Instrument Repairs

Ben Seymour

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Donald Davis


Haywood County, NC native

Donald Davis's life has carried him far from his native mountains, but his storytelling draws on the lore of his family, who occupied the same land in Haywood County for two centuries. Though there were many storytellers in the family, Davis's Uncle Frank Davis and his Grandmother Walker were his primary influences. Both had a large repertoire of Jack tales, and they approached them in different ways.

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Joe Thrift

Violin builder and oldtime musician

Dobson, NC (Surry County)

Joe Thrift is a violin maker and fiddler who has steeped himself in all aspects of the instrument. Born in Winston-Salem, Joe grew up in a family that was sympathetic to his musical interests. His father was a pipe organ builder, and his mother an organist and choir director. In the early 1970s, Joe became interested in building instruments and playing music.

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Floyd Reeves

Fiddle maker

Sparta, NC (Alleghany County)

The Reeves family of Alleghany County claim kinship to Homer and Cleo, the Reeves Brothers, and Nashville star Del Reeves. Though Floyd Reeves does not carry on the family tradition as a performing musician, he has made a name for himself making fiddles and doing repair work for many of the area's musicians. Since the early 1980s, Floyd has made more than 50 fiddles, and he continues to repair fiddles and other instruments and re-hair bows at his home in Sparta.

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Earl Moretz

Instrument builder and bluegrass musician

Fleetwood, NC (Ashe County)

"I've worked on them ever since I was a young man," Earl Moretz says of building instruments. Earl has been making instruments and playing bluegrass and old-time mountain music for most of his life, continuing family traditions that go back at least three generations.

Earl was born in the Meat Camp community of Watauga County. "My daddy and his brothers and sisters all played music," Earl says. They played old-time mountain music at family and community gatherings.

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David and Mack McEntire

Instrument builders and bluegrass musicians

Rutherfordton, NC (Rutherford County)

Since 2003, David McEntire and his father Mack have been making guitars, mandolins, and banjos from Mack's woodworking shop, creating the kind of instruments that have been played in their family and community for generations. "We try to make instruments that play good and sound good," David says. "An instrument that never gets scratched is one that never gets played."

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Tal Holbrook

Instrument builder and fiddler

Traphill, NC (Wilkes County)

Tal Holbrook's home and workshop are in the Traphill community of Wilkes County, near where he grew up. He spends most of his time in his workshop making fiddles and mandolins. Though he refers to instrument building as a "hobby," Tal says, "All I would do is eat and sleep if I wasn't doing it." He also plays fiddle.

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Charles Gilbert

Banjo maker and repairman

Spindale, NC (Rutherford County)

"I've always loved the banjo," Charles Gilbert says. He moved to Rutherford County following military service in the Navy during World War II. Since 1980, he has been building and restoring banjos. He has built and worked on about fifty instruments, which he sells from his home and from B-Sharp Music shop in Spindale.

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Scott Freeman

Bluegrass musician

Woodlawn, VA

Scott Freeman grew up in a musical family in Mount Airy, and today he makes his living performing, recording, writing, arranging, and teaching music from his home in Woodlawn, Virginia, and all around the region.

"There were always instruments around the house," he remembers. His three brothers all played music, so he seemed destined to play. "They always needed a mandolin player," says Scott, who plays multiple instruments, but still favors the mandolin. The brothers performed bluegrass and gospel music together with other community members.

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Ernest Combs

Instrument builder and repairman

Zionville, NC (Watauga County)

Ernest Combs grew up in the Vilas community of Watauga County. With woodworking skills learned from his father and help from famous instrument builder Albert Hash, he developed his craft of making and repairing instruments. "Albert Hash is the one that influenced me," he says. Over the years, Ernest has built a banjo and fiddle, and dulcimers and guitars, and he does repair and set-up work for guitar and banjo players from the area.

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