Dolly Rebecca Parton was born in Sevier County, Tennessee. She is known world-wide as a country music singer, songwriter, author, actress and philanthropist. Her songwriting is of such high quality and impact that it upholds the gold standard set by the legendary Johnny Mercer Award. Always dreaming and always looking forward, Dolly continues to flourish, remaining a superstar.

“I’ve always been a writer. My songs are the door to every dream I’ve ever had and every success I’ve ever achieved,” says Dolly Parton of her incredible career, which has spanned nearly five decades and is showing no signs of slowing down.

Dolly Parton’s remarkable life began very humbly. Born on a farm in Sevier County, TN, Dolly is the fourth of twelve children. By age 10, Dolly was performing on local television and radio shows in nearby Knoxville, TN. Dolly left for Nashville the day after high school graduation. On her first afternoon there she met a young man, Carl Dean, who would become her husband.

In 1967, Dolly’s career took off when country music superstar Porter Wagoner began featuring her on his popular syndicated television show, exposing Dolly to over 45 million people in more than 100 markets and attracting the attention of record executives at RCA. She was voted the Country Music Association Female Artist of the Year two years in a row, and in 1978, Dolly was named the CMA Entertainer of the Year. Dolly saw a cherished dream become a reality in 1986 with the opening of her own theme park called Dollywood, in Pigeon Forge, TN. In 1988, she began the Dollywood Foundation to inspire children in her home community to dream more, learn more, do more and care more. With the help of local sponsors, this program has expanded to over 800 communities in 41 states and will give away over 5 million books in 2007 alone.

In 1988, Dolly founded a group of dinner attractions called Dixie Stampede. In 2001, she built Dollywood’s Splash Country, which is Tennessee’s largest water park. Long respected for her instinctive business savvy, Dolly established Velvet Apple Music (BMI) early in her career and owns the copyrights and the publishing for her vast songwriting empire. She owns her own successful record label, Blue Eye Records.

Dolly Parton transitioned her flair for making hit music into producing hit movies and television shows when she established Sandollar Productions with former manager, Sandy Gallin. Achieving 25 RIAA certified gold, platinum, and multi-platinum awards, she has had 25 songs reach number one on the Billboard Country charts, a record for a female artist. She has 41 career top 10 country albums, a record for any artist, and she has 110 career charted singles over the past 40 years. All-inclusive sales of singles, albums, hit collections, paid digital downloads and compilation usage during her Hall of Fame career have reportedly topped a staggering 100 million records world-wide, making her the most honored and successful country performer of all time.

She has garnered 7 Grammy Awards, 10 Country Music Association Awards, 5 Academy of Country Music Awards, 3 American Music Awards and is one of the only five female artist to win the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year Award. In 1999, Dolly Parton was inducted as a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame. She has her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and became a member of the National Academy of Popular Music Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2001. Broadcast Music, Inc. honored Dolly with their Icon Award in 2003, and in 2004, the U.S. Library of Congress presented her with their Living Legend Award for her contribution to the cultural heritage of the United States. This was followed in 2005 with the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor given by the U.S. Government for excellence in the arts.

In December, 2006, Dolly was honored by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts for her lifetime of contributions to the arts. In June 2007, Dolly was named the recipient of the prestigious Johnny mercer Award from the Songwriter’s Hall of fame in a prior year and whose body of work is of such high quality and impact that it upholds the gold standard set by the legendary Johnny Mercer.

Always dreaming and always looking forward, Dolly is busier than ever. Writing the music and lyrics for the Broadway musical version of “9-5”, working on various children’s projects, and writing and recording a new album, “I Believe in You”, released in 2017, are just a few of her many interests at the moment. The phenomenon of Dolly Parton continues to flourish, as she remains one of the world’s true superstars.

Ralph Rinzler grew up in Passaic, New Jersey. He was a performer, festival administrator, scholar, writer and tireless advocate for grass roots music. Through his work at the Newport Folk Foundation and at the Smithsonian he spent many hours preserving, documenting, and presenting traditional arts. The Smithsonian named its Folkway Collection, The Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collection. Each year a memorial concert is held in his honor at the Festival of American Folklife performed on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

Ralph Rinzler was a performer, musician, festival administrator, scholar, writer and tireless advocate for grassroots music in the United States. As director of the Field Research Programs at the Newport Folk Foundation 1963 – 1967, and later at the Smithsonian he spent many hours documenting, preserving and presenting traditional arts of North America not only to the United States but to the world.

