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editors Patti McCord and Kristene Sutliff at last bring together the best of McCord’s published and previously unpublished writings to share her knowledge, humor, and inimitable spirit with a new generation of readers.