Riley Baugus, a North Carolina native who lives in Walkertown, began singing and playing music at an early age. Raised in a household where recordings of old-time music were often played, he developed a love and appreciation for traditional southern Appalachian music. He and his family attended a Regular Baptist church, where unaccompanied hymn singing was a long-standing tradition.
Riley began playing the fiddle at age ten. Soon after that he took up the guitar. By the time he was twelve, he and his father built a banjo from scrap wood, and he once again began to learn another instrument.
Riley honed his musical skills with a close friend and neighbor, fiddler Kirk Sutphin. Together they visited elder traditional musicians in and around Grayson County, Virginia, and Surry County, North Carolina. Riley often visited, played with, and learned from fiddlers Tommy Jarrell, a National Heritage Fellowship recipient from Surry County, and Robert Sykes, and banjo player Dix Freeman. During these visits he also met and learned from many other traditional musicians of the area, including former Camp Creek Boys members Verlen Clifton and Paul Sutphin.
Riley has played with numerous old-time string bands, including the Red Hots, Backstep, and Old Hollow Stringband. He currently plays with the Dirk Powell Band and Polecat Creek. He teaches banjo, guitar, and fiddle at music camps throughout the country and tours regularly with Dirk Powell and Tim O’Brien, and with Ira Bernstein. As a producer and performer, Riley worked with the Lonesome Sisters on their recording Going Home Shoes. His singing is featured on the soundtrack of the Academy Award-winning film Cold Mountain. He built the antebellum-style banjos that were used in the film.
Riley has recorded two albums featuring his banjo, guitar, and fiddle playing and singing: Long Steel Rail, and Life of Riley. He has also collaborated with Laurelyn Dossett and Ira Bernstein on recordings and contributed to albums by Alison Krauss and Robert Plant, Polecat Creek, Martha Scanlan, Dirk Powell, Adam Tanner, Kirk Sutphin, and the Lonesome Sisters.
Riley Baugus is available for performances with various groups described in the biography. He is also available as an instructor for music camps. For more information, contact Folklore Productions.