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The roots of the banjo trace directly to West Africa. White Southerners learned to play early gourd banjos, probably built from the African slaves’ memories. The banjo was popularized in the 19th century by minstrel shows.  Though it seemed close to disappearing in the late 20th century, the African-American banjo tradition has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years, led by such young artists as Rhiannon Giddens, Dom Flemons, Jerron Paxton, and Amythyst Kiah.

Fiddlers’ conventions have been going on in the South for over a century. Today you can find some of the very best fiddlers’ conventions here in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Since 1972, musicians have been converging on the town of Mount Airy during the first weekend in June, for the world-famous Mount Airy Bluegrass and Old-Time Fiddlers’ Convention.

The mountains of North Carolina are rich in music traditions, both old and new, but no other musical community’s roots reach as far back in this region’s heritage as those of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians. To their ancient ceremonial music, the Cherokee have added new traditions in bluegrass, old-time, and gospel music.

Samantha Biddix Bumgarner and Eva Smathers Davis hailed from Sylva, North Carolina and caught the attention of Columbia Records at the dawn of the country music record industry. In 1939, Bumgarner traveled to Washington DC with Bascom Lamar Lunsford to play for President Roosevelt and the Queen of England.

Down the Road BRMT | Ep. 12: What is Bluegrass?

Jul 13, 2017

It started in Kentucky but quickly caught on across the Blue Ridge Mountains. Back in the ‘40s and '50s, musicians started playing their old instruments in new ways with lots of giddy-up. From Earl Scruggs to Steep Canyon Rangers, North Carolina has laid claim to the top talents in blistering bluegrass music.

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