Barbara Poole was born in Galax, Virginia, and was raised about ten miles from the Lowgap community of Surry County which became her home in later years. She grew up surrounded by the traditional old-time music for which the area is known. Her grandfather, Norman Edmonds, was an influential fiddler of the area who was a regular performer on the radio station. “When I was learning,” said Barbara, “I played with him.” Barbara also played a lot with her brother, Jimmy Edmonds, who is a seventh generation fiddler. Jimmy started playing at four years old and had a band by the time he was six. Barbara was older, and she played with him.
“That’s how I got started,” she said. “Jimmy played fiddle, mom played guitar, Uncle Wade Ward played banjo, and daddy played whatever we needed. I guess I was about thirteen when I started playing with them.” That band was the Buck Mountain Band, and Barbara played bass. She played mountain dulcimer also, but the bass was her primary instrument in playing with a number of area musicians and bands. Barbara played with Whit Sizemore and the Shady Mountain Ramblers, Richard Bowman and the Slate Mountain Ramblers, Toast String Stretchers, and the Grayson Highland Band.
In the 1980s, Barbara was playing with Richard Bowman. “He told me he had this banjo player he wanted me to meet,” she remembered. “And it was Larry.” Banjo player, Larry Sigmon, and Barbara met and hit it off musically. They were at the Elk Creek Fiddlers Convention and decided to enter Larry in the banjo competition. While they were practicing off in a field, with Larry’s driving banjo and Barbara’s rhythmic slapping bass, people stopped to listen. “They couldn’t believe two people were making all this sound,” said Barbara. Larry won the competition, and soon the two were being asked to perform as a duet.
Barbara and Larry quit their bands in 1989 to give the duo a try, and they performed together regularly for nearly twenty years. They recorded a number of albums, appeared regularly at a summer festivals, such as the annual Stringbean Festival and Lewis Family Homecoming, and performed on the Grand Ole’ Opry.
Over the years, Barbara also played with the Carter Family. “Janette, June, and I became really close,” she said. Barbara helped June on the last recording she made, which was recorded at Mother Maybelle’s old homeplace. Barbara also played at June’s funeral with members of the Carter family where they performed “Anchored in Love.”
Barbara also recorded with Greg Hooven on a tribute album to Fred Cockerham. “We used to play with him [Fred] when my brother got started,” said Barbara. “Dad took us around to play with everyone. My dad always supported us. If we didn’t play an instrument it was our own fault. The music has been like breathing. It’s just natural.”
Barbara Poole passed away on August 8, 2008 at the age of 58.