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The Charlie Poole Festival is proud to announce the formation of an Honorary Advisory Board in support of the important cultural legacy of American music pioneer, Charlie Poole.  The board is made up of some of the stellar names of Americana music today – Riley Baugus, Dick Connette, Dom Flemons, Rhiannon Giddens, John McEuen, Tony Rice, Kinney Rorrer, Happy Traum, and Loudon Wainwright III.


 As the festival anticipates its move in 2018 to a new date (Memorial Day Weekend) and a new location (on the campus of Rockingham Community College in Wentworth, NC), we are encouraged by the ongoing support of this board, and the many fans who have attended throughout the years.  Plans are underway for an event worthy of this support, and it is hoped you will mark your calendars to join us next year for a great celebration. 


If you aren’t already well familiar with our distinguished board members, please take a minute to read more about them.  Charlie would be proud of their support



Riley Baugus   As both a builder of banjos and a performer, Riley Baugus embodies the very spirit of traditional American music.  Notable appearances and collaborations have included the singing voice for the character of “Pangle,” in the movie “Cold Mountain;” the Robert Plant/Allison Krauss album “Raising Sand;” and the Willie Nelson recording “Country Music.” 



Dick Connette   New York composer, performer and producer, Dick Connette, has devoted the last 20 years to writing music and songs based on American folk and popular traditions.  He received a Grammy award for his work on “High Wide and Handsome: The Charlie Poole Project.”



Dom Flemons   As a founding member of the Grammy-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops, Flemons has reinvigorated the African-American traditions within old time music.  A Grammy Award winning musician, singer-songwriter, and slam poet, Flemons tours nationally and internationally billed as the “American Songster.”



Rhiannon Giddens   As a founding and current member of the Grammy-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops, Giddens has helped to reclaim the African-American heritage within old-time music.  Her numerous awards include being named the first American honored as Folk Singer of the Year at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, and as a recipient of the coveted Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass, and most recently, was named a MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Fellow.



John McEuen   Recipient of multiple awards including the Grammy, and founding member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, McEuen has performed continuously since 1960.  His collaborations have been with everyone from street musicians to Earl Scruggs, Steve Martin, and Levon Helm.  Perhaps his most important legacy may be his initiating what Rolling Stone called “The most important record to come out of Nashville” and what the 2004 ZAGAT survey called “the most important record in country music” - Will the Circle Be Unbroken.



Tony Rice   One of the most influential living acoustic guitar players in bluegrass, progressive bluegrass, newgrass, and flattop acoustic jazz, Rice is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Grammy.  Over the course of his career, he has played alongside J. D. CroweDavid Grisman, and Jerry Garcia, led his own Tony Rice Unit, collaborated with Norman Blake, recorded with his brothers Wyatt, Ron, and Larry, and co-founded the Bluegrass Album Band.



Kinney Rorrer    The author of “Ramblin’ Blues: The Life and Songs of Charlie Poole,” the definitive biography of Poole, Rorrer is also a practitioner of Poole-style three-finger banjo and leads the old-time band, the New North Carolina Ramblers.  He is the great-nephew of Poole’s wife, Lou Emma Rorer Poole, and her brother, Poole’s fiddle player, Posey Rorer.



Happy Traum   Recognized worldwide as a performer, writer, editor, session musician, folklorist, teacher and recording artist, Traum has performed for the past five decades, both nationally and internationally.  His first appearance in a recording studio was at a historic session in 1963 when a group of young folk musicians, including Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger, gathered in Folkways Records' studio for an album called “Broadsides.”  Happy with his group, the New World Singers, cut the first recorded version of "Blowin' In The Wind", and Happy sang a duet with Dylan on his anti-war song "Let Me Die in My Footsteps."



