Thread: Wow, Mother Maybelle carter of the Carter Family Loved the Allman Brothers

DerekFromCincinnati - 5/3/2009 at 06:30 PM

quote: lle_carter_was_a_rare_influence_in_music_and_life/23615/

‘Wildwood Flower:‘ Maybelle Carter was a Rare Influence in Music and Life

Published: May 3, 2009

HILTONS, Va. – Grandpa Jones often referred to folks with distinction as the flower of the flock.

He may well have said such in regards to Maybelle Carter.

Carter, who died in 1978 at age 69, would have turned 100 on May 10. In loving recognition, the Carter Family Fold in Hiltons, Va., will honor her on May 9. Talent scheduled to appear includes Karl Shiflett, Lorrie Carter Bennett, Ronnie Williams and Leroy Troy.

Why the fuss, some may wonder.

“Gracious,” said Rita Forrester, A.P. and Sara Carter’s granddaughter and Maybelle’s great niece and director of the Carter Fold. “She influenced country artists, rock artists, bluegrass and folk artists.”

“Gosh almighty, 100 years old,” said Chris Hillman of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame group the Byrds. “Bless her heart.”

Now, Maybelle Carter was not just the flower of the flock. She was and yet remains country music’s wildwood flower – the mother of country music.

“One of my friends showed me an article on her in Rolling Stone when I was a teenager,” Forrester said on Wednesday afternoon, seated on stage at the Fold. “That’s when I realized the impact she had on music. But to me, she was my great aunt and I loved her.”

Dozens of Carter Family photographs rested on walls beside and behind Forrester. Included among them, just over her left shoulder, was a brilliant photo of a smiling Maybelle Carter.
“The face of all music today would be different without Maybelle Carter and the Carter Family,” Forrester said.

Maybelle Addington was born on May 10, 1909 to Hugh and Margaret Addington near Nickelsville, Va. While still a teenager, she began playing music throughout Poor Valley with A.P. and his wife and her cousin Sara Carter.

The Carter Family’s break came in the summer of 1927 when they made their first recordings during what’s now famously known as the Bristol Sessions. For $50 per song, they recorded six songs in two days in a building on State Street in Bristol, Tenn., for Victor Records under the direction of Ralph Peer.

So began a career that influenced generations of musicians. They include Kitty Wells, long known as the queen of country music and also a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame.

“I was a big fan of the Carter Family,” Wells said by phone on Tuesday from her home in Madison, Tenn. “I loved to listen to the Carter Family. Maybelle had a great influence on me. I really admired her.”
Perhaps surprisingly, so did many a rock musician.

“The Carter Family and Maybelle’s guitar playing per se was a foundation of not only country music but also rock and roll,” Hillman said. “If you could got ‘Wildwood Flower’ down, then you were on your way.”

Among the Carter Family’s standards, “Wildwood Flower,” stands out. In particular, Maybelle’s guitar playing perked many an ear, including most profoundly a young Earl Scruggs.

“I owe my love for the guitar in country music to Maybelle Carter,” said Scruggs, a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame as part of Flatt & Scruggs.
Most people know Scruggs best as the most innovative and influential banjo picker of all time. However, he also plays guitar extraordinarily well.

“Thanks to Mother Maybelle,” he said. “She was the one who inspired me.”

Guitarist. Maybelle Carter forged the template upon which country music guitar was built. She played lead and rhythm simultaneously during an era when the guitar was not a lead instrument. She sounded like two guitarists in one.

“She was the primer course for anybody who got into country music,” Hillman said.

Clean. Maybelle’s guitar playing sounds neither cluttered nor showy. As on songs like “You Are My Flower,” notes from her 1928 Gibson L-5 guitar sound deceptively simple thanks to her precise playing of the notes.

“She showed me the way to play ‘You Are My Flower’ real pretty like,” Scruggs said. “She was the greatest, I thought. She played the tune. You could tell what she was playing.”

She used her thumb to play the melody on the bass and middle strings, while using her index finger to play rhythm. Her innovative style became known as the Carter scratch.

