Almeda Riddle: Now Let’s Talk About Singing

This is a short preview trailer. You can watch the entire film at no charge on the Folkstreams website. Folkstreams is a nonprofit whose mission is to find, preserve, contextualize, and stream documentary films on American folklife.

Watch the entire film at Folkstreams

Almeda Riddle was born in 1898, near Greer's Ferry, Arkansas and lived her entire life in that area. Her father was a fiddler, a singer, and a teacher of shaped-note singing. The church she attended throughout her life used unaccompanied singing and this practice reinforced her use of traditional unaccompanied style as a ballad singer.

This video tells how and where Almeda Riddle began her 10 year stint of singing old ballads all over the country. In an informal manner, folk musician Starr Mitchell chats with Riddle about her singing tours and her commitment to preserving the past for the future. The video was filmed two years before Almeda's death in 1986.

Almeda was "discovered" by John Quincy Wolfe, a professor at Arkansas (now Lyon) College who brought her to the attention of Alan Lomax, John Lomax's son. Alan had, by this time, taken up the work his father had begun and was the best known collector of American traditional music. Usually called Granny Riddle, Almeda traveled to such places as Harvard and the Newport Folk Festival to sing, and she left behind an extensive body of recorded traditional songs.

More than eighty field recordings of Almeda Riddle can be heard, along with scores by other Arkansas singers, on the website The John Quincy Wolfe Collection: Ozark Folksongs.

  • Film by: George West
  • Produced by: George West
  • Cinematographer: Cary Pollock, Willie Allen, Dave Parker, George West
  • Editor: Cary Pollock
  • Other Credits: Narrated by Starr Mitchell ; Special thanks to Roger Abrahams, Mike Seeger, Bill McNeil, Debora Kodish, and Almeda Riddles' family.
  • Funding: This program made possible by funds from the Arkansas Arts Council and the Folk Arts Program National Endowment for the Arts
  • Original Format: Film: 16mm
  • © 1985, Talking Traditions
  • 28mins, Color