John Guthrie Brought Six Decades of Music to Ray City

Another clipping, circa 1983, from the Ray City scrapbook.  John Guthrie (1911-1985), subject of previous posts, taught music and entertained for six decades in Ray City, GA (see John Guthrie ~ Ray City’s Musician Extraordinaire).

John Elwood Guthrie, Ray City musician and shopkeeper.

John Elwood Guthrie, Ray City musician and shopkeeper.

Plenty of Wind

John Guthrie, 73, still has enough wind to make his saxophone sing.  The Ray City, Ga. shopkeeper and music teacher is master of a number of instruments including sax, organ, piano and several types of guitars.  Since obtaining his first guitar at age 14, he’s played country gospel and jazz styles throughout the Southeast.

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Samuel G. Guthrie of Ray City, GA

Sam Guthrie

Samuel G. Guthrie of Ray City, GA with an unidentified friend.

Samuel G. Guthrie, of Ray City, GA, photographed in Florida with an unidentified friend.

Samuel G. Guthrie Dies in Brunswick; Burial at Ray City

      Samuel G. Guthrie, well known and highly regarded Ray City and Berrien county man, passed away Tuesday, January 9, in the Brunswick Hospital following a heart attack. He was 44 years of age.
     A son of Mrs. Lucy Newbern Guthrie and the late A. H. Guthrie of Ray City, the deceased was born and reared in Berrien county and had spent practically all his life here. He had lived in Brunswick about one year where he held a position in the shipyards.  He was a member of the Baptist church.
     Funeral services were held at the New Ramah church in Ray City Wednesday afternoon, January 10, at 4:30 o’clock, conducted by Elder Charlie Vickers of Nashville, and Elder Orville Knight of Valdosta.  Burial was in the church cemetery.
     A choir composed of N. H. Harper, Mrs. J. I. Clements Sr., Mrs. H. P. Clements and Mrs. Jack Cribb sang two songs, “Asleep In Jesus,” and “Rock of Ages.”
     Pall-bearers were Carroll V. Guthrie, June Eroll Purvis, Emmis Purvis, Archie Peacock, Rudolph Moore and A. T. King.
     Surviving besides his mother, there are four brothers and five sisters,  June Guthrie and Herman Guthrie of Jacksonville, Fla., P. T. Guthrie of Lakeland, and John Guthrie of Ray City, Mrs. J. R. King of Nashville, Mrs. Marvin Purvis, Mrs. O. A. Knight, Mrs. Rossie Futch, and Miss Bettye Guthrie of Ray City.

Samuel G. Guthrie (1900-1945), New Ramah Cemetery, Ray City, GA.

Samuel G. Guthrie (1900-1945), New Ramah Cemetery, Ray City, GA.


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John Guthrie ~ Ray City’s Musician Extraordinaire

An old newspaper clipping tells the story of John Guthrie, one of the Guthrie clan of Ray City, GA  and brother of Effie Guthrie Knight.

John Guthrie, Ray City, GA

John Guthrie, Ray City, GA

RAY CITY – It was another typical Ray City weeknight with lots of pickin’ and grinnin’ coming from the back room studio of John Guthrie,  country storekeeper and musician extraordinaire.

Guthrie is a local music legend, dating back 20 years and more when he would teach public school classes of 30 kids – some tone deaf – to play guitar.

Musicians from hereabouts, nearby towns like Lakeland, Valdosta and Adel, gather nightly in Guthrie’s cozy studio –  a slightly oversized room crammed with instruments, especially guitars.

Other folks come too; they want to listen and learn. Guthrie teaches “all fretted instruments and saxophone,” his card says.

But he has strict rules, “teaching only on Saturdays and Sundays. And I won’t teach a kid to play piano. They can’t reach an octave,” he declared.

Guthrie figured he could have easily made the big time long ago… if he had been willing to turn his back on his beloved Ray City and south Georgia.

“This is the best place in the world,” he exclaimed.

It was the tug of Ray City friendships which brought the native son home from a couple of years of drifting with different bands through Florida.

