When overseas during the Second World War, Charles Gidney, then a soldier and military photographer, brought a bit of Haywood County’s music to his fellow servicemen in the European theater. During his tour of duty, Gidney, who had learned to play the guitar during his childhood in Canton, met several other young American soldiers with musical talent. Together they formed a band called The Blue-Eyed Boys, and played at servicemen’s clubs and over American military radio stations.
Back home after the War, Gidney’s musical pursuits hit a lull as his career demanded full attention. But in 1968, Luke Smathers asked Gidney—his grand-nephew—to join him in the newly re-formed Luke Smathers Band. Throughout the ’70s Gidney and his bandmates played their distinctive mountain swing for audiences around the country.
Charles Gidney was a two-time winner of first place for oldtime guitar at the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival (1978 and 1979), and was the second-place winner several times as well. Serving for many years on the Asheville Folk Heritage Committee and other boards, Gidney was an active figure in the preservation and promotion of western North Carolina music and dance, playing with musicians of all ages.
Charles Gidney passed away on April 8, 2017 at the age of ninety.