Born in Mount Airy, North Carolina, Andy Griffith brought attention to the people, heritage, culture and music of western North Carolina through his television, broadway and big-screen roles. Andy was an actor, television producer, Grammy-Award winning Southern gospel singer and a writer. He sang as part of some of his acting roles, most notably in “A Face in the Crowd” and in many episodes of “The Andy Griffith Show” and “Matlock”. Throughout the course of his career, Andy Griffith recorded over twenty albums ranging from gospel to country to story monologues in addition to his acting and broadway roles.
Born on June 1, 1926 in Mount Airy, North Carolina, Andy Griffith's first career ambition was to be an opera singer. Later, he decided he wanted to become a Moravian preacher, and enrolled as a pre-divinity student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1944. While in college, he became involved in drama and musical theater, and graduated in 1949 with a degree in music. He taught high school music for three years before setting out with his new wife, Barbara Edwards, on a career as an entertainer.
Griffith and his wife moved to New York, where he made his television debut as a guest monologist on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1954. That same year, he won the role of Will Stockdale in the TV version of No Time for Sergeants. When the play was produced on Broadway in 1955 Griffith was nominated for a Tony Award for outstanding supporting actor. Griffith went on to reprise his role in the 1958 film version of No Time for Sergeants.
In 1960 Griffith earned another Tony nomination for best actor in a musical for Destry Rides Again. He made his feature film debut in 1957 in A Face in the Crowd. He was also a regular, with Don Knotts, on the NBC variety series, The Steve Allen Show, from 1959 to 1960.
Griffith's 1960 guest appearance as a small-town mayor on the sitcom Make Room for Daddy led CBS to give him his own sitcom, The Andy Griffith Show, in which he played the gentle, philosophical small-town Sheriff Andy Taylor. The show was a tremendous success, consistently ranking among the most popular sitcoms during the entirety of its eight-year run. Knotts co-starred from 1960 to 1965, as Taylor's high-strung deputy sheriff, Barney Fife. The young Ron Howard also co-starred, as the sheriff's red-haired son, Opie.
After The Andy Griffith Show went off the air in 1968, Griffith appeared in several feature films, including Hearts of the West (1975). For the most part, however, he concentrated on TV, and appeared in several short-lived attempts to recapture the success of The Andy Griffith Show
In 1972, Griffith formed a production company, Andy Griffith Enterprises. His company's projects included a TV movie, Winter Kills (1974), in which he starred. In 1981, Griffith received an Emmy nomination for his supporting role in another TV movie, Murder in Texas.
In 1983, Griffith was suddenly stricken with Guillen-Barre syndrome, a crippling muscular disease that left him partially paralyzed for three months. After six months of private rehabilitation, he made a full recovery and was able to return to acting. He made a triumphant return to TV stardom in 1986, as the title character in the courtroom drama series Matlock, which aired during prime time on NBC from 1986 to 1992 and on ABC from 1993 to 1995. He also served as an executive producer and an executive story supervisor for the show, and later reprised his role as Ben Matlock in a series of popular TV movies.
Meanwhile, fan allegiance to The Andy Griffith Show has continued through re-runs. In 1986, Griffith reunited with his co-stars, including Knotts and Howard, in Return to Mayberry, which became the highest-rated TV movie of the 1986 season. He also hosted The Andy Griffith Reunion Special in 1993, and served as executive producer for both programs.
Griffith's marriage to Barbara Edwards ended in divorce in 1972. He and his second wife, Solicia, divorced in 1981 after five years of marriage. In 1983, he married Cindi Knight, a former teacher and actress. The couple lived for many years on a 68-acre ranch in Dare County, North Carolina. Griffith and his first wife had two children: Dixie and Sam. Griffith died on July 3, 2012, at the age of 86, at his home in North Carolina.
