Ballad Singing

Frank Proffitt

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Dellie Norton

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Dellie Norton

Ballad singer

Madison County, NC

Dellie Norton sang the old English and Scottish ballads that were carried to the Southern Appalachians with the first settlers of the region. She sang in the traditional way, unaccompanied and with richly ornamented melodies, and her repertoire favored old songs like "Lord Bateman" and "House Carpenter" that recall events of the deep past.

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Dillard Chandler

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Jane Hicks Gentry

Singer and storyteller

Watauga and Madison Counties, NC

Known as "a singer among singers," Jane Hicks Gentry had an amazing repertoire of songs, ballads, tales, and riddles. She shared them with collectors, including Cecil Sharp, who published many of the ballads she sang in his important collection English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians. Gentry's fantastic memory helped provide Sharp with 70 songs and ballads, more than he collected from any other single source.

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Dillard Chandler

Old-time singer

Madison County, NC

Dillard Chandler was born in a log cabin in the Number Ten Township of Madison County. He learned to sing in the style that made Madison County famous to ballad collectors, and became one of that county's greatest singers. He sang the old unaccompanied ballads, called "love songs" in the region, and of which he knew hundreds, as well as hymns, blues, and popular country songs.

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Bessie Eldreth

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Bessie Killens Eldreth

Old-time singer

Ashe County

Bessie Killens Eldreth claims song as a constant companion. "I sing most of the time when I'm alone—just sing, sing, sing," she says. Like many North Carolina mountain women, she has privately enriched her own life and the lives of her family and friends with song. With little time or opportunity to learn a musical instrument, she made her voice her instrument, and she accompanies everyday living with hundreds of old ballads, gospel songs and hymns, and a variety of parlor songs that struck her fancy.

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Brien Fain

Old-time and bluegrass musician

Mount Airy, NC (Surry County)

"I can't ever remember not being around music," says Brien Fain, who is at least a seventh-generation mountain musician. The rich musical tradition in his family dates back to the 1760s in Patrick County, in Southwest Virginia near the North Carolina border. Brien owns fiddles that were played by his father and grandfather, and one built by his great-great-grandfather in the 1830s. "I'm the youngest of 32 grandchildren on my daddy's side, and the youngest of 48 grandchildren on my mama's side," he says.

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Grandfather Mountain Highland Games

Grandfather Mountain Highland Games

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