The Primitive Quartet is a six-member gospel band that has been together for over 35 years. Their unusual beginning occurred during a fishing trip when they discovered they could harmonize. With music based on a shaped note style accompanied by acoustic instruments, they carry on the musical heritage of their region. National recognition has eluded them as they perform by choice within 300 miles of their home allowing them to spend more time with their families and their large following of friends.
The Primitive Quartet a seven-member band, has been traveling and singing gospel music for thirty-five years. Members are Larry Riddle, Reagan Riddle, Norman Wilson, Mike Riddle, Randy Fox, Jeff Tolbert and David Johnson. The quartet was formed as a result of a fishing trip when a few of the members, Furman, Norman Wilson, Reagan and Larry Riddle, sat around the campfire at night. They realized they had a four-part harmony and that was when they began singing at local churches. Their music is the traditional mountain shape note style singing accompanied by acoustical instruments including the mandolin, banjo, fiddle, guitars and acoustic bass.
In 1978 Furman left the group to go into full time ministry and was replaced with Mike Riddle who played lead guitar and sang Baritone. Throughout the years the Primitive Quartet has recorded forty-three projects, made thirteen videos, five DVDs, as well as published five songbooks. Reagan Riddle wrote many of the songs recorded.
In 1986 Randy Fox from Richmond, Indiana joined the group and graced the group with his talent as a musician and singer, who sang with Joe Isaacs and the Sacred Bluegrass. In 1997 Jeff Tolbert from Mt. Airy, North Carolina joined the group as well. Jeff’s talents come from playing with the Easter Brothers, The Lewis Family and the Isaacs.
In 1981 God blessed the Primitive Quartet with a tract of land in ‘Hominy Valley’ located in Chandler, North Carolina. They name it ‘Hominy Valley Singing Grounds’ and on July 4th as well as in October, the Primitive Quartet hosts a gospel singing.
Today the Primitive Quartet group travels fifty thousand miles a year and does about a hundred fifty dates annually. They count it a privilege to be able to spread the gospel through their songs and their ultimate goal is to lead souls to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Mike Cross was born in Maryville, Tennessee and grew up in Lenoir, North Carolina. Although he loved stories and liked to write poems, he displayed no interest in music until a dedicated friend taught him a few chords on the guitar. Mike learned fast and began to originate melodies as background scenery to go with his stories and poems. His eclectic blend of folk, blues and country style sounds has given birth to a new style he calls “Appalachian Mountain Boogie Blues”. He has written a multitude of songs like “The Scotsman” in 1973, which became the theme song for the Dr. Demento Radio Show and was voted the funniest song ever written. Today Mike still performs, writes songs and is now on a new venue of hosting programs like the Wilkes Heritage Museum’s “Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame.”
Over the past 30 years Mike Cross has performed everywhere from raucous music clubs and college auditoriums to the refined concert settings of places like Symphony Hall in Boston. He’s even had the unique pleasure of performing on a Mexican Television Show entitled; "Chulas Frontieras" where in his first segment he followed a cock fight.
Events like this make his appearances on a variety of other radio and television shows such as "The Smothers Brothers CBS Television Special" seem very tame. But whether he’s standing alone on an outdoor stage in the High Sierras of California or playing his songs with a symphony orchestra out in the world somewhere, he’s comfortable, happy and quite at home.
Mike plays guitar and fiddle with reckless abandon and total disregard for his own safety, and his eclectic blend of folksy, bluesy, country sounds has given birth to a musical style he laughingly calls, "Appalachian Mountain Boogie Blues."
He has written a multitude of songs, several of which have become staples in the repertoires of many other performers. His song, "The Scotsman", which he wrote in 1973, has been the theme song for the Dr. Demento Radio Show and was once voted the Funniest Song Ever Written. Another song, "Leon McDuff," as recorded and performed by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, served as a theme for the first Farm Aid concert. His songs and stories continue to be recorded and performed on stages, on broadcasts and around campfires throughout the known world by the great, the near great and real, honest to goodness human beings.
Mike was born in Maryville, Tennessee, October 25, 1946 and grew up in Lenoir, North Carolina. Although he loved stories and liked to write poems (even while sitting in his uniform in the dressing room before high school football games) he displayed no interest in music until the middle of his junior year at the University of North Carolina. An unexpected snow storm and a touch of the flu forced him to stay in a friend’s dorm room for the night. His friend’s roommate was a dedicated guitar player who believed that anyone who didn’t know how to play a song or two on the guitar was living a pointless, meaningless life. So, when he discovered that Mike didn’t know how to play, naturally he insisted on teaching him a few chords. By sunrise Mike was obsessed with the instrument and began to see how he could use the guitar to create melodies and set musical scenery to the stories he made up and the poems he wrote.
This innocent, unlikely occurrence completely changed his life and set him on the path he has followed to this day; writing songs, playing music, delighting and entertaining his audiences.
Nancy Watson, a native of Wilkes County, grew up with a love of music. As her children grew she became more and more involved with local theatrical and musical events. Her experiences with the Walker Center, a 1,200 seat auditorium, MerleFest ad Singing in the Foothills prepared her for the difficult task of overseeing a new musical endeavor, the “Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame”. With an expression of gratitude, the committee recognizes and thanks her for her leadership, as their dream became a reality.
Nancy Watson, a native of Wilkes County, grew up with a love of music. As her children grew she became more and more involved with local theatrical and musical events. Her experiences with the Walker Center, a 1200 seat auditorium, MerleFest and Singing in the Foothills prepared her for the difficult task of overseeing a new musical endeavor, the Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame. With an expression of gratitude, the committee recognizes and thanks her for her leadership, as their dream became a reality.