Bluegrass Unlimited is a monthly magazine dedicated to the furtherance of bluegrass and old-time musicians, devotees and associates. The magazine was first published in 1966 and is considered the premier magazine for bluegrass music. Founded by Pete and Marion Kuykendall, the magazine moved from an informal to a full-time operation in the fall of 1970. The 1996 International Bluegrass Hall of Fame citation inducting Pete Kuykendall says that Bluegrass Unlimited magazine is “a publication affectionately referred to as the ‘bible of bluegrass music’”.
Bluegrass Unlimited is a monthly music magazine that is dedicated to the furtherance of bluegrass and old-time musicians, devotees and associates. The magazine was first published in 1966 and as of 2008 the magazine had a circulation of more than 25,000 copies and is widely considered the premier magazine for bluegrass music. Bluegrass Unlimited is a founding member of the International Bluegrass Music Association (IMBA).
Folklorist and music scholar Neil V. Rosenberg, in Bluegrass: A History, sets out the history of Bluegrass Unlimited and thereafter notes its prominence and influence as the oldest of the nationally distributed bluegrass magazines. The magazine launched in 1966, in a typed, mimeographed 7x8.5 inch booklet-like format with a hand drawn logo, and was available for $3 per year. In the fall of 1970, the magazine moved from an informal to a full-time operation with “new publishers”, Pete and Marion Kuykendall, upgrading it to a larger, standard format on glossy paper. The current U.S. subscription rate is $25 per year and the magazine is full-color and printed on high-speed web offset presses.
As music historian Bill C. Monroe observed, Bluegrass Unlimited magazine was initially devoted primarily to bluegrass music in the USA and abroad with occasional reference to old-time country music. It is now a treasure trove of information on every phase of bluegrass and old-time music – biographical articles, discographies, record and book reviews, concert and festival dates, interviews, classified ads, and songs. “Bluegrass Unlimited has always been a thorough compendium of material on bluegrass and old-time music.”
Speaking of founder Pete Kuykendall and the influence of Bluegrass Unlimited, David Freeman, owner of Rebel Records and County Records, said: “When the magazine started publishing, bluegrass was pretty much at a low point. The magazine spread the word and highlighted the artistic aspect of the music, which helped to bring it out of the bars where it was in the 1950s. Without him I don’t know where the bluegrass industry would be today.”
The 1996 International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame citation inducting Pete Kuykendall says that Bluegrass Unlimited magazine is “a publication affectionately referred to as the ‘bible of bluegrass music’”.
Legendary banjo player Kyle Creed came from a musical family in Surry County, North Carolina. He began creating banjos at the age of 16 and soon had a list of orders for his custom designs from throughout the United States, Canada, England, Australia and Japan. Kyle was an innovator in banjo building. His innovative ideas, experiments, and playing skills have impacted the old-time banjo builders and players throughout the world. All the banjos Kyle built, around 200, are highly sought after by players and collectors today because of their uniqueness, sound and playability. A fretless banjo that Kyle built especially for Fred Cockerham was donated to the Smithsonian Institution in June 1988.
He has been referred to as “A Legendary Banjo Player”. Kyle Creed (1912-1982) lived at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Surry County, North Carolina. Coming from a musical family and being surrounded by old time music, he was just as adept at playing the fiddle as the banjo.
As a young man, Kyle married Percy Hicks (1912-1999) and had two daughters. He was skilled at saw mill operations, carpentry, and stone masonry. At times he found it necessary to relocate his family to different parts of the country in order to follow his occupation.Kyle and Percy moved to Galax, Virginia area in Carroll County in 1960 where they bought a country store. Moving back near his musical roots of North Carolina, he reunited with his “old music buddies” from the 30s and 40s. Together with Paul Sutphin, Earnest East, Fred Cockerham, Verlin Clifton and Ronald Collins, Kyle formed the “Camp Creek Boys” old time music band and began making numerous recordings.
At age 16 Kyle crafted his first banjo using tools and material available to him at the time. Repairing musical instruments and building personal banjos was the beginning of a new career. Soon he had a list of orders for his custom made banjos to be shipped throughout the United States, Canada, England, Australia and Japan.
