Remembering Ola Belle Reed
A Life of Music, Love and Inspiration
Ola Belle Reed was born Ola Wave Campbell on August 17, 1916, in Grassy Creek, Ashe County, North Carolina. She was one of thirteen children born to Arthur Harrison Campbell and Ella May Osborne Campbell. The Campbell family ancestors had moved to the New River Valley of Western North Carolina sometime around the 1760’s. Arthur Harrison was an educated man who spent his life as a school teacher. He also owned a general store and was a dedicated farmer during summer months on his farm. The Great Depression brought a huge economic burden on the large Campbell family, and they followed many Appalachian mountain people to Chester County, Pennsylvania and then on to Cecil County, Maryland, where there was fertile farmland and it seemed easier to secure jobs. Music was an integral part of the cultural heritage on both sides of Ola Belle’s family. Her grandfather Alexander Bolivar Campbell was a early Primitive Baptist preacher and an accomplished fiddle player. Her father played fiddle, banjo, guitar, and organ and formed a string band, The New River Boys and Girls with his brother Oliver Dockery , known as “Doc” and sister Ellen in 1910. An uncle, on her mother’s side, Herb Osborne, sang mining songs made popular in the coalmines of West Virginia. Her grandmother and mother sang ballads and topical songs in the traditional Appalachian style. In 1936, Ola Belle began performing professionally as a member of the North Carolina Ridge Runners, one of the first hillbilly bands of the Delaware-Maryland area. She played old-time banjo and guitar and sang for the Appalachian area audiences from 1936 to 1948. By the mid-1930s, scores of music parks and picnic grounds had been established throughout the region, each with a sizable audience and concession money to pay and feed the house band. "Back home in the summertime we had carnivals - they were the main thing - and little parks," Ola Belle said. "They were so little that the few times the Ridge Runners played down there, we would be the only show there. I remember one time we came back on a Monday after playing one of these parks.... We played every half-hour all day till the park closed. Up here the parks were bigger and there were more of them, especially in Pennsylvania. There weren't big music parks like that back home." In 1945, Ola Belle was offered more than $100 per week, quite a good sum in those days, to join country music legend Roy Acuff‘s band and backup group. Ola Belle declined the offer. After Ola Belle’s brother, Alex, returned from World War II in which he served in the Army and was wounded during the invasion of Normandy Beach, he joined the North Carolina Ridge Runners. In 1948, he and Ola Belle became a musical team and formed their own country music band, named The New River Boys, a name derived from the group formed earlier by Ola Belle’s father. Alex Campbell, Ola Belle and The New River Boys broadcast over the radio on WASA in Havre De Grace, Maryland. The New River Boys consisted of Alex Campbell, who sang, played guitar and some fiddle, Ola Belle, who also sang and played banjo and guitar, Deacon Brumfield on the Dobro, Ted Lundy on the 5-string Banjo, John Jackson on the fiddle and Earl Wallace on the upright string bass. The group built a strong following and they were featured on many radio programs over WCOJ in Coatesville, Pennsylvania and WBMO in Baltimore, Maryland. Alex and Ola Belle wrote over 200 songs and played hundreds more traditional songs that were featured over many other radio stations in the United States. In addition to performing, the group sponsored many musical programs at a country music park called New River Ranch, near Rising Sun, Maryland. New River Ranch was one of the most active country music parks, bringing big-named Bluegrass and Country music stars to the area, along with featuring a vast amount of local talent. In 1960, the group transferred to Sunset Park, in West Grove, Pennsylvania, where the group built quite a