The Wallin Family Legacy

Doug Wallin Playing Fiddle Photo by Rob Amberg

The music had quietly continued to be preserved by each succeeding generation and some had traveled beyond the county borders. However, the way of life in the mid 20th century was quite different from the early 1900s. When musician/filmmaker John Cohen was drawn to Madison County in the 1960s, his tools were more powerful in spreading the story of the county’s musical heritage. An interest in folk music had grown and Cohen recorded the music of the Wallin extended family which included Lee and Berzilla Wallin as well as their cousins, Cas Wallin and Dillard Chandler. One of Cas Wallin’s cousins, Jerry Adams, brought a friend—Joe Penland—into the fold and Byard Ray took them under his musical wings and nurtured their musical talents.  

This widespread interest allowed some musicians of the older generation the opportunity to travel throughout the United States. Byard Ray, a great nephew of Mitchell Wallin, and his cousin, Obray Ramsey, recorded under the name of White Lightnin. Young people within the county truly appreciated the value of the mentoring received from all of their relatives in the Laurel country.  Talented musicians gladly served as mentors not only to their own children and extended family, but also to those who came to them from other parts of the county and other parts of the country. And, the musical community of the U.S. and the world grew richer as a result.