospel music. The songs have been passed down for generations and they still endure,” Drake said.
Her granddaughter, Ashley, has been going to the radio station and sitting in on the Hymn Sing since she was in a baby seat.
“It really is something of a tradition that is passed on to people. I’m convinced that one of the main reasons this show has lasted is because we focus on traditional music,” Drake said.
It is likely true. The show does not preach nor feature a message of any kind, except as a celebration of the enduring power of Christian gospel music.
The current monthly lineup of Hymn Sing performers includes Charles and Ollie, a husband and wife duo who stepped in after Russell Ray Fryman passed away. The show usually features Drake, Carl Goodman and Jerry Watkins.
The second Sunday of the month, Joy Bounds, a group from Pendleton County, performs.
“This group performs all day at nursing homes as they make their way here for their appearance on the Hymn Sing,” Drake said.
The third Sunday, the popular local bluegrass band Thunder Ridge performs. The fourth Sunday is the Bluegrass Gospel Travellers.
The Union Baptist Singers will perform if there is a fifth Sunday in the month, Drake said.
It can be a challenge fitting all the performers into the studio space, especially for those groups that bring their own instruments.
But it always seems to work itself out. And even though the sound may not be as polished as a studio recording, the one thing each and every singer can feel is the tradition and approval of all the singers that have performed before on the Hymn Sing.
Who knows what singers will pick up the lead when the Hymn Sing turns 100.
The Harrison County Hymn Sing runs every Sunday at 5 p.m. on WCYN 1400 AM.