5-string Banjo Styles in North Carolina


North Carolina is a repository of numerous banjo techniques or “licks,” and the state has been, and continues to be, home to many innovative and influential banjo luminaries that have left their mark on American music. The W.L. Eury Appalachian Collection contains numerous instructional aides, recordings, and other reference materials that cover the different 5-string banjo styles associated with the state. This pathfinder is not intended to act as a guide to biographical information on banjo players associated with North Carolina, though the following material would certainly be relevant to such research.

Introductory Text: 

Cahan, Andy. “Manly Reece and the Dawn of North Carolina Banjo”-liner notes- The North Carolina Banjo Collection Ed. Bob Carlin, Cambridge, MA: Rounder, 1998 (CDisc #447)

Library of Congress Subject Headings: 

Highly relevant:

  • Banjo
  • Banjoists
  • Folk music--North Carolina
  • Banjo--Methods

Also relevant:

  • Folk songs, English--North Carolina
  • Folk music--Southern States
  • Folk music--Appalachian Region, Southern
  • Old-time Music – Discography
  • Banjo--Methods (Bluegrass)
  • Bluegrass Music – Instruction and study
  • Banjo Methods--Self-instruction

More general:

  • Bluegrass Musicians
  • Bluegrass Musicians – Biography
  • Bluegrass Musicians – Blue Ridge Mountains Region Biography Dictionaries
  • Bluegrass Music – To 1951
  • Folk Music – United States
Clipping Files Subject Headings – W. L. Eury Appalachian Collection: 
  • Music - Banjo
  • Beech Mountain Ramblers: Jack Guy and Tab Ward
  • Hicks, Stanley
  • Lunsford, Bascom Lamar
  • Proffitt, Frank Noah
  • Watson, Arthel “Doc” and Merle
  • Fiddlers’ Conventions and Music Festivals
  • Folk Music
  • Music - Appalachia
  • Musicians - Appalachia
Library of Congress Call Numbers: 
  • ML 3520
  • ML 419
  • ML 156
  • M 120
  • ML 128
  • GR 1

Rorrer, Kinney Rambling Blues: The life and Songs of Charlie Poole London: Old Time Music, 1982 ML 419 .P66

Heaton, Cherrill P. “The 5-String Banjo in North Carolina” Southern Folklore Quarterly Vol. 35 (March 1971) pg. 62. Journal GR 1 .S65

Guides, Encyclopedias, and Dictionaries: 

Abramson, Rudy and Jean Haskell, ed. The Encyclopedia of Appalachia. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2006. (Subject “Music” p1108-1222) F106 .E53 2006


Heier, Uli and Rainer E. Lotz. ed. Banjo on Record. Charlottesville, VA: County Records, 2004. ML156.4 .B36

Miller, Terry E. Folk Music in America: A Reference Guide. New York: Garland Pub., 1986. ML128.F74 M5 1986


Banjo Newsletter. Greensboro, MD: Banjo Newsletter, V.1-18, 20-38[KS1] , 1973- .Monthly (ML1 .B35)

North Carolina Folklore Society Boone, NC: Newsletter of the North Carolina Folklore Society, irregular, 1977 (GR 1 .N497)

Bluegrass Unlimited. Broad Run, VA: Bluegrass Unlimited, V.3-, 1968- .Monthly (ML1 .B86)

Old-time Herald. Galax, VA: Old-Time Music Group, V.1-, 1987- .Bi-monthly (ML1. O35) [KS2]

[KS1]App. Coll. doesn’t have volume # 19

[KS2]this can be accessed via the internet online too...should I mention that?


Bluegrass Unlimited Webpage. www.bluegrassmusic.com

Banjo Hangout Forum. www.banjohangout.org

“North Carolina Banjo Traditions: J. Roy Stalcup” Webpage. www.berea.edu/hutchinslibrary/specialcollections/stalcup.asp

Digital Library of Appalachia dla.acaweb.org

Audio and Video Sources: 

The W.L. Eury Appalachian Collection contains an extensive number of sound discs and tapes that feature North Carolina banjo players. The following recordings feature a representative collection of players

The North Carolina Banjo Collection Ed. Bob Carlin, Cambridge, MA: Rounder, 1998 (CDisc #447)

Lunsford, Bascom Lamar, et. al. Music From South Turkey Creek Somerville, MA: Rounder Records, 1976 (Rec #259, #259 c.2)

Clawhammer Banjo Vol. 2, Charlottesville, VA: County Records, 2004. Tracks 2, 6, 7, 9, 15, 17, 19 (CDisc #1000)

Other Sources: 

Suggested Musicians

The list below roughly divides some of the musicians that can be found in the Appalachian Collection into sub-groups of the styles/genres that they exemplified. Note that the “revivalist” sub-group is comprised of players who are heavily associated with North Carolina banjo, though they are not all necessarily “from” the state; many of the performers of this group routinely play a multitude of styles on varying incarnations of the banjo. As an additional aide, some of the bands or ensembles that the following players performed with, that can be found in W.L. Eury Appalachian Collection recordings, are in italics.

Three-finger (Modern, Old-Time)

Charlie Poole--North Carolina Ramblers

Obray Ramsey--White Lightnin’

“Snuffy” Jenkins--J.E. Mainer’s Mountiaineers

Three-finger (Modern, Bluegrass)

Don Reno--Reno & Smiley,

Earl Scruggs--Flatt and Scruggs, Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys

Raymond Fairchild--The Crowe Brothers

Carroll Best--The Carroll Best Band

Two-finger (Modern)

Doc Watson

Scotty Wiseman--Lulu Belle & Scotty

Samantha Bumgarner

Wade Mainer--J.E. Mainer’s Mountaineers

Bascom Lamar Lunsford

Byard Ray--White Lightnin’ (fiddle)

Two-finger (Mountain Fretless)

Mary Jane Queen The Queen Family

Frank Proffitt

Frank Proffitt, Jr

*Tab Ward--Beech Mountain Ramblers

*Rick Ward

*Double-Knock Banjo


Kirk Sutphin

Riley Baugus

Fred Cockerham

Tommy Jarrell

Gaither Carlton

Clawhammer (Modern)

Kyle Creed--Camp Creek Boys

Odelle Thompson

Dink Roberts


David Holt--David Holt and the Lightning Bolts

Laura Boosinger-- “ ”

Mike Seeger--New Lost City Ramblers

Tommy Thompson

Paul Brown

Compiled by: 

William Ritter,

October 2, 2012.