Photo courtesy of Cedric Chaterly.
Types of Artistry
Singer and guitar player
Burnsville, NC (Yancey County)
Alice Powers grew up in Yancey County in a house filled with music. Her father, Arvle Wyatt, was a well-known musician who played with Wade Mainer and Zeke and Wiley Morris. Mainer and the Morris brothers both had bands that were very influential on the music of the region, particularly in the development of bluegrass music. Alice's father instilled a strong sense of professionalism in her performances, which started when she was a child. "I remember him telling me, ‘You get it right, or you don't do it. If the audience can't hear everything you're singing, there's no point in singing at all,'" says Alice.
Her father's band, the Blue Ridge Mountaineers, played radio stations, schools, and other regional venues. When Alice was about six or seven years old, she recalls, her father took her with him to sing at the Carolina Barn Dance in Spruce Pine and stood her on a dynamite box so she could reach the microphone. In addition to performing regularly at the Carolina Barn Dance, Arvil and Alice also hosted a two-and-a-half hour variety show on WTOE radio that gave many young musicians a chance to be heard.
Her father taught her to play guitar when she was a teenager. He was a strict teacher, and her songs had to be just right before he would let her perform for audiences. "If you can't feel the song, it won't be good. It'll just be plastic," he told Alice. Years later, she learned to play bass. But, singing is her first passion, and she especially enjoys playing to accompany her singing. When her father had a stroke and was unable to play music, he continued performing as a storyteller. Alice accompanied him on numerous storytelling trips, providing music.
For many years, Alice played guitar and sang with local fiddler, Red Wilson. They recorded "Let Me Be Your Sunlight" and "She Said She'd Be Nobody's Darlin." May Green, a Bakersville woman, wrote he first of these tunes, and Red Wilson wrote the second. Alice's father also wrote songs, including "The Little Book," which was recorded as "The Great Speckled Bird," and "The Drunk Rat," which was recorded as "Intoxicated Rat." Alice continues to play these songs.
Alice works on Saturday nights as stage director for Young's Mountain Music in Burnsville, but she is available for performances on other days. She typically plays guitar and sings traditional bluegrass and country songs including pieces her father wrote. She enjoys sharing the music she has grown up with, and she also enjoys talking about the local musical traditions. She also loves to tell old stories about her father's music career.