Processed by Janice Childers in May 2008 under the supervision of Deirdre A. Scaggs, University Archivist.; machine-readable finding aid created by Janice Childers
The blue-tail fly newspaper
University of Kentucky Libraries, Special Collections
This collection is arranged chronologically.
Conditions Governing Access note
Collection is open to researchers by appointment.
Preferred Citation Note
2003ua069; 0000ua276; 2008ua008: [identification of item], The blue-tail fly newspaper, University of Kentucky Archives.
0.27 cubic feet (1 box)
The blue-tail fly newspaper consists of original copies of all eleven issues produced from October 1969 to spring 1971.
In 1969, several student journalists working at the Kentucky Kernel (the official University of Kentucky newspaper) decided to start an alternative, "activist" newspaper of their own. A change of editors at the Kernel and a decreased focus on political editorials led Guy Mendes and others to create blue-tail fly. In a February 17, 2008 article about the publication in Business Lexington, Mendes described the creation and purpose of blue-tail fly: "We wanted to change the world, save the world, in a time of war and racial strife [It] was an outgrowth, in a way, of the campus protests of '69 and '70, that closed down campus both years, and cancelled finals."
The name of the newspaper, according to Mendes, came from the folk song of the same name, sometimes better known as "Jimmy Crack Corn", in which the blue-tail fly is blamed for the "master's" death because it bit the master's horse, causing him to fall. The blue-tail fly was intended to bring stories to light that were not being reported in mainstream media both local and national.
The blue-tail fly was a not-for-profit newspaper in every sense originally, the staff wanted to produce it monthly, but realized that they didn't have the funds to do so after the fifth issue. Eleven issues were produced between October 1969 and spring of 1971 (issues 6-11 were undated) and distributed in Lexington, Louisville, and several other points in Kentucky, selling for 20-25 cents, but production costs were not being covered, and the staff sometimes gave away copies or were unable to recover sales from distributors. The publication folded after the eleventh issue due to unresolved issues with funding.
Guy Mendes is now a photographer with several books to his credit, and has written, produced and directed programs at KET (Kentucky Educational Television) during his thirty plus years there.
John Via was a member of the University of Kentucky English faculty during the late 1960s and early 1970s, and is now retired.
Scope and Content
The blue-tail fly newspaper consists of original copies of all eleven issues produced from October 1969 to spring 1971. In addition to editorials and interviews written by staff members, the newspaper also featured articles by Ed McClanahan (a.k.a. "Captain Kentucky") and Wendell Berry; a letter written by Harry M. Caudill to then Gov. Louie B. Nunn urging legislation against proposed strip-mining by the Bethlehem Coal Company; and photographs by Ralph Eugene Meatyard.
The newspaper took strong stances on legalization of marijuana, protests against the Vietnam War, racial equality and civil liberties, environmentalism, and the on-going struggle against Eastern Kentucky strip-mining. Several issues deal with the events surrounding the "G.I. coffeehouse" in Muldraugh, Kentucky (Meade County) a gathering place for veterans opposed to the war and the target of a group of local townspeople who felt that its existence was inappropriate. It also showcased photographs and artwork of local artists, and contains advertisements of local businesses willing to risk publicity in a "radical" newspaper. In particular, issue 3 received much attention due to the censorship of the originally planned cover and a full-page nude photograph which some viewed as pornographic. The editor's note on the first page regarding the cover of issue 3 reads: "The cover was meant to have been Michael Lane's anti-war flag poster, but unfortunately, our printer refused to print it. At this late date, with no other printing facilities immediately available, we have no choice but to cop-out and switch covers."
- Meatyard, Ralph Eugene, 1925-1972.
- Berry, Wendell, 1934-
- McClanahan, Ed.
- University of Kentucky Students.
- College student newspapers and periodicals.
- Underground press publications Kentucky.
- Environmental responsibility Periodicals.
- Strip-mining Kentucky.
- Coal mines and mining Kentucky.
- Vietnam War, 1961-1975 Protest movements.
- Lexington (Ky.)
- Muldraugh (Ky.)
The physical rights to the materials in this collection are held by the University of Kentucky Special Collections.
