Fiddler and singer Gilliam Banmon (G. B.) Grayson was born in Ashe County, and he later settled in Laurel Bloomery, Tennessee, just across the state line. Blinded from corneal damage before he was a year old, G. B. made his living playing music and busking on street corners and at parties and other community gatherings and events.
Grayson played with various musicians from the region, including Clarence “Tom” Ashley from Mountain City, Tennessee, and Dock Walsh from Wilkes County. Grayson met guitar and harmonica player Henry Whitter in 1927, and the two formed a musical partnership that lasted for two years and yielded more than two dozen recordings for the Gennett and Victor labels. They made the first recordings of many tunes and songs that have been widely played and recorded since, including “Train 45,” “Handsome Molly,” “Banks of the Ohio,” “Little Maggie,” “Short Life of Trouble,” “Going Down the Lee Highway,” “Rose Conley,” and “Tom Dooley.” Grayson and Whitter made their last recordings together in 1929. Grayson was killed in an automobile accident in 1930.
Their influential recordings led to Grayson receiving the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Award of Merit posthumously. In addition to making important recordings, G. B. Grayson had a big influence on local and regional musicians, including notable old-time and bluegrass fiddlers.
Grayson’s music continues to influence musicians today, including members of the Traditional Artist Directory such as fiddlers Jacob Bowen and Kilby Spencer.