Loudon Wainwright III   Loudon Wainwright III is an artist on multiple fronts.  A songwriter, his songs have been covered (in addition to his own performances) by artists as diverse as Johnny Cash, Bonnie Raitt, Earl Scruggs, Mose Allison, Big Star, Freakwater, Norma Waterson, Kate & Anna McGarrigle, and Rufus Wainwright.  His numerous movie and television acting credits include collaborations with directors such as Judd Apatow, Martin Scorsese, and Tim Burton.  He was presented a Grammy award in 2010 for his two cd project “High Wide & Handsome: The Charlie Poole Project.”











The Charlie Poole Festival took a break this year, as it looks forward to new horizons in its new location on the campus of Rockingham Community College in Wentworth, North Carolina, and its new date of Memorial Day weekend, in 2018. Another leading light in the music world is threatening to take a permanent break from performing and recording – Norman Blake.  While this makes us sad, it would be a well-deserved rest for someone who, much like Charlie Poole, deserves credit for transforming American music, and entertaining us mightily along the way. 


In recognition of Norman Blake’s extraordinary contributions to America’s musical legacy, the Charlie Poole Festival is proud to announce that Blake has been named the 2017 recipient of the Charlie Poole Festival Lifetime Achievement Award.  Blake’s 2017 CD release “Brushwood (Songs and Stories)” is just another example of why he is deserving of this award.


After leaving home at 16 to pursue a career as a professional musician, and after a stint in the Army, Blake found himself, by just his mid-20s, making his first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry, and being hired by the already legendary Johnny Cash to play in his band.  The caliber of Blake’s talent is reflected in the important recordings on which he appeared over the next few decades – some of the most important in American music history:


Bob Dylan’s “Nashville Skyline” (1968)

John Hartford’s “Aereo Plain” (1971)

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” (1972)

“O Brother, Where Art Thou?” (2000)


All of those years between the 1970s and 2000 were filled with award-winning original music, pairings with his extraordinarily talented lifetime partner, Nancy Blake, and other greats of the industry – recordings that cemented his status as one of the preeminent guitarists of all time.   Blake, whether playing an ancient song from the American canon or performing one of his original tunes (that sound deceptively old), continues to capture the fascination of all those who hold this music dear.  We can only hope that his suggestion that he may not record or perform publicly again turns out to not be so, but we must affirm that he has certainly earned the right to do so with the joy he has brought to us over so many years. 


The Charlie Poole Festival is honored to recognize Norman Blake, a true American treasure.  Charlie would certainly be proud of the association.








Charlie Poole is moving!


The Charlie Poole Music Festival will be held on the campus of Rockingham

Community College during Memorial Day Weekend. This event, which celebrates

the rich heritage of Rockingham County’s native son, has enjoyed over 20

years of success presenting local, regional, and national talent in the Governor

John Motley Morehead Park located in the historic Spray section of Eden. In

order to adequately prepare for this exciting move, there will not be a festival

in 2017.


Piedmont Folk Legacies serves as the parent organization of the festival and

looks forward to increased participation from throughout the county as plans

are made to enhance and support this celebration of our cultural heritage.

Bookmark www.charlie-poole.com or like us on Facebook for updates.









Charlie Poole Festival to Feature the African Origins of the Banjo


The African origins of the banjo will be one of the prominent themes during the exciting Friday night concert at this year’s Charlie Poole Music Festival, to be held June 10-11 in Eden, North Carolina.  Mali, West Africa, musician Cheick Hamala Diabate will showcase his mastery of both the n’goni (the African ancestor of the banjo) and the modern banjo.  Also headlining the performance this year will be master clawhammer banjoist, Bob Carlin.  Both Carlin and Diabate will receive this year’s CPMF Lifetime Achievement Award.  In 2007 they collaborated on the Grammy-nominated album “From Mali to America,” and will perform on Friday night both separately and together, in a reflection of the important careers of both entertainers.


Another featured performer will be Seth Swingle, last year’s winner of the CPMF Old-Time Three Finger Banjo Championship.  Seth, as a Fulbright Scholar, has studied under Diabate, and will join him and Carlin, as, among the three of them, they perform singularly and together for a full evening of rich traditional music.  As if that were not enough, leading off the Friday evening concert will be the highly popular old time band from Greensboro, NC, The Zinc Kings.  The dance floor will be down and ready for everyone to kick up their heels and enjoy.


