The eight musicians who make up the Queen Family Band—siblings Henry, Jeannette, Dorothy, Kathy, J.R., Carolyn, Delbert, and Albert, and J.R.’s son Mark—have so much music in their blood that there’s no shortage of talent to go around, even in such a large family. Their mother, Mary Jane Queen, was a clawhammer banjo player and their father, Claude Queen, was a two-finger, up-picking banjo player. The Queen siblings’ maternal grandfather, Jim Prince, was known as the best banjo player in the Caney Fork of John’s Creek section of Jackson County around the turn of the twentieth century, and their paternal grandfather, Albert Queen, and his brother Reuben, were some of the most admired stringband musicians around John’s Creek.
Widely honored as master musicians and experts in the lore and language of the region, the Queen Family have recorded several albums, and have been consulted for or appeared in numerous documentaries. Mary Jane Queen was a musical consultant and major artistic inspiration for the production of the movie Songcatcher. Her memoir, The Life and Times of Mary Jane Queen, was published in 2005.
The Queen Family are the recipients of Western Carolina University’s 1999 Mountain Heritage Award, the 2001 Brown-Hudson Award from the North Carolina Folklore Society, and an award from the Charlotte Folk Music Society, for their contributions to the music and culture of North Carolina. Individual members of the band have received many honors and recognitions for their music. Mary Jane Queen was recognized four times by the Asheville Dance and Folk Festival, and was a 1993 North Carolina Folk Heritage Award Winner.