Tony Williamson

2018 North Carolina Heritage Award Recipient

“I’ve taken what I’ve heard, and taken what I’ve learned, and I’ve taken it into my heart. And I’m now sending it back out.” – Tony Williamson

Tony Williamson is a renowned mandolin player from Chatham County, who started playing at age nine, and by 15 he won the first-place “world champion” title for mandolin at the Union Grove Fiddlers Convention.

Now an internationally-recognized expert on the mandolin, Tony has always served as a mentor and an instructor to other players. He’s also a skilled songwriter whose compositions integrate everything from traditional Piedmont string band tunes to classical music and jazz.

He writes and plays innovative bluegrass music while maintaining his traditional roots. Tony’s father and grandfather, both millworkers, played banjo in their leisure time. Since his older relatives already played guitar, fiddle, and banjo, a young Tony decided to pick up the mandolin.

He was a sought-after session musician and sideman for artists like Sam Bush, David Grisman, Jerry Douglas, and Ricky Skaggs. Not only has he collaborated with other mandolin legends, he has become a mentor to a younger generation of pickers like Sierra Hull, Chris Thile and Andrew Marlin of Chapel Hill-based Mandolin Orange.

During a brief hiatus from playing, he opened Mandolin Central, his own instrument shop in Siler City, and it became a hub for local musicians, a treasured source of vintage instruments, and a place for players and luthiers to learn.

“Through all the acclaim, Tony Williamson remains humbly dedicated to spreading a spirit of what he calls “communion” through his music, to bringing young artists into this circle through his teaching and mentoring.”
—Glenn Hinson, UNC-Chapel Hill

 

Explore his work

Tony performs with 2014 Heritage Award winner Bobby Hicks
Tony talks about meeting Bill Monroe and plays Dusty Miller