Once the dust settles on Friday night’s event, the festival continues, bright and early on Saturday, with the highly respected contests featuring youth vocal and instrument, and individual adult categories in multiple acoustic instruments and vocal, plus old-time and bluegrass band categories.  The evening is capped off with the Old Time Three-Finger Banjo Championship, and, by popular demand, there will be an “open mic” interlude while everyone waits for the votes to be counted and the winners announced.  All of this happens in the very neighborhood where Charlie Poole lived and worked, when he wasn’t out rambling and making world-changing music back in the 1920s and 30s. 


For those musicians, young and old and all points between, who wish to brush up on their skills or learn new techniques, there will be several special workshop offerings on Saturday, during the festival.  For young folks, there will be a Youth Band Workshop offered, with a special opportunity for participants to perform onstage at its conclusion.  And, for the banjo enthusiasts attending, whatever their genre, three different workshops will focus on the three different playing styles featured at the Charlie Poole Festival.  Seth Swingle, reigning champion of the Old Time 3-Finger Banjo contest will present that style in an afternoon workshop; Don Wright will present bluegrass style banjo; and, Riley Baugus will offer his expertise in clawhammer style banjo. 


Food and other vendors will be on site for the festival, with lots of home-cooked treats and handmade treasures.  Visitors are encouraged to bring their own chairs.  Assistance is available for those who need help in getting into the venue.  Camping is free to festival goers.  Tickets are $15 for Friday night’s concert; $15 for all day Saturday; or $25 for a weekend pass.  This project is supported by the N.C. Arts Council and the Rockingham County Arts Council, as well as the Rockingham County Partnership for Economic and Tourism Development, and the City of Eden Tourism Development.  For more information, you may call 336-623-1043 or email Charlie-Poole@embarqmail.com







MARC and the Charlie Poole Festival Join Forces to Explore the African Origins of the Banjo


Make plans to attend a special program at the MARC on June 9th, as the museum and Piedmont Folk Legacies join together for a special presentation in anticipation of the 21st annual Charlie Poole Music Festival on June 10th and 11th. A special feature of the festival each year is the presentation of the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award, this year going to two especially deserving masters of their craft. One of the honorees, Bob Carlin, has graciously agreed to visit the museum and provide highlights from his newly released book “Banjo: An Illustrated History.”


A recent description of the book reads as thus: This book offers the first comprehensive, illustrated history of the banjo in its many forms. It traces the story of the instrument from its roots in West Africa to its birth in the Americas, through its coming of age in the Industrial Revolution and beyond. The book profiles the most important players and spotlights key luthiers and manufacturers. It features 100 “milestone instruments” with in-depth coverage, including model details and beautiful photos. It offers historical context surrounding the banjo through the ages, from its place in Victorian parlors and speakeasies through its role in the folk boom of the 1950s and 1960s to its place in the hands of songwriter John Hartford and comedian Steve Martin. Folk, jazz, bluegrass, country, and rock – the banjo has played an important part in all of these genres. Lavishly illustrated, and thoughtfully written by author, broadcaster, and acclaimed banjoist Bob Carlin, this is a must-have for lovers of fretted instruments, aficionados of roots music, and music history buffs.


Carlin will be taking questions and signing copies of his book, which will be available for sale. The other honoree for this year, Mali, West African musician, Cheick Hamala Diabate, will accompany Carlin, his schedule permitting. Featured in the book, Diabate is recognized for his important work with the African n’goni, the precursor of the modern banjo.


The program will be held at the MARC, located in the old Wentworth Courthouse, at 6:00 PM on Thursday, June 9th. The cost to attend the program is $5.00. If you have any questions, please contact the museum at (336) 634-4949 or MARCconnection@gmail.com.


Address: 1086 NC HWY 65, Reidsville, NC 27320