Brothers Ralph and Carter Stanley were born in the mountains of Virginia. In 1946 the two organized a band called The Clinch Mountain Boys, which became one of the first bands to copy the Monroe style of “Bluegrass.” Carter sang lead and was considered to be one of the finest singers of his time. Ralph sang tenor and played the banjo. Many of their songs like “The White Dove”, “The Lonesome River”, and “The Fields Have Turned Brown” became well known hits. After Carter’s death in 1966, Ralph revived the Clinch Mountain Boys and continued to perform. Ralph Stanley passed away in 2016.
The Stanley Brothers – Carter and Ralph – were born in the mountains of southwestern Virginia in Dickenson County. Carter was born on August 27, 1925 and Ralph was born on February 25, 1927. They learned most of their early music at home. Their mother played the claw hammer banjo and their father was a gifted singer of old time songs. The boys acquired instruments in their early teen years and began playing the music of old-time performers they heard on the radio.
After WWII, Carter and Ralph organized their band, which became known as The Stanley Brothers and The Clinch Mountain Boys. They performed briefly over radio station WNVA in Norton, Virginia in 1946 and then moved to Bristol to headline WCYB’s Farm & Fun Time broadcast. They remained on this station for 12 years.
While in Bristol they made their first recordings for an independent label called Rich-R-Tone. In 1949 they began a four-year association with Columbia Records. This is where many of their well-known songs like “The White Dove”, “The Lonesome River”, and “The Fields Have turned Brown”, were recorded. In the 1950s they went to Mercury Records and recorded the 1955 recording of “Angel Band” used in the movie O Brother! Where Art Thou?
In 1958 the Stanley Brothers moved to Florida to headline the Suwannee River Jamboree, a weekly Saturday evening program. They were soon sponsored by Jim Walter Homes and were syndicated on television and radio throughout the southeast for several years. Their recordings during this time appeared on the Starday and King labels. While at King the use of the lead guitar became a trademark of the Stanley sound that endures till this day.
The duo came to an end on December 1, 1966 with the passing of Carter Stanley. Ralph Stanley has continued with a highly successful solo career that includes multiple Grammy awards, Congressional and Presidential awards, an honorary doctorate of arts degree and recognition in his home state as Virginian of the Year. Today Ralph is regarded as the patriarch of bluegrass music, an icon in the music industry and an influence to many of today’s artists. At age 82 he still continues to tour with The Clinch Mountain Boys, taking his old time mountain style of bluegrass music all over the world. Ralph Stanley passed away in 2016.
Ola Belle Reed was born August 16, 1916 in a humble setting along the New River Valley of North Carolina. Due to the depression her family was forced to move to Chester County, PA where jobs were more available. Influenced by her family, she formed one of the first “hillbilly” bands, The North Carolina Ridge Runners, in the Delaware-Maryland area. She and her brother formed The New River Boys until he retired. After that she continued performing, joined by her husband and son. Additionally, she wrote or co-wrote over 200 songs still heard today.
Singer, songwriter, country music pioneer and tradition bearer, Ola Belle Reed was born August 16, 1916 in a humble setting along the New River Valley of North Carolina. Born Ola Wave Campbell in Lansing, North Carolina, she learned how to sing old-time ballads as a young child and developed a unique banjo style.
Early in her musical career, Ola Belle realized that she loved traditional music and began writing her own songs to accompany her playing. Ola Belle set in motion recording her songs with brother Alec for Starday Records, Rounder Records and Smithsonian Folkways. Her son David, an excellent bluegrass picker and singer, can be heard on some of the recordings, along with husband Bud, who plays rhythm guitar and yodels. She toured and performed with her brother Alec Campbell, and eventually with her husband, Bud Reed. Together they created a music venue, The New River Ranch, where all of the country music greats like Roy Acuff, Hank Williams, Kitty Wells and Bill Monroe, performed.
