After completing his master’s degree in Folklore at the University of North Carolina, Tim Duffy set out to Winston-Salem to find a musician by the name of Guitar Gabriel. After following some local leads, he finally heard the elusive blues guitarist and was moved to “introduce Gabe and his music to any possible audience.”
Realizing there were many other traditional artists like Guitar Gabriel whose work was going unheard and whose livelihood was compromised as a result, Tim and his wife Denise Duffy founded Music Maker Relief Foundation in 1994 with the mission statement of preserving “the musical traditions of the South by directly supporting the musicians who make it, ensuring their voices will not be silenced by poverty and time.”
With the help of Music Maker Relief Foundation, Guitar Gabriel would go on to perform at the Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, and at music festivals worldwide. He passed away in 1996 and is buried in Winston-Salem with his guitar.
Jim Shumate was a North Carolina Heritage Award winner from Wilkes County, N.C. He was the first fiddler to record with Flatt and Scruggs, and an influential player in the early development of bluegrass music, notably contributing the “fiddle kickoff” to the genre’s repertoire. Below you’ll find an excerpt about Shumate from the Blue Ridge Music Trails of North Carolina Guidebook, followed by an early example of one of his famous fiddle kickoffs.
Jim Shumate (1930-2014) was born in northern Wilkes County and learned to play the fiddle from an uncle who lived nearby. He spent his teenage years working in the furniture factories until he had a lucky break. Bill Monroe was traveling through the area and happened to hear Shumate on Hickory’s WHKY. Impressed, he called and offered the young man a job. Shumate played with the Blue Grass Boys from 1943 to 1945, while Howdy Forrester was serving in World War II. He is credited with inventing the iconic “fiddle kickoff,” a way of leading into a song with a few staccato notes and a short instrumental. Shumate is also credited with introducing Bill Monroe to Earl Scruggs in 1945. After Flatt and Scruggs left to form their own group in 1948, they hired Shumate to play on their first recording session. He can be heard on one of their earliest and best-known recordings, “My Cabin in Caroline.”
Before there was Bon Iver or Megafaun, Justin Vernon, Phil Cook, Brad Cook, and Joe Westerlund existed as the folk group DeYarmond Edison. Their short-lived, Raleigh N.C. based tenure gained a cult following, and their 2006 split resulted in a creative micro-burst. The Cook Brothers and Westerlund formed the freak-folk trio Megafaun and Justin Vernon retreated to his home state of Wisconsin to create his now world-famous indie act Bon Iver.
Justin Vernon returns to Raleigh with Bon Iver this weekend. Catch them at PNC Arena on Saturday 10/19.
Did you know? John D. Loudermilk’s song “Tobacco Road” was a semi-autobiographical tale about growing up in Durham, NC. The song has since been covered by Van Halen lead singer David Lee Roth, Jimi Hendrix (unreleased), and the Jackson 5.
Most North Carolinians are familiar with James Taylor’s Triangle origins, but did you know that he was in a band with his brother? In high school in Chapel Hill, he joined a band formed by his brother Alex called The Corsayers (later The Fabulous Corsairs), playing electric guitar.
Did you know? The genre bluegrass derives its name from Bill Monroe’s band, Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys. In December of 1945, N.C. native and key bluegrass influencer Earl Scruggs joined the band, lending his signature three-finger "Scruggs style" banjo technique to their sound.
After a stint fiddling with Bill Monroe, Wilkes County native Jim Shumate joined fellow North Carolinian Earl Scruggs in time to record on the Foggy Mountain Boys’ first recording session. During that inaugural session, Flatt and Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys cut “Cabin in Caroline,” a song penned by fellow Wilkes County native Ralph Pennington. A talented luthier, multi-instrumentalist, and songwriter, Pennington wrote songs and tunes that later became bluegrass standards recorded by the likes of the Stanley Brothers and the Church Brothers.
Did you know: North Carolina-born composer, conductor, and flutist Lamar Stringfield won a Pulitzer Prize for composition in 1928 for his orchestral suite "From the Southern Mountains." He went on to found the North Carolina Symphony and was known thereafter as an authority on southern ballads and folklore.
Did you know: North Carolina jazz legends Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane played together? During the later part of 1957 Coltrane worked with Thelonious Monk at New York's Five Spot Café, and played in Monk's quartet (July–December 1957), but, owing to contractual conflicts, took part in only one official studio recording session with this group, which was released in 1961.
103 years ago today, a tragic flood wreaked havoc on Western North Carolina. Prolific songwriter, David Childers, recounted that event in his song "Belmont Ford", and we captured him performing it earlier this year at the Magnolia Roots Music Lounge in Wake Forest.
Watch the video below and read about the historic flood on Our State's website.