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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Preserving Mountain Music
By Todd Callaway

Strains of Music has sponsored Haywood County’s finest musicians — veterans,
novices and the many performers in between — since 1961.

The Waynesville music shop sits less than a block from Main Street on Academy Street, and specializes in stringed instruments — guitarists, banjos, mandolins and dulcimers.

But it’s more than instruments that has kept the shop up and running for more than 40 years: Strains of Music offers anyone who walks in the door the chance to become a musician.

“I have no idea how many guitars we’ve sold, hundreds I guess,” said Marylene Strain, shaking her head and laughing softly, thinking about the days between now and 1961 when she and her husband, Hal, moved to
Waynesville and opened the music store. “There’s not a day that goes by when
we don’t sell at least one guitar.”

The Strains opened the store in 1961. They moved from Florence, S.C., where
Hal taught and played classical music. Hal died in 1977. Never a fan of guitars or mountain music, he played violin and trumpet and mainly big band swing or classical music, Marylene said.

She and Hal nurtured many Haywood musicians by loaning out instruments or
offering an affordable consignment plan. Though burned by some would-be
musicians, she said many people they’ve helped have returned the favors in
kind.

“We did it because they couldn’t do it otherwise,” Marylene said of the shop’s policy on lending instruments out on consignment. “We’ve lost our shirt several times, but you keep going on and doing it.”

Banjo picker Roy Kirkpatrick remembers the Strains’ kindness over the years. When just a young man, Kirkpatrick said he mentioned to Marylene he’d like to try a new type of banjo that was on the market.

“It cost $395 and I sure couldn’t afford it,” Kirkpatrick said. But Marylene ordered the banjo and told Kirkpatrick to pay it off when he could. “That’s what they’re all about — helping people,” he added.

By trusting people and lending a helping hand to struggling musicians, the Strains built a thriving music shop. Today the shop’s walls are lined with Martin, Gibson, Takamine, Washburn and Jasmon guitars. You can find electric or acoustic instruments as well as public address systems and sound equipment. You can also still find the same generous attitude toward musicians that Hal and Marylene set in motion in 1961.

It’s always been a family business with a family attitude for whatever musician instruments you’re looking for.

 

WEB RESOURCES

Blue Ridge MusicTrails
The Blue Ridge Music Trails makes it easy for the traveler to find authentic regional folk music, to meet musicians who have grown up with that music, to visit settings in which Blue Ridge folk music thrives, to see traditional dancing, and in many cases, to take part in the festivities.

Mountain Heritage Center

Fiddler's Grove
Since its inception nearly three-quarters of a century ago, this fiddling event has focused on traditional American music. This dedication has earned the event a reputation as one of the most prestigious and authentic fiddling competitions in the United States. In May, 2000, Fidder's Grove received the Local Legacy award from the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

Swannanoa Gathering
The Swannanoa Gathering is a series of summer workshops in various folkarts held on the campus of Warren Wilson College near Asheville in the heart of North Carolina's beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.

Mountain Dance and Folk Festival

Mountain Legacy: A Celebration of Southern Appalachian Dance & Music

The Old-Time Herald
The Old-Time Herald celebrates the love of old-time music -- grassroots or home-grown music and dance. Old-time music shares origins, influences and musical characteristics with roots musics across America.

 

PRINT RESOURCES

Farlow, Betsy, Dan Lane, and Duane Oliver. Haywood Homes and History. Hazelwood, NC: Betsy Farlow, 1993.

Haywood County Heritage - North Carolina, Vol. 1. Waynesville, NC: Haywood County Genealogical Society, 1994.

Jones, Loyal. Minstrel of the Appalachians. Boone, NC: Appalachian Consortium Press, 1984.

Our House to the White House. Documentary film. Dir. Lawson S. Warren and Ron Ruehl. NC Department of Cultural Resources, Raleigh, NC, 1982.

Whisnant, David E. "Finding the Way Between the Old and the New: The Mountain Dance and Folk Festival and Bascom Lamar Lunsford’s Work as a Citizen." Communities In Motion. Ed. Susan Eike Spalding and Jane Harris Woodside. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1995. 91-109.