Kyle Creed was an innovator in banjo building, as well as a talented banjo and fiddle player. He excelled in his trade as a carpenter which aided his craftsmanship abilities. With his excellent banjo playing in the clawhammer and the older two-finger picking styles he knew the qualities that were most desirable in an old-time banjo. While growing up he had noticed that the fretless banjo played by the older musicians in the area had the bridge located toward the center of the banjo head. Thus, he came up with a formula to shorten the scale length of the banjo and bring the bridge toward the center of the head. Today the shorter scale length is considered very desirable by most open back banjo players and is used by open back banjo builders around the world. He also retro-fitted tenor banjo rims with his 5-string necks, built a few resonator banjos, came up with his own tone rings from brass and bronze and a few of his own peg head designs. He liked to experiment and built some banjos with 11 and 12 inch heads. He designed his own two sided finger pick that slips over the first finger to enable him to pick upwards or down. The pick was cut from the brass of a model T Ford headlight reflector in the shape of a “T” and then shaped to fit over and around the finger.
Being a saw miller, Kyle knew about the particular characteristics of different types of wood. He used local wood in his banjo building process; maple, curly maple, apple, wild cherry, black walnut and dogwood. Sometimes he used table top formica on the fingerboard and pegheads. Using the formica on the fretted banjo fingerboard was time consuming and tedious fitting between the frets and was much easier on the fretless since the fingerboard was cut in one piece. The fretless banjo players like the formica fingerboard because it enables them to slide their fingers to note. A fretless banjo built by Kyle especially for Fred Cockerham was donated to the Smithsonian Institution. Fred’s family made the presentation in June 1988.
Kyle’s innovative ideas, experiments and playing skills have impacted the old-time banjo builders and players throughout the world. All the banjos Kyle built, just under 200, are highly sought after by players and collectors today because of their uniqueness, sound and playability.
Part of the dynamic duo of Flatt and Scruggs, Lester Flatt helped to define the sound of traditional bluegrass music. Besides being well known for his singing and guitar playing abilities with such highly acclaimed groups as the Kentucky Pardners, Blue Grass Boys, Flatt and Scruggs’ Foggy Mountain Boys and the Nashville Grass, Lester Flatt is also remembered for his library of compositions. The Flatt songbook looms titanic for any student of American acoustic music. Some of the songs Flatt wrote through the years were “My Cabin in Caroline,” “Come Back Darling,” “I’ll Never Shed Another Tear,” “Down the Road,” “Head Over Heels in Love with You”, and many others.
Lester Flatt was born in Tennessee in 1914 and learned to play banjo from his father at an early age. He didn't particularly like the banjo, so he quit that to pick up guitar before he was seven. By ten years old, Flatt was playing guitar and singing in local schools and churches.
As a teenager, he moved to North Carolina to work in a silk mill. While there, he married his wife, Gladys, with whom he began performing as a duo. When the mill shut down, the Flatts returned to Tennessee for a short time before moving to Virginia. As the result of a bout with rheumatoid arthritis, Flatt quit the mill permanently to focus on a career in music.
He played with a handful of groups before being invited by Charlie Monroe to join the Kentucky Pardners in North Carolina. Charlie had Flatt playing mandolin and singing tenor, niether of which pleased Flatt too much. Upon finally leaving the Kentucky Pardners, Charlie's brother Bill Monroe immediately invited Flatt to join his Blue Grass Boys as a guitar player and lead singer. His first gig with the band was in 1945 at the Grand Ole Opry, with no prior rehearsal.
Soon after, banjo player Earl Scruggs joined the Boys, as well, and the group surged to popularity, holding down a rigorous tour schedule for nearly three years. Tired of the road, Scruggs left the band in 1948, followed soon after by Flatt and Cedric Rainwater.
