Come Hear NC had the pleasure of sitting down with Jim Avett between one of his sets at MerleFest in April to talk about Doc Watson, his influence and ethos, and why North Carolina is such a special place to be a musician and music lover. Jim’s attended MerleFest for 20 years, as both a performer and a fan.
After the interview, we were treated to an intimate performance of “Old Bones.” Plus, he gave us some tips on how to write a good murder ballad!
Enjoy both videos below.
The following essay is courtesy of the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resource's blog.
On June 9, 1978, Robert Moog incorporated Big Briar, his musical instrument company in Asheville. Moog, an engineer, invented the Moog synthesizer that made him famous in 1963.
As a teenager Moog had been interested in the Theremin, an obscure musical instrument that produced, via a hand waving in an electromagnetic field, the strange, ethereal sounds that were used in many of the science fiction films of the 1950s. At the age of 14, he built one and, with his father’s help, turned it into a business, R. A. Moog Company, which was incorporated in the state of New York in 1954.
An amateur musician, Moog was fascinated by electronic instruments and intrigued by the emerging world of electronics. He attached circuits to a keyboard, and in doing so invented a much more affordable and portable synthesizer.
In spite of the successes, the company, which was eventually renamed Moog Music, fell on hard times due to Moog’s lack of business experience. He sold his trademark and worked as an engineer for the company that bought it until he established Big Briar. Moog reacquired his trademark, changing the name of the company back to Moog Music, Inc. in 2002.
Each year Moogfest celebrates electronic music.
Moog Music continues to hand-build electronic instruments in the heart of downtown Asheville. Tours are available Mon-Fri. Call 828.239.0123 or visit their website for more information.
The James Adams Floating Theatre was the first and only travelling boat to bring live theater annually to ports between Baltimore and Savannah. The original traveling show boat of the Southeast, the James Adams was constructed in North Carolina and it sailed the southeast from 1914-1941. Edna Ferber wrote her 1926 novel “Show Boat” which launched the “show boat phenomena” into American culture after visiting the James Adams Floating Theatre while it was docked in Bath, N.C. She is believed to have travelled on the James Adams from Bath to Belhaven, N.C. in April 1925. Ferber’s novel, inspired in part by the James Adams, led to the 1927 “Show Boat” musical and its song “Old Man River,” and later the 1929 “Show Boat” motion picture and its 1936 and 1951 remakes.
The first foal of the season was born last month to the wild mustangs of the northern Outer Banks. The coastal wild ponies hold near mythical status in North Carolina lore, and they captured the imagination of poet and singer/songwriter Jonathan Byrd. Here's a song he wrote about the wild ponies.
The following essay is courtesy of the North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program. Follow this link for more details on the Bull City Blues historic marker, and all the other historic markers across North Carolina.
South Carolina harmonica master “Peg Leg Sam” Jackson in 1975 told folklorist Glenn Hinson, “If you called yourself ‘playing the blues,’ then you had to come to Durham, ‘cause that’s where the music was really at.” The tobacco industry—offering employment to black workers during the Depression and proximity of an audience—drew blues players to the Bull City. Disabled musicians, forced to rely on music for their livelihood, were among the most creative, productive, and respected.
Music historians contend that North Carolina’s Fulton Allen was as significant to the “Piedmont blues” as Mississippi’s Robert Johnson was to “Delta blues.” They contend that Allen has gone without the public recognition due him in his home state. Born in Wadesboro, young Allen moved to Winston-Salem where he played on the sidewalks for shift workers in the tobacco factories. In 1926 he married Cora Martin; a year later he lost his sight due to disease. In 1929 Allen, soon to take the name “Blind Boy Fuller,” moved to Durham, living in the city’s Hayti area, first on Colfax Street and later on Massey Avenue. He played a steel-bodied National guitar that acted as a natural resonator in the age before amplification.
Along with Blind Gary Davis (later known as the Reverend Gary Davis), Fuller was the dominant figure on the Bull City’s blues scene, attracting and influencing many other musicians. In July 1935 Fuller, accompanied by white merchant J. B. Long, went to New York for the first of many recording sessions with the American Recording Corporation. “Step It Up and Go” and other songs, 135 all told, were released on Vocalion, Melotone, and Decca 78s. He was the most prolific and best selling of all East Coast blues recording artists. His last recording session was in March 1940. He died from a kidney ailment on February 12, 1941, and was buried in Durham’s Grove Hill Cemetery. His grave was unmarked and today is lost. Extending the association of Durham with the blues to a later generation were Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee.
On April 18, 1927, Jimmie Rodgers – one of country music’s first superstars – performed the first of his weekly live appearances on Asheville radio station WWNC.
Read more about "The Singing Brakeman" on the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources' blog!
County singer-songwriter Donna Fargo was born in Mount Airy in 1945. She rose to popularity in the 1970s when her singles “Happiest Girl in the Whole USA” and “Funny Face” (below) reached #1 on the country charts and top 10 on the pop charts respectively.
In 1965 Emmylou Harris began college at UNC Greensboro on a drama scholarship. When she wasn’t performing in campus plays, she performed folk music as “The Emerald City,” a duo with Mike Williams. Harris left UNC Greensboro before graduating to pursue a career in music.
Mary Lou Williams (1910-1981) was one of the first women to rise to fame in the world of jazz. She was a successful composer who arranged music for Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong. Williams was an artist-in-residence at Duke University from 1977 until she passed away in 1981.
On February 21, 1933, Nina Simone, often called the “high priestess of soul,” was born in the small town of Tryon, North Carolina.
Determined to become one of the first highly-successful African-American concert pianists, Simone spent a summer at the famed Julliard School after graduating high school in Asheville in 1950. Denied admission to music school in Philadelphia, Simone took menial jobs there.
While on a trip to Atlantic City, N.J. in the summer of 1954, Simone began to experiment with popular music. Word of her talent spread, and she became in high demand at nightclubs all along the Mid-Atlantic coast. After releasing her first album, Little Girl Blue, in 1958, her work began to reflect her increasing involvement in the civil rights movement and her close associations with leading African-American intellectuals like Lorraine Hansberry and Langston Hughes.
Last summer, The National Trust for Historic Preservation designated her childhood home in Tryon a National Treasure.
- Exerpt from the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources' "On This Day" series.