Those were lean times, Guthrie recalled, back during the Depression.

More than once he earned a free supper by masquerading as Jimmy Rogers, a country and western pioneer referred to “as the grandfather of folk music” by Guthrie.

People believed Guthrie when he introduced himself as Rogers whose plaintive ballads seemed to help sooth the Depression’s wounds.

“I’d play and sing. It wasn’t anytime before we’d get a big crowd around. Someone would come along and ask me home for supper,” he recalled.

Guthrie considers himself a very honest man. But those tough days put rigorous demands upon a young musician.

“I was hungry boy. I tell you, I was hungry.”

Conveniently, Guthrie had mastered the guitar by playing along with Jimmy Rogers recordings on an old windup Victrola.

Guthrie explained he could have stayed with the band. Several friends did make it to the big time, finding spots in the Nashville scene or with television or radio.

Although the days of  “all night dances” had an appeal, Guthrie explained he needed something more stable for when he got married.

“Of course, at that time I wouldn’t have married the Queen of Sheba.  I was just on my own without responsibility, playing music and having a good time.”

But a pretty South Carolina girl, vacationing in Winter Haven, Fla., derailed Guthrie’s career plans.

“She smiled at me while the band was on intermission. I went over and we had a talk,” he recalled.

Actually it was several years before Guthrie and the young woman from Chesterfield, S.C. married.

She returned home, but they corresponded.

“Then one day I went up and got her and brought her back to Ray City,” he said.

Guthrie called his wife “my first love.”

“But an old Spanish guitar is my second love,” he said.

“A guitar can talk back to you,” he explained. “It can cry with you, sing with you, be happy with you. There’s no other instrument that can produce the twangy sounds of an old Spanish guitar.”

Electric guitars also have a hold on Guthrie’s affections, but, he noted, “a guitar loses something out of its sound when you use an amplifier.”

Guthrie loves country music. But he also plays classical, Spanish, Mexican and gypsy style guitar music.

And the pop songs of his youth, “songs like Stardust,” he said, “had something to them.”

Contemporary music, he said, is based upon three chords.

“There’s too much repetition,” he complained.

“But those old jazz bands … when they put out a tune, it had something in it.”

Years ago, Lessie Guthrie Futch wrote in the margins of that newspaper clipping:

 “My youngest brother. If he was hungry, he should have been home on the farm with the family picking cotton.”

In his troubadour days, John hung with the ‘Genteel’ set.  While all his brothers wore overalls and worked the farm, he wore a white sports coat and worked the dance halls and social events. But later, he worked hard running a business and working in music to support his family.

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The Marriage of John David Miley and Lessie Lee Guthrie

John David Miley, of Hahira,  and Lessie  Lee Guthrie, of Ray City, were married February 24, 1926 inValdosta, GA.  They were married at Christian Parsonage by Reverend Richard Wallace.  Mrs. Wallace served as the witness.

Lessie Guthrie was raised in Ray City and spent most of her life here. Her ancestors were among the pioneer families that settled Berrien County, and many of the Guthrie family connection still reside in the Ray City area.

Lessie Guthrie Miley and John David Miley, 1928, Brunswick, GA.

Lessie Guthrie Miley and John David Miley, 1928, Brunswick, GA.

Following their wedding, John D. Miley took a job at the A & P  Grocery, in Waycross, GA.  At the first opportunity, though, he took the Civil Service Entrance Exam, and got a position with the U.S. Postal Service working at the Post Office in Brunswick, GA.  Thereafter, John D. Miley worked with the postal service the rest of his life.  Even when he served in the military, his service was in mail delivery.

The Ray City News, Jan 3, 1929 edition mentioned, “Mrs. John D Miley of Brunswick is visiting relatives here.”

Personal mention in the Ray City News, Jan 3, 1929.

Personal mention in the Ray City News, Jan 3, 1929.

Lessie Guthrie Miley with daughter Diane Miley, circa 1934

In the early 1930’s John D and Lessie had two children, Diane and David. But by 1935,  they were experiencing marital difficulties. 

