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William E. Lightfoot

Piedmont-style guitarist, was born near Collettsville in the African American community of Franklin, an Appalachian hollow not far from the John's River in upper Caldwell County, North Carolina. Her grandfather Alexander Reid and father Boone Reid, both born in Franklin, played the banjo in the old-time clawhammer manner, with Boone going on to become an accomplished musician who also played fiddle, harmonica, and guitar, on which he used a two-finger-style approach. Boone Reid had absorbed many kinds of music of the mid-to-late nineteenth century, including Anglo-American dance tunes, lyric folksongs, ballads, rags, religious music, and published pieces that had drifted into folk tradition—popular Tin Pan Alley songs old minstrel tunes and Victorian parlor music Boone and his wife Sallie who sang instilled their love of music in their eight children a process that led eventually to the formation of a Reid family string band that played after ...

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Bill McCulloch and Barry Lee Pearson

blues singer and songwriter, was born in Forest, Mississippi, between Jackson and Meridian, the son of Minnie Louise Crudup, an unmarried domestic worker. His father was reputed to be a musician, but Crudup recalled seeing him only twice. Raised by his mother in poverty, Crudup began singing both blues and religious music around age ten. In 1916 he and his mother moved to Indianapolis. After she became ill, Crudup dropped out of school and took a job in a foundry at age thirteen.

According to his own account Crudup did not start playing guitar until around 1937, by which time he had returned to the South, married and divorced his first wife, Annie Bell Reed and taken work as a farmhand Supposedly he found a guitar with only two strings and one by one added the other four while picking up rudimentary chords from a local musician ...

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Pam Brooks

civil rights activist and community leader, was born Idessa Taylor in Montgomery, Alabama, the only child of Minnie Oliver. Other than the surname he shared with his daughter, Idessa Taylor's father's name is not recorded. Upon the early death of her mother when she was only two, Redden's maternal great grandparents, Luisa and Julius Harris, raised Redden in Montgomery until she was nine. Thereafter, her mother's brother, Robert Oliver, a railroad worker, and his wife, Dinah Beatrice Oliver a seamstress included Redden in their family of six children Redden attended St Paul s Methodist Church School Loveless School St John s Catholic School and State Normal High School in Montgomery As an elementary student on her way to school she had to endure the habitual taunts of young white boys In a videotaped interview on her ninetieth birthday Redden recounted one occasion when in retaliation for ...

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Ted Olson

guitarist, was born in Burnsville, North Carolina. Forced at a young age to work as a laborer, Riddle had a limited formal education. While employed at a local cement plant, he had a serious accident in which he lost his right leg below the knee. Riddle spent much of the 1920s working as a shoe-shiner in the industrial city of Kingsport, Tennessee, where he also sang in churches and played guitar at house parties with other African American musicians. Nicknamed “Esley” by his relatives and friends, Riddle was a fingerstyle and slide guitar player.

Riddle learned his technique by listening to two other black guitar players based in Kingsport, Steve Tarter and Ed Martin. At a gathering in 1928 Riddle met A. P. (Alvin Pleasant) Carter a singer and the chief songwriter and arranger for the Carter Family the leading country music group of the late 1920s ...

Article

John B. Holway

Negro League baseball player, was born Norman Stearnes in Nashville, Tennessee, the son of Will S. Stearnes and Mary Everett. Although his daughter once said that he acquired his nickname because he flapped his elbows when he ran, Stearnes believed a protruding stomach during childhood was the reason. One of five children, he pitched for Pearl High School until “around 15 or 16 years old,” when his father died. He then worked at any job he could find, including slopping pigs, driving wagons, delivering groceries, and general cleaning.

In 1921 Stearnes played professionally with the Montgomery Alabama Gray Sox in the Negro Southern League a sort of black minor league After playing for a year in Memphis Tennessee he was picked up by the Detroit Stars of the Negro National League one of the two major black leagues The Stars players worked in an automobile factory when ...

Article

Bill McCulloch and Barry Lee Pearson

blues singer and guitarist, was born in Benoit, Mississippi, the son of Joseph Taylor and Mamie Gaston, farmers. By his own account his parents separated when he was two, leaving his mother to raise three children while trying to eke out a living on a Mississippi Delta farm. When not helping out with farm chores, Taylor showed an early interest in music, possibly inspired by Elizabeth Douglas, a singer and guitarist later known as Memphis Minnie, who supposedly knew his mother and looked after him when he was still a child.

Starting around age seven or eight Taylor began sneaking out to house parties to hear itinerant blues musicians such as Charlie Patton, Robert Johnson, and Big Joe Williams Taylor recalled I used to go out at night to where they were playing Sometimes they wouldn t let me in because I was ...

Article

Lisa E. Rivo

painter, was born in Mayfield, Kentucky, one of seven children of Frank Wilson, a second-generation barber, and Minnie Wilson, a founding member of the local Second Christian Church. Frank Wilson was an amateur artist, and two of his paintings proudly hung in the Wilson home. Ellis later credited his parents with encouraging his educational and artistic pursuits. The Wilsons lived in The Bottom, the largest of several African American sections of Mayfield, a small town in the heart of western Kentucky's tobacco-growing region. After graduation from the Mayfield Colored Grade School, Ellis studied for two years at the Kentucky Normal and Industrial Institute (later Kentucky State University), an all-black school in Frankfort. In 1919 he transferred to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he won several student prizes and studied with the school's first African American instructor, William McKnight Farrow among others Following ...