Music Fun Facts

North Carolina’s national reputation as a music state — with recognized traditions of bluegrass, blues, jazz, funk and everything in between — is celebrated with our African American Music Trails and Blue Ridge Music Trails. View the complete map that was featured in Oxford American's NC Music issue here.

Classical music roots run deep, too. In 1943 the NORTH CAROLINA SYMPHONY became the first continuously funded state symphony in the nation.

English folk song collector CECIL SHARP documented ballad singing traditions in Madison County in 1916, and this tradition is still practiced today.

NINA SIMONE, “High Priestess of Soul,” learned to play piano in her birthplace of Tryon. Her home was recently designated a National Treasure.

DOC WATSON was playing lead guitar in a rockabilly band when folklorist Ralph Rinzler encouraged him to return to the roots music of Appalachia.

“Foggy Mountain Breakdown” by EARL SCRUGGS, with his three-finger pickin’ style, launched a new form of bluegrass music worldwide.

Kendrick Lamar’s Pulitzer Prize-winning album, “DAMN” features the song ‘DUCKWORTH,’ produced by Winston-Salem hip-hop native, 9TH WONDER.

In 1958, Shawnee guitarist LINK WRAY released the instrumental song “Rumble,” introducing the world to the beauty of the distorted power cord, which he achieved by stabbing his amplifier’s cone with a pencil.

ELIZABETH COTTEN wrote the famous American folk song “Freight Train” in Carrboro.

Eleven-time Grammy Award-winner SHIRLEY CAESAR, the “First Lady of Gospel Music,” was born in Durham.

The music hotspots of Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill and Carrboro have attracted indie artists like BEN FOLDS and SUPERCHUNK for decades. 

The Bull City’s tobacco warehouses drew Piedmont blues innovators like REVEREND GARY DAVIS, BLIND BOY FULLER and SONNY TERRY to Durham in the 1930s.

Five Kinston musicians, including saxophone legend MACEO PARKER, are credited with putting the funk in James Brown’s classic bands.

The MENHADEN CHANTEYMEN, a group of retired African American commercial fishermen, gained acclaim for the maritime work songs they performed while hauling nets, leading them to New York’s Carnegie Hall.

Jazz legends THELONIOUS MONK, JOHN COLTRANE and BILLIE TAYLOR are all from North Carolina.

Fayetteville’s J. COLE was the first hip-hop artist in 25 years to go double platinum without any guest features with his Grammy-nominated album 2014 Forest Hills Drive (2014).