“Music has always been integral to daily life in Asheville and the Appalachian Blue Ridge region.

MUSIC HEADER GRAPHIC

Western North Carolina settlers were a cultural melting pot, and the region’s music reflects this unique culture. Scottish, English, German, Welsh, Cherokee, Scandinavian, and African Americans brought their musical traditions to the mountains and mixed them, each giving and taking different rhythms and styles. The traditional instruments from different cultures greatly contributed to the unique sound of Appalachian music.

 

Flat Iron WWNC towersAppalachian music made itself known to the world when radio technology brought music to the mass radio audiences. Because of the two 100-foot antennas atop the tall Flat Iron building where Asheville’s  first radio station, WWNC, was located, the city made its mark on radio and music history. With this broad reach, (the station was the highest on the east coast) WWNC sent out the distinctive sounds of Appalachian music to locations around the country and, when atmospheric conditions were right (helped along by the high mountain elevation), as far away as Australia!

In the days before FM became widespread, WWNC was sometimes the most popular station in the United States with an Arbitron share of over 40 percent of the listening audience, sometimes as high as 50 percent.

 

In March 2019, Rolling Stone wrote, “Asheville, NC, Is the New Must-Visit Music City.”

Jimmie Rodgers

Jimmie Rodgers

“The Father of Country Music”

Ralph Peer with Okeh Records snatched up Jimmie, and his blue yodeling became a national sensation. He toured with Will Rogers, recorded with Louis Armstrong, and made short films about his railroadin’ days. Jimmie put Asheville on the musical map as the Father of Country Music before passing from TB in 1933. A marker near Woolworth Walk honors his legacy. Jimmie’s unique singing style had a deep influence on many country, folk, roots and americana musicians, who credit him as their inspiration.

Nina Simone

Nina Simone

I Put A Spell On You

Nina Simone’s journey to stardom began in the small town of Tryon, North Carolina, where she was born Eunice Waymon in 1933. A child prodigy, Nina played piano by ear at just 3 years old, mastering the church organ by 7. The Western North Carolina native broke barriers as one of the most influential jazz, cabaret, and R&B artists of the 20th century.

Bascom Lamar Lunsford

Bascom Lamar Lunsford 

Minstrel of the Appalachians

Bascom lived on a farm in Leicester, North Carolina. He was a man of many trades – selling fruit trees, promoting bees and honey, teaching deaf students, practicing law, lecturing on English and history, and publishing newspapers. But of all his vocations, collecting and performing the cherished music of southern Appalachia was Bascom’s true calling.
Bascom’s passion for collecting folk songs soon brought him to the attention of a growing circle of folklorists. They were inspired by British collector Cecil Sharp, who had trekked through the southern mountains from 1916-1918.

Doc Watson

Doc Watson

Just one of the People

Born into a musical family on March 3, 1923, in Deep Gap, North Carolina, Doc Watson was blinded in early childhood, due to an infection. He refers to his blindness only as a hindrance, not as a disability.

Interviews with Doc reveal he was just as curious and rambunctious as any other sighted boy in Deep Gap, NC. ….a small unincorporated place near the Blue Ridge Parkway, in upper north western North Carolina.

Citizen Vinyl

Citizen Vinyl

 Located in the Citizen Times building on O’Henry St. The Gannett Company sold the building as part of their money-saving efforts. Citizen Vinyl occupies the lower part of the building. Citizen Vinyl is open for tours to view record pressing, a cafe, and a vintage record store, all in the historic Citizen Times building on O’Henry St.

BILLY SCRIBBLES

Asheville Busker Scene

Buskers are a constant presence in downtown Asheville. “It feels like stumbling upon a secret party – the music just draws you in.” said one longtime fan of the busker scene. One does wonder why so many talented performers played for tips on the streets. The buskers say street presence offers creative freedom and unique challenges.

Unlike a captive bar audience, buskers have seconds to hook passersby before they walk on by. The thrill comes from winning over the unexpecting crowds.