Born in 1934, Rinzler grew up in Passaic, NJ, and attended Swarthmore College where he began performing as a mandolin player with various folk groups eventually becoming a part of the Greenbriar Boys. The band was one of the main events at Greenwich Village’s Gerde’s Folk City with Bob Dylan as the warm-up or opening act. Performing up and down the east coast and recording several records, the Greenbriar Boys gained a wide audience. Rinzler also played with others including Joan Baez and Clarence Ashley. Among his many successes, he won a Grammy for producing.

At the same time, Rinzler was traveling with the Greenbriar Boys his interest in exploring rural America was ignited. While at the Union Grove Fiddlers Contest in North Carolina with the band, Rinzler heard about and met Clarence Ashley and Doc Watson. He became Watson’s first agent and is also credited with helping performers such as Bill Monroe and Hazel Scott. In fact, he worked closely with Bill Monroe in 1962 and 1963 serving as manager and documenting his role as the founder of bluegrass music. Due to Rinzler inviting Dewey Balfa to the Newport Folk Festival, a revival in Cajun music and culture developed which continues to this day.

By 1967, Rinzler was involved with the Smithsonian Institution organizing a festival on the National Mall. The Festival of American Folklife focuses on the traditional arts of two or three different communities each year including crafts, food, occupational stories and lore plus other traditions. The festival is well known for not booking stars but artists closely tied to their communities and traditions. The festival is still in operation today and each year a memorial concert is held in his honor.

Rinzler remained with The Smithsonian for the rest of his life. He was instrumental in obtaining the Folkways Records following the death of Moe Asch by organizing a television special and Grammy award-winning album entitles “tribute to Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly,” to fund the acquisition. In 1998 the Center for Folklife Programs prompted the Smithsonian to name its collection The Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections in his honor. His field tapes have been used to create a number of CD releases on the Smithsonian Folkways label. Rinzler died in 1994.


Ralph Epperson was born in Ararat, Virginia. He translated his love of mountain music into a focal point for community life: a radio station. WPAQ was his brainchild and later he acquired WBRF. Paul Brown said it best, “Where Ralph was concerned, the more layers one pulled back, the more one would find. He was a … radio engineer, a deep thinker, an explainer, and an enthusiast.” He tirelessly encouraged musicians young and old.

Ralph Deward Epperson was born in Ararat, VA and attended Brevard College at Brevard, NC. He graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree from John Brown University in Siloa Springs, AR. He worked for several years as a radio engineer at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C.

WPAQ was the brainchild of Ralph Epperson, a college graduate in his twenties who had been fascinated by radio since his teens. With help from his father Harry, a farmer from nearby Ararat, VA, Epperson built the brick and timber headquarters for his AM station in Mount Airy, NC. Over sixty years later, this building remains the home of WPAQ. In 1948, on Groundhog Day, WPAQ went on the air broadcasting at 10,000 watts. Epperson pledged to reflect the cultural and musical values of the people in his station’s listening area and preserve local talent, emphasizing a format suitable for the whole family including Christian programs. He never broke that pledge for more than five decades.

Ralph Epperson soon began the Merry-Go-Round programs which originated in the radio station. It became so crowded that the program had to move to the Pick Theater downtown. The merry-Go-Round program still exists and is now at the Downtown Cinema which is operated by the Surry Arts Council. In 1954 Ralph Epperson married Earlene Shaw.

Ralph, along with his wife Earlene were the owners of WPAQ and WBRF, a 100,000 watt FM station in Galax, VA which covers over 40 counties and four states – North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and Tennessee. The Eppersons have a daughter, Deborah Stringer of Galax, VA who now manages WBRF, and a son Kelly Epperson who, with his wife, owns WPAQ.