Together, the three formed Flatt & Scruggs' Foggy Mountain Boys, who became one of the most influential bands in the genre. Flatt and Scruggs continued to perform together until 1969, when they went their separate ways. Lester formed the Nashville Grass, hiring most of the Foggy Mountain Boys, with whom he played for ten years before his death on May 11, 1979.
His role as lead singer and rhythm guitar player in each of these seminal ensembles helped define the sound of traditional bluegrass music. He is also remembered for his library of compositions. The Flatt songbook looms titanic for any student of American acoustic music.
Norman Blake was born in Tennessee and raised in Georgia. At the age of 16, he began to play mandolin in a band and music has been the focus of his life ever since. Playing multiple instruments including the guitar, dobro, fiddle and mandolin, Norman Blake has toured with June Carter’s road group, Johnny Cash’s band, Kris Kristofferson’s road group, Joan Baez, and John Hartford’s Aeroplane Band. He has recorded with Bob Dylan on “The Nashville Skyline” album and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s “Will the Circle be Unbroken” album. Norman and his wife, Nancy, have been nominated for two grammys in the “Best Traditional Folk Recording of the Year” category in 1989 and 1992.
Norman Blake, born March 10, 1938 in Chattanooga, TN, grew up in Sulphur Springs and Rising Fawn, GA. He quit school at the age of 16 to play mandolin in a band, and music has been the focus of his life ever since.
His first band, The Dixie Drifters, played the Tennessee Barndance on KNOX Radio in Knoxville, TN. Later, they went to WDOD Radio, and from there to WROM-TV in Rome, GA where they stayed until 1956. Norman then worked with banjoist Bob Johnson as The Lonesome Travelers. They joined with Walter Forbes in making two records for RCA. In 1959, Norman left those groups to go with Hylo Brown and the Timberliners, although he continued as a duet with Bob Johnson in making several guest appearances on WSM's Grand Ole Opry.
At that time, Norman was drafted and stationed in the Panama Canal as a radio operator. There he formed the Fort Kobbe Mountaineers, a bluegrass band in which Norman played the fiddle and mandolin. They were voted Best Instrumental Group of the Caribbean Command, with Norman voted Best Instrumentalist.
Upon returning to the United States, Norman taught guitar to as many as 150 students weekly, and played the fiddle in a country and western dance band three and four nights a week. He also made frequent trips to Nashville to play sessions and, for a time, played as a member of June Carter's road group.
In 1969, Norman moved to Nashville to do the Johnny Cash Summer TV show, in which he played the guitar and dobro as a member of Cash's group. Along with country and western sessions, Norman recorded with Bob Dylan on The Nashville Skyline album. He was a member of Kris Kristofferson's first road group, playing guitar and dobro, and did a seasonal tour with Joan Baez, playing mandolin, guitar, and dobro; Norman recorded with both groups. He left Kristofferson to join and record with John Hartford's Aeroplane Band. After that band dissolved, Norman toured with John Hartford as his accompanist for 1 1/2 years, during which time he recorded his first solo album, Home in Sulphur Springs. He also received a gold record for his participation on the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's legendary, Will the Circle be Unbroken album. After a nine-month tour with the Red, White and Blue(grass), he left to go back on his own where he has been ever since.
In the ensuing years, Norman and his wife Nancy Blake have toured extensively, playing to larger and more dedicated audiences. Again, Frets Magazine Readers Poll Awards voted Norman first place, this time in the category of Best Multi-Instrumentalist of 1986. In 1989, the Blakes received Grammy nominations for "Best Traditional Folk Recording of the Year" on their duet record, Blind Dog, and again in 1992 in the same category for their Shanachie debut Just Gimme Something I'm Used To.
A San Francisco Examiner music critic wrote, "What Blake does is important, of course - but the glory of his string sounds, the Tennessee-Georgia twangy drawl of his vocals and the awesome blend of the Blakes' instruments produces an American music of incomparable purity and integrity."