More on this link

Flat Iron

WWNC Radio Station

Because of the two 100-foot antennas atop the tall Flat Iron building where Asheville’s first radio station, WWNC, was located, the city made its mark on radio history. With this broad reach, WWNC sent out the distinctive sounds of Appalachian music to locations around the country and, when atmospheric conditions were right (helped along by the high mountain elevation), as far away as Australia!

Vanderbilt Hotel

Deep in the ancient mountains of North Carolina, the first strains of classic country music echoed through the hollows. In August of 1925, influential A& R (artist and repertoire) man Ralph Peer of the 1920s recognized the region’s talent when he held a recording session for OKeh Records on a turret on top of Asheville’s luxurious Vanderbilt Hotel

Blue Ridge Music Trails

Come rest your feet a spell and lend an ear – that sweet sound is the spirit of Appalachia welcoming you home. A joyful chorus rings from the ancient mountains of Western North Carolina – the sounds of a musical heritage alive and thriving. The Blue Ridge Music Trails is a project of the North Carolina Arts Council. This link takes you to an interactive map and calendar of great traditional music events year-round.

Moogseum

In downtown Asheville, at 56 Broadway is a museum that celebrates Bob Moog,  the music-loving, engineer and synth pioneer who revolutionized electronic music. This museum celebrates synth pioneer Bob Moog, who revolutionized electronic music as we know it.

Twist knobs on vintage synths and discover how electricity becomes sound, just like Bob did. Kiosks reveal treasures from the Moog Family Archives – over 1,000 artifacts found only here.

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For us at WPVM, radio is an art form;  it informs, entertains and unites us in a magical way made possible by electromagnetic waves combined with audio signals. It’s much bigger than a tool for propaganda or to make a dollar. WPVM is different from commercial radio; we believe it is a way to connect communities locally, nationally, and globally.

Merlefest

MERLE FEST

MerleFest is one of the premier music festivals in the country. Every spring, the Blue Ridge Mountains come alive with the sounds of homecoming. Musicians and fans flock to the small town of Wilkesboro, North Carolina for MerleFest – a celebration of roots music founded in honor of legendary guitarist Doc Watson’s late son Eddy Merle.

In memory of the son who died in 1988, due to a tractor accident, (a common cause of death on farms.)

Brevard Music Center

Brevard Music Center

Brevard Music Center is a renowned summer music institute and festival nestled in the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina. Set on a 180-acre wooded campus, it offers a rigorous program for over 700 talented students each summer, under the artistic direction of Keith Lockhart, known for his work with the Boston Pops and BBC Concert Orchestra.

From June to August, students engage in intensive training and performances across various genres, including orchestral music, opera, chamber music, classical guitar, bluegrass, and jazz. The center boasts two main venues: the open-air Whittington-Pfohl Auditorium and the newer Parker Concert Hall.

Spirit of Asheville

Use our audio souvenir and escape to Asheville on any device.

Immerse yourself in authentic local culture with WPVM-FM, Asheville’s voice of the community. Our non-commercial, listener-supported radio brings you:

  • Diverse music you won’t hear anywhere else
  • Engaging talk shows and interviews with area artists

Stream live or download your favorite shows – it’s like taking a piece of Asheville with you wherever you go. Escape to the heart of the Blue Ridge, right from your device. Listen live from our website https://www.wpvmfm.org

 Or download our app from iTunes or Google Play

Music echoed through the hills and hollers, pouring out of weathered log cabins, quaint front porches, cozy parlors, little white churches, and bustling street corners. The sounds intertwine and swell – banjos, fiddles, guitars, harmonica, feet stomping out rhythms on creaky wooden floors.

The mountain music that became American roots music was born here. Musicians like the Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers, and Doc Watson carried forth to the world the ballads, hymns, and songs of struggle and joy to the outside world.

