Almeda Riddle

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Almeda Riddle
Born21 November 1898
Cleburne County, Arkansas, United States
DiedJune 30, 1986(1986-06-30) (aged 87)
Occupation(s)Musician, singer-songwriter

Almeda Riddle (November 21, 1898 – June 30, 1986)[1] was an American folk singer. Born and raised in Cleburne County, Arkansas, she learned music from her father, a fiddler and a teacher of shape note singing. She collected and sang traditional ballads throughout her life, usually unaccompanied. Introduced to a wider public by folklorist John Quincy Wolf and musicologist Alan Lomax, Riddle recorded extensively, and claimed to be able to perform over 500 songs. She was often known as Granny Riddle.

In October 1959, on Wolf's recommendation, Lomax and Shirley Collins recorded Riddle at her home in Heber Springs in The Ozarks. The 23 songs reflected Lomax's interest in traditional ballads and songs for children.[2] Collins recalls:

She was a singer of such composure and quiet intensity, that you were compelled to listen. .... There was such clarity in her style, and she had that rare and admirable quality of serving the songs, rather than the songs serving her.[3]

Children's songs from this session were issued on "American Folk Songs For Children" in the Atlantic Records' "Southern Folk Heritage" series of LPs and was reissued as the Atlantic records box set "Southern Folk Heritage". Several ballads were issued on various albums in the Prestige Records Southern Journey series of LPs, and reissued on several CDs in the Rounder Records series "Southern Journey: The Alan Lomax Collection". These records made Almeda Riddle widely known to devotees of the American folk music revival. She made studio recordings for Rounder Records, which were issued on two solo LPs. From 1962 she was free to accept invitations to perform at folk festivals and college campuses. She toured extensively for twenty years until prevented by ill health.

In 1984 she was filmed by George West for Folkstreams.[4] In the film, she sings and speaks about her life and songs. She also co-authored a book of her songs with folklorist Roger D. Abrahams.[5]

The intro to the 1997 cult film Gummo features Riddle's rendition of "I Love My Rooster."


  • Songs And Ballads Of The Ozarks (Vanguard Records) 1964
  • Ballads And Hymns From The Ozarks (Rounder Records) 1972
  • More Ballads And Hymns From The Ozarks (Rounder Records) 1976
  • Granny Riddle's Songs And Ballads (Minstrel) 1977
  • My Old Cottage Home (reissue of Ballads & Hymns from the Ozarks) (Albatros) 1979
  • How Firm A Foundation (Arkansas Traditions) 1985


  1. ^ Almeda James Riddle 1898-1986
  2. ^ Collins pp. 215-217
  3. ^ Collins pp. 158-162.
  4. ^ Almeda Riddle:Now Let's Talk About Singing
  5. ^ A Singer and her Songs


Collins, Shirley (2007). America Over the Water. SAT Publishing. ISBN 0-946719-91-8.

Almeda Riddle: Now Let's Talk About Singing

Riddle, Almeda & Roger D Abrahams (1970). A Singer and her Songs: Almeda Riddle's Book of Ballads. Louisiana State University Press. ISBN 0-8071-0021-8.

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