Lessie left Brunswick and took the childen to Florida. They lived for a short time with Lessie’s brothers, Sam and John Guthrie, in an apartment  in Winterhaven, FL.  John D. Miley came to see her, they reconciled, and he took his family back to Brunswick.

The marriage of Lessie Lee Guthrie and John David Miley lasted another four years.   They separated in 1939 while living in Hollywood, Florida.

John David Miley, Jr., "David", circa 1939.

 Lessie was left alone there with her two children.  Her mother-in-law, Narcissus


Miley, came from Hahira, GA to take them back to Georgia.  Narcissus arranged for a large railroad crate to be delivered to Lessie’s place of residence. She packed all of Lessie’s possessions, her electric appliances, clothes, everything right down to the doilies.  The railroad picked up the crate and they all rode the train together back to Hahira.  Lessie and the kids stayed with Narcissus in Hahira about a week.  Then June Guthrie, Lessie’s brother, came to get them and took them back to the Guthrie farm on Park Street, Ray City, GA.


Later, Lessie wrote, “We came back to Ray City on Easter Sunday, 1939.  John D. left us December 1938 – one week before Christmas.  We remained in Hollywood, until Granny Miley, went and brought us back on Easter Sunday.”

For more on the Guthrie and Miley families, and the history of Ray City, GA visit

Samuel Guthrie Heirs in the Supreme Court of Georgia, 1920

In 1920, residents of Ray City, GA were once again appearing before the Supreme Court of Georgia. this time in the case of REGISTER et al. v. GUTHRIE et al.  The case concerned the estate of Samuel F. Guthrie, one of the early settlers of Berrien County.

The children of Samuel F. Guthrie and Martha Newbern were:

Lewis Guthrie  abt 1853 –
Josephene Guthrie 1856 –
Archibald Guthrie 1859 –
Samuel Guthrie 1860 –
Arren Horn Guthrie 1864 – 1932
Dicey Guthrie 1866 – 1953
James Berrien Guthrie 1868 – 1949
Martha Guthrie 1870 –
Linton Guthrie 1872 –
Betty Guthrie 1874 –
John Guthrie 1876 –
Dread Guthrie 1879-

Grave Marker of Samuel Guthrie

Grave Marker of Samuel Guthrie

When Samuel F. Guthrie  died, he left to each of his sons  a “two-horse farm.”  To his widow, he left “the Dowery.”  Unfortunately, as sometimes happens, there was a dispute among the heirs as to the disposition of their father’s land.

REGISTER et al. v. GUTHRIE et al.
(No. 1703.)

(Supreme Court of Georgia. June 18, 1920.)

(Syllabus by the Court.)

Executors and administrators <= 380(4)—Refusal of interlocutory injunction to restrain sale of realty purchased at administrator’s sale held not abuse of discretion.

The evidence was conflicting on the material points of the case. The court did not abuse his discretion in refusing to grant the interlocutory injunction.

Error from Superior Court, Berrien County ; R. G. Dickerson, Judge.

Suit by Josephine Register and others against S. F. Guthrie and others to set aside cloud on title, for an accounting, and for an injunction. Decree for defendants, and plaintiffs bring error. Affirmed.

The petition alleged that petitioners and defendants were the heirs of Samuel Guthrie, deceased, and that two of the defendants were the administrators of his estate; that defendants fraudulently entered into an agreement to suppress bidding at the administrators’ sale of the real property belonging to the estate of Samuel Guthrie, and to have one of the defendants bid in the property for the benefit of the others as cheaply as possible, and thereafter to account to the other defendants to the exclusion of petitioners. Petitioners prayed that the administrators’ deeds be set aside as a cloud on title, that defendants be compelled to account for the rents and profits received by them, and that they be enjoined from selling or incumbering the lands or the Umber thereon. Statement by editor.

W. R. Smith and R. A. Hendricks, both of Nashville, for plaintiffs in error.

J. D. Lovett, of Nashville, for defendants in error.

GiLBERT, J. Judgment affirmed.
All the Justices concur.

Register et. al. v. Guthrie et. al.

Register et. al. v. Guthrie et. al.

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