Music in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina
A fertile meeting ground for European and African music traditions, the North Carolina mountains and foothills still ring with the sounds of the fiddle, banjo, string bands, and cloggers, which can be heard everywhere from front porches to festival stages and town squares. Traditional mountain music includes lively strains of old-time, bluegrass, ballad singing, blues, and sacred music.
Different Kinds of Music in the Mountains
Music is a living tradition in the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area. While families and relatives continue to hand down the music from generation to generation, the tradition is also being fostered in after school efforts such as the Junior Appalachian Musicians program.
Some of the region's master musicians have been awarded the National Heritage Fellowship, our nation's highest honor for traditional artists. Among them is Doc Watson, a guitar player and singer who has become a national father figure for southern Appalachian roots music. Other recipients include:
- Etta Baker, African-American guitarist
- Tommy Jarrell, old-time fiddler
- Mary Jane Queen, Appalachian singer
- Doug Wallin, Appalachian ballad singer
Western North Carolina has nurtured a variety of mountain music traditions: ballad singing, blues, bluegrass, old-time, and sacred music. These evolved from traditions brought over from Europe and Africa, and some represent a powerful blend of musical elements from the two continents. Some are thriving and are quite popular while others are carried on by a dedicated few.
Check out the Blue Ridge Parkway "Spring Milepost" Travel Planner for more information on the Blue Ridge Mountains and its Musicial Traditions.
Bluegrass Music in the Mountains
Appalachian mountain music includes many instruments, styles and sounds, but Bluegrass music is often honored and celebrated as a piece of Appalachian history in almost every part of this East coast mountain range. Bluegrass music, over the years, has truly become a style that has been influences by people and cultures from around the world. Whether it is played on a stage or a porch it is often played with intense fervor, passion and heart. Western North Carolina and the Blue Ridge Mountains have been home to many Bluegrass music legends.
Old Time Music in the Mountains
Old Time Music traditionally includes the Appalachian fiddle and banjo. It can also include a full string band playing along side the fiddle and banjo. Old Time Music was played during community celebrations and events in the early days of settlement in the Western North Carolina mountains. Old Time Music is rooted in the music of the Anglo-Irish fiddle, as well as the rhythms of shuffle bowing and the banjo, both of which come from African-American history. Old Time Music has also been influenced over the years by ragtime, blues, jazz, gospel and country music.
Listen to some interesting stories about our Music Heritage in our Sights & Sounds Gallery. Just click on
the links below: