15 December 2021

A.P. Carter, born 130 years ago today

On 7 November last year, the BIB commemorated the sixtieth anniversary of the death of Alvin Pleasant Carter in Kingsport, TN. We now celebrate his birth 130 years ago (15 Dec. 1891) in Scott county, VA. In 1927 he and his wife Sara Dougherty Carter and sister-in-law Maybelle Addington Carter took part in Ralph Peer's recording sessions in Bristol, TN, which have come to be seen as the 'Big Bang' of country music. The three of them - the original Carter Family - helped to bring about radical change in the recording of rural music by their mastery of a diverse range of old and new material, and although the group broke up in 1943 their recordings remained an incalculable influence on tradition-oriented country music, bluegrass, and the folk revival. They were inducted into the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame in 2001.

A.P. took on the task of searching out and arranging new material for the Family to record, and in this he had vital assistance from black musician and song collector Lesley Riddle (1905-79), who not only acted as a 'human jukebox', supplying and memorising material, but influenced Maybelle Carter's guitar playing. An annual RiddleFest is held in his home town, Burnsville, NC, and a thirteen-minute video on his life is on the 'Black in Appalachia' YouTube channel.

© Richard Hawkins



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