When Georgia Governor Zell Miller wanted “some good mountain music” for his goodbye luncheon banquet, his staff sent for Roberta Voyles and Furman Lunsford. The Lunsford played music together for more than a dozen years, starting before they married. Roberta grew up on Vengeance Creek in Marble, and learned her strong clawhammer banjo style from her father. Furman is a native of Nantahala, and learned banjo and dulcimer from his father, and guitar from his older brother.
Together the Lunsfords played a strong, up-tempo repertoire of classic Southern instrumental tunes, and sang gospel songs and oldtime and bluegrass numbers. They were particularly fond of train-wreck songs and Carter Family-style heartsongs, but loved to end their performances with a hymn. Roberta’s strong, high voice and Furman’s smooth baritone complemented each other perfectly, as did their instrumental styles.
The Lunsfords were popular performers at regional festivals, including Mountain Heritage Day at Western Carolina, and the Bascom Lamar Lunsford Festival. Roberta was part of a banjo showcase at Berea College in Kentucky in 1995, and taught a banjo workshop there. For nine years they were cast members in the play “Reach of Song,” in Young Harris, Georgia, and were featured performers at the hundredth-birthday celebration of the town of Andrews, North Carolina. Most of all, though, the Lunsfords liked to share their music in and around their own community.
Roberta Lunsford passed away on December 26, 2013 at the age of 85.