High Country

Frank Proffitt

Musician and craftsman

Watauga County, NC

Tom Dooley might never have become a household name outside of Northwest North Carolina had it not been for Frank Proffitt. A musician and songwriter from the Pick Britches community in western Watauga County, Proffitt made several contributions to American folk music through performances and recordings, most notably the version of "Tom Dooley" that inspired the Kingston Trio's popular recording in 1958.

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Edd Presnell

Woodworker, toy maker, dulcimer maker

Avery County, NC

Edd Presnell was raised in a musical family and community near Beech Mountain. The area was home to storytellers, ballad singers, banjo pickers, instrument builders, and toy makers. He was particularly interested in woodworking. He first heard a dulcimer when his future wife, Nettie Hicks, came by with an instrument her father, Ben, built. "I was 15 or 16," Presnell recalled, "and Nettie brought the dulcimer over and played it." With help from his future father-in-law, Presnell made his first dulcimer in 1936.

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Ossie Clark Phillips

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Tommy Jarrell

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Stanley Hicks

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Ray Hicks

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Ossie Clark Phillips

Weaver

Avery County, NC

Ossie Clark Phillips was a weaver most of her life. She was born in 1915, shortly after Dr. Mary Martin Sloop and her husband Dr. Eustace Sloop established the Crossnore School a mile from her home in the mountains of Avery County. When the school opened its weaving program and her mother learned to weave, a new way of life opened for Ossie Clark. "My mama had a loom at home, and I'd slip to her loom when she wasn't there," Ossie said, recalling her own early fascination with weaving. All of the Clark children took a turn at the loom.

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Stanley Hicks

Instrument builder, woodworker, dancer, musician, storyteller

Watauga County, NC

Stanley Hicks was born in 1911 in Watauga County, and raised on Spice Creek along with his eight siblings. He and his cousin Ray Hicks, also a famed storyteller, shared the same great-grandparents. Life for the Hicks family was hard; there were few jobs in the mountains, and families struggled to get enough food. Growing up, Hicks took what jobs were available. During the Depression, he worked for the Works Progress Administration for 75 cents a day.

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Ray Hicks

Storyteller

Watauga County, NC

Ray Hicks, one of North Carolina most renowned storytellers, lived atop Beech Mountain in Watauga County with his wife Rosa in a manner more common to the pioneer than to the modern mountaineer. It was not unusual for visitors to the Hicks' striking two-story frame house to find Rosa busy drying apples and "putting up" produce from the garden while Ray entertained friends and neighbors in the front room.

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Albert Hash

Fiddler and instrument maker

Ashe County, NC

Whitetop, Virginia native Albert Hash was a masterful mechanic who built fiddles and other instruments, played the fiddle with the Whitetop Mountain Band, and helped teach countless musicians and instrument builders.

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