“Gosh, probably the first thing I learned on the guitar was the Carter scratch,” Hillman said. “The first tune I ever learned on the guitar was ‘Wildwood Flower.’ ”
In addition to Scruggs, Maybelle’s guitar playing also influenced such legendary guitarists as Chet Atkins, Jerry Reed and Joe Maphis.

“She was very special,” said Rose Lee Maphis, Maphis’ widow and duet partner.

During the 1960s, the Maphis’ wrote a song in her honor simply titled, “Mother Maybelle.” Joe Maphis included it on an acoustic album that he recorded in much the same style as she innovated.

“He borrowed her old guitar,” Maphis said, “the one in the Country Music Hall of Fame, and that’s what he played on the record.”

Maphis did not record with Maybelle, but Scruggs did. Even today, three decades after her death, Scruggs, the world’s greatest banjo innovator lights up at mention of Maybelle’s name.

“She played the fire out of the guitar,” Scruggs said. “I just loved Mother Maybelle Carter the best.”

Unfortunately and despite her widespread influence, by the 1950s, Maybelle was not exactly raking in the cash. In addition to working shows with her daughters, she also worked a day job.
“Aunt Maybelle had it rough,” Forrester said. “I remember Johnny Cash said that when he met June that she was sitting with old people to make enough money to make ends meet. He said it was a travesty.”

And yet, Maybelle was something of a magnet for musicians.

“She was a mother to a lot of musicians,” Forrester said. “She sewed buttons for Elvis Presley.”

In particular, though, Maybelle made sure that her three daughters looked their best when they performed. If a dress needed mending, she mended it. If a ribbon for their hair needed to be tied, she tied it.
“Johnny Cash said she’d press his shirts,” said Ronnie Williams, a longtime friend and devout fan of the Carter Family. “She mothered people. She was a sweet person, very kind, very caring.”
Williams met her when he was 11, befriended her, studied and eventually learned to play Carter Family music in their style.

“The first time I met her, it was like she had known me all her life,” Williams said by phone recently from his home in Spotsylvania County, Va.

They initially became phone buddies, followed by Williams visiting Maybelle in her home in Madison, Tenn.

“She was a grand lady,” Williams said, “but Maybelle didn’t want you to think she was anything special.”

Carter loved games and gambling. She played bingo whenever possible, blackjack and occasionally poker, bowling and slot machines, and a game called “Don’t Get Mad.”
“Oh my goodness, she was a bowling fiend,” said Lorrie Carter Bennett, Maybelle’s granddaughter. “The night she passed away, she played bingo at the VFW.”

Then, there was Maybelle’s driving.
“Oh my gosh, she drove like a bat out of hell,” Bennett said, laughing.

Maybelle had to, and she loved to. She was the designated driver during the 1940s, ’50s, ’60s and ’70s while on the road with her daughters and other family. She wheeled them many a night from one show to another, hammer down.

“A lot of my memories of her are of her just driving, driving, driving,” Forrester said.

Grand memories. However, Forrester said that perhaps her fondest memory of Maybelle is also the funniest.

“I asked her about meeting [1960s folk pioneer] Joan Baez,” Forrester said. “She whispered to me, ‘She didn’t wear underclothes.’ ”

In addition to all three of her daughters, several of Maybelle’s grandchildren also have made impacts on music, most notably Carlene Carter and John Carter Cash.

Like Carlene, Lorrie Carter Bennett actually toured and performed with Maybelle for a time during the early 1970s.

In 1973, Bennett debuted as a member of yet another version of the Carter Family, which also included Maybelle, Helen and Helen’s son David Jones.

“The first show we did was opening for George Jones and Tammy Wynette at Cobo Hall in Detroit, and guess who didn’t show? George Jones,” Bennett said.

So instead of a few minutes, the Carters had to play for about two hours. No problem for old pro Maybelle.

“There were 12,000 people there. It was the first time I was on stage, and I was nervous,” Bennett said. “But Grandma said, ‘Don’t worry. Just grin ’em down.’ ”
Bennett also got to see another side of her grandmother while riding the roads from show to show. Maybelle loved to listen to music, so she kept a supply of 8-track tapes on hand.

