Troy McGuire was connected to the music of Northwest North Carolina and Southwest Virginia all of his life. His music parties and jam sessions helped create outlets for old-time music in Watauga and Ashe Counties, and his banjo playing and singing helped inspire a new generation of musicians.
Troy was the seventh generation of his father’s family from Watauga County. Though his family moved around the country for his father’s work, they often came back to the mountains. “I spent my summers here and all my holidays,” he recalled. “We would have family reunions at Grayson Highlands Park, and the Whitetop Mountain Band or Grayson Highlands Band would play every year.” Early exposure to live music and his father’s gift of an Albert Hash album on his tenth birthday focused his interests. “I was pretty much hooked from there,” he said.
As a teenager, Troy listened to radio programs that featured traditional mountain music. Eventually he moved back to Watauga County. “I figured out that a lot of the guys I listened to on the radio were still around,” he said. Troy met and heard many traditional musicians, including Stanley Hicks, Dave Sturgill, Enoch Rutherford, and Joe and Creed Birchfield from the Roan Mountain Hilltoppers. He also started hanging out with the next generation of old-time musicians who were performing around Watauga County, such as the members of the Corklickers, Brian Yerman, Randy Sheets, and Eric Olsen. Dick Tarrier and Jim Ginski were particularly helpful. “I came back to Boone at just the right time to hang around with all of those guys,” Troy recalled. “Back when I could only play three tunes, they would play them all night with me.”
Troy soon discovered County Records and the catalogs of older mountain music. “I would go to (County Sales in) Floyd every Saturday to buy records,” he remembered. He heard recordings by Wade Ward, Crockett Ward, and Eck Dunford, and also Tommy Jarrell and Fred Cockerham. Troy began hosting old-time music parties, where he met fiddler Sam Gobble, with whom he has played for more than twenty years. “Sam has been my biggest mentor for learning tunes,” Troy said. He also met Alex Hooker, and they formed a band that performed in the area for seven years.
When Troy first moved to Todd, he lived next to the Todd General. Inspired by the jam session in Old Fort and the wealth of musical talent in the area, Troy and Sam Gobble started a weekly jam session at the Todd General Store. “That was really a lot of fun, and always a lot of good music,” Troy remembered. “You never knew who was going to show up.”
Troy McGuire passed away on May 13, 2013 at the age of 47.