Elder Golden P. Harris

Golden Pierce Harris was born in Indian Valley (Floyd County) on May 5, 1897. This was an area rich in string band music and from an early age Golden played old-time dance music on the fiddle. In 1921 he was “united” with the Primitive Baptist Church and within two years had become an Elder. Unlike most Baptists, who do not play or approve of stringed instruments, Harris combined his two passions. 

Golden P. Harris advertisement
Elder Golden P. Harris promoted his small Floyd County record company in the 1930s with these flyers. Image courtesy of the Blue Ridge Heritage Archive.

During the 1920s he supported his family by farming the rich land in Floyd County. For reasons that are not entirely clear, Golden Harris and a musical compatriot, Monroe Simpkins, traveled to New York City in 1931 to record. This was in the midst of the Depression, not an auspicious time to launch a recording career. Following an audition for the Brunswick Company, however two of Elder Harris’s fiddle-accompanied hymns were released on Brunswick’s Melo-tone label. Though Simpkins claims to have also recorded six banjo solos in the same session, there is no evidence of this. 

After their adventure in New York City, the duo returned to their lives in Floyd County. Despite the dismal sales of the Melotone recording, both men continued in the music business part-time. In the early to mid-1930s they hand-manufactured phonographs under the Blue Ridge Phonograph Company imprint. During this period, Harris also traveled back to New York City, recorded two more sides that he released on his own label and sold from his Indian Valley home.

During World War II Harris moved to Radford where he lived until his death in 1964. At the time of his death he was still an active Elder and musician.

From Virginia’s Blues, Country, and Gospel Records, 1902-1943: An Annotated Discography by Kip Cornell

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