Growing up in the Smoky Mountains in the 1930s and ’40s, autoharp player Gene Reed liked to listen to “what we used to call hillbilly music,” he says. He was particularly fond of the Carter Family and Maybelle Carter’s autoharp playing, but it wasn’t until 1964, when his wife bought him an autoharp, that he began to learn the instrument. He played music in his spare time during his thirty-one years’ service as Postmaster in Whittier. Now retired, he is able to devote much of his time to playing and performing the traditional music he loves.
“My family’s musical,” Reed says, “all of them.” He grew up in a family of seven children, with three piano-playing sisters. One of his brothers, Max Reed, is a bluegrass banjo player who performs often in the Asheville area.
Reed especially enjoys playing hymns and gospel music, and has recorded a full album of such tunes, “Smoky Mountain Autoharp Gospel.” He attends Shoal Creek Baptist Church in the Jackson County township of Qualla, and enjoys visiting other churches to play for services or homecomings.
Gene Reed is available to play for concerts, homecomings, festivals, and other events in Western North Carolina, and to give classroom programs.