Queen of the Hillbillies: The Writings of May Kennedy McCord (Chronicles of the Ozarks) (Paperback)
May Kennedy McCord, lovingly nicknamed “First Lady of the Ozarks” and “Queen of the Hillbillies,” spent half a century sharing the history, songs, and stories of her native Ozarks through newspaper columns, radio programs, and music festivals. Though her work made her one of the twentieth century’s preeminent folklorists, McCord was first and foremost an entertainer—at one time nearly as renowned as the hills she loved.
Despite the encouragement of her contemporaries, McCord never published a collection of her work. In 1956, Vance Randolph wrote to her, “If you didn’t have such a mental block against writing books, I could show you how to make a book out of extracts from your columns. It would be very little work, and sell like hotcakes. . . . I could write a solemn little introduction, telling the citizens what a fine gal you are! The hell of it is, most of the readers know all about you.” In Queen of the Hillbillies, editors Patti McCord and Kristene Sutliff at last bring together the best of McCord’s published and previously unpublished writings to share her knowledge, humor, and inimitable spirit with a new generation of readers.
About the Author
Patti McCord is the granddaughter of May Kennedy McCord.
Kristene Sutliff is professor emerita at Missouri State University, where she directed the Ozarks Studies Institute for several years.
Both were born and raised in the Missouri Ozarks.
“The distinctive culture of the Ozarks has been preserved through those who lived it and shared by those who love it. May Kennedy McCord did both of these things: her words, based on pure devotion to the region and its people, not only benefited her contemporaries but will also inspire new readers who can now see the Ozarks through her eyes.”
—Kaitlyn McConnell, founder of Ozarks Alive
“‘Bless your hearts, here I am again! Bad pennies will bob up, you know,’ Ozarks entertainer and folklorist May Kennedy McCord once joked. McCord has largely faded from public memory, but as historian Brooks Blevins acknowledges, ‘back in the hills and hollers in the middle of the twentieth century no one rivaled her celebrity’. McCord’s granddaughter Patti, together with Missouri State University professor emerita Kristene Sutliff, gathered dozens of McCord’s published and unpublished columns, articles, and radio scripts to produce the first comprehensive collection of her work. … This overdue appraisal of her life and legacy adroitly welcomes ‘the Queen back to the realm.'”
—Missouri Historical Review, October 2022
“Ultimately, this book is a great addition to anyone’s library—you don’t have to be an academic to enjoy McCord’s pearls of wisdom, while scholars will be intrigued by how she rhetorically constructs the Ozarks through an intertextual network. Creative, insightful, and downright sociable, May Kennedy McCord’s writing is a testament to her deep love for and personal connection to her beloved region, and this collection seems to do the Queen justice.”
—OzarksWatch, Fall/Winter 2022-23
“Brooks Blevins—the dean of Ozark studies—and the University of Arkansas Press have offered another generous helping of regional fare with their Chronicles of the Ozarks series. But Queen of the Hillbillies: Writings of May Kennedy McCord, edited by Patti McCord and Kristene Sutliff, represents something new, too. … One of the true pleasures of the volume comes in hearing not only May Kennedy McCord’s distinctive voice but a multiplicity of others. Her columns often include stories, observations, reminiscences, and queries sent in by readers, and many are reproduced here. Blevins notes that, during the mid-twentieth century, McCord was better known in the region than her frequent collaborators Vance Randolph and Otto Ernest Rayburn. But, with them, and through her work with pioneering folklorists like Sarah Gertrude Knott, she enriched the whole nation’s appreciation for for Ozarks culture.”
—Arkansas Historical Quarterly, “Book and Media Notes,” Winter 2021