Over the years, Ralph Epperson received many awards, including an honorary doctor of law degree from John Brown University. Governor Jim Hunt of North Carolina presented him with the Governor’s Business Award in the Arts and Humanities and the National Council for the Traditional Arts in Washington D.C. honored him with “A Rose While You Live” award in honor of a half century of musical excellence. He received the Award of Merit from the International Bluegrass Music Association and the Brown Hudson Folklore Award from the North Carolina Folklore Society.

Epperson was given special recognition from the American Folklore Center of the Library Of Congress for work in preserving the musical heritage of the area and making recordings available for the archives of the Library of Congress. The NRB also presented Ralph their Milestone Award for Religious Broadcasting. He was awarded the Outstanding Achievements as a Legend in Media by Mount Airy Visitor’s center. Ralph was presented the Cultural Heritage Award by the Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce and presented the Key to the City by the Mayor of Mount Airy. One award he was most proud of was being inducted into the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame in April 2006, just before his death. Ralph donated his prized collection of live recordings to the Southern Folklife Collection at the Wilson Library at The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Wayne Henderson was born in Rugby, Virginia. He is well known for his handmade, legendary acoustic guitars, his fine musicianship, and musical festival named in his honor to support musical scholarships for local youths. Renowned guitarist, Eric Clapton waited for ten years for a Henderson Guitar. His guitar inspired a book by Allen St. John entitled “Clapton’s Guitar: Watching Wayne Henderson Build the Perfect Instrument”. Today, Henderson Guitars are in high demand and respected for their volume, tone and resonance.

Born in Rugby, VA in the White Top Mountain area of Grayson County, Wayne Henderson is one of the finest luthiers in the country.  Coming from a family of craftsmen and musicians, he has remained in the Blue Ridge Mountains honing his craft. Henderson’s father and uncle were musicians who played with the string band of Estil Ball and were recorded by and John and Alan Lomax, folklorists.

Wayne ordered a guitar from the Sears catalog after admiring his uncle’s steel-string Martin guitar.  His disappointment in the instrument prompted Henderson’s career as a luthier. Using a dresser-drawer bottom and some “sticky stuff” used to glue weather stripping to a car door, Wayne had almost completed his first guitar when a hot day approached.  The guitar had been left in a confined area and when he returned to complete his work, Henderson found, as he described it, that “it had blossomed like a morning glory”. Another time he used a cigar box, carved a wooden 2 x 4 for the neck and used fishing line as strings.  Henderson finally made his first complete guitar using a mahogany door and later sold it for some tools and cash.

Today Henderson’s guitars are in high demand and although many are “intricately decorated”, they are respected for their volume, tone and resonance.  Wayne, a retired mail carrier, now spends much of his time as a performing artist. When he is not performing, he may be found in his shop working on instruments often until the wee hours of the next morning.  To get a Henderson guitar, one must convince Wayne that they seriously want one. Once he feels they are sincere in their desire for a Henderson guitar, he will put them on the schedule. Sometimes his customers wait years for the finished product, although rarely any longer than Eric Clapton who waited ten years.  His guitars inspired a book by Allen St. John entitled “Clapton’s Guitar: Watching Wayne Henderson Build the Perfect Instrument”. 

Wayne’s guitars are his pride and are patterned after the old Martin guitars like his uncle once had but he also builds mandolins.  Henderson located to Nashville for a brief time and repaired guitars, including ones belonging to Elvis Presley, Neil Young, and Doc Watson.  The old neck of Watson’s guitar, with Watson’s name on it, still hangs in Wayne’s shop. Since then, Henderson has built Watson a mandolin. Watson has described it “as good as any I’ve had my hands on.  And that’s saying a lot, because I’ve picked up some good ones”. Blues player John Cephas considers Henderson one of the “most masterful guitar makers in this in this whole United States”. 

Henderson, an accomplished guitarist, has won more than three hundred ribbons at fiddlers’ conventions and was awarded the NEA National Heritage Fellowship in 1995 which included a $10,000 monetary award.  With this award he built the small brick workshop where he crafts his fine-toned instruments today. He has been part of three national tours of the “Masters of the Steel String Guitar” and has traveled internationally including seven nations in Asia.  His performance venues include Carnegie Hall, the Smithsonian Institution and the 1992 presidential inauguration for the “America’s Reunion”. On May 3, 2007, Wayne’s birthday, he played for Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip during Virginia’s royal welcome at Capital Square to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Jamestown.

