Smithsonian Folkways is the non-profit record label of the United States. Its mission is to document and celebrate traditional culture throughout the world. It began as Folkways Records in 1948 and was founded by Moses Asch and Marian Distler. The Asch estate sold the label to the Smithsonian Institution in 1987, negotiated by Ralph Rinzler, an important documenter of Appalachian music. It was re-born again the following year as Smithsonian Folkways to carry on the Asch legacy. One of the key missions of the label continues to be to provide deep information about the artists and region in the liner notes. Smithsonian Folkways has had a long history of releasing titles of Appalachian music beginning with Hobart Smith and Texas Gladden during the Asch Records period. The label was the prime destination for folklorists looking to publish their recordings from the region. During the era of the great folk song revival musician/folklorists like Mike Seeger, John Cohen, Sandy Paton and Ralph Rinzler brought their work to the public through Folkways. They published extensive liner notes discussing the history of the songs and music. Others Asch published were Hazel and Alice and the Country Gentlemen. The music of the Appalachian Region has always been a central part of what Smithsonian Folkways does. As it moves on into time, projects by Anna and Elizabeth, Rhiannon Giddens and Dom Flemons, formerly of the Carolina Chocolate Drops will continue the legacy.
Bill moved to Wilkes County from Florida in 1976, and he immersed himself in the mountain music of the region. Bill’s music endeavors started when his wife bought him an old guitar shortly after they were married in 1983. He learned to play rhythm guitar and met guitarist Steve Kilby at American Drew where they both worked. Bill had been playing the “doghouse” bass some too. His first on-stage gig was playing bass with Ramona Church and her band at Fiddlers Grove in Union Grove, NC. Bill continued his association with Steve Kilby and did his first studio recording with Steve at Heritage Records in Galax, VA. The name of this recording was “Sunday Night” and all the songs were originals written by Steve. Bill was a founding member of Steve Kilby’s “Sunday Night Band” along with John Akin and Tim Lewis. He stayed with this band, later renamed “Kingsberry Run”, for about five years. While with Steve’s band he won numerous ribbons and trophies at fiddlers’ conventions throughout North Carolina and Virginia.
Around 1994, Bill met Drake Walsh and Floyd Williams. They had a band called “Southland’ and Floyd asked Bill if he would be interested in playing bass with them because their bass player, Marshal Craven was leaving the band. He stayed with this band until 2003. In 2001 Bill and Drake were approached by Jerry Lankford, editor of The Record newspaper, and asked if they would be interested in playing with a band that was being formed to play live music for a play written by Karen Wheeling Reynolds called “Tom Dooley, A Wilkes County Legend”. The play was being put on annually by the Wilkes Playmakers at Benton Hall in North Wilkesboro. Bill agreed to join the band which also included Jerry Lankford, Drake Walsh, Herb Key and Nicole Vidrine. A name was needed for the band so Her Key came up with the name “Elkville String Band” due to the fact that Tom “Dooley” Dula was born in Elkville, a small town in Wilkes County, now called Ferguson. The band played for four seasons of the Tom Dooley play and the group recorded four CDs of the music for the play. After Jerry Lankford and Nicole Vidrine could no longer play with the band, Jeff Michael stepped in and played with the band for several years. At that time “The Elkville String Band” was made up of Herb Key, Drake Walsh, Jeff Michael and Bill Williams. After Drake passed away in 2010, Jim Lloyd started playing banjo and Trevor McKenzie started playing fiddle in the band.
Bill has also played and recorded with “The Lloyd Church Band” and several other groups from this area. He is still a member of “The Elkville String Band” along with Herb Key, Jim Lloyd and Trevor McKenzie but is currently not active with the band right now due to his wife having a stroke. He is her primary caregiver but hopes to be able to play music again in the near future.
Patsy Cline was born Virginia Patterson Hensley on September 8, 1932, in Winchester, Virginia and at a young age began traveling around locally singing to help support her family. A member of a band she was in suggested that she change her name so she decided to use her middle name, becoming known as Patsy Cline. Patsy's young career hit a turning point in 1957 when she landed a spot on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts show. Patsy moved to Nashville to properly pursue her career in 1959. In the early 1960s, Patsy enjoyed great success on the country and pop charts. She made a way for herself in a predominately male world, and in doing so, paved the way for many of the female artists that followed her. She is considered one of country music's greatest vocalists and after her death in 1963 has received too numerous awards to be listed. Her Greatest Hits album sold over 10 million copies worldwide and spent more than 700 weeks on the Billboard charts.
Kenny Baker was born into a long line of old-time fiddlers on July 26, 1926 in Letcher County, Kentucky. He began playing the fiddle around age seven. During WWII he joined the United States Navy, returning home to Jenkins, Kentucky to work in the mines after his naval stint. During this time he was married and raised a family while playing music on weekends. He became Don Gibson's fiddler in 1953 and a Bluegrass Boy for the first time in 1957. In December of that year he made his first recordings with Bill Monroe's band. Later he returned to Monroe's band but left again in 1984 becoming the longest-tenured Bluegrass Boy. He recorded numerous albums during his lifetime and with his “long-bow” style, became a positive influence for younger fiddlers who wanted to follow in his footsteps. Kenny Baker ended his performing career in August 2008 and passed away on July 8, 2011 following a stroke.
John Carson was born near Fannin County, Georgia in 1868. He learned to play the fiddle at a young age and began performing in the streets for tips. In 1914, while working in a textile mill, workers of the mill went on strike. During the strike he began playing and selling songs in the streets of North Atlanta. On April 1, 1913, Carson performed at the first annual "Georgia Old-Time Fiddlers' Convention" coming in fourth. Over the years he was considered “Champion Fiddler of George” seven times and acquired the “Fiddlin’” part of his name by the governor of Tennessee. In September 1922, Carson made his radio debut at the Atlanta Journal radio station WSB and in June 1923, Carson made his recording debut in an empty building on Nassau Street in Atlanta. He cut two sides to the record, "The Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane" and "The Old Hen Cackled and the Rooster's Going To Crow." This record is considered to be the first country song recorded with vocals and lyrics. Carson recorded almost 150 songs between 1923 and 1931. He wrote more than 150 songs in his life, but only nine were ever copyrighted.