Dillons Run Records
Capons Bridge, WV
30325 Talking Union And John L. / Black Lung Blues
30326 Coal Black Mining Blues / Hart's Creek Mt.
Rite Account # 5559
Nimrod Workman was born in Inez, Martin County, Kentucky and was named for his grandfather, a Cherokee Indian. At the age of 14 he went to work in the Howard Collieries coal mines in Mingo County WV, and he continued working as a coal miner for forty-two years until he was forced to retire due to black lung and a slipped disc.
Throughout his coal mining career he was active in union politics and United Mine Workers of America organizing. In 1920-1921 he worked alongside Mary Harris "Mother" Jones in West Virginia, and participated in the Battle of Blair Mountain uprising. In later years he advocated on behalf of black lung victims, and was able to receive union compensation for his own health problems in 1971.
Following his retirement as a miner he became known as a folk singer, with frequent performances around Appalachia as well as the Smithsonian Folklife Festival and the 1982 World's Fair. In 1986 he was a recipient of the National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Workman recorded two albums, Passing Thru the Garden, with his daughter Phyllis Boyens, which was released by June Appal Recordings in 1975. In 1978 he released Mother Jones' Will on the Rounder Records label. In addition he contributed songs to several albums of traditional and coal mining music.
He was the subject of a documentary Nimrod Workman: To Fit My Own Category, produced by Appalshop Films, and appeared as himself in the documentaries Harlan County, USA, Chase the Devil: Religious Music of the Appalachians, and The Grand Generation. He is heard leading the singing of "Amazing Grace" in the funeral scene in Coal Miner's Daughter, which also featured Phyllis Boyens as Loretta Lynn's mother.
He spent most of his life in Chattaroy, West Virginia, though in later years he lived in Mascot, Tennessee. He died in Knoxville, Tennessee at the age of 99.
The a cappella recordings pictured here was pressed by RITE Records in 1972 and may be the first occasion his voice was released on record.
Record photos courtesy of Steve Foehner. Text from Wikipedia.