Wayne often plays in his guitar shop and for local festivals and events.  The Wayne C. Henderson Music Festival and Guitar Competition was established in 1995 to express appreciation to this “living legend” with a portion of the proceeds going into a scholarship fund for local musicians to continue their education.  Wayne is also involved with education music programs and has shared his skills as such events as the Augusta Heritage Arts Workshop at Davis held at Elkins College in Elkins, WV. Wayne Henderson is a “friend to everyone” and shares his abilities unselfishly.

Sam Love Queen, Sr. was born in Haywood County, North Carolina. The Soco Dance Team, organized and led by Sam Love Queen, Sr. changed the style of square dancing and became the winner of more competitions than any other. Queen is also credited with taking Buck Dancing to a new level, helping to start what we call “clogging” today. Albert Burnett describes square dancing as “body language and body expression”. Without doubt, Sam Love Queen, Sr. was a great communicator and known as the “Square Dance King”.

Sam Love Queen, Sr., born in 1888 in Soco Mountain part of Haywood County, NC, learned to dance and to call dances from his grandparents, father, and Bob Lowe, a local black caller.  Queen incorporated fancier footwork known as Buck Dancing into his dances which helped to develop a style referred to as clogging, the most popular of mountain dances. In “From Our House to the White House”, a documentary film produced by the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, Albert Burnett, a square dance caller, described square dancing as “a body language and body expression”.  Gertrude Plott Welch, a dance partner of Queen, said that he was “light on his feet…danced…on more or less the ball of his feet, just a very smooth dancer”. Another dance partner, Beulah Caldwell Elder said it was “like he was floating…so easy to dance with”. Without doubt, Queen knew how to share that language with the world resulting in him being commonly called “The Square Dance King”. 

As his grandson, Joe Sam Queen, Jr. said, “He was a charismatic person…an entertainer who made his livelihood entertaining folks at the Moody Farm barn dances and in the hotels, motels and inns in the county”.  Tourists visiting in the North Carolina Mountains usually stayed two or three weeks at a time. After attending one of the Queen barn dances at Moody Farm, they would learn steps and return to join in the dances.  Sam Queen thus became known as one of the first tourist promoters.

At this same time, Bascom Lamar Lunsford, realizing the importance of sharing the mountain heritage of music and dance with others, talked the people of Asheville, NC into adding Mountain and Folk Festival to their annual Rhododendron Festival and invited the best musicians and dancers to form teams, dress in their Sunday best and compete in the dance contest.  Queen, a natural competitor, put together a group calling themselves the Soco Gap Dance Team because most of the dancers lived there. They travelled to Asheville and lost to the Candler Dance Team. The Soco Dance Team, led by Queen, returned the following year to win.

In 1934, the middle of the great depression and six years after the first Asheville festival, teams from North Carolina traveled to St. Louis to participate in the first National Folk Festival with the Soco Dance Team winning the national title.   Performances in Chattanooga, Chicago, Dallas, Pittsburgh, and New York City at Carnegie Hall, the Waldorf Astoria and the New York World’s Fair followed. Lynn Hadley, Lunsford’s daughter, said that the “Soco Dance Team danced as though they were as near heaven as they ever expected to be and loved it”.  This was why everyone enjoyed watching them while they won more competitions than any other square dance team.

June 8, 1939, exactly ten years following their first performance at the Asheville festival and after Mrs. Roosevelt had seen them perform in Constitution Hall, they were invited to Washington, D. C. by President and Mrs. Roosevelt to perform in a program on Americana for the King and Queen of England.  It was noted that the Soco Dance Team had left Haywood County as “celebrities and returned heroes”.

With the advent of World War II this chapter in the mountain dancing closed.  The talents of Sam Love Queen, Sr. who passed away in 1969, is remembered today as he helped to “prove to the people in the region that there was something important, something worthwhile that could stand equal with other dance forms and take it to the White House with dignity”.