Since the 1970s, Cecil Gurganus has been an active member of Watauga County’s old-time music and dance community. In addition to performing, he has built several instruments, and his home is the site for an annual old-fashioned molasses boiling.
Cecil grew up near Atlanta, Georgia. Encouraged by his older sister, he began singing at a young age. As his interest in traditional music developed, during the folk music revival of the 1960s, he became a member of various folk singing groups and learned to play the guitar, bass, and fiddle.
After college, a move to Watauga County brought opportunities to teach instrument building and Appalachian culture. Field trips with his students included visits to traditional artists such as Stanley Hicks. With his wife Julie, he started the Laurel Creek String Band, a group that has remained together in different forms over the years.
In the 1980s, Cecil started playing music with Mary Greene, a Watauga County native, and Eric Olsen from the influential Fuzzy Mountain String Band. Through Greene and Olsen, he met Ora Watson, a fiddler and North Carolina Folk Heritage Award recipient from Watauga County with whom he spent many years playing and performing.
Cecil continues to be an integral part of the old-time music community in Watauga County, organizing and playing music for square dances, giving presentations in local schools on traditional music, and mentoring and teaching. He has been an instructor at the Swannanoa Gathering‘s Old-Time Music Week at Warren Wilson College, and he teaches in the Junior Appalachian Musicians programs in Watauga and Ashe counties. Cecil continues to sing with local groups, and he is always willing to share his knowledge of music.
Cecil Gurganus is available for performances, school presentations, workshops, lessons, and to play for dances.