Judy Carrier remembered

Judy Carrier passed away on July 30, 2018 in Portland, TN. She was 76 years old, and had suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease during her last few years.

Born in Ludlow, MA, on June 23, 1942, Judith Ann Reed was a bluegrass singer-songwriter known for her powerful vocals and lead guitar playing. 

She began playing bluegrass locally as a young teenager with Wynn Fay and the Ridge Runners, later working on Radio WHMP, Northampton, MA. Her future husband and duet partner Vernon “Whitey” Carrier was a member of the band.  

In addition to playing festivals and clubs in the region, Reed and Carrier played on Clyde Joy’s weekly television show on WMUR, Manchester, NH, for 12 years.  

In 1980, four years after her husband died, Judy Carrier moved to Nashville. 

Very shortly afterwards she recorded her critically acclaimed, first solo album From the Berkshires to the Smokies at Bobby Osborne’s recording studio. She described her album in a 1996 Bluegrass Unlimited interview as, “mostly songs I had written with the blood, sweat and tears of my life….and love.”

Carrier appeared on Nashville’s Carl Tipton television show and fulfilled her lifelong dream of singing on the stage of the Grand Ol’ Opry when she performed on the Grand Ol’ Gospel Hour broadcast on WSM in 1981. 

In 1986 Judy was invited to play a tour of The Netherlands where she met her second husband and duet partner, Rens Vreeburg. Two years later he joined her in Tennessee where they were married. They were together for 29 years until her death. 

The couple played the Midnight Jamboree on several occasions, travelled to Europe four times to perform in The Netherlands, Switzerland, The Czech Republic, Austria and Belgium. They also had the opportunity to visit Judy’s ancestral homeland of Italy twice, where she met distant relatives and reconnected with her Italian heritage.  

For six years, the Vreeburgs produced a bluegrass festival, The Dutch Woodpecker Bluegrass Jamboree, on their property northwest of Portland, TN. Judy Carrier was a long-time member of the American Federation of Musicians, Nashville Local 257.

This rendition of These Hills of Tennessee, penned by Judy Carrier, was performed by her and husband at the 2007 Dutch Woodpecker Bluegrass Jamboree.  

Kathy Chiavola has a common bond with her friend, each having an Italian heritage  …. 

“She was a wonderful talent, a real bluegrass pioneer, and one of the dearest, kindest, most hard-working people I have ever met. In our early days in Nashville, we used to pool together maybe $3.00 to buy food and make a feast. When you share times like that, you form a bond that never breaks. 

Judy never met a stranger and although she struggled financially to make ends meet in her early years in Nashville, she endured and she and Rens became established in the bluegrass community.  

Rest in peace Judy. I know you are making sweet music with all the other greats who’ve gone on. My deepest condolences to her family and friends. Until we meet again….”

R.I.P. Judy Carrier

Donations in memory of Judy can be made to the Alzheimer’s Association Mid-South Chapter, serving Tennessee and Alabama.

A Discography, Judy Carrier: 

  • Summertime / Hanging On (Grass Country SO 17073/4, )
  • From the Berkshires to the Smokies (Grass Country   .. 1981) 
  • Judy Carrier & Rens Vreeburg: 
  • You Go with Me (Own label JCRV, released in March 1992) 
  • Spring has Sprung in Dear Old Dixie (Own label JCRV 1997, 1997)
  • Oh Lord, I’m Searching (Own label JCRV, recordings made during a number of performances in The Netherlands with Vreeburg’s band Relaxation and released in 2007). 

These albums are available by writing to Rens Vreeburg at 6268 Payne Road, Portland, TN 37148, or by phone (615-654-4226).

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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe. He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.