14 September 2011

Wade Mainer, 1907-2011

We learn with deep regret, from our friend Pieter Groenveld in the Netherlands, of the death on 12 September of Wade Mainer of North Carolina, at the age of 104. He belongs to the generation of American rural musicians who took up playing and recording 'hillbilly' music professionally in the 1920s and 1930s, forming a transition between traditional old-time music and bluegrass. As a banjo-player, he made a personal, unassisted innovation by developing a thumb-and-index-finger-picking style. In 1937 he married Julia 'Hillbilly Lily' Brown, herself a pioneer woman singer-musician, and they performed together into later life. An account of his career, with discography, is on Wikipedia, and a UNC-TV programme on him can be viewed here.

More details, together with a clip from a video interview by David Holt (who performed in Ireland a few days ago), are on the Prescription Bluegrass Blog; his death is being widely reported on the internet, and further coverage is expected on the original Bluegrass Blog. A well illustrated biography, Banjo on the mountain: Wade Mainer's first hundred years, by bluegrass scholar Dick Spottswood, was published last year by the University of Mississippi Press and is also available from County Sales and other mail-order suppliers.

Photos from Wade Mainer's career, and of his original 1933 Gibson RB Granada banjo, can be seen here.

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