MOUNTAIN GROWN MUSIC • CELEBRATING THE TRADITIONAL MOUNTAIN MUSIC OF HAYWOOD COUNTY NORTH CAROLINA

Mountain Grown Music - traditional mountain music of Haywood County North Carolina
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Johnny Wiggins

At the age of 10, Johnny Wiggins picked up a guitar that his parents had intended to give to his older brother. It was only a matter of time before the world heard what Wiggins could do with a six-string. Born on Nov. 10, 1936, in Robbinsville, N.C., he grew up in the Mills River community of Hendersonville County with eight brothers and sisters.

Wiggins first performed on the radio in 1952 at age 16 and signed onto the Dollie record label in 1959, then the Mel Tillis label in 1960. He was featured as “The Singing Bus Driver” with Ernest Tubb’s band.

Wiggins travelled throughout California, Michigan, and North Carolina before trying his fate in Nashville, Tenn. While performing around the country, he worked as an auto mechanic during the day. He cut short his musical career to spend more time with his family but continued to play music and in 1982 helped found the Stompin’ Grounds in Maggie Valley, a popular music and dance venue in Western North Carolina.

Wiggins died on Jan. 30, 1993 in a traffic accident on I-40. His children, John and Audrey, have recorded a few albums while living in Nashville.

 

 

 

Wiggins - Carrying on the dream
By TODD CALLAWAY


Growing up in a house of music led John and Audrey Wiggins to Nashville to follow a dream their father, Johnny, left there in 1965.

Johnny Wiggins spent 29 years of his life chasing a career in country music. He caught up with his dream in 1962, when Ernest Tubb discovered him behind the wheel of his tour bus.

Wiggins followed his star to Nashville in the early 1960s. Tubb hired Wiggins as a bus driver, but he so impressed his new boss with his singing that Tubb soon brought him on stage as part of the show.

In 1963, Wiggins' chance to grab stardom arrived as he became "The Singing Bus Driver," for Tubb's band. For two years Wiggins' life revolved around music, but his family obligations eventually won out over his career and he left Nashville for home.

Johnny laid his dreams to rest, but he never stopped loving music.

And he passed that love on to Audrey and John, who began singing as soon as they could talk, they said.

"I think my father lived his dream through us," Audrey said recently. "Our daddy is as much a part of our dream as we are."

At an early age, Audrey said her father began grooming her and her brother for a career in music.

"He taught us about persistence," she remembered. "He showed us that we had the talent and he believed in us." It didn't hurt that Wiggins had connections in Nashville either, she said.

When John was four, Tubb brought him on stage with the Texas Troubadours to sing "Honky Tonk Man." Also thanks to Tubb, Audrey took her first bow on the Grand Ole Opry stage for "Lovesick Blues" at age 12.

For most of their teen-age years, the pair was featured in the house band at the Stompin' Ground in Maggie Valley, along with their daddy.

Wiggins belief in his family paid off in 1994 when John and Audrey released their self-titled debut album on Mercury Records.

Sadly, Johnny was killed in a highway accident during the recording of John and Audrey Wiggins, but they found a way to make a part of his dream come true.

"I was poking around in a record store here in town (Nashville)," John remembers. "And I always look in the Ernest Tubb section to see if they have anything with daddy on it. He's on a couple of those albums. I couldn't believe it—they had one in mint condition, and I nabbed it. Then after we cut "The Dream," which is like our story almost word-for-word, we decided to use that on the album.

"So we've got Ernest Tubb introducing daddy, and then a verse of him singing. Having that on there means so much to us, because he would have been so happy with all this," John said.

In their hometown of Waynesville, music has always been a part of everyday life—as deeply ingrained as traditions like Sunday church service, honest work or helping a neighbor.

"All his life he did everything he could to help us realize our dreams. I guess whatever we have to offer comes from that, really. It's the real deal for us. It's a dream that started before we were ever born," John said.

See also: Legends - Wiggins - The drive behind the dreams
by Todd Callaway

"We grew up in a house of music. If daddy wasn't taking us somewhere to hear music, we'd be in the living room with somebody playing the piano, daddy on the guitar and somebody playing the spoons."
—Audrey Wiggins, Johnny's daughter.

"He was a great entertainer. Not only did he sing and play guitar, but he told funny stories and great jokes. He was a great performer."
—John Wiggins, Johnny's son.

"Johnny Wiggins spent 30 to 35 percent of his life helping other people. He was the best hearted man in the world. ... Haywood County lost something when it lost Johnny Wiggins. He was a great guitarist and singer."
Raymond Fairchild, banjo player.

"When he went on stage, he was organized. He knew who was going to do the breaks and what song was next. Johnny was a real professional. ... I just know when we lost Johnny, we lost a good one."
Roy French Kirkpatrick, banjo player.

"Me and Johnny were like brothers. He was an entertainers' entertainer. ... He was always considered by the big country music stars as being a super star even though he never had a hit record."
—Kyle Edwards, owner of the Stompin' Grounds.

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