African American Music Trails

Sunday, January 6, 2019

North Carolina was one of the first states in the nation to celebrate its music heritage by researching and developing music trails. After establishing the Blue Ridge Music Trails of Western North Carolina in the early 2000s, the North Carolina Arts Council developed the African American Music Trails of Eastern North Carolina, which celebrate some of the most transformative figures in the history of jazz, gospel, and popular music.

Nancy Paris, Maceo Parker, The Vines Sisters
From top left to bottom right: Nancy Paris, Maceo Parker, The Vines Sisters

Throughout the Come Hear North Carolina campaign, we will share stories from the trails, but on this Sunday morning we wanted to share a few quick fun facts with you!

  • Five members of James Brown’s renowned band came from Kinston including Maceo and Melvin Parker, Dick Knight, Nat Jones and Levi Raspberry, as did Little Eva who performed the number one hit song Loco- Motion.
  • Rocky Mount is the birthplace of internationally renowned jazz pianist and composer Thelonious Monk.
  • Soul-star Roberta Flack began her career teaching music in Wilson and singing with the jazz band The Monitors.
  • Reverend F.C. Barnes was inspired to compose the hit gospel song “Rough Side of the Mountain” while driving on eastern North Carolina roads.

From the annual Funk Festival in Kinston and ongoing free concert series at the Kinston Music Park to Greenville’s Billy Taylor Jazz Festival and African American Music Trails series, there are a variety of events and festivals that celebrate music and African American heritage in the counties of Edgecombe, Greene, Jones, Lenoir, Nash, Pitt, Wayne and Wilson. We invite you to explore the trails here.