Music From the Hills

Music From the Hills

This is another episode from the first season of FOLKWAYS in 1982. Musical instruments brightened the hard existence experienced by early settlers in the southern mountains. This episode visits three venerable makers of instruments in the old, traditional style: Edd Presnell, maker of the four-string mountain dulcimer; Stanley Hicks, maker of the fretless banjo; and Albert Hash, maker and player of fine fiddles

The Players

Stanley Hicks
Born on Beech Mountain, NC on October 12, 1911, Stanley was surrounded by a musical family. His grandfather and father taught him to make dulcimers and fretless banjos out of fresh woods, mainly walnut, maple and cherry, and banjo heads from groundhog skins.

Foxfire Records collected some of his performances for their album, It Still Lives, and Hicks made his own album as well. The Appalachian Cultural Center at Appalachian State University holds a videotape with several of his Jack Tales as part of their collection. Hicks received Brown-Hudson Award in 1980, the highest award of the North Carolina Folklore Society. Three years later, the Folk Arts Program of the

National Endowment of the Arts presented with the National Heritage Fellowship, a federal award.

Like many musicians, Hicks was also a farmer, and he enjoyed working on his farm on Stone Mountain. Despite his awards and albums, Hicks' lasting legacy is his finale of "Amazing Grace" at the end of a performance at a church in Watauga County.

Edd Presnellplayers
Like Stanley Hicks, Edd Presnell was born into a musical family. Legend says that once night a stranger stopped by the home of Eli and America Presnell in 1885, asking for lodging. That evening, the stranger pulled a dulcimer out of his baggage and began to play it. Eli was so impressed that he asked permission to trace the instrument.

The couple would inspire another branch of the Presnell family to raise a dulcimer maker and player, Edd. Edd made his first dulcimer in 1936, after he married Nettie Hicks, daughter of dulcimer-maker Ben Hicks. In fact, Edd learned much about making dulcimers from his father-in-law. Edd and Nettie received the prestigious Brown Hudson Folklore Award in 1974 for dulcimer-making and woodcarving.

Albert Hash
Born in Wayne Henderson's town of Rugby, Virginia, Albert Hash made his first fiddle at age ten, at the height of the Depression. He enrolled in the U.S. Navy and learned to be a machinist, something that would be an integral part of his later fiddle making. He worked in the naval shipyard and torpedo facility in northern Virginia. While in the Navy, he married Ethel Ruth Spencer in 1944, and the two of them had two daughters: Joyce Mae and Audrey Marie. The family moved twice: the first time to the Fees Branch community in Ashe County, and later to Lansing, NC.

Hash played with many bands during his lifetime, including the popular Whitetop Mountain Band. During the folklife revival of the 1960s and 70s, many musicians sought his expertise, seeking history, an impromptu jam session, one of his handcrafted instruments or instructions on how to craft an instrument.

In 1967, Hash and his wife moved back to Virginia, to be closer to family members. He continued to visit local craft fairs, music festivals and fiddler's conventions in Virginia and northwestern North Carolina and was a regular at the Blue Ridge Folklife Festival in Virginia and the Ashe County Fiddler's Convention. His talents have been the showcase for the 1982 World's Fair, the Smithsonian Institute and the Grayson Highlands State Park in Mouth of Wilson, Virginia. After his death in 1983, the Commonwealth of Virginia presented Ethel with a framed copy of House Resolution 18, proclaiming a moment of silence in his honor.


The Brown-Hudson Folklore Award
The Brown-Hudson Folklore Award was established in 1970 to honor two distinguished folklorists and officers of the North Carolina Folklore Society, Frank C. Brown of Duke University and Arthur Palmer Hudson of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Blue Ridge Folklife Festival
Here is information about the festival and how to get there.

National Endowment of the Arts
More about the national organization and what projects they fund today.