Music of North Carolina

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North Carolina is known particularly for its tradition of old-time music, and many recordings were made in the early 20th century by folk song collector Bascom Lamar Lunsford. Most influentially, North Carolina country musicians like the North Carolina Ramblers and Al Hopkins helped solidify the sound of country music in the late 1920s, while influential bluegrass musicians such as Earl Scruggs, Doc Watson and Del McCoury came from North Carolina. Arthur Smith is the most notable North Carolina musician/entertainer who had the first nationally syndicated television program which featured country music. Smith composed "Guitar Boogie", the all time best selling guitar instrumental, and "Dueling Banjos", the all time best selling banjo composition. Country rock star Eric Church from the Hickory area has had 2 #1 albums on the Billboard 200, including Chief in 2011. Both North and South Carolina are a hotbed for traditional country blues, especially the style known as the Piedmont blues. Elizabeth Cotten, from Chapel Hill, was active in the American folk music revival.

As a college region, the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area (collectively known as the Triangle) has long been a well-known center for indie rock, metal, punk and hip-hop. Bands from this popular music scene include The Avett Brothers, Flat Duo Jets, Corrosion of Conformity, Superchunk, Archers of Loaf, The Rosebuds, The Love Language, Tift Merritt, Ben Folds Five, Squirrel Nut Zippers, The Butchies, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Lords of the Underground, The Apple Juice Kid, Between the Buried and Me, Foreign Exchange, The Justus League, Spider Bags, and Little Brother.

Early Black string band music

Slave musicians in North Carolina and throughout the country were often responsible for providing the dance music for both white and African American social gatherings. If a slave was trained as a musician, their value as property went up for their masters. String bands were formed to accompany the social dancing. After slaves were given their freedom, small communities of blacks began to form in the North Carolina Piedmont region. One of these communities outside of Statesville, North Carolina had enough of a fiddler population to support a fiddler’s convention. Joe Thompson, an African American fiddler who died in 2012,[1] is from the Cedar Grove community in North Carolina. The banjo was another popular instrument for African Americans to play in a string band. The banjo is an instrument adapted from its African relative the akonting, and younger black musicians often learned to play from older community members. One black musician, Joe Fulp, from the Walnut Cove community used the banjo to help pass the time while waiting for tobacco to cure. String Bands of the North Carolina Piedmont region had their own sound consisting of long bow fiddle playing, flowing banjo lines, and a prominent bass line provided by the guitar, an instrument added to the ensemble in the early 20th century. The style of Piedmont string bands was influenced by the dance tune melodies of Europe and the rhythmic complexity of African banjo playing.[2]

Gospel Music

North Carolina is also considered[by whom?] a cradle of Gospel music. The Moravians who established the town of Winston-Salem had published Europe's first hymnal in the 15th century, and had brought from the Czech Republic and Saxony many instruments including skills to build pipe organs. Music was an integral part of community life. Everyone participated in brass bands and knew the songs which told of births, deaths and other events. The Moravian Music Foundation in Old Salem contains the archive of these materials.

In the days of slavery, spirituals played a huge role in the lives of the slaves of North Carolina elite, and after emancipation, this stayed true. During the 1940s and 50s, North Carolina was a favorite place to visit of Gospel singers for many reasons, among which was North Carolina's less rigorous Jim Crow laws. North Carolina is also home to many famous Gospel singers, the most famous being Shirley Caesar, known as the "First Lady Of Gospel". Caesar got her start when the group The Caravans came through Wilson, North Carolina in 1958. North Carolina is also famous for its abundance of family Gospel groups which thrive all throughout the state. Award-winning vocal group The Kingsmen originate in Asheville.

Piedmont blues

The Piedmont blues is a type of blues music characterized by a unique finger-picking method on the guitar in which a regular, alternating-thumb bass pattern supports a melody using treble strings. Blind Boy Fuller (b. Fulton Allen, Wadesboro, NC, July 10, 1907) was a popular Piedmont blues guitarist, who played for tips outside tobacco warehouses in Durham during the 1930s. Fuller recorded more than 120 sides during the second half of the 1930s. Floyd Council (b. Chapel Hill, NC, February 9, 1911) sometimes busked with Fuller. South Carolina-born Piedmont blues musician Rev. Gary Davis also played in Durham in the 1930s when the city had a thriving black business community and an emerging black middle class. Singer and guitarist Carolina Slim (b. Edward P. Hughes, Leasburg, NC, August 22, 1923) also worked as a musician around Durham. Etta Baker, Piedmont blues singer/guitarist/banjoist, (b. Etta Reid, March 31, 1913, Caldwell County, NC) was first recorded in 1956. Singer, guitarist, and songwriter John Dee Holeman (b. Hillsborough, NC, April 4, 1929) has been based in Durham since 1954.