reputation as one of the quintessential Country Music performance parks. The group performed there for 26 years, broadcasting their own Sunday radio program live from the park. In the mid-1960’s the group was receiving national exposure on radio station WWVA in Wheeling, West Virginia. The group was heard throughout the entire eastern United States and even into Canada.In addition to all of the radio and personal appearances, Ola Belle and Alex operated Campbell’s Corner, a general store in Oxford, Pennsylvania which, in addition to general merchandise and groceries, sold Country and Gospel records and in the back of the store was a performance stage and a radio booth which Alex used to transmit his popular radio programs. Alex bought time from the large radio stations and broadcast remotely from the store. Alex was considered one of the best “pitchmen” in the radio industry. Alex and Ola Belle were on over 200 radio stations at one time and also made numerous appearances at local TV stations and musical festivals. Alex retired in 1984 but continued to keep himself busy transmitting his programs on radio station WGCB in Red Lion, Pennsylvania. He still spent much time at Sunset Park and in mail-order record sales.In 1949, Ola Belle married Ralph “Bud” Reed, who was also an accomplished local area musical performer.Ola Belle continued to perform music with her family, including her husband and son David, often at informal gatherings she organized for her neighbors and friends. "I remember one time we were having a gathering," she said. "Everyone was coming ... we bought a new linoleum rug for the kitchen ... and we played and they danced round and round. ... And I'll never forget, next morning - we never noticed it at the time - next morning, there was nothing left but black. They wore the whole top off." Through the years, Ola Belle wrote many, many songs about her Appalachian past and her commitment to family traditions, religious values, and social justice. In 1978, the University of Maryland awarded her with an honorary doctorate of letters for her contributions to the arts and culture of Maryland and the United States. She was also recognized for her historical and musical contributions by The Smithsonian Institute, The Library of Congress and The Country Music Association.In 1987, Ola Belle suffered a stroke and she was bed-ridden until her death on August 16, 2002. She passed away one day before her 86th birthday.In 1992, country music star Marty Stuart introduced his version of Ola Belle’s song “High On A Mountain” on his “This One‘s Gonna Hurt You“ album, which earned Stuart and Ola Belle a Gold Record. Ola Belle’s autobiographical song "I've Endured" perhaps best sums up her personal tenacity: "I've worked for the rich, I've lived with the poor; Lord, I've seen many a heartache, there'll be many more; I've lived, loved and sorrowed, been to success's door; I've endured, I've endured."
The Ola Belle Reed Family
Father - Arthur Harrison Campbell - (1891 - 1951)
Mother - Ella May Osborne Campbell - (1893 - 1944)
Sister - Eva Fay Basham - (1911 - 1993)
Brother - Ronda Jones Campbell - (1913 - 1985)
Brother - Delbert Worth Campbell - (1915 - 1952)
Ola Wave Campbell - (1916 - 2002)
Brother - Herbert Lee Campbell - (1918 - 2000)
Brother - Miles Edward Campbell - (1919 - 1974)
Sister - Mary Belle Owen
Brother - Cicero Alexander Campbell
Brother - Lincoln Ford Campbell - (1925 - 1955)
Sister - Darthula Ellen Reynolds
Brother - Arthur Thomas Campbell - (1928 - 1996)
Sister - Zella Katherine Omessi - (1930 - 1999)
Sister - Ida Rose Carlon
Husband - Ralph “Bud” Reed
Son - Ralph Reed
Son - David Reed
Ola Belle Reed and Alex Campbell
The North Carolina Ridge Runners
“Alex Campbell & Ola Belle”
“Old Time Gospel Singing”
“Sixteen Radio Request Favorites”
Starday Records - 1963
Starday London Records - 1963
Starday Records - 1965
“Ola Belle Reed”
Rounder Records - 1972
“Country Bluegrass Jamboree”
Mad-Bag Productions - 1973
Folkways Records - 1976
“Ola Belle Reed & Family”
Rounder Records - 1977
