Newspaper column, by Ken E. Berg, 1-24-74 (Mankato Free Press?)


Clara's Legacy

I can speak for many present-day Mankatoans, in saying that we were first introduced to the musical talents of Clara Gerlich Edwards back in the late 1930s. This was that never-never time when southern Minnesotans knew precisely "what God intended" with regard to a respectable hour to retire at night and to get out of bed in the morning, and long before local radio honked uround with 24-hour programming and sold out to the hot-rod and country-western disk jockeys. Local radio then actually "signed on" in the morning, and even some with a touch of class (gasp! ). KYSM, which warmed up its output tubes for the first time in 1938, greeted each new broadcasting day with a recorded semi-classical melody with vocal accompaniment. "Some" woman singing "some" song about "some" bend of "some" river. Older brothers and sisters across town eventually set us young squirts straight. Some women, some song, some river bend, indeed. The voice actually was that of Clara Edwards, one of us, breathing life into a song composed by herself and dedicated to her home town and the topographical feature of the waterway which helped give that town character. Mrs. Edwards, of course, had already established herself in the world of voice and composition. But it took the advent of local radio to universalize this identification and awareness in the community which she left as a young woman 20 years earlier. Mrs. Edwards subsequently won wider national acclaim in the publishing of "With the Wind and the Rain in Her Hair" - instrumentalized and sung by everybody from Fred Waring to the gang, who, with their kazoos, hung around the jukebox at John Canelos's old Olympia. I can't say for certain that I've heard "By the Bend of the River" since those (ugh! ) early-rising days of a generation ago. But I do realize now, on being informed of Clara Edward's death last week, how influential it was in raising my awareness threshold, how it gave fuller appreciation of Mankato's notoriety beyond its borders, and that, by golly, somebody who happened to be born "in the sticks" could be excellently trained and could really make it in the world of bigtime.

[Snip... the remainder of the column was about ways to keep warm in the winter, etc., so I am chopping the rest of it off...]