Orange County’s Musical Heritage

inNewson February 7, 2013

Ben PaytonOrange County, North Carolina has been home to some of our nations most influential blues musicians.  Libba Cotton became a darling of the folk revival and her finger style guitar playing remains a staple of guitar players till this day. James Taylor, our most famous songwriter, singer and guitarist is also from Orange County. You can distinctly hear Libba’s influence in his fluent finger-style guitar playing and to this day he performs blues tinged songs in his concerts and live shows.


Legendary blues pioneers such as Blind Boy Fuller, Reverend Gary Davis, Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry all performed on the streets of nearby Durham, and there are many accounts of them playing house parties in nearby Orange County. Piedmont blues master and buck dancer John Dee Holeman grew up deep in the Orange County countryside, farming, moonshining and playing the blues. There are many known and unknown wonderful musicians from this area. If you want to learn more read Bruce Bastin’s classic book entitled “Cryin’ for the Carolines.”


There is a reason Music Maker was founded and remains in the North Carolina, as this is one of the great homes of the Blues. Most music history dwells on Mississippi and Chicago as our Blues centers, but the story of this classic American music form is much deeper and much wider than is often told. Yesterday I was talking to Taj Mahal; he grew up in Springfield, Massachusetts, where he had one neighbor that came up and learned his blues from Clarksdale, MS and his other neighbor was from Orange County, NC and was a great blues musician. Early on, Taj learned that the true home of Blues was much wider than he would read of. When I introduced Taj to John Dee Holeman, he was stunned and was brought back to his beginnings – a giant circle had been completed in his musical journey.


Today, Ironing Board Sam has settled in the center of Hillsborough, near our office, and tells me that he truly has found peace in his new home. He has the respect of the local music buyers, playing in bars and clubs throughout the Triangle. People appreciate his songs, his spirit – and that gives him the inspiration to keep performing. New Music Maker Partner Artist Ben Peyton is moving to Hillsborough as well, he will arrive this month and I expect he will find the same warm, welcoming, appreciative atmosphere that Sam found. Music Maker, indirectly, is contributing to a revival of elderly Blues musicians in our little ‘borough, and we could not be more pleased.
— Tim Duffy



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