Over the years her remarkable talents were recognized with many awards, including the National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellowship Award in 1986, The IBMA, Appalshops excellent series on women in old-time music and the Southern Songbirds. Many bluegrass musicians recognize their own success from the influence of Ola Belle's music like Del McCoury when he first recorded “High on a Mountain”. This powerful song was recorded over 100 times and in 1992 it became a hit by country-rock singer Marty Stuart.
Arthur Smith was born in Kershaw, South Carolina and at an early age developed a love for music. His career as a recording artist began in 1936 when he wrote and recorded his first hit record “Guitar Boogie” in 1945. Arthur re-recorded “Guitar Boogie” for MGM in 1948, and it became the first guitar instrumental to climb the country charts. In 1943, Arthur moved to Charlotte North Carolina and took the job as a radio personality at WBT. With hit records and his notoriety in radio and television, Arthur’s career as an active performer spans more than 50 years. Arthur “Guitar Boogie” Smith passed away in 2014.
Arthur Smith, a Carolina native, knew at an early age what he wanted to do. Although an excellent student and athletic standout, Arthur passed up an appointment to Annapolis to pursue a career in music and entertainment. For him, reality has long since surpassed childhood dreams. “I knew what I wanted to do by the time I was 14 years old,” he said in a recent interview.
Arthur Smith’s career as a recording artist began in 1936 for RCA. He wrote and recorded his first hit record “Guitar Boogie” in 1945, and it was released in 1946 on Super Disc. Arthur re-recorded “Guitar Boogie” for MGM in 1948, and it became the first guitar instrumental to climb the Country charts. The record sold over three million copies and earned Arthur the name Arthur “Guitar Boogie” Smith. Arthur’s guitar style notably influenced significant artists of all music genres including Glen Campbell, Eric Clapton, Roy Clark, Paul McCartney, Tom Petty, Bert Weedon, and groups like the Rebel Rousers and The Virtues. In 1955, Arthur wrote and recorded a tune entitled “Feuding Banjos” which became a charted record. Warner Brothers in 1973 used the recording as the theme for the motion picture ‘Deliverance’, renaming it “Dueling Banjos” becoming BMI’s Song of the Year.
Arthur’s radio career began in 1941, when he began to host live shows on WSPA in Spartanburg, SC. In 1943, Arthur moved to Charlotte North Carolina and took the job as a radio personality at WBT, at the time owned by CBS. With hit records and his notoriety in radio and television, Arthur’s career as an active performer spanned more than 50 years. In 1957, Arthur founded the first recording studio in North and South Carolina. In addition to his own recordings, his studio productions included national artists like; Johnny Cash, James Brown, Flatt & Scruggs, Pat Boone, Ronnie Milsap, George Beverly Shea, and The Statler Brothers. Arthur Smith also scored and produced music soundtracks for twelve major motion picture releases including ‘Dark Sunday’ and ‘Buckstone County Prison’. For 25 years, he produced, marketed and syndicated national radio programs (all, series) hosted by Chet Atkins, Johnny Cash, Richard Petty, George Beverly Shea, and Amy Vanderbilt. Arthur’s own syndicated radio show entitled ‘Top of the Morning’ ran for an unbroken span of 30 years with one sponsor, Bost Bread.
Awards - presented over the years to Arthur Smith includes; the Broadcasters Hall of Fame presented by North Carolina Association of Broadcasters, State of North Carolina Order of The Long Leaf Pine, North Carolina Folk Heritage Award, American Advertising Federation Silver Medal Award, Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI) Special Citation of Achievement (over 1 million broadcast performances of original compositions), BMI Song of the Year Award 1973, Council on International Non-theatrical Events Golden Eagle Award, and the International Real Life Adventure Film Festival (First Place Award - Soundtrack). Additional awards include – Doctorate of Human Letters, Steed College; Southeast Tourism Society Award 1985, American Legion emphasis Award, Girl Scouts of America Emphasis Award, and the Southern Baptist Layman of the Year Award 1969. Arthur “Guitar Boogie” passed away in 2004.
