Dillard Chandler was born in a log cabin in the Number Ten Township of Madison County. He learned to sing in the style that made Madison County famous to ballad collectors, and became one of that county’s greatest singers. He sang the old unaccompanied ballads, called “love songs” in the region, and of which he knew hundreds, as well as hymns, blues, and popular country songs.
Chandler lived an itinerant life, moving from place to place and job to job within the Asheville area and Madison County. He was a private man who rarely performed. He left the mountains one time, to sing at the 1967 University of Chicago Folk Festival. Music collector John Cohen, who recorded Dillard Chandler and many other ballad singers in Madison County, writes that Chandler was “a powerful singer … whose voice still resonates long after his death. Today it is difficult to find anyone who can sing with his style and authenticity.”
Of his own music, Chandler said, “The reason I like old hymns and such as that, is that they make me think back instead of moving forward into this fast ways of living and times like they are now.”