“She liked the Allman Brothers’ ‘Eat A Peach’ tape,” Bennett said.

Oh yes, Maybelle Carter liked rock music.

“She loved the Allman Brothers, Poco, Mac Davis, Waylon Jennings,” Bennett said.

And everyone loved Maybelle.

Memories of Maybelle from fond to funny reverberate even three decades after her death. Speak to anyone who knew or was related to her.
Their memories run far deeper than mere recollections of one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century.

From the famous …
“She was a sweet lady,” said Earl Scruggs.

From her friends …
“I just thought there was nobody like her,” said Ronnie Williams.

And from her family, Mother Maybelle Carter did not simply play the “Wildwood Flower.” She was the wildwood flower, a sweet mountain lady from Virginia.
“She was a grand old girl,” Bennett said.

—What: 100th Birthday Tribute to Maybelle Carter featuring Karl Shiflett and Big Country, Lorrie Carter Bennett, Ronnie Williams, Von Ferguson, High Valley, T.J. McCloud, Gary Mitchell, Liz Kilgo and Leroy Troy
—When: May 9, 3:30 p.m.
—Where: Carter Family Fold, A.P. Carter Highway, Hiltons, Va.
—Admission: $15 for adults, $1 for children ages 6-11, and free admission to kids under age 6
—Info: (276) 386-6054 or (276) 645-0035

Peachstatedawg - 5/3/2009 at 06:47 PM

Betcha Dickey especially would appreciate knowing that.

Brock - 5/3/2009 at 07:44 PM

Bless her heart indeed. Nice that her 100th birthday falls on Mother's Day this year.

ruthelane - 5/3/2009 at 09:28 PM

I can just imagine Maybelle Carter driving those lonely roads in the dark,
with the hammer down, and the Allman Brothers blasting from the tape
deck. What a vision that is!!!

BigDaveOnBass - 5/4/2009 at 12:36 PM

VERY cool article.

It was Maybelle's husband, Ezra "Eck" Carter, that was my grandad's 1st cousin. Their old house is down the road from The Carter Family Fold in Hiltons and is occupied by one of their descendants. I forget who, though. I can remember my grandma telling me about The Carters stopping by the dairy my grandpa ran in Anderson, IN to visit when they were on the road back in the 40's. Too bad I never got to meet any of them. My uncles were pretty well acquainted with the Carter girls (Anita, Helen and June - they were 2nd cousins) as they were all about the same age.

I highly recommend the book, "Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone?" for those who are interested in Carter Family history.

lolasdeb - 5/4/2009 at 12:53 PM

Bless her heart indeed. Nice that her 100th birthday falls on Mother's Day this year.
Ditto. Bless you Mother Maybelle.

BigDaveOnBass - 5/4/2009 at 04:40 PM

Speakin' of Maybelle....this just in from Wolfgang's Vault. A solo performance taped in LA, CA on April 20, 1963. VERY good sound quality. A real blast from the past. 494.html

[Edited on 5/4/2009 by BigDaveOnBass]

KWidgeon - 5/4/2009 at 04:45 PM

Very cool article.

pops42 - 5/4/2009 at 05:51 PM

Mother Maybelle a peach-head! who'da thunk it?. Ill bet it was "Brothers and sisters" that caught her ear though.

[Edited on 5/4/2009 by pops42]

thinredline - 5/5/2009 at 01:14 AM

I was fortunate enough to see the entire Carter Family at the Fairgrounds in Chattanooga, TN in the early sixties. My father even taped the show on an old 8mm camera. I need to get that tape tranferred to CD soon.

[Edited on 5/5/2009 by thinredline]

DerekFromCincinnati - 5/6/2009 at 04:39 AM

was fortunate enough to see the entire Carter Family at the Fairgrounds in Chattanooga, TN in the early sixties. My father even taped the show on an old 8mm camera. I need to get that tape tranferred to CD soon.

Wow, get it transferred to DVD. Heck, it might be biography fodder.

Tarzan - 5/6/2009 at 05:38 AM

that is a great article

thinredline - 5/7/2009 at 12:29 AM

was fortunate enough to see the entire Carter Family at the Fairgrounds in Chattanooga, TN in the early sixties. My father even taped the show on an old 8mm camera. I need to get that tape tranferred to CD soon.