Nina Simone and Roberta Flack got their start on these stages, influenced countless others, and left an indelible mark on music everywhere. The more recent Grammy winners and rising musicians include The Steep Canyon Rangers, jazz singer Lizz Wright, who enchants with her smoky alto, while sister duo Rising Appalachia, The Carolina Chocolate Drops, and Rhiannon Giddens blend global sounds with old-time traditions. Harmonizing folk rockers, River Whyless cut melodies out of the high country air. Former Allman Bros lead guitar  Warren Haynes has deep roots in Asheville, and his annual Christmas Jam fundraiser that benefits Habitat has returned after a COVID hiatus. Producer and composer Ben Lovett pens orchestral scores as lush as the Blue Ridge slopes. WPVM’s music guide takes you on a journey to discover the storied history and appreciate how the soulful mountain music of Appalachia shaped so much of today’s popular music.

When you listen to the music in Asheville and Western North Carolina, you’re hearing the echoes of history and the birth of a nation, the birth of americana, folk, bluegrass, country, and rock. It’s music of a unique time and place. It flows out to the world, just like the French Broad River flows northwest, then mixes with the Tenessee and, finally, the Mississippi to flow to the gulf and out to the world.

Tim Duffy
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Tim DuffyAR0717segmentC_broadcast

Tim Duffy of the Music Maker Relief Foundation in North Carolina explains the curative properties of music on society and his work with Taj Mahal to help deep-roots musicians in need..

Western Carolina Music Scene

“I was sixteen when I came to New York. I had graduated to a tenor banjo in the school jazz band, and it was kind of boring – just chords, chords, chords. Then my father took me to a mountain music and dance festival in Asheville, North Carolina, and there I saw relatively uneducated people playing great music by ear. I’ll never forget Mrs. Samantha Bumgarner, sitting back in her rocking chair with a banjo – oh, she’d painted the head of her banjo with brightly colored butterflies and flowers, and she was singing funny songs, tragic songs, violent songs, ‘Pretty Polly’, about murdering your true love.” – Pete Seeger
During the summer of 1936, while traveling with his father and stepmother, Pete Seeger heard the five-string banjo for the first time at the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival in western North Carolina near Asheville, organized by local folklorist, lecturer, and traditional music performer Bascom Lamar Lunsford. The festival took place in a covered baseball field.
There the Seegers watched square-dance teams from Bear Wallow, Happy Hollow, Cane Creek, Spooks Branch, Cheoah Valley, Bull Creek, and Soco Gap; heard the five-string banjo player Samantha Bumgarner; and family string bands, including a group of Native Americans from the Cherokee reservation who played string instruments and sang ballads. They wandered among the crowds who camped out at the edge of the field, hearing music being made there as well. As Bascom Lamar Lunsford’s daughter would later recall, those country people “held the riches that Dad had discovered. They could sing, fiddle, pick the banjos, and guitars with traditional grace and style found nowhere else but deep in the mountains. I can still hear those haunting melodies drift over the ball park.”
For the Seegers, experiencing the beauty of this music firsthand was a “conversion experience”. Pete was deeply affected and, after learning basic strokes from Bascom Lamar Lunsford, spent much of the next four years trying to master the five-string banjo.
The photograph below is of Samantha Bumgarner at the Asheville Mountain Music Festival in 1938.
Samantha was born in Tennessee in 1878. Her father was a well-known fiddle player Has Biddix, and when he was not around Samantha used his fiddle to teach herself how to play. She also taught herself how to play the banjo.
Samantha Bumgarner and Eva Smathers Davis made history when they recorded a number of songs for Columbia Records in 1924 including “Shout Lou,” “Fly Around My Pretty Lil’ Miss” and “Cindy in the Meadow.” They are credited as the first women to record country music.
Known as “Aunt Samantha,” she played at banjo competitions in the Appalachian region. For more than 30 years, Samantha performed at the annual Mountain Dance and Folk Festival in Asheville. This kept Samantha in the public eye and she gained a loyal following. Her career bridged the traditional Appalachian music ways with the rise of modern country music.
In 1939, Samantha Bumgarner was among a select group of mountain musicians who played at the White House for Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and King George VI and Queen Elizabeth of England.
Clink the link below to hear Samantha Bumgarner play “The Gamblin’ Man” on a five-string banjo in April of 1924.
Excellent blog post on the history of blue grass guitar in Western North Carolina on this link.