Jazz musicians

Several notable jazz musicians were originally from North Carolina.[3] In the case of Thelonious Monk, (b. Rocky Mount, NC, October 10, 1917) the North Carolina connection is slight, as Monk's family moved to Manhattan when Monk was four. John Coltrane (b. Hamlet, NC, September 23, 1926) spent most of his childhood in High Point, NC, before moving to Philadelphia when he was sixteen. Bebop pioneer Max Roach was born in Newland, but like Monk, moved with his family to New York City when he was four. Other jazz musicians from North Carolina include guitarist Tal Farlow (b. Greensboro, NC, 6/7/21), considered one of the top players during the 1950s. Hard-bop saxophonists Lou Donaldson (b. Badin, NC, 11/1/26) and Tina Brooks (b. Fayetteville, NC, 6/7/32) were originally North Carolinians. Hard-bop trumpeter Woody Shaw (b. Laurinburg, NC, 12/24/44), pianist Billy Taylor (b. Greenville, NC, 7/24/21), saxophonist and flautist Harold Vick (b. Rocky Mount, NC, April 3, 1936), pianist and singer dubbed the "High Priestess of Soul" Dr. Nina Simone (b. Tryon, NC, 2/21/33), alto saxophonist Tab Smith (b. Kinston, NC, 1/11/1909), bassist Percy Heath (b. Wilmington, NC, 4/30/23), and singer June Tyson (b. Albemarle, NC, 2/5/1936) were born in the state as well. South Carolinian Dizzy Gillespie grew up just over the state line and attended school at the Laurinburg Institute in North Carolina. Jazz composer and arranger Billy Strayhorn spent some of his summers in Hillsborough, NC with his grandparents.


Rock and roll guitarist, songwriter, and vocalist Link Wray, who first came to popularity in the late 1950s, was born in Dunn. The platinum-selling post-grunge band Daughtry is from a suburb of Greensboro. Daughtry has had 2 #1 albums on the Billboard 200, including Daughtry (album) in 2006.

Chapel Hill rock

James Taylor Bridge, Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill's music scene dates back to the 1950s, and really began to take off in the 60s, when the Cat's Cradle Coffeehouse nurtured local folk activity. One of the first local legends, The Corsayers (later The Fabulous Corsairs) - featuring Alex Taylor and younger brother James - could be heard around town. Later, Arrogance became a major part of the folk scene. James Taylor would go on to a very successful career as a singer-songwriter, and his "Carolina in My Mind" would become an unofficial anthem for the state.[4][5][6] His song "You've Got a Friend" was a #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1971. The Chapel Hill Museum opened a permanent exhibit dedicated to Taylor; at the same occasion the US-15-501 highway bridge over Morgan Creek, near the site of the Taylor family home and mentioned in Taylor's song "Copperline", was dedicated to Taylor.[7] The Chapel Hill music scene began to pick up steam in the 1980s when bands like The Pressure Boys, The Connells, Flat Duo Jets, Southern Culture on the Skids, A Number of Things, Fetchin Bones, and Snatches of Pink began releasing their own records or signing to independent record labels.

In the late '80s through the mid-'90s and 2000's, the Chapel Hill scene reached its peak as bands such as Superchunk, Polvo, Archers of Loaf, Alternative States, Small, Zen Frisbee, Dillon Fence, Sex Police, Pipe, The Veldt, Metal Flake Mother were signed to local and national labels.

In the late '90s, gold record and platinum success came to Chapel Hill bands Squirrel Nut Zippers and the piano pop trio Ben Folds Five.

Punk rock and metal

Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill was a regional center for punk rock in the late 70s, due to its large number of college students. The first wave of bands were more power-pop than punk, and included Peter Holsapple & the H-Bombs, Sneakers, and Chris Stamey and the dBs. The punks arrived shortly after with 'th Cigaretz,[8] The Dads, the Bad Checks, the Fabulous Knobs, Butchwax, The X-Teens, Human Furniture, and the Junkie Sluts. Later hardcore punk bands included Corrosion of Conformity, No Labels, Colcor, UNICEF, Stillborn Christians,[9] DAMM, Bloodmobile, Subculture, Ugly Americans, 30 Foot Beast, Mission DC, the Celibate Commandos, Rights Reserved, DLW, Creeping Flesh, Time Bomb, Stations of the Cross, A Number of Things, and Oral Fixation.[10]

Some other notable Heavy Metal acts to come from North Carolina are Alesana, Weedeater, Buzzoven, Suppressive Fire,[11] Against Their Will, Daylight Dies, ASG, Between the Buried and Me, Lorelei, Labyrinthe, Wretched, Invoker, and Confessor.

