showcases: Our North Carolina Music

This year’s Showcase Theme focuses on traditional music of North Carolina. We could never cover it all, so we’ve chosen our regional Piedmont old-time and blues, and traditional music of the NC mountains.

String Band Music of the NC Piedmont, Saturday 1pm

Featuring Wayne Martin, Evelyn Shaw, Gerry Overton, Patti Stutts, Rich Hartness and John Gaster.

A.C. Overton and Lauchlin Shaw; photo by Cedric N. Chatterley

Our region is home to a unique tradition of old-time fiddle and banjo music. This showcase will pay tribute to Marvin Gaster of Lee County, Lauchlin Shaw of Harnett County, and A.C. Overton of our very own Chatham. These locally famous musicians’ friends and family will play their music and share stories about their lives.

Wayne Martin has spent decades visiting and documenting elder musicians, studying archival recordings, and mastering the art of old-time fiddle.

Evelyn Shaw is the youngest daughter of Mary Lilly and Lauchlin Shaw (a previous NC Heritage Award winner) from the Anderson Creek community in Harnett County. Evelyn grew up in a home filled with old-time music and remembers attending local dances as a child. Following in her father’s footsteps, she began playing the fiddle in her twenties, learning from her father and other Piedmont musicians including Virgil Craven, AC Overton and Marvin Gaster.

The son of A.C. Overton, Gerry remembers attending barn dances where his dad played banjo and Nehi grapes were iced down in a washtub. After a youthful foray into rock music, Gerry came back to his old-time and gospel roots, learning his father’s unique two-finger style of banjo playing, often complementing A.C.’s banjo on his guitar.

John Gaster has been playing bass for 22 years, traveling around to festivals and friends’ houses. John’s father taught him the basic chords (which he learned in one week!), and John took it from there. Marvin Gaster was his uncle who he loved making music with and from whom he learned many a tune. We at the festival were pretty big Marvin Gaster fans, and we are delighted to have John as part of this showcase.


This showcase is dedicated to the memory of Marvin Gaster (December 21, 1934 – March 4, 2022).


Music Maker Presents: Piedmont Blues & Gospel with Big Ron and Belinda Hunter, Saturday 2:30

Photo by Tim Duffy

From the event organizer: It was no secret to me that Big Ron Hunter, a.k.a. the “Happiest Man in Blues,” was a fine and versatile musician and songwriter from somewhere between my home in Chatham and that hill in Mt. Airy where I found myself in the wee hours of the morning, so many years ago. He pulled up a chair, and began wailing out his version of the blues, when an angelic voice resounded in backup somewhere off to the side. As they moved into gospel, everyone present was compelled to silence, in witness to this musical marriage of earthly torment and the heavenly sublime. I have never forgotten the strong beautiful voice of Belinda Hunter, singing along with her husband, Big Ron, and the powerful effect it had on me. So when we looked to our friends, Music Maker Foundation, to help with inclusion of blues and other forms of traditional music, and they suggested Big Ron, all I could think about was that night in a tent, at 2am at the Mt. Airy Fiddlers Convention, when I was moved to tears. We are so delighted to bring you this very special performance from the Winston-Salem area of North Carolina.

Old-Time Music of the Appalachian Mountains, Saturday 3:30pm

Featuring Jake Owen, Cary Fridley, Travis Stuart, and Lillian Chase.

If you ask people who love old-time music to name some of their favorite musicians, it’s very likely that you’ll hear the names of artists from the North Carolina mountains and foothills. For generations, this region has been home to an incredibly rich tradition of old-time music. Originally brought to the region by early European settlers and enslaved Africans, it is still passed down through the generations.

The music of old-time North Carolina is woven into the fabric of Jake Owen’s life. Born in Madison County, where parents Malcolm and Vickie Owen and uncle, Blanton (of our regionally famous Fuzzy Mountain Stringband), enmeshed him in old-time music. Jake embodies the sound of these mountains on his banjo, playing festivals and dances around home with his wife Sarah and their three children. He is here this weekend with son Ben, also playing in the Firescald String Band in Friday night’s square dance.

Born and raised in the Virginia mountains, Cary Fridley grew up around a strong bluegrass tradition and a rich musical culture. She sang in the choir at church and played the banjo as a teenager, later switching to guitar. She is a published songwriter, recording artist, and bandleader, singing and performing in western North Carolina for over 25 years. Cary will also be playing guitar with Firescald Stringband and providing a Western NC Mountain Songs and Ballads workshop.

Lillian Chase is a young fiddle player and sixth-generation native of Western North Carolina, Her early love for traditional mountain music led her to take up the fiddle at the age of six, but by that time she had already been asking for a violin for two years. She soon became a student of fellow Weaverville resident Arvil Freeman, a late legend of Blue Ridge Mountain fiddle traditions. Lillian is playing summer tour dates with Willie Watson and will be attending the Berklee School of Music this fall.

Travis Stuart began playing the banjo as a young teen in Haywood County. A respected banjo player and multi-instrumentalist known for his rich style and accompaniment, Travis has toured throughout the US and several foreign countries with the Stuart Brothers and as a side man with other bluegrass and old-time bands. He learned from old-time masters like the Smathers family, Oscar “Red” Wilson, Snuffy Jenkins, Byard Ray, and Tommy Hunter. 

He is on a number of recordings documentaries and is especially known for the banjo fiddle duets with his late brother Trevor, The Stuart Brothers.  Travis lives in the woods of Haywood County with his family, his dog and cat, and loves many styles of music. 



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