The following essay is courtesy of the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resource's blog.
On June 13, 1905, old-time musician Lesley Riddle was born in the Silvers Gap community north of Burnsville. Riddle learned to play blues and gospel songs on the guitar after losing most of a leg in an accident at a cement plant. He had to adjust his picking techniques to use only his thumb, index finger and little finger after losing two fingers in a shotgun accident.
A.P. Carter, patriarch of the famous Carter family, first heard Riddle play and sing in Kingsport, Tennessee, in 1927, and quicky recruited him to help advance the Carter family’s fame. Carter and Riddle visited African American communities and churches throughout Appalachian Tennessee, Virginia and North Carolina to find new songs for the Carter Family band. Riddle would memorize the tunes and words before returning to teach the songs to Sara and Maybelle Carter.
“Mother Maybelle” learned her trademark guitar techniques from Riddle, including using a pocketknife for slide guitar work.
Riddle never made a living at music, working as a shine boy, presser and school crossing guard. In the 1960s, he accompanied Mike Seeger and the New Lost City Ramblers on the folk festival circuit.
Riddle is celebrated by an annual festival, Riddlefest. This year's Riddlefest takes place on June 22. Get all the details including performers, schedule, and ticketing on their website.
Winston-Salem native Margaret Vardell Sandresky, now 97, continues to play and compose music, following in the footsteps of her grandmother Linda Rumple Vardell, who founded the Conservatory of Music at Flora MacDonald College in Robeson County.
The Blue Sky Boys, made up by brothers Earl and Bill Bolick, were two of the most popular duet singers in country music in the 1930s. Raised in Hickory N.C., the brothers made nearly 100 recordings, and their music would influence groups like the Everly Brothers and the Louvin Brothers. The Blue Sky Boys left a vast repertoire of recordings and radio performances that continue to fuel country and folk musicians’ catalog of songs.
WBT, broadcasted out of Charlotte, was the first commercial radio station in North Carolina and the second in the South after Atlanta’s WSB. With a first air date of March 22, 1992, WBT long boasted that it could be heard from “Maine to Miami” after sundown.
Growing up in Concord, NC, Scott and Seth Avett have played music together since they were kids, getting the love of music from their grandmother who was a concert pianist and their father, songwriter Jim Avett.
See both Jim Avett and the Avett Brothers this weekend at MerleFest!
At 18, Billy Strayhorn composed the song “Something To Live For,” which was later recorded by Duke Ellington. This became the start of a lifelong collaboration between the two jazz musicians.
Jazz pianist Thelonius Monk starting playing the piano at age six and was largely self taught. One of his mentors was Mary Lou Williams, who joined the Duke University faculty in 1977 and lived in Durham her remaining years.
Let us take you back to the golden age of Hollywood for this Trivia Tuesday: Born in 1922 in Winston Salem, actress and opera singer Kathryn Grayson trained as a coloratura soprano (the highest vocal range section), and starred in movies such as “It Happened in Brooklyn” alongside Frank Sinatra.
Contralto Carol Brice grew up in Sedalia, N.C. & attended Palmer Memorial Institute before building a major music career. Notably, she was one of the 1st African Americans hired by the Metropolitan Opera Company. She also sang at the inauguration of FDR in 1941.