Music of North Carolina

Music of North Carolina
Music of the United States
AK - AL - AR - AS - AZ - CA - CO - CT - DC - DE - FL - GA - GU - HI - IA - ID - IL - IN - KS - KY - LA - MA - MD - ME - MI - MN - MO - MP - MS - MT - NC - ND - NE - NH - NM - NV - NJ - NY - OH - OK - OR - PA - PR - RI - SC - SD - TN - TX - UT - VA - VI - VT - WA - WI - WV - WY
Asheville Symphony Orchestra
North Carolina Symphony
Western Piedmont Symphony
North Carolina Mountain Acoustic Music Association
Cat's Cradle Coffeehouse
The Orange Peel
State song "The Old North State"
Topics Music of Chapel Hill - Piedmont blues - Beach music

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 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. Both North and South Carolina are a hotbed for traditional rural blues, especially the style known as the Piedmont blues.

As a college region, the Raleigh-Durham area (collectively known as the Triangle) has long been a well-known center for rock, metal, punk and hip-hop. Bands from this popular music scene include Flat Duo Jets, Corrosion of Conformity, Superchunk, Archers of Loaf, The Rosebuds, Love Language, Tift Merritt, Ben Folds Five, Squirrel Nut Zippers, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Lords of the Underground, Foreign Exchange, The Justus League 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 still active today, 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.[1]

Gospel Music

North Carolina is also considered[by whom?] a cradle of Gospel music. 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, North Carolina.

Piedmont blues

The Piedmont blues is a type of blues music characterized by a unique fingerpicking 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, 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. 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.

North Carolina Jazz Musicians

Several notable jazz musicians were originally from North Carolina.[2] 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, North Carolina, 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), pianist and singer dubbed the "High Priestess of Soul" Dr.Nina Simone (b.Tryon, NC, 2/21/33) and bassist Percy Heath (b. Wilmington, NC, 4/30/23) 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.

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.[3][4][5] 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.[6]

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 and Snatches of Pink began releasing their own records or signing to independent record labels. In the late 80's, thru the mid 90's the Chapel Hill scene reached its peak as bands such as Superchunk, Polvo, Archers of Loaf, Small, Zen Frisbee, Dillon Fence, Sex Police, Pipe, The Veldt, Metal Flake Mother and many other bands were signed to local and national labels. The Young Rock wave of music was filling the college radio airwaves.

In the late 90's, gold record and platinum success came to several 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, The Dads, 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,[7] DAMM, Bloodmobile, Subculture, 30 Foot Beast, Mission DC, the Celibate Commandos, Rights Reserved, Creeping Flesh, Time Bomb, Stations of the Cross, A Number of Things, and Oral Fixation.[8] Some other notable Heavy Metal acts to come from North Carolina are Weedeater (band), Buzzoven, Daylight Dies, Between the Buried and Me, and Confessor.

At the same time, Charlotte had its own punk rock scene, with bands like antiseen, Social Savagery, and Influential Habits from Charlotte, and bands from the local area, such as NRG from Hickory, and Bloodmobile from Statesville, to name a few. The Milestone was the main club for a good period of time, until a boycott began against the club, and its owner.[citation needed] During this time, shows moved around the Charlotte region, at times at the Yellow Rose, a club off South Boulevard. Christian-based pop punk band Philmont also originate from Charlotte.

Hip-hop in North Carolina

The Triangle metropolitan area also boasts a long-standing and diverse hip-hop scene. During hip-hop's golden era in the mid-90s, both the Lords of the Underground, who met while attending Shaw University, 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.[9]

Other major-label rappers and producers from North Carolina include J. Cole, Kaze, Ski, Travis Cherry, Battman D.E. GannaBanna, Ricki Kuervo, and Petey Pablo. Well-known underground acts include Troop 41, S. Gold, King Myers, Lazurus, Trife Deuce, Bryce Snow, Kooley High, Thee Tom Hardy, The Beast, Harvey Blount, and The Nobodies.

See also

  • Appalachian music


  1. ^ Carlin, Bob (2004). Sting Bands in the North Carolina Piedmont. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc.. 
  2. ^ North Carolina Jazz Musicians
  3. ^ "Hey, James Taylor – You've got a ... bridge?". Rome News-Tribune. May 21, 2002.,2859475&dq=carolina-in-my-mind+anthem. Retrieved June 28, 2009. [dead link]
  4. ^ Hoppenjans, Lisa (October 2, 2006). "You must forgive him if he's ...". The News & Observer. Retrieved June 28, 2009. [dead link]
  5. ^ Waggoner, Martha (October 17, 2008). "James Taylor to play 5 free NC concerts for Obama". Associated Press. USA Today. Retrieved June 28, 2009. 
  6. ^ "Carolina in My Mind: The James Taylor Story". The Chapel Hill Museum. Retrieved June 28, 2009. 
  7. ^ How North Carolina Got its Punk Attitude, March 1998
  8. ^ Blush, Steven (2001). American Hardcore: A Tribal History. Feral House. ISBN 0-92291-571-7. 
  9. ^ Cordor, Cyril "Hall of Justus Biography", Allmusic

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