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Tommy Jarrell (born Thomas Jefferson Jarrell, March 1, 1901 Surry County, North Carolina, died January 28, 1985) was an American fiddler, banjo player, and singer from the Mount Airy region of North Carolina's Appalachian Mountains.
Although he made his living from road construction (operating a motor grader for the North Carolina Highway Department until his retirement in 1966), Jarrell was an influential musician, eventually attracting attention from Washington D.C. when he received the National Endowment for the Arts' National Heritage Fellowship in 1982.That year's fellowships were the first bestowed by the NEA, and are considered the United States government's highest honor in the folk and traditional arts.
Jarrell's style was notable for its expressive use of syncopation and sliding ornamentation, and he was adept at singing while playing. His formidable technique and rough timbre continue to influence modern aficionados of Appalachian old-time music and in particular the Round Peak style of clawhammer banjo.
In his later years, Jarrell lived in the small unincorporated community of Toast, North Carolina. His life is documented in two films by Les Blank, listed below.
Jarrell's first fiddle, which he bought for $10, is now in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution.
He was the subject of two documentaries produced by Les Blank: Sprout Wings and Flyand My Old Fiddle: A Visit with Tommy Jarrell in the Blue Ridge. He also featured in the 2002 DVD Legends of Old Time Music.
An annual festival, established in 2002 as the Tommy Jarrell Celebration, is held in Mount Airy, North Carolina.
William Smith Monroe was an American mandolinist, singer, and songwriter, who created the style of music known as bluegrass. Because of this, he is often called the "Father of Bluegrass".
Mount Airy is a city in Surry County, North Carolina, United States. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 10,388. The town is the birthplace and hometown of actor Andy Griffith. Andy Griffith retired to Manteo, NC where he lived for the remainder of his life.
Toast is a census-designated place (CDP) in Surry County, North Carolina, United States, just west of Mount Airy, North Carolina. The population was 1,922 at the 2000 census.
Old-time music is a genre of North American folk music. It developed along with various North American folk dances, such as square dancing, clogging, and buck dancing. It is played on acoustic instruments, generally centering on a combination of fiddle and plucked string instruments, most often the guitar, banjo, and mandolin.
Mike Seeger was an American folk musician and folklorist. He was a distinctive singer and an accomplished musician who played autoharp, banjo, fiddle, dulcimer, guitar, mouth harp, mandolin, dobro, jaw harp, and pan pipes. Seeger, a half-brother of Pete Seeger, produced more than 30 documentary recordings, and performed in more than 40 other recordings. He desired to make known the caretakers of culture that inspired and taught him.
The National Heritage Fellowship is a lifetime honor presented to master folk and traditional artists by the National Endowment for the Arts. Similar to Japan's Living National Treasure award, the Fellowship is the United States' highest honor in the folk and traditional arts. It is a one-time only award and fellows must be living citizens or permanent residents of the United States. Each year, fellowships are presented to between nine and fifteen artists or groups at a ceremony in Washington, D.C.
Appalachian music is the music of the region of Appalachia in the Eastern United States. It is derived from various European and African influences, including English ballads, Irish and Scottish traditional music, hymns, and African-American blues. First recorded in the 1920s, Appalachian musicians were a key influence on the early development of Old-time music, country music, and bluegrass, and were an important part of the American folk music revival of the 1960s. Instruments typically used to perform Appalachian music include the banjo, American fiddle, fretted dulcimer, and guitar.
Melvin Wine was an American Appalachian fiddler from the state of West Virginia. He was a lifelong resident of Copen, in Braxton County, West Virginia.
Brad Leftwich is a prominent American old-time fiddler, banjo player, singer and teacher of traditional old-time style. He is originally from Oklahoma. He performs solo and with his long-time musical partner and wife, Linda Higginbotham, and with Brad Leftwich and the Hogwire Stringband.
Dewey Balfa was an American Cajun fiddler and singer who contributed significantly to the popularity of Cajun music. Balfa was born near Mamou, Louisiana. He is perhaps best known for his 1964 performance at the Newport Folk Festival with Gladius Thibodeaux and Vinus LeJeune, where the group received an enthusiastic response from over seventeen thousand audience members. He sang the song "Parlez Nous à Boire" in the 1981 cult film Southern Comfort, in which he had a small role.
Kenneth Clayton Baker was an American fiddle player best known for his 25-year tenure with Bill Monroe and his group The Blue Grass Boys.
Round Peak is a small unincorporated community in Surry County, North Carolina, United States, near Mount Airy, North Carolina with an elevation of 1,280 feet. It is located in the southern Appalachian Mountains and gives its name to the Round Peak style of old-time music practiced in the area.
Wade Echard Mainer was an American country singer and banjoist. With his band, the Sons of the Mountaineers, he is credited with bridging the gap between old-time mountain music and Bluegrass and is sometimes called the "Grandfather of Bluegrass." In addition, he innovated a two-finger banjo fingerpicking style, which was a precursor to modern three-finger bluegrass styles.
Sheila Kay Adams is an American storyteller, author, and musician from the Sodom Laurel community in Madison County, North Carolina.
Ola Belle Reed was an American folk singer, songwriter and banjo player.
James Benton Flippen was an old-time fiddler from Mount Airy, North Carolina. He was one of the last surviving members of a generation of performers born in the early 20th century playing in the Round Peak style centering on Surry County, North Carolina. His contemporaries included Tommy Jarrell, Fred Cockerham, Kyle Creed, and Earnest East.
Riley Baugus is an American old-time guitarist, banjo player, fiddler, singer and instrument builder from North Carolina.
Stanley Hicks (1911–1989) was a nationally recognized American historic folk artist from Watauga County, North Carolina. Hicks was renowned for his musical instrument building - particularly banjos and dulcimers - his woodwork, work as a musician, dancer and story teller.
DaCosta Woltz was an American old time banjo player from Galax, Virginia. His band, DaCosta Woltz's Southern Broadcasters played Appalachian old-time string band and square dance music and recorded in the late 1920s. Ben Jarrell, of Surrey County, North Carolina, and father of influential fiddle and banjo musician Tommy Jarrell, played with the Southern Broadcasters. DaCosta Woltz was a promoter of patent medicine, the mayor of Galax, and a first-rate banjo player.
Martin Douglas "Doug" Wallin was a ballad singer and fiddler born in Madison County, North Carolina, and a recipient of a 1989 North Carolina Heritage Award.