Verlen Clifton

Mandolin player

Mount Airy, NC (Surry County)

North Carolina Folk Heritage Award recipient Verlen Clifton grew up in the Round Peak community of Surry County where musicians developed a powerful brand of stringband music based on the fiddle and banjo ensemble tradition. His playing has earned the admiration of local residents and attracted the attention of old-time music enthusiasts throughout the country. Verlen first played banjo and guitar, but he eventually settled on mandolin, which he plays more as a rhythm rather than a lead instrument.

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Herman Coffey

Mandolin player

Newland, NC (Avery County)

Herman Coffey was born and raised in Avery County where he has played bluegrass music since he was a young boy. His two other brothers were also interested in music, and the three of them took up music on their own when they were young. Herman started on the fiddle and later he switched to mandolin. The brothers performed often in the area where they lived, particularly at fiddler's conventions. Herman is the last of the three brothers who is still playing music.

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G. C. Collins


Webster, NC (Jackson County)

G. C. Collins grew up in Jackson County, near where he lives today. At the age of twelve, he took up playing the fiddle. His father was a fiddler whose playing inspired both G. C. and G. C.'s sister Darlene—now Darlene Hodges—to learn the instrument. He taught them many of the standard chestnuts of oldtime and bluegrass music, like "Down Yonder" and "Soldier's Joy." The three played as a family band, with Darlene then on guitar.

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Billy Constable

Bluegrass musician

Spruce Pine, NC (Avery County)

Billy Constable grew up in a very musical family in Avery County, and he has been playing music for most of his life.

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Oldtime stringband

Watauga and Avery Counties, NC

The Corklickers have been playing oldtime music in western North Carolina and the surrounding region for thirty years. The group consists of guitar player Mack Vannoy from Boone, North Carolina, fiddler Gil Adams and banjo player Mark Adams from Kingsport, Tennessee, and fiddler Rick Palmer, who has played with the group since the late 1970s and has been a full-time member since the mid-1980s. Clay Buckner, who now plays with the Red Clay Ramblers, was also a founding member.

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Oldtime band

Mount Airy, NC (Surry County)

Backstep performs old-time stringband music in the "Round Peak Style" native to Mount Airy, North Carolina. Known for its driving rhythms and prominent melodies, Round Peak music is just the thing to make you kick up your heels and dance. The band is excited to have just won first place old-time band at the Mount Airy Fiddler's Convention in 2006. In 2004, Backstep won first prize at both the Fiddler's Grove fiddler's convention and the Mount Airy Fiddler's Convention.

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Cullen Galyean and The Bluegrassers

Bluegrass band

Low Gap, NC (Surry County)

Cullen Galyean and The Bluegrassers is a bluegrass band from Surry County that began when bluegrass veteran Cullen Galyean's son, Mickey Galyean, started playing mandolin. "I grew up going to fiddlers' conventions and festivals every weekend," says Mickey. Cullen reported that he loaned a mandolin to Mickey, and before long, Mickey had become fascinated with the mandolin and bluegrass music. "After just two weeks, he had figured out a couple tunes," said Cullen.

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David Bass


Bryson City, NC (Swain County)

David Bass is one of those rare musicians who can play the fiddle and do flatfoot dancing at the same time, and do both well. As a former member of the Freight Hoppers, and as a legend in his own right among today's young oldtime fiddlers, Bass has had a lot to do with oldtime music's steadily ascending popularity with young music listeners around the country.

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The Danny Johnson Band

Bluegrass band

Pisgah Forest, NC (Transylvania County)

Pisgah Forest native Danny Johnson has been playing music for more than sixty years. His love of music began very early in his life, growing up among musicians in his family—including his mother, a Juilliard-trained classical pianist. Now Johnson himself is the patriarch of a multigenerational musical legacy.

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Bluegrass Tradition

Bluegrass band

Newland, NC (Avery County)

Billed as "The Epitome of Traditional Bluegrass," at Orchard at Altapass, Herman Coffey and Herb Greene make up Bluegrass Tradition. They have been performing together in the western North Carolina mountains for more than twenty years. They are comfortable as a duet, but they often collaborate with other area musicians as a full bluegrass string band.

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