The Incredible,
The Astounding,
The Amazing ...

The Original Carter Family

In our session, we shall explore the impact and influence of The Original Carter Family [AP, Sara and Maybelle] from what is known as the “Big Bang” of country music [The Bristol Sessions – field recordings by Ralph S. Peer] to this day. Special emphasis shall be placed upon the legendary artistry of Mother Maybelle on her beloved Gibson L-5 guitar and the important influence that the itinerant, African-American guitarist, Lesley Riddle might have had on her development and refinement of the unique playing style for which she is much-beloved – the “Carter-Scratch”.
The Original Carter Family

AP, Tunesmith & Organizer
Sara, Lead Vocals & Autoharp
Maybelle, Guitar & Harmony Vocals

... to get in the mood - a Carter Family Classic
"Can the Circle Be Unbroken"

audio link

- what did you hear
- what catches your attention
- what do you perhaps like, perhaps do not like
A Basic History

geographically isolated - economically depressed
(Poor Valley, Hiltons, Maces Spring ~ Virginia)

Family Connections
(AP & Sara - married; Maybelle - sister-in-law)
(Sara's 2nd husband - Coy Bays - cousin)

Representative of Appalachia Tradition

Carter Family Factoids
- 300 recordings - between 1927-1943
 - millions of recordings sold
- never toured [much]
- never wealthy [by most standards]
- influenced all [possible understatement]

If, as many suggest, country music is the commercial manifestation of American folk music, then the Carter Family are country music incarnate. By combing the hills, the hymnals, their own memories, and every other source imaginable and available, A.P. and the Carter Family took the songs of their mountain community and presented them to the world at large in a way that millions of people could understand, love, and call their own.

Signature Tunes Include
Wildwood Flower, Keep on the Sunny Side, Can [Will] the Circle Be Unbroken, Bury Me Under the Weeping Willow, Will You Miss Me When I am Gone, Worried Man Blues, My Dixie Darlin', On the Rock Where Moses Stood, Single Girl, Married Girl, Cannon Ball Blues,
River of Jordan, Kissing is a Crime and My Clinch Mountain Home

Grand Ole Opry Members - 1950 [Mother Maybelle and "The Girls"]
Country Music Hall of Fame - 1970
Grammy Hall of Fame - 1988
US Postal Stamp Commemoration - 1993
Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor - 2001
Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award - 2005

... what about another Carter Family Classic
"Keep on the Sunny Side"

audio link

- what did you hear
- what catches your attention
- what do you perhaps like, perhaps do not like

Bristol Sessions - Field Recordings
76 Recordings ~ 19 Different Groups
Pop Stoneman and the Stoneman Family Band
Jimmie Rodgers
The Carter Family
[50.00 per song recorded - 600.00 for the Carters]
The "Big Bang" of Country Music
The Bristol Sessions
August 1927

Ralph S. Peer

... first Carter Family Recording
from the famous Bristol Sessions
"Bury Me Under the Weeping Willow"

audio link

A Bit More History of the Carters

video link

from PBS Special [2:22 to 8:45]

Mother Maybelle Carter
The Johnny Cash Show

"Wildwood Flower"

video link

Mother Maybelle with the famous Gibson L-5 Guitar
Carter Sisters - Anita, Helen & June

- what did you hear
- what catches your attention
- what do you perhaps like, perhaps do not like

Mother Maybelle's Famous Gibson L-5
what is special about the Gibson L-5?

- 16 inch wide body
- arch top
- "F" holes [rather than a single center hole]
- narrow "snakehead" peghead
- maple neck, ebony fingerboard
- originally set with banjo pegs
- customized over the years [tuners, pickguard, tailpiece]
- purchased with proceeds from the Bristol Sessions
- original price - approximately $200.00
- last sold for $575,000.00 [2004]
- currently "Gem Instrument" - Country Music Hall of Fame
Lesley "Esley" Riddle
Black, Itinerant, Crippled Traveling Companion of AP
influence on Maybelle's unique guitar style ???
The Carter Scratch

video link #1

video link #2

Ezra, Maybelle & June
Johnny Cash - saving his life
[Memphis, Sun Studios, Early Tours with June]
("we couldn't save Hank, but we are not gonna let this boy get away from us")
Nashville & Hendersonville
Johnny Cash's commitment to the Carters and their Tradition

video link

Interesting Historic Video
Grand Ole Opry Members
Kate Smith Television Program

featuring Roy Acuff, Hank Sr. and June Carter, et al on Hank's Classic ~ "I Saw The Light"

video link

Sara, Maybelle, June & Johnny
(one of the last public performances by Sara & Maybelle)

video link
The Long Shadow of the Carter Family
- close, tight harmony
- mixing of Appalachian, Religious & Delta Blues traditions
- guitar [rather than the banjo] made it an "American" Instrument
Other Audio Examples

Wildwood Flower

Single Girl, Married Girl

Cannonball Blues

My Clinch Mountain Home

Georgetown College
prepared for "College for a Day" - April 20, 2010
any errors or omissions are the sole responsibility of
Pete LaRue