Wow, get it transferred to DVD. Heck, it might be biography fodder.

I'll have to work on that soon.

BigDaveOnBass - 5/7/2009 at 03:00 PM

It must have been Maybelle and the three daughters, Anita, Helen and June, because A.P. had died in late 1960. Sarah only performed with Maybelle on rare occasion because she lived in CA with her second husband, Coy Bayes, who was another cousin of my grandfather's.

DerekFromCincinnati - 5/20/2009 at 10:22 PM

quote: ional-music-with-Carter-Family-esque-tunes

Heather Berry blends traditional music with Carter Family-esque tunes

May 15, 2009 @ 10:30 PM

By Derek Halsey
For The Herald-Dispatch

Playing a combination of bluegrass music and the pre-bluegrass sounds of Carter Family-era mountain music, Heather Berry and Dominion Grass will perform at the Mountaineer Opry House today, May 16.

Berry, who sings lead and plays guitar and autoharp in the Maybelle Carter tradition, forms the heart of the group along with husband and multi-instrumentalist Tony Mabe. The band records for the Blue Circle Record label owned by country music legend Tom T. Hall and his wife Dixie.

The show begins at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and $5 for kids 12 and under. The Mountaineer Opry House is located east of Huntington off of the Milton exit on I-64. For more information, call 304-743-5749.

The rest of Dominion Grass includes Wade Cox on mandolin and Mike Tyree on bass.

While Berry has always loved bluegrass and gospel music, she was also drawn to the sounds of the Carter Family when she began performing at a young age. The legendary group, consisting of A.P. Carter, his wife Sara and sister-in-law Mother Maybelle, were first recorded at the infamous 1927 Bristol, Tenn., recording sessions hosted by big city producer Ralph Peer that helped to bring mountain music to the rest of the world.

"I think that Maybelle Carter is the greatest female musician that ever lived," said Berry. "I always loved her style of playing. She had her own little unique lick on the guitar and autoharp. I love her. She's one of my heroes. She played with a lot of power, to be such a little woman like she was."

It was a mutual love of Carter Family music that brought Berry together with the Blue Circle Records label and its owners Tom T. and Dixie Hall.

"I met them through a lady by the name of Linda Lay, a great singer," said Berry. "She plays with a band called Springfield Exit. She's a very good singer and she had been friends with Tom T. and Dixie. She was from around Bristol and loved the Carter Family-style music like I do. She introduced me to Dixie, initially, because Dixie was really good friends with Mother Maybelle and that kind of music, with the autoharp and all, it really meant a lot to her."

Berry's future husband and band mate Tony Mabe met in Nashville in what can only be described as a bluegrass love affair.

"We met in 2005 at the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Awards and convention down there in Nashville," said Berry. "Tony was playing for Jeanette and Johnnie Williams at the time, who were acquaintances of mine. I'd seen them a few times and got to jam some with them, so they introduced us and it was a pretty cool deal. Actually, for our first date, Tony and I went to the Ryman Auditorium for the (IBMA) awards that year and Tom T. and Dixie Hall chaperoned us."

The Carter Family connection has been good for Berry. Dixie Hall owns one of Mother Maybelle's autoharps and graciously let her play it in concert one night, and Berry has also performed at the Carter Fold, the decades old music venue located in Hiltons, Va., that is run by the descendants of the family.

"We're always treated really good there, and the folks are just so sweet and we love them," said Berry. "When you go to the Carter Fold, you go back in time a little bit. It always resonates with me, thinking about all of the music that has come from there and it really touches my heart every time we get to go."

Berry is also looking forward to playing with her band at the Mountaineer Opry House for the first time tonight.

"The fellows that we have playing with us are really good pickers and really humble and we love that traditional bluegrass sound," said Berry. "Also, in the middle of the show, Tony and I do about three or four songs of our duet-style music. So, when we have a band, it's a really broad spectrum, a real variety of music. We play some bluegrass and some Carter Family and gospel, and we try and mix it up as much as we can."

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