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Johnny Kee's First Commercial CD

Echoes From the Trail

The "removal" of the Cherokee people from their homelands in the east to Indian Territory nearly a thousand miles away in 1838-1839 fulfilled a promise to the people of Georgia by President Jackson, and is part of the reason that President Jefferson made the Louisiana Purchase from France - to have lands west of the Mississippi River to relocate Native peoples of the 5 "civilized tribes" (the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muskogee (Creek), and Seminoles) to. The "removal" was especially brutal for the Cherokee, with an estimated 4000, 1/4 of the Cherokee people relocated, dieing either in the stockades or along the trail of disease, exposure, or starvation, giving this historic tragedy the name we know it by, the Trail of Tears.

By the time of the "removal", many of the Cherokee had converted to Christianity, as the first European visitors to Cherokee country were traders and missionaries. The first book published in the Cherokee syllabary (written language characters) was the Cherokee Hymn Book, published in 1829. It is said that the hymns from the Hymn Book, and especially Amazing Grace, were heard many times along the trail, often at scenes like the one depicted in Joyce Bugaiski's beautiful cover art.

Learn more about the Cherokee Hymn Book and the Trail of Tears on the Johnny Kee website. You will also find preview sample sound clips for each song, and an order form.

I was fortunate to get my start in playing guitar and singing during the so-called folk music revival of the late '50s into the '60s. My inclination from the beginning was to do folk songs, including hymns, spirituals, and old time gospel music. Thanks to a heritage project in junior high school, I learned of my family history going back to John Kee, who traveled the "northern route" of the Trail of Tears with his family. But the Kees "deserted" the trail in southwestern Missouri when his mother became deathly ill. My mother's side of the family (her mother was John Kee's granddaughter) settled in and around Springfield, where both my mother and I were born. So this CD has been a personal journey into my family's past through my music. Today I sing some of these same hymns and gospel songs (in English of course) in our church Praise Band.

One thing to recognize as you go on is that the songs in the Cherokee Hymn Book, although each is identified as being played and sung to the tune of an old English hymn or gospel song, are not a translation of the English lyrics for those songs. They are totally independent Cherokee poems that can be sung to the identified western tune. In the track list below, you find the hymn number from the Hymn Book along with the English song tune first documented as being associated with that hymn in the 2014 version of the Hymn Book. These arrangements are my personal interpretations of these Cherokee versions that include the vocals, along with my guitars, banjo, autoharp, hand drums, rattle, and, especially, Native American flutes from Turtle Mound Flutes.

I'd like to invite you to visit my website at to learn more about me and my music. Also you can follow me on Facebook at

To order, visit Johnny Kee's "CD Album" page.  An order form can be found at the bottom of the page.

Send mail to with questions or comments about this web site.