• 45°

When Seeger came South

It’s difficult, well nigh impossible, to imagine Pete Seeger without a folk song on his lips and a banjo on his hip. For the latter, North Carolina can claim some credit as well as a direct cultural connection to Seeger’s captivating musicality.
The legendary folk musician and activist who died Monday at age 94 was born in New York, far from the isolated hills and hollows of Appalachia. But as a teenager, he traveled South with his musician parents who were interested in the haunting strains of “mountain music.” Although the young Seeger was already developing his musical interests, his instrument of choice at that time was a ukulele. According to family biographical accounts, it was during the 1936 trip South that Seeger first heard the five-string banjo at a folk festival near Asheville.
The banjo pickers included “Aunt” Samantha Bumgarner of Dillsboro, an acclaimed country and folk music performer believed to have been the first musician to use a five-string banjo on an early recording for Columbia Records. The festival had been organized by another banjo player and student of folk music, Mars Hill native Bascom Lamar Lunsford. The young Seeger was profoundly moved by this musical encounter — so much so, the story goes, that he forthwith took up the five-string banjo, availed himself of some basic instructions from Lunsford and spent the next several years mastering the instrument’s intricacies.
One can endlessly speculate as to how that trip South and the stopover at a festival in North Carolina helped shape the musical destiny of the composer and singer of such ballads as “If I Had a Hammer” and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” Music was part of Seeger’s DNA, as was the social activism whose causes ranged from support for rank-and- file workers to protests again war and environmental degradation. But that trip South was, without a doubt, a turning point at which he fell in love with authentic folk music and the traveling troubadour tradition. This was the place where his great empathy for the humble, common folk found its serendipitous marriage with the plaintive melodies of those mountain musicians.
Seeger was born and lived his life elsewhere. But it’s no exaggeration to say that in the picking and fiddling traditions he encountered in the North Carolina mountains, he found his musical home.

Comments

Comments closed.

Elections

Political Notebook: Tillis, Cunningham differ on when to fill SCOTUS vacancy

Local

Local state trooper, firefighter returns home after Army deployment

Local

Blast from the past: Concordia Lutheran Church opens time capsule from previous century

Crime

Blotter: Salisbury man charged with damaging video camera, tresspassing

Crime

North Carolina man faces over 300 sex-related charges

News

Coastal flooding along Outer Banks closes roads

Nation/World

GOP hopeful Supreme Court battle will help shift election

Education

‘Better chance of succeeding’: Moody, colleagues reflect on tenure, retirement

News

Collecting garbage: Locals work to beautify High Rock Lake during Clean Sweep

Coronavirus

Salisbury man grateful parents’ story has impacted many

News

Celtics take big lead and hold on to top Heat 117-106

Business

Downtown Salisbury ‘moving swiftly’ with developers interested in Empire Hotel

Business

From fantasy to fact, Cherry builds a Hobbit House at his Treesort

Business

Biz Roundup: CSP seeking to hire 100 new employees for plant expansion

Coronavirus

Police, sheriff focus on education in addressing mask-wearing complaints

Education

Candidates for East Area school board seat have widely different views on renewal

Kannapolis

Cannon Mills’ whistle sounds again, brings nostalgia with it

Coronavirus

UPDATED: Outbreak at jail annex over; new cases emerge at Kannapolis facility

Elections

In Senate race, Tillis calibrates ties to Trump

News

5 Charlotte officers recommended for dismissal after death in custody

Elections

Trump, Biden hit unlikely battleground state of Minnesota

College

Maui Invitational moving to Asheville during pandemic

News

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

Crime

Blotter: Sept. 19