Haywood County, North Carolina, Public Library Collection of Traditional Mountain Music:

Listen to the music!
Listen to the music (annotated list)

Traditions
By Todd Callaway

Sounds of a banjo and fiddle playing in unison echo through the history of the Appalachian mountains.

The sound can still be heard coming from the front porch of many homes in the region.

And if you listen closely, the sweet resonance of family, home and tradition mixes with the music, creating a heritage that threads its way through generations.

Traditional folk music has been a part of WNC since the first settlers arrived. Many of today's songs originated in Great Britain and Africa, brought over by settlers and slaves, then handed down through oral tradition.
"From family to family and community to community, the spirit of the native music and dances of the mountains have been kept alive,"said Jan Davidson, director of the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown.
"One of the interesting things about Western North Carolina is the number of fine musicians who have chose to stay here rather than go commercial," he said.

Many folk songs have evolved into what we hear today as a result of being preserved by ear rather than print. Lyrics have often been changed to suit the performer, but the constant has always been the music. Haywood County musicians like Carroll Best, Mack Snoderly, French Kirkpatrick, Jimmy Hanie, Johnny Wiggins and many others have kept traditional mountain music alive by passing it to the next generation just as they learned it from their families.

"It's people like French Kirkpatrick who's kept the traditional music alive in this area,"said Harper Van Hoy, owner and operator of the Fiddlers Grove traditional music festival and competition.

Until the beginning of the century, the isolation of Appalachia helped keep the secrets of mountain music within communities and families who called the area home. As the world opened to the mountains, more and more traditions changed and were lost. "You preserve this music one musician and one family at a time,"said Joe Wilson, director of the National Council for Traditional Arts in Washington, D.C. "Mountain folk music would be just as healthy if it had never been recorded. ... It would still be here no matter,"he said.

Mountain folk music has always been more a social than a stage music. When grandsons play the same songs as their grandfathers, the heart and soul of families is handed from generation to generation.

"It's the human exchange of music. That's what this is about. It's not fake; it's real," Wilson said.

Radio helped popularize country and mountain music
By Michael Beadle


Radio helped popularize country and mountain music
Radio had a huge influence on the popularity of mountain music.

Long before the age of personal computers, before there were VCRs and television sets, before homes were adorned with satellite dishes, there was radio.

In a slower time, when families had fewer options for entertainment, radio was one of the the only sources of music for millions. Radio stations playing live, old-time mountain music soared in popularity in the late '30s, the '40s and early '50s.

In that heyday, musicians sang and performed on barn dances and hayrides aired on live shows. In Western North Carolina, people turned on their radios to listen to local performers.

The radio may have been a Philco, Motorola, Zenith or a Delco. It may have come with buttons that pre-set stations.

And unlike TV, the radio could allow for more interaction. Folks could dance around it and clap at the end of a song.
Back when old-time mountain music was big—and AM stations were king—many musicians played on the side. They may have been farmers or mill workers who performed shows when they could.

The barn dances and hayrides invited radio audiences to climb aboard a wagon ride and take an imaginary journey through the country. For the popular shows on Friday and Saturday nights, folks would listen in for their favorite musicians and bands.

"It was a warm one-on-one sort of feeling," said Bill Reck, owner of Canton's WPTL for nearly 20 years.
In those days, radio created that back-porch relationship between performers and listeners, according to Reck, who has been in radio for nearly 40 years beginning in high school.

By the late '50s, radio stations were changing. They could no longer be all things to all people. The number of stations increased and more and more became specialized with formats that played limited lists.

It became more expensive to bring in musicians to do live shows and the instruments themselves became more expensive too, so it was less practical for bands to just hop in a car and ride to a radio station for a gig.

But despite these national trends, stations in Western North Carolina have maintained the local interest in mountain music. For example, WNCW in Spindale has its Coming Across the Mountain,which features old-time tunes. WPTL airs Picking in the Park,live from the Canton Recreation Park, on Friday nights between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

But stations that air the old-time mountain music these days have an interesting phenomenon to contend with, Reck explained. While folks still long for those old songs, they revert back to today's mainstream formula for popular music.


 

MOUNTAIN GROWN MUSIC
a project of the Haywood County Library System and
North Carolina ECHO: Exploring Cultural Heritage Online

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