Carl Story

Bluegrass musician

Caldwell County, NC

With an entertaining career that spanned more than 60 years, Carl Story has been called "The Father of Bluegrass Gospel Music," and he is a member of the International Bluegrass Music Association's Bluegrass Hall of Fame. Story played fiddle with Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Boys starting in 1942, before joining the Navy in 1943. After his discharge, Story helped shape the bluegrass gospel style and led a band that served as a training ground for many musicians.

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Ola Belle Reed

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Red Smiley

Bluegrass guitarist

Madison County, NC

Arthur Lee "Red" Smiley, an influential bluegrass rhythm guitarist and singer, was born in Marshall in 1927, and absorbed traditional mountain music growing up. Musician and scholar Bascom Lamar Lunsford was a family friend. By his early teens Smiley was playing music, performing on WROL out of Knoxville.

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Don Reno

Bluegrass banjo player

Haywood County, NC

Don Reno was one of the most distinctive and influential banjo players in the history of bluegrass music. Born in the Upcountry of South Carolina in 1927, Reno spent most of his childhood on a farm in Clyde, in Haywood County. He built his first banjo with a friend, using white oak and dogwood for the pot and neck, a cat's skin for the head, and screen door wires for strings. When the family moved back to South Carolina around 1938, Reno's father traded a hog for a guitar, which he gave to Don.

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Ola Belle Reed


Ashe County, NC

One of thirteen children in a musical family in Lansing, North Carolina, Ola Wave Campbell (she changed her name to Ola Belle) became a prolific songwriter and performer. In 1986, she was awarded the National Heritage Fellowship by the National Endowment for the Arts for her banjo playing and singing.

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Carroll Best

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Chris Austin

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The Church Brothers

Bluegrass band

Wilkes County, NC

The Church Brothers and their Blue Ridge Ramblers were a bluegrass band from Wilkes County, made up of three brothers and other community friends. Inspired by the first generation of bluegrass bands, such as Flatt and Scruggs and Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys, the Church Brothers were one of the first bluegrass bands in Wilkes County, performing on the radio in the 1940s and making several recordings for Blue Ridge and Rich-R-Tone Records in the early 1950s.

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Carroll Best

Banjo player

Haywood County

Carroll Best, from Haywood County, was a master of the melodic or "fiddle" style of picking the banjo. He perfected an intricate finger-picking technique that allowed him to perform a variety of tunes—from complex hornpipes to breakdowns—with great precision and beautiful tone.

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Chris Austin

Country and bluegrass musician and songwriter

Watauga County

Songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Chris Austin might never have gotten the attention he deserved for his musical talents had he not sneaked backstage at the Grand Ole Opry one night to meet one of his heroes, Ricky Skaggs. Within a short period of time, Chris was working as a sideman in Skaggs' band, and he later worked with Reba McEntire as well.

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