Charlie Edwards was born and raised in Maryland, but his parents were from Alleghany County, and they made frequent trips back for family visits throughout his life. In Maryland, they lived in the midst of a number of other migrants from Alleghany County. He remembers hearing Ola Belle Reed and Alex Campbell and the New River Boys and Girls at Sunset Park, a popular music park that Ola Belle and Alex operated near where Charlie and his family lived. “I was up there a lot,” remembers Charlie. He also heard music he liked on the radio. Charlie’s parents were constantly listening to oldtime and country music on programs such as the Grand Ole Opry.
When Charlie showed an interest in playing music, his aunt showed him some chords to get him started. “I learned by ear from there,” he says. In Maryland, Charlie started meeting other musicians with roots in northwestern North Carolina and southwestern Virginia. With some friends, he formed a band called the Virginia and Carolina Mountain Boys, and they played for dances and parties in the area. He also played with Dean Sapp and The Harford Express, a group formed in 1969 that continues to play.
On the family’s frequent trips to Alleghany County, Charlie remembers hearing older musicians such as Howard Joines, Enoch Rutherford, Fred Roupe, and Wiley Jr. Maxwell. “I used to hear them all the time,” he remembers. He also met Richard Nichols, Dennis Joines, and other local musicians. “Whenever I’d come down we’d always get together and play,” says Charlie.
After he retired from General Motors, Charlie moved to Alleghany County permanently. A few years ago, he started playing with the Rise and Shine Band with Ernest Joines and others at Ernest’s Alleghany Jubilee. “We started as a jam at the Jubilee,” says Charlie, noting that the same musicians were showing up every Tuesday. Today, the group continues to play for the Tuesday night dances at the Alleghany Jubilee, and they also play for one Saturday night dance a month. Rise and Shine plays a mixture of bluegrass, old country songs, square dance fiddle tunes, and some bluegrass gospel.
Charlie also plays with other musicians and groups in the area, including Breakin It Down with Wade Petty, Ted Nixon, and Janet Nixon. Some of the members of the Rise and Shine Band get together at fiddler’s conventions and other gigs and call the group the Mountain Top Boys. Charlie continues to frequent some of the music jams in the area.
Charlie is available for performances with various bluegrass, oldtime, and country bands.