At the same time, Charlotte had its own punk rock scene, with bands like Antiseen, Judas Bullethead, Social Savagery, and Influential Habits.

Christian pop punk band Philmont also originate from Charlotte.

R&B, funk, and hip hop

Soul singer Ruby Johnson was born in Elizabeth City. Funk singer Betty Davis was born in Durham. Singer/guitarist Chuck Brown was born in Gaston. Funkadelic guitarist Tawl Ross was born in Wagram. Saxophonist Maceo Parker and his brother drummer Melvin Parker, best known for their work with James Brown, were born in Kinston. L.T.D. formed in Greensboro.

The Triangle metropolitan area also boasts a long-standing and diverse hip-hop scene. During hip-hop's golden era in the mid-90s, the Lords of the Underground (who met while attending Shaw University), Omniscence, and Yaggfu Front were acclaimed. In 1998, Little Brother, composed of Rapper Big Pooh, Phonte, and 9th Wonder, met while attending North Carolina Central University. The successful alternative hip hop group also co-founded the Justus League collective, which features other important North Carolina emcees, including L.E.G.A.C.Y., The Away Team, Darien Brockington, Edgar Allen Floe, Chaundon, and Cesar Comanche.[12]

Other major-label rappers and producers from North Carolina include J. Cole, from Fayetteville. J. Cole has had 3 #1 albums on the Billboard 200 including his debut Cole World: The Sideline Story.; The Apple Juice Kid, Kaze, Ski, Travis Cherry, Wan Gray, from Raleigh; and Petey Pablo, from Greenville. Well-known underground acts include Troop 41. Driicky Graham is from Oxford.

Charlotte also has some notable rappers, including Bettie Grind, Mr. 704, and Ruga. Charlotte's K-Ci & JoJo (of Jodeci) had 2 #1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, including the R&B song "All My Life" in 1998. Also from Charlotte is R&B singer Anthony Hamilton.

American Idol winner Fantasia, from High Point, had a #1 Billboard Hot 100 hit with the soul song "I Believe" in 2004.

Youth orchestras

The Piedmont Youth Orchestra of Chapel Hill includes three ensembles. The Piedmont Junior Orchestra is for students in elementary and middle schools. The Piedmont Chamber Ensemble is limited to students who are in middle and high school and pass an audition. Finally, the Piedmont Wind Ensemble is for woodwind and brass students in middle school and high school.[13]

The Western Piedmont Youth Symphony is a large youth orchestra associated with the Western Piedmont Symphony in Hickory.[14] Students are auditioned and range in age from middle school through college.

See also


  1. "Joe Thompson Dies at 93". New York Times. Retrieved 29 December 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Carlin, Bob (2004). Sting Bands in the North Carolina Piedmont. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. North Carolina Jazz Musicians
  4. [ id=XuYGAAAAIBAJ&sjid=6TsDAAAAIBAJ&pg=3430,2859475&dq=carolina-in-my-mind+anthem "Hey, James Taylor – You've got a ... bridge?"] Check |url= value (help). Rome News-Tribune. May 21, 2002. Retrieved June 28, 2009. line feed character in |url= at position 36 (help); Missing pipe in: |url= (help); Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[dead link]
  5. Hoppenjans, Lisa (October 2, 2006). "You must forgive him if he's ..." The News & Observer. Retrieved June 28, 2009. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[dead link]
  6. Waggoner, Martha (October 17, 2008). "James Taylor to play 5 free NC concerts for Obama". USA Today. Associated Press. Retrieved June 28, 2009. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "Carolina in My Mind: The James Taylor Story". The Chapel Hill Museum. Retrieved June 28, 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Candid Slice, April 2015 - Chords And Riots: Raleigh’s Legendary Punkers Th’ Cigaretz
  9. How North Carolina Got its Punk Attitude, March 1998
  10. Blush, Steven (2001). American Hardcore: A Tribal History. Feral House. ISBN 0-922915-71-7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Suppressive Fire Official Site
  12. Cordor, Cyril "Hall of Justus Biography", AllMusic
  13. Piedmont Youth Orchestra
  14. Youth orchestra. WPS.

External links