In search of song

Anne Grimes: Musician, journalist, and historian of American folklore

Perhaps you remember Anne Grimes just for her presence in Granville. Before she died at 91 in 2004, she had lived in the village for about 30 years, hosting scores of students in her home, and she was married to James Grimes, who was chair of Denison’s art department until his retirement in 1969.

But what Anne Grimes may be most remembered for his her music, and the music of others from all over Ohio, which she worked for years to record and catalogue.

Grimes spent the 1950s traversing the highways and byways of Ohio, on a mission to collect and preserve folk songs that had been passed down through generations of families.

To find the music and the people who knew it best, she performed at small gatherings (she was a trained musician, after all) and would ask if anyone in the audience knew a song like any of the ones they had just heard. Many people would come forward, remembering songs that their parents and grandparents had sung back in the day, and they would then invite Grimes over to their house with her 50-lb. tape recorder.

Grimes’ four daughters—Sara, Jennifer ’66, Mary ’69 and Mindy—recently compiled their mother’s work into one volume, “Stories from the Anne Grimes Collection of American Folk Music.” It is a detailed record of all the Ohio citizens who Grimes interviewed, complete with photos and printed lyrics.

She also collected dulcimers—fretted, stringed instruments that originated in Appalachian country with folk music. “She loved unaccompanied singing,” Anne’s daughters said on WOSU’s All Sides with Ann Fisher, “but she loved the simplicity of the dulcimer.”

Grimes’ collection of 42 dulcimers is now in the Smithsonian Museum, and her taped interviews are in the Library of Congress.

To read more about Anne Grimes, check out the new issue of Columbus Monthly.

(This article originally appeared on the Denison Magazine blog)

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