Carlock Stooksbury (1924-2012) Carlock grew up around Norris, Tennessee. He was one of a few old-timers that still played the mouth bow. One of the oldest stringed instruments in the world, it was often made with a strip of hickory and a cat-gut string.
Dellie Norton (1898–1993) Dellie, like many of the old-timers, was born before self-doubt was invented. There was no artifice to her whatsoever. She was strong and wise. Dellie sang the old unaccompanied mountain ballads, many of which were passed down through her family for several hundred years.
Musical Memories During performances, Holt shares his recollections and portraits of the musical mentors he’s come to know as friends.
Doc Watson (March 3, 1923) Blind guitarist Doc Watson is one of the greatest traditional musicians America has produced. His ability to make an old mountain song sound new, and new song sound old and soulful, is unmatched. Flatpicking old-time fiddle tunes on guitar became his forte and changed the way the instrument is played.
John Dee Holeman (April 4, 1929) Durham has long been a hotbed of North Carolina blues. John Dee spent most of his life there working construction and playing music on the side. His soulful music bridges the melodic Piedmont blues style and the grittier urban blues of the 1950s.
Frazier Moss (September 11, 1910-October 27, 1998) Living most of his life in Cookeville, Tennessee, Frazier won just about every fiddle contest around, including the National and Southeast fiddling championships and Tennessee Valley Old Time Fiddlers’ Association Championship. This photo captures Frazier’s playfulness. What it doesn’t tell you is what a fantastic fiddler he was. He played in a hard-driving, complex, yet swinging, style.
Etta Baker (March 31, 1913–September 23, 2006) Etta was more than a musical inspiration to me. She embodied a deep wisdom that life is what you make it. Through all sorts of hardships, Etta continued to rise above the fray and stay positive and caring. An example of her fortitude is the fact that she practiced an hour a day for 90 years. Because of that, she could still play at 93 years old. Born into a family of mixed African, Native American, and Irish ancestry, Etta was raised near Morganton.
Joe and Odell Thompson (1918-2012 and 1911-1994) The Thompsons were first cousins who lived near Mebane. They kept alive the long-running tradition of black string band music in North Carolina.
Ralph Stanley (February 25, 1927) When Ralph was a youngster, he was offered the choice of a banjo or a pig. Luckily for us, he chose the banjo and he’s been bringing home the bacon ever since. It was Ralph who encouraged me in 1969 to head to the Southern mountains to learn the old-time clawhammer banjo style, and he continues to be an inspiration to this day. Few have been more influential in traditional music than Ralph, as he deftly walks the line between old-time and bluegrass.
Bessie Jones (February 8, 1902 -July 17, 1984) Bessie could get a roomful of juvenile delinquents or college presidents singing and dancing in a matter of minutes. She learned many of the old songs and dances from her grandfather who was brought to America as a slave. She had the foresight to collect, learn, and teach these soulful African-American songs and dances.
Nimrod Workman (November 5, 1895-November 26, 1994) With a face like this and a name like Nimrod Workman, you know you’re looking at an authentic mountaineer. He was a traditional ballad singer, coal miner, and dedicated union man. Angular, spidery, and animated, he sang in a rough-hewn voice from another time.
Tommy Jarrell (March 1, 1901–January 28, 1985) From Surry County, Tommy was one of America’s most influential old-time fiddlers, banjo players, and singers. His repertoire was learned before radio and records. He didn’t play music professionally, or own a car or telephone, yet Tommy opened his heart and home to many young musicians who spread his driving, rhythmic musical style across the globe. A visit with Tommy included lots of music, a little moonshine, and his down-home biscuits.