Mike Seeger was born in New York into a well-known folk music family and grew up in Maryland. Although he was an accomplished musician who played many instruments, he was also known for his distinctive voice in old-time traditional music. A founding member of the New Lost City Ramblers, Mike considered “music a vehicle for history” as his career demonstrated. He is honored for his greatest contributions, which is his work with Folkways music recording and production industry. After the Smithsonian acquired the Folkways music library, Mike worked with Ralph Rinzler providing documentation and recreating numerous early musical recordings. Because of his effort, recording treasures from the early 20th century have been preserved. Mike Seeger passed away August 7, 2009.
Mike Seeger was born in Maryland, near Washington, DC in 1933. His parents, Charles and Ruth Crawford Seeger, were composers and musicians. As a child, Mike grew up learning traditional folk music: family singing was a daily affair.
At age 18, Mike taught himself to play string instruments, and at age 20 collected songs from nearby musicians with a tape recorder. By the time he was 23 he had produced his first Folkways documentary recording. Over the years, he has absorbed traditional styles of music through direct association with master musicians such as Elizabeth Cotten, Maybelle Carter, Dock Boggs, and many others. He is a founding member of the vanguard old time string band the ‘New Lost City Ramblers’, formed in 1958.
As a full-time musician and collector since 1960, Mike has toured throughout the United States, Europe, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. He sings a wide variety of traditional Southern rural songs and plays a number of old-time music on banjo, fiddle, guitar, mandolin, autoharp, lap dulcimer, trump (Jew’s harp), harmonica, and quills (pan pipes). He strives for both variety and depth of feeling, in the music he makes, while maintaining his own identity by staying within the boundaries of true traditional music.
Mike has produced thirty-six documentary recordings of traditional music and fifty-one of his own. He has also created several instructional CDs and DVDs for instrumentalists, a documentary video and book, “Talking Feet,” on Southern traditional step dance.
Mike has received six Grammy nominations: two with the New Lost City Ramblers, one with David Grisman and John Hartford and three on his own. He has served as an advisor or consultant for government agencies, a record company, and many folk festivals. He has won a couple of banjo contests: Galax, Virginia (1958) and Athens, Alabama (1974). He is recipient of four grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Smithsonian Research Fellowship grant, a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, an award from the Grateful Dead’s Rex Foundation and an honorary membership in the Society for American Music. Mike Seeger passed away August 7, 2009.
Eric Ellis grew up in North Wilkesboro North Carolina and is known as one of the best banjo players from the area. Although he works days for the NC DOT, he has developed one of the best known regional solo careers and has performed with entertainers like Bobby Hicks, Tony and Wyatt Rice and Jimmy Gaudreau. He can be heard on WKBC Radio on Friday mornings performing for the Main Street Music and Pawn Hometown Opry in North Wilkesboro.
Eric Ellis was born on August 12, 1958 in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina. He grew up in the Mount Pleasant area of Wilkes County and started playing the guitar at age five. At the age of fifteen he was given his first banjo from his father, made by his uncle Bill Johnson and friend Jack Williams. He started playing the banjo locally with musicians Tiny Pruitt, Steve Kilby and Harvey Baity. In 1978, he played in a band called ‘Heritage’ with Wendell and Darel Wiles from Elkin. He stayed with the band for about six months and moved on to another band called ‘Wells Fargo’ based out of Yadkinville. Eric stayed with the band for about a year, then moved on to freelancing.
Over the years Eric has been a member of local and regional bands, and for the past two years he has played selected dates with David Person and 1946. He has since played with popular bluegrass musicians like Jim Shumate, Tony Rice, Jimmy Gaudreau, Jim Buchanan and George Shuffler. Although Ellis is best known for his talents on the banjo, he’s also a hot shot Nashville-style guitar picker. Today he passes on his musical knowledge as a teacher and mentor to younger upstart players.