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Carter Family
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Carter Family

The Carter Family was a rural country music group that performed between 1927 and 1943. Their music had a profound impact on later bluegrass, country, "pop", and rock musicians, as well as the U.S. folk revival; of the 1960s.

The original group was a trio comprised of Alvin Pleasant Delaney Carter (A.P.), his wife, Sara Dougherty Carter (autoharp), and Maybelle Carter (guitar). Maybelle was married to A.P.'s brother Ezra (Eck) Carter. All three were born and raised in southwestern Virginia where they were immersed in the tight harmonies of mountain gospel music and shape note singing. Maybelle's distinctive and innovative guitar playing style quickly became a hallmark of the group. Maybelle's daughter, June Carter joined the group in the early 1940s.

The Carters got their start on July 31, 1927 when A.P. convinced Sara and Maybelle (pregnant at the time) to make the journey from Maces Springs, Virginia to Bristol, Tennessee to audition for record producer Ralph Peer who was seeking new talent for the relatively embryonic recording industry. They received $50 for each song they recorded.

In the Fall on 1927 the Victor recording company released a double sided 78 rpm record of the group performing "Wandering Boy" and "Poor Orphan Child". In 1928 another record was released with "The Storms Are on the Ocean" and "Single Girl, Married Girl". This one proved very popular.

On May 27, 1928, Peer had the group travel to Camden, New Jersey where they recorded many of what would become their signature songs, including:

The group realized $600 for this effort and left with a contract that assured a small royalty for sales of their records and sheet music.

During a February 1929 recording session they memorialized:

By the end of 1930 they had sold 300,000 records nationally.

Realizing that he would benefit financially with each new song he collected and copyrighted, A.P. travelled around the southwestern Virginia area in search of new songs. In the early 1930s he befriended Lesley (Esley) Riddle, a black guitar player from Kingsport. Esley accompanied A.P. on his song collecting trips. Riddle's blues guitar playing style influenced the Carters, especially Maybelle who learned new guitar techniques from watching him play.

In June, 1931, the Carters did a recording session in Nashville, Tennessee along with country legend, Jimmie Rodgers.

In the winter of 1938-1939 the Carter Family travelled to Texas where they had a twice-daily program on border radio station XERA (later XERF) in Villa Acuña (now Ciudad Acuña;), Mexico, across the border from Del Rio, Texas. Beginning with the 1939/1940 season, June Carter joined the group, this time in San Antonio, Texas, where the programs were pre-recorded and distributed to multiple border radio stations (XELO, XEG, XERB, and XEPN).

In Fall, 1942, the Carters moved their program to WBT radio in Charlotte, North Carolina for a one year contract. They occupied the sunrise slot with the program airing between 5:15 and 6:15 a.m.

Throughout their time together, the Carter Family also appeared in many live performances, often in local schools and churches.

In 1943, the group disbanded after Sara moved permanently to California.

During the 1960s, revivalist folksingers performed much of the material the Carters had collected or written. For example, on her early Vanguard albums, folk performer Joan Baez sang: "Wildwood Flower", "Little Moses", "Engine 143", [Little Darling] "Pal of Mine", and "Gospel Ship".

They were elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1970. In 1988, the Carter Family was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and received its Award for the song "Can the Circle Be Unbroken".

In 1993, the U.S. Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp honoring A.P., Sara, and Maybelle.

In 2001, the group was in inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Association's Hall of Honor.

External links

Country Music's First Family
Songs of the Carter Family
Rhythmic Asymmetry in the Music of the Carter family

References