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Lester Woodie
Historic Artist

Lester Woodie

Bluegrass Musician Burke County

Lester “Les” Woodie grew up playing music in western North Carolina with his brother and John and George Shuffler, fiddled with The Stanley Brothers, made his own recordings, and had a long career working in radio in Altavista, Virginia.

Les grew up in western North Carolina, moving to the Valdese community when he was eight years old.  Les and his brother, Lloyd, were given a mandolin and guitar for Christmas in 1939, and they soon began learning to play.  Lloyd loved performing and singing for the family and friends, while Les was more shy and reserved – spending a lot of time practicing.  Les made friends with an older local fiddler, Zenie Page, who taught him his first tunes.  Les also met the large Shuffler family, which had lots of musical children.  Les fell-in with John and George Shuffler, and the three began playing a lot of music together.  They listened to records and put on occasional performances.

Les and the Shuffler brothers added a Drexel, NC, steel guitar player, Curly Williams, and started calling the group The Melody Mountain Boys.  They played country music around the region until George Shuffler got an offer to join the Bailey Brothers on the Grand Ole Opry.  George returned a year later, and the group picked back up, performing on local radio stations in Wilkesboro, Lenoir, and Hickory.  Perry Duncan, aka “Carolina Slim” joined the band, and his fiddling was a big influence on Les.

After high school, Les went to work in a bakery, and one night while he was working Ralph Stanley walked in and offered him a fiddle job with The Stanley Brothers.  Les joined the band the following day and spent nearly three years touring, performing, and recording with The Stanley Brothers, including fiddling for their first recording of “Man of Constant Sorrow.”  Les played with the Stanley Brothers on the popular Farm & Fun Time Jamboree a radio program out of Bristol, Tennessee.   He later became a performing member of The Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Les joined the U.S. Air Force, and while he was in service he created a band and continued playing music.  After he got out of service, Les returned to Valdese, where he hooked up with the Shuffler gang.  He made a recording with George Shuffler and Bill Clifton.  He then attended college in Lynchburg, where he joined The Bill and Mary Reid Band.  They made recordings for Columbia and had regular television and radio appearances.

After a few years moving around to Nashville and Hickory, NC, Les settled in Virginia and started working for WKDE radio in Altavista.  He eventually became the station manager, and he was a heavy promotor of bluegrass music on the station.  Les continued to play, and he made an acclaimed recording More Picking, Les Singing! Les Woodie and Friends.  Les is a first generation Bluegrass Hall of Honor recipient and has won numerous awards, including first prize in fiddle contests in North Carolina and Virginia.  Les retired from the radio station in 2010 after nearly 50 years on air.

Note: "Historic Artist" designates one who is deceased but whose legacy continues to influence and inspire new generations.

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