Issue 1: "Highway 52 Revisited", Ed McClanahan; "Louisville's Conspiracy Case", Bucky Young; "Snaps", Jon Webb; "Muldraugh and the Coffehouse", John Filiatreau and Guy Mendes; "Homecoming Saved at WKU", Guy Mendes; "flicks: Easy Rider, Medium Cool", Jack Lyne and J.S. Willoughby; "music: The Band", Jack Lyne, October 15, 1969
[box: 1, folder: 1]
Issue 2: "The Old Regular Baptist Church", Ethlyn Maggard; "Caudill to Nunn on stripping in Letcher County"; "snaps: Ralph Eugene Meatyard", "interview with Howard Levy"; "music: Led Zepplin", Jack Lyne; "flicks: Alice's Restaurant", J.S. Willoughby; "verse: Wendell Berry, Jonathan Greene, Ellsworth Taylor"; "cover: photo by Ralph Eugene Meatyard", November 11, 1969
[box: 1, folder: 2]
Issue 3: "Kentucky will be here after California is gone", Wayne H. Davis; "Dr. Feelgood was here", Jack Lyne; "snaps: Bill Roughen"; "interview: Dr. Benjamin Spock", Nick DeMartino; "Uncle Trav Wilson and the dog", Wendell Berry; "ya say it's your birthday", David Holwerk and Tony Urie; "books: Fat City", Thomas Blues; "a poem by James Baker Hall", December 1969
[box: 1, folder: 3]
Issue 4: "Edgar Tolson, American Folk sculptor", Rick Bell and Jack Lyne; "A plan for population control", Wayne H. Davis; "snaps: Arthur Tress"; "Where I'm at -- Cap'n Kentucky reports", Ed McClanahan; "Round and round she goes a prospectus on youth", Bucky Young; "Alive and well; greetings from Canada", Joe Nickell; "Cover photograph by Arthur Tress", January 1970
[box: 1, folder: 4]
Issue 5: "Dope temperance anyone?"; "A Nice Place to Put a University", Gene Mason; "Interview: Marlene Dixon", Sue Anne Salmon and Gretchen Marcum; "Pollution, a drawing"; Norman Adams; "looking back -- on Robert Kennedy's 1968 Appalachian tour", Rick Bell and David Holwerk; "James Baldwin on the Black Panthers"; "verse: Jonathan Greene, Thomas Baker, Tom Lewis"; "music: Fathers and Sons", Dan Fisher, February 1970
[box: 1, folder: 5]
Issue 6: "The Conspiracy Trial", Jeff Shero; "The Struggle at Muldraugh", Bucky Young and Nick DeMartino; "photographs by Bill Luster"; "Sayings and Doings", Wendell Berry; "14 ideas on Charlie Manson"; "flicks: Z and Zabriskie Point"; "cover: photograph by Nick DeMartino", undated
[box: 1, folder: 6]
Issue 7: "The Naked and the Drugged -- dope use in Vietnam", Rick Rose; "Think Little, an Earth Day speech", Wendell Berry; "Photographs by Emmett Gowen"; "interview: William Kunstler", Guy Mendes; "New interest in an old crop", Harold Gage; "The most sekrit high level meeting the world never saw"; "books: Points of Rebellion and Do It!", Ralph Brown; "verse: by Walter Brown, by Bruce Rogers", "cover: drawing by Peter Solt of the Chicago Seed", undated
[box: 1, folder: 7]
Issue 8: "UK's counter-insurgency work in Indonesia and Thaland: an expose", Darrell Rice; "Memoirs of a Daniel Boone Fried Chicken PR Man", Jim Stacey; "Etchings by Jack Stone"; "Gene Mason's story", Bucky Young; "Photographs from Ralph Eugene Meatyard's new book"; "J. Edgar's Catechism class, with quiz"; "music: Neil Young's 'After the Gold Rush'", Irving Washington; "cover: etching by Jack Stone (from the collection of Harold Gage)", undated
[box: 1, folder: 8]
Issue 9: "An afternoon with E. Lawson King", Jeff Lankford; "Confessions of an alleged arsonist", Sue Anne Salmon; "Photographs by Laurence Whitfield"; "Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front", Wendell Berry; "Is the U.S. a planetary disease?"; "39 ways to save the earth"; "Atrocity ads dept."; "Exercises for men"; "More on Gene Mason"; "verse: David Polk, Walter Brown, Richard Taylor and Richard Taylor and Guy Mendes"; "cover: 'Odd Bodkins'", D. O'Neill, undated
[box: 1, folder: 9]
Issue 10: "The Appalachian Tragedy", Harry Caudill, photos by Arthur Tress; "photographs: Dicran Derderian", "Yossarian is 47 years old now", Darrell Rice; "And the black lung fight continues", David Holwerk; "A fizzadelic report on the Governor's drug conference", Chuck the Trucker; "verse: Short Takes", Anselm Hollo; "covers, front and back: photographs by Arthur Tress", undated
[box: 1, folder: 10]
Issue 11: "The Hurricane Creek Massacre", Tom Bethell; "photographs: four students from San Francisco State"; "The Cowboy Steve Taylor Show", Guy Mendes; "Captain Kentucky in poems and pictures", James Baker Hall; "A surveillance report on said Captain", Percy P. Cassidy; "music: Dylan and his New Morning", Irving Washington; "btf poor-mouth plea for money", Virgil Sturgil; "cover: photo by Eric Kronengold", undated
[box: 1, folder: 11]