“All In One Evening”
Folkways Records - 1978
“The Old-Time Banjo In America”
Kicking Mule Records - 1978
“Women of Old Time Music - The 1980 Brandywine Mountain Music Convention”
Heritage Records - 1981
“Rounder Old-Time Music”
Rounder CD - 1987
“The Third Annual Farewell Reunion”
Rounder CD - 1994
“Blue Ribbon Banjo”
Easydisc CD - 1995
“Hills of Home - 25 Years of Folk Music”
Rounder CD - 1995
"Real Music Box: 25 Years of Rounder Records"
Rounder CD - 1995
“The Land of Yahoe”
Rounder Kids CD - 1996
“The North Carolina Banjo Collection”
Rounder CD - 1998
“The Brandywine Mountain Music Convention”
Chubby Dragon CD - 1999
“Music From The Lost Provinces - Old-Time String Bands from Ashe County North Carolina & Vicinity 1927-1931”
Old Hat Entertainment CD - 1999
“O Sister 2: A Women’s Bluegrass Collection”
Rounder CD - 2002
“The Angels Are Singing: A Women’s Bluegrass Gospel Collection”
Rounder CD - 2002
"Art Of Old Time Music"
Rounder CD - 2003
"Classic Mountain Songs"
Smithsonian Folkways - 2005
"Classic Bluegrass Vol. 2"
Smithsoniam Folkways - 2005
"Mountain Journey: Stars Of Old Time Music"
Rounder CD - 2005
"Ola Belle Reed"
Field Recorders Collective - 2005
Alex Campbell with Ola Belle at his radio control booth at Campbell's Corner
Ola Belle and the band at Sunset Park
Other Interesting Music associated with Ola Belle Reed - Definitely worth listening to…
“Deacon Brumfield - Volume IV” Featuring Alex Campbell
“Way Out On The Mountain” - Jimmy Roger’s Songs sung by Bud Reed
“Ridin’ On Gospel” - David Reed
“High On A Mountain” - Del McCroury and The Dixie Pals
“The Living and Breathing Wind” - Kevin Roth
“The Louvin Brothers - Live at New River Ranch” - Louvin Brothers
“Way Too Serious” - Hugh Campbell
“Drinkin’ Whisky” - Zane Campbell
"Fortunes" - The Best Of Mark Brine
"Trouble Come Knockin' " - Sadie Compton
"Where The Wild, Wild Flowers Grow" - Demolition String Band
This website is lovingly maintained by Thomas and Roberta Polis. (Roberta is Ola Belle's niece.)
If you would like to know more about the life and music of Ola Belle Reed, or if you have any questions or comments, please contact Tom and Roberta at
Ola Belle, Alex and Deacon Brumfield on the Dobro at Sunset Park - Circa 1957
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Ola Belle and Bud at their Store
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Below we have a few links to other sites of people who are keeping the memory of Ola Belle Reed alive with their thoughts, words and music. Be sure to check them out! Just click on each of the underlined links below.
Visit Bud, Ralph and David - The Campbell Reed Family on thier webpage by clicking here!
Zane Campbell is the awesome nephew of Ola Belle Reed. His music will just blow you away! What an incredible performer!
Mark Brine is a fantasic performer who brought his own personal style to the Ola Belle Reed song "Fortunes".
Sadie Compton is an extrordinary performer who breathes unique life into Ola Belle's songs.
Check out the group, "Ollabelle", who found inspiration in the name and sound of Ola Belle Reed.
Find great Ola Belle Reed music available at Smithsonian Folkways.
Here is the Field Recorders Collective site where you can find a great Ola Belle Reed CD.
Find out more information about Ola Belle Reed at The University of North Carolina website.
Ola Belle Reed is featured on "The Women of Southern Songbirds" - Take a look!
Click here to see info on the recent Ola Belle Festival!
We are always trying to find new material to keep this website fresh. If you have information, a photo or recording related to Ola Belle Reed, or you wish to have your link posted on this website, please feel free to contact us using the webmaster contact link shown in the middle of this website. We would also like to make contact with anyone who was touched by Ola Belle Reed's life and music. We would love to hear from you. Oh, the stories you must have to tell! Thanks again for looking and